Joe Arpaio Offers Inmates, Fed Only Twice A Day, 56-Cent Thanksgiving Meal

Joe Arpaio Offers Inmates, Fed Only Twice A Day, 56-Cent Thanksgiving Meal

Maricopa County, Arizona – Sheriff Joe Arpaio has planned a particularly economical meal for the roughly 7,500 to 10,000 inmates in his jail system this Thanksgiving.

The meal comes in at a cost of just 56 cents per inmate, and its main entrée will be 24-cent vegetarian turkey soy casserole. Arpaio tweeted the Thanksgiving menu Wednesday morning.

“Hope the inmates give thanks for this special meal being served in the jails tomorrow,” Arpaio’s tweet said.

The official Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office website features a bio of Arpaio that touts his accomplishments in providing inmates with “the cheapest meals in the U.S.” by feeding inmates “only twice daily, to cut the labor costs of meal delivery.” Arpaio has “even stopped serving them salt and pepper” to save taxpayer money, according to the bio.

The average meal for an inmate in a Maricopa County jail costs between 15 and 40 cents, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office website.

In September, Arpaio implemented a vegetarian diet for inmates in an effort to save $100,000 on food costs for prisoners. He also announced in March a plan to charge inmates $1 for their meals, according to ABC15.

“Everybody else has to pay for their food, why should [inmates] get freebies?” Arpaio said in an ABC15 news video.

Last Thanksgiving, the controversial sheriff complained about the cost of providing a Thanksgiving meal to each inmate in a press release, calling the “whopping 68 cents” paid for every meal an “astronomical increase” from the cost of previous Thanksgiving dinners.

A 2012 East Oregonian article about a Thanksgiving dinner for inmates that cost 98 cents per prisoner quoted an assistant prison superintendent, who noted that treating inmates with a sense of humanity at the holidays helps prepare them for life after prison and may reduce recidivism rates. “We don’t want to release angry inmates,” the assistant noted. The Oregon meal included 634 pounds of sliced turkey breast, cranberry sauce and gravy.

In a Veteran’s Day press release earlier this month, Arpaio announced another questionable jailhouse initiative called “Patriotic Jails,” which introduced an exclusively “bread and water” diet for 30-day periods of time as punishment for allegedly unpatriotic acts.

“Any defacement or vandalism of the flags by inmates comes with the penalty of bread and water. Ten inmates are currently on bread and water for this infraction,” Arpaio said in the press release.

Check out the sheriff’s tweet and the full menu for Thursday’s meal below:

Turkey Dinner Joe Arpio Style

Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders

Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders

WASHINGTON – When President Barack Obama pardons two overweight turkeys named Carmel and Popcorn during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, the number of pardons bestowed on semi-flightless birds during his presidency will almost match the number he has granted to human beings convicted of drug crimes.

Despite the administration’s recent talk of reforming the criminal justice system, Obama has granted the fewest pardons of any modern president. Of the 39 pardons Obama has granted, just 11 have been for people convicted of drug crimes, according to Department of Justice records. He’s granted 10 turkey pardons, sparing the birds from Thanksgiving execution to live out their lives on a farm.

If you count one commutation of sentence Obama granted, which was also for a prisoner convicted of a drug crime, Obama could theoretically even the human-fowl numbers next November if he pardons two more turkeys without granting any more human pardons. A presidential pardon grants a reprieve to a convict and ends the punishment. A commutation modifies the sentence, but doesn’t affect the conviction.

Obama’s human pardon number this year actually was higher than his turkey pardons. In both 2009 and 2012, Obama pardoned more turkeys than people. By comparison, Ronald Reagan, by this point in his presidency, had pardoned 313 people. Obama’s total, including his one commutation, stands at 40.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is petitioning Obama to review the cases of 2,074 people serving federal life sentences for nonviolent offenses, who unlike overweight turkeys, will most likely be around next Thanksgiving.

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit 'Radicalizers'

WASHINGTON – The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.

The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. “A previous SIGINT” — or signals intelligence, the interception of communications — “assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent,” the document argues.

Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”

The Director of the National Security Agency — described as “DIRNSA” — is listed as the “originator” of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US Government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize others to violence,” Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday.

Yet Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse. “It’s important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused — the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone,” he said.

“Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” he added. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.”

None of the six individuals targeted by the NSA is accused in the document of being involved in terror plots. The agency believes they all currently reside outside the United States. It identifies one of them, however, as a “U.S. person,” which means he is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. A U.S. person is entitled to greater legal protections against NSA surveillance than foreigners are.

Stewart Baker, a one-time general counsel for the NSA and a top Homeland Security official in the Bush administration, said that the idea of using potentially embarrassing information to undermine targets is a sound one. “If people are engaged in trying to recruit folks to kill Americans and we can discredit them, we ought to,” said Baker. “On the whole, it’s fairer and maybe more humane” than bombing a target, he said, describing the tactic as “dropping the truth on them.”

Any system can be abused, Baker allowed, but he said fears of the policy drifting to domestic political opponents don’t justify rejecting it. “On that ground you could question almost any tactic we use in a war, and at some point you have to say we’re counting on our officials to know the difference,” he said.

In addition to analyzing the content of their internet activities, the NSA also examined the targets’ contact lists. The NSA accuses two of the targets of promoting al Qaeda propaganda, but states that surveillance of the three English-speakers’ communications revealed that they have “minimal terrorist contacts.”

In particular, “only seven (1 percent) of the contacts in the study of the three English-speaking radicalizers were characterized in SIGINT as affiliated with an extremist group or a Pakistani militant group. An earlier communications profile of [one of the targets] reveals that 3 of the 213 distinct individuals he was in contact with between 4 August and 2 November 2010 were known or suspected of being associated with terrorism,” the document reads.

The document contends that the three Arabic-speaking targets have more contacts with affiliates of extremist groups, but does not suggest they themselves are involved in any terror plots.

Instead, the NSA believes the targeted individuals radicalize people through the expression of controversial ideas via YouTube, Facebook and other social media websites. Their audience, both English and Arabic speakers, “includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message,” the document states. The NSA says the speeches and writings of the six individuals resonate most in countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Kenya, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

The NSA possesses embarrassing sexually explicit information about at least two of the targets by virtue of electronic surveillance of their online activity. The report states that some of the data was gleaned through FBI surveillance programs carried out under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act. The document adds, “Information herein is based largely on Sunni extremist communications.” It further states that “the SIGINT information is from primary sources with direct access and is generally considered reliable.”

According to the document, the NSA believes that exploiting electronic surveillance to publicly reveal online sexual activities can make it harder for these “radicalizers” to maintain their credibility. “Focusing on access reveals potential vulnerabilities that could be even more effectively exploited when used in combination with vulnerabilities of character or credibility, or both, of the message in order to shape the perception of the messenger as well as that of his followers,” the document argues.

An attached appendix lists the “argument” each surveillance target has made that the NSA says constitutes radicalism, as well the personal “vulnerabilities” the agency believes would leave the targets “open to credibility challenges” if exposed.

One target’s offending argument is that “Non-Muslims are a threat to Islam,” and a vulnerability listed against him is “online promiscuity.” Another target, a foreign citizen the NSA describes as a “respected academic,” holds the offending view that “offensive jihad is justified,” and his vulnerabilities are listed as “online promiscuity” and “publishes articles without checking facts.” A third targeted radical is described as a “well-known media celebrity” based in the Middle East who argues that “the U.S perpetrated the 9/11 attack.” Under vulnerabilities, he is said to lead “a glamorous lifestyle.” A fourth target, who argues that “the U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks on itself” is said to be vulnerable to accusations of “deceitful use of funds.” The document expresses the hope that revealing damaging information about the individuals could undermine their perceived “devotion to the jihadist cause.”

The Huffington Post is withholding the names and locations of the six targeted individuals; the allegations made by the NSA about their online activities in this document cannot be verified.

The document does not indicate whether the NSA carried out its plan to discredit these six individuals, either by communicating with them privately about the acquired information or leaking it publicly. There is also no discussion in the document of any legal or ethical constraints on exploiting electronic surveillance in this manner.

While Baker and others support using surveillance to tarnish the reputation of people the NSA considers “radicalizers,” U.S. officials have in the past used similar tactics against civil rights leaders, labor movement activists and others.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI harassed activists and compiled secret files on political leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr. The extent of the FBI’s surveillance of political figures is still being revealed to this day, as the bureau releases the long dossiers it compiled on certain people in response to Freedom of Information Act requests following their deaths. The information collected by the FBI often centered on sex — homosexuality was an ongoing obsession on Hoover’s watch — and information about extramarital affairs was reportedly used to blackmail politicians into fulfilling the bureau’s needs.

Current FBI Director James Comey recently ordered new FBI agents to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington to understand “the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.”

James Bamford, a journalist who has been covering the NSA since the early 1980s, said the use of surveillance to exploit embarrassing private behavior is precisely what led to past U.S. surveillance scandals. “The NSA’s operation is eerily similar to the FBI’s operations under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s where the bureau used wiretapping to discover vulnerabilities, such as sexual activity, to ‘neutralize’ their targets,” he said. “Back then, the idea was developed by the longest serving FBI chief in U.S. history, today it was suggested by the longest serving NSA chief in U.S. history.”

That controversy, Bamford said, also involved the NSA. “And back then, the NSA was also used to do the eavesdropping on King and others through its Operation Minaret. A later review declared the NSA’s program ‘disreputable if not outright illegal,’” he said.

Baker said that until there is evidence the tactic is being abused, the NSA should be trusted to use its discretion. “The abuses that involved Martin Luther King occurred before Edward Snowden was born,” he said. “I think we can describe them as historical rather than current scandals. Before I say, ‘Yeah, we’ve gotta worry about that,’ I’d like to see evidence of that happening, or is even contemplated today, and I don’t see it.”

Jaffer, however, warned that the lessons of history ought to compel serious concern that a “president will ask the NSA to use the fruits of surveillance to discredit a political opponent, journalist or human rights activist.”

“The NSA has used its power that way in the past and it would be naïve to think it couldn’t use its power that way in the future,” he said.

‘Dark Money’ Nonprofit Political Spending Restricted In Proposed IRS Rules

'Dark Money' Nonprofit Political Spending Restricted In Proposed IRS Rules

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced on Tuesday new guidelines clarifying the definition of political activity for nonprofit organizations.

The new rules, which still face many procedural hurdles, would limit the political activities of nonprofit organizations and help prevent political actors from using these groups to provide anonymity to donors.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, nonprofit organizations, particularly social welfare nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and trade associations organized under section 501(c)(6), have radically increased their reported political spending. In 2012, these groups reported to the Federal Election Commission spending in excess of $300 million. That was up from $69 million in 2008 and nearly $6 million in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of this spending was allowed because of the lack of clear guidelines for political spending by nonprofits. The statute governing political activity by these nonprofits says that they must work “exclusively” on their social welfare purpose, but the regulatory interpretation of that statute says that “exclusively” means “primarily.” The term “primarily,” has been criticized since it does not specify the acceptable percentage of political spending for tax exempt groups.

To determine whether a nonprofit is engaged “primarily” in its social purpose instead of politics, the IRS uses a “fact and circumstances” test; an IRS employee determines whether a given communication or action is political or not. For years, there has been no clear guidance for what constitutes political activity.

The proposed guidelines seek to clarify the rules and reduce the IRS’ need to impose the “facts and circumstances” test. They would provide clear lines to judge whether a given action is political and break down into three categories:

Communications that would be considered political include calling for the election or defeat of a political candidate; any communication mentioning a political candidate or political party within 60 days of an election; and any expenditure that must be reported to the FEC.

Grants and contributions made by the group to any political group that reports to the FEC, as well as grants and contributions made by the group to any 527 or tax exempt group that spends money on candidate-related political activity, would count as political under the new rules.

Activities closely related to an election would be considered political. These include voter registration drives or get out the vote efforts, the distribution of certain materials promoting candidates, the preparation and distribution of voter guides mentioning candidates, and holding events within 60 days of an election featuring candidates.

“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said in a statement. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations. It will take time to work through the regulatory process and carefully consider all public feedback as we strive to ensure that the standards for tax-exemption are clear and can be applied consistently.”

The proposed guidelines do not directly address the issue of how much a nonprofit can spend on political activity, but the IRS stated that it plans on issuing further guidance on that issue in the future.

Tuesday’s announcement follows a controversy that erupted over the summer when reports revealed that the IRS improperly targeted certain nonprofit groups — both conservative and liberal — for intensive reviews of their applications. The controversy led to many congressional hearings and the ousters of the IRS’ acting director Stephen Miller and IRS tax exempt organizations’ head Lois Lerner.

During the scandal, Democrats pushed the IRS to review its rules governing political activity by tax exempt organizations and to impose clearer guidelines to reduce the potential for controversy when any group’s political activities are examined. Bills were also proposed by Senate Democrats to change the IRS’ rules for political activity.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) brought a court case challenging the IRS’ previously ambiguous rules regarding political activity by tax exempt groups.

“This is part of ongoing efforts within the IRS that are improving our work in the tax-exempt area,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel of Tuesday’s announcement. “Once final, this proposed guidance will continue moving us forward and provide clarity for this important segment of exempt organizations.”

SeaTac $15 Minimum Wage Barely Passes In Final Vote Tally, Recount May Follow

SeaTac $15 Minimum Wage Barely Passes In Final Vote Tally, Recount May Follow

SEATAC, WA It appears the ayes have it. After weeks of careful ballot counting, officials in Washington state on Tuesday certified the results in a potentially historic vote that will create far and away the highest minimum wage in America.

Squeaking by with a mere 77-vote margin, the ballot measure known as Proposition 1 will set a $15 wage floor for an estimated 6,000 airport and hotel workers in SeaTac, Wash., a suburb of 27,000 residents south of Seattle.

While the vote count had been too close to call in the days following the Nov. 5 election, the King County Elections commission posted the official results on its website late Tuesday: 3,040 in favor of the measure, 2,963 against. There were 12,108 registered voters eligible to cast ballots.

Although the results have been certified, they can still be challenged by anyone willing to foot the bill for a recount, according to Kim van Ekstrom, spokeswoman for the elections commission. Van Ekstrom said ballot signatures had continued to trickle in during the days leading up to certification, but no more ballots would be counted.

The ballot campaign was closely watched — and funded, to the tune of about $2 million — by business and labor groups, who viewed it as a potential bellwether vote on similar wage measures throughout the country. The $15 wage floor in SeaTac will be more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and it will likely serve as a rallying cry for labor unions and low-wage worker advocates as they try to raise minimum wages on the federal, state and local levels.

Given the money originally dumped into the campaign by the business community, backers of the measure shouldn’t be surprised if opponents file for a recount. An umbrella group that lobbied against Proposition 1, called Common Sense SeaTac, told NBC News Tuesday it would challenge the results. Van Ekstrom said challengers would need to put down a deposit of 25 cents per ballot for a hand recount, or 15 cents for a machine recount. That’s a small sum for a business advocacy group, though van Ekstrom said the final price tag of the recount would be much higher.

Along with setting the $15 minimum wage, the new SeaTac law will also tie the minimum wage to an inflation index; guarantee that tipped workers don’t have to share their gratuities; and allow workers to accrue up to 6.5 days of guaranteed paid sick leave per year. Smaller businesses were carved out of the legislation, and the law would only apply to certain employers in and around Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.

The ballot measure’s provisional success is an unmitigated victory for labor groups, particularly the Service Employees International Union, which played a lead role in pushing Proposition 1. Not only does the legislation include the kind of employer mandates championed by organized labor, it also allows for those mandates to be waived in a collective bargaining contract, possibly giving companies an incentive to enter into one.

As in almost any minimum wage fight, backers of the proposal said it would improve the lives of thousands of low-wage workers, while the business community said it would raise costs on employers and force them to cut back on hiring.

Abdirahman Abdullahi, an employee of the airport’s Hertz rental car location, told HuffPost earlier this month that he took a leave of absence from his job to campaign in support of the measure. “The workers at the airport work hard but don’t get what they deserve,” Abdullahi said. “They’re juggling two or three jobs just to pay the bills, let alone to save money. This initiative … it’s going to improve their lives.”

Backers of the proposition had declared victory on election night, but their edge gradually eroded as more ballots were counted in the days that followed. At one point, their lead had dwindled to just 19 votes.