Fact Check Fail or Deliberate Lie? Snopes Gets It Wrong On Story About Warrantless Searches

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Snopes.com has made its name as the truthful source that debunks crazy conspiracy theories and “fake news” on the internet, but its response to a story on legislation allowing warrantless searches is in need of its own fact check.

As Snopes correctly noted, the story in question was published by The Free Thought Project on Aug. 24, and is on the subject of House Joint Resolution 76. What Snopes does not mention is that up until TFTP reported on the legislation, it received virtually no media coverage, aside from criticism from Congressman Justin Amash on social media.

As the original story noted, House Joint Resolution 76 creates the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which looks harmless on the surface. The bill claims that its purpose is “Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”

In its “Fact Check” of the story, Snopes made the claim thatThe legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.” 

This is 100% true. The legislation does not allow this, at all.SnopesSnopesHowever, The Free Thought Project never made that claim. Here’s what our original report noted about how warrantless searches could result from the creation of this safety commission:

The major red flag that comes from this bill can be found in the list of powers that are given to the safety commission, when it comes to its authority over the properties around surround the metro rail system. As the text of the bill notes:

“In performing its duties, the Commission, through its Board or designated employees or agents, may: Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass.”

The problem with this legislation is that even if the commission gives advanced notice that it will be entering a private property, that advanced notice is not a search warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant can only be obtained with the consent of a judge, and it must have probable cause laid out by law enforcement.

The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate, and Justin Amash was one of just five members who voted against it in the House. As he noted on Twitter, the bill gives the government the authority to enter and search private property in parts of Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland without a warrant.

Responding to critics on Twitter, Amash wrote, “This bill does authorize a ‪#4thAmendment violation. Congress has a duty not to pass such broad language even if Constitution nullifies it.”

As Amash also noted, the language of the bill is entirely too broad. “‘Safety’ presumably includes preventing criminal/terrorist activities near WMATA. Bill doesn’t contemplate potential abuse of MSC authority,” he wrote.

When a Twitter user insisted that the bill only applies to “federally owned property,” Amash replied, Read carefully. It applies to *any* property ‘adjacent to the WMATA Rail System.’ You ignored the phrase ‘including, without limitation.’”

While Snopes does acknowledge that Amash considers the legislation to be “too broad and potentially unconstitutional,” its entire article is based on the premise that “The legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.”

Although Snopes does not list any of these “disreputable web sites,” the only website it does reference is The Free Thought Project, which it describes as a website that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear that the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state.”

However, the article Snopes was attempting to debunk was based entirely on the facts surrounding the bill—its text, who voted for and against it, and how it was interpreted by elected officials who were charged with the power of determining whether it becomes law. Never once did the story claim this bill would affect the entire United States, or that it would completely put an end to the Fourth Amendment.

As for Snopes’ definition of TFTP’s reputation, an outlet that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear” sounds a lot like the description of the many mainstream media outlets The Free Thought Project debunks on a regular basis. As for warning that “the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state,” in many ways that is essentially what the government already is—an authoritarian state that uses violence and intimidation to enforce its laws.

The Free Thought Project is dedicated to exposing stories of government corruption and police misconduct based on facts and evidence, while also fostering the creation and expansion of liberty-minded solutions to modern day tyrannical oppression. If we were solely focused on brainwashed fear-mongering, we would be no better than the mainstream media.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/snopes-wrong-story-warrantless-searches/

Mainstream Media Finally Realizes the Federal Reserve is a Private Bank that Controls the Govt

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(ZH) — While the concept of ‘independence’ among the unelected central bank cognoscenti is as cute as the tooth fairy or santa claus, it is nevertheless defended by those on high as sacrosanct to our very democracy. That is until The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board finally had enough of Fed officials joining the ‘resistance’ against financial reform…

Via WSJ,

Janet Yellen didn’t run for President, but you wouldn’t know it from her policy démarche Friday at the Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole retreat. The Fed Chair unleashed a defense of post-crisis financial regulation that shows how political the world’s central bankers have become.

“Already, for some, memories of this experience may be fading—memories of just how costly the financial crisis was and of why certain steps were taken in response,” Ms. Yellen said.

She added that regulatory changes “should be modest” and retain the superstructure built under Dodd-Frank.

Ms. Yellen’s comments followed a blunter recent warning from Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, who told the Financial Times that “one can understand the political dynamics of this thing, but one cannot understand why grown, intelligent people” would “reach the conclusion that” you should “get rid of all the things you have put in place in the last 10 years.” Thank you, Senator Warren, er, Fischer.

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This is extraordinary. Fed officials are launching a political campaign to retain their vast discretionary control over the American financial system. The brazenness of the effort shows how far afield central bankers have roamed from their traditional remit of monetary policy, which Ms. Yellen barely mentioned. You’d think she’d focus on that duty given that the Fed faces a watershed as soon as next month as it decides whether to begin rolling back the $4.5 trillion balance sheet it has amassed since the 2008 financial panic.

The size and scope of that balance sheet is itself a political intrusion because the Fed’s bond purchases are a form of credit allocation. The purchase of mortgage securities favors housing, while the Fed’s focus on long-duration bonds has been a deliberate attempt to push investors into riskier assets.

These decisions haven’t done much for the real economy, which has grown at a historically slow pace since the recession ended in June 2009. But the Fed has succeeded in lifting some asset prices, and no one knows what will happen to those prices once the Fed begins unwinding its portfolio. Perhaps it will all unfold without a hitch, but some very smart people aren’t as sanguine.

As for the stability of the financial system, Ms. Yellen and Mr. Fischer are at pains to assure us that, due to their efforts, all is well. “Banks are safer,” she says, thanks to capital and liquidity mandates and the wisdom of financial regulators. Oh, and “credit is available on good terms.”

But Ms. Yellen wasn’t nearly as optimistic about lending in the later Obama years. She often fretted that tight credit conditions were limiting growth, and the facts bear out that concern. Bank lending in the current expansion has trailed that of seven previous recoveries, and lending for small business has been especially slow. None of this is cause for Fed triumphalism.

Banks are safer, but they should be after eight years of modest expansion. The real test of financial stability comes in times of economic stress, when interest rates rise or investors get nervous and rush to safer assets. The system has already had one liquidity panic, in October 2014, when the yield on U.S. Treasurys moved some 40-basis points in a day.

You have to ignore history to believe that regulators are suddenly so wise that they know the current regulatory regime will prevent the next crisis. The Fed misjudged the economy in the mid-2000s and kept feeding easy credit that produced the housing bubble. Fed officials Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner then underestimated the financial risks in early 2008 when the stresses were already apparent.

That’s one reason to support a financial regime with high levels of capital to defend against potential losses but with less regulatory micro-managing. This is the trade-off that House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling has proposed, which contrasts with the lower capital and lower regulatory barriers that the Trump Administration seems to prefer.

This is the debate we should be having, but the Fed wants Americans to believe that Dodd-Frank is gospel and the only alternative is to return to pre-crisis policies. The irony is that Ms. Yellen is thus associating the Fed with the post-crisis status quo that has been splendid for Goldman Sachs and giant banks that have gained market share and can afford higher regulatory costs.

Ms. Yellen did concede that “there may be benefits to simplifying aspects of the Volcker rule” that limits propriety trading, which is the least she can do since the rule as written is more than 950 pages of text and explanation. But until she runs for public office, she and the Fed ought to stick to executing regulatory policy rather than trying to dictate it.

Ms. Yellen’s term as Fed chair expires early next year, and her Jackson Hole foray is a signal to President Trump about what he can expect if he reappoints her.

The Fed needs a leader who won’t bend to political pressure. But it also needs a leader who understands the limits of the Fed’s political role.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/federal-reserve-wst-journal/

Unconcerned About Trump’s Militarization of Police? This Database Shows What Your Local Cops Have

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Washington, DC — This week the Trump administration announced that they were lifting an Obama administration ban on certain military grade weapons being sold to state and local police for pennies on the dollar. While there is a growing awareness that local law enforcement has received massive amounts of surplus military hardware under the federal 1033 program, authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act, exactly what equipment local law enforcement agencies have been stockpiling has remained largely obscured from the public’s view.

The public controversy over the militarization of the police, for many Americans, began during the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Images beamed across the media echo chamber revealed what looked like a war zone in Afghanistan or Iraq — with police kitted out in Marine-issue camouflage and military-grade body armor, toting short-barreled assault rifles, and rolling around in MRAPs (mine resistant armored personnel) vehicles — virtually indistinguishable from US soldiers abroad.

In addition to Ferguson, the extreme militarization of police was clearly on display during the Standing Rock protest, as police looked and acted more like a heavily armed military contingent than peace officers sworn to uphold the law.

Shortly after the American public became widely aware, and largely outraged, over the extreme militarization of their local police forces, President Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) that blocked certain large-caliber weapons, armored vehicles with tracks, grenade launchers, bayonets, and other heavy military hardware from being re-purposed from battlefields across the globe to small town USA.

President Obama argued at the time, that police utilization of such weapons of war cast the police as an “occupying force,” and only served to deepen the divide between police and the community.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they’re an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said in announcing the ban in 2015.

The new Trump plan for the 1033 program goes into effect immediately and completely rolls back the Obama EO that blocked state, county, and local police depart from obtaining military weapons of war.

The surplus sharing agreement, also known as the “1033 program,” was originally created by Congress nearly 30 years ago as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and was intended to assist local law enforcement in drug investigations.

The program was expanded in 1997 to include all local law enforcement operations, including counter-terrorism. Since then, according to the government, more than $5 billion in gear has been transferred to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.

Make no mistake that America has been quietly arming its police for battle with its own citizens, under the guise of the drug war, since the early 1990s.

As part of its misguided “war on drugs,” policy makers decided that if police were to act like drug warriors, they needed to be equipped like warriors. Since that time, almost $5 billion in military hardware was transferred from the military to law enforcement, according to a report by the ACLU. By giving military hardware to law enforcement for free, the NDAA and 1033 program encourages police to employ military-like tactics and weaponry.

To give you an idea of the absolute absurdity of the 1033 program, and how it unnecessarily militarizes small town police departments, law enforcement in Watertown, Connecticut, (population 22,514) acquired a mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle (sticker price: $733,000), designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, for $2,800. To date there has never been a landmine reported in Watertown, Connecticut.

Police in Bloomington, Georgia, (population: 2,713) acquired four grenade launchers through the program, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Police in small towns in Michigan and Indiana have used the 1033 Program to acquire “MRAP armored troop carriers, night-vision rifle scopes, camouflage fatigues, Humvees and dozens of M16 automatic rifles,” the South Bend Tribune reported.

The distribution of these weapons of war has largely been shielded from public view. However, the database below will show you what your department has acquired through the program.

Now anyone can look up this information on a database using information supplied by the military’s Defense Logistics Agency and Law Enforcement Support Office. All one has to do is type in their State and County jurisdiction and they are able to see exactly what their local law enforcement agencies have received under the federal 1033 program.

Take a look and see what type of military armaments your local police department is stockpiling; mine resistant armored personnel carriers, helicopters, M-16’s, M-14’s, M-4’s, grenade launchers?

The extreme militarization of the police begs the question: who are the local police preparing to use these weapons of war against?

Using history as an indicator, as the founding fathers clearly warned, Americans should be wary of the police operating as an oppressive standing army.

“The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”  – James Madison

Select your state and your county to see exactly how militarized your local law enforcement agencies have become.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/1033-trump-program-database/

‘He’s Probably Gay!’ – DC Cops Mock Burglary Victim as They Dance Around on Video

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Washington DC — When a house alarm went off in Southeast Washington, signaling that it had been burglarized for the second time in three weeks, police officers arrived at the scene, but failed to investigate. They returned again later after a concerned neighbor requested their service, and the security footage is making the homeowner wish that they had never stepped foot in his house.

“I was appalled. I was frantic because I was out of the country,” Clarence Williams said, describing his reaction when his alarm company contacted him about the second break-in at his house in less than a month. “[It was] the same scenario as last time, broke the glass and then once he shattered the glass he just pulled the glass out and was able to walk right in.”

Williams was hoping he could trust the police officers responding to the burglary call to take care of things while he was away, but he told Fox 5 DC that he was shocked to find that the officers did not even check the back door where the burglar broke the glass to enter the home.

“They came, knocked on the door, talked to a few people who were outside and left. My house sat open for eight hours,” he said.

Williams also told NBC Washington that when the officers spoke to his neighbors about the burglary, they made comments such as, “Well, what do you expect? You live in Southeast.”

After a concerned neighbor called police later that day to report the broken glass on the backdoor that the original officers failed to investigate, the department sent out officers once again.

When Williams reviewed the footage from his security camera, he was shocked to find two police officers standing in his living room, laughing as they read off a list of his belongings that were reported, and joking about his sexuality.

“Armani, Dolce and Gabbana—he’s probably gay,” a male officer says, laughing.

A few minutes later, a female officer can be seen dancing in the same crime scene she is supposed to be investigating.

“It’s very troubling and disgusting and I think it’s a testament to the lack of training the police are receiving,” Williams said. “I believe if they were receiving the proper training things like this wouldn’t happen and they wouldn’t just do things like this in the midst of a crime scene.”

In response to the incident, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “I don’t approve of the language that was used or the conduct of our officers.”

In a statement to NBC Washington, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department said the two officers featured in the security footage “have been placed on non-contact status for misconduct,” and an internal investigation is ongoing.

“Their behavior is not representative of the ‘we are here to help’ environment we work tirelessly to uphold on a daily basis for residents and visitors of D.C.,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to providing positive interactions with all and hold the trust of the community in high regards.”

While Williams said that the female officer later visited his home and personally apologized, he noted that he wanted to release the video of the officers’ actions in hopes that others would learn from their mistakes.

“We’ve got police out here, dancing in my home and acting as if this is a joke and this is serious. This is my life,” Williams said.

Unfortunately, cases such as this one are not isolated incidents. From officers blaming the neighborhood for the break-in, to failing to investigate, to making fun of a victim at a crime scene, it remains to be seen whether the presence of clear video footage will ensure that the offending officers are held accountable for their actions.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/dc-cops-joke-crime-scene-burglary-victims-home/

Don’t Trust the Red Cross, 10 Ways YOU Can Help Harvey Victims Without Enriching Scammers

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Houston, TX — It is time to strike while the iron is hot. Media coverage of the devastation in Texas is at a peak right now and history shows us that people will help when they see it on TV. However, when coverage stops, so does most of the support. Knowing this, it is time to make your move and show your support to your fellow humans who are suffering dearly right now after being hit by one of the worst storms in US history. But, before you simply click the link and donate to the Red Cross, you should know their history and know there are far better ways to help.

The Red Cross is no stranger to scandal. Putting them on the corruption map was their reaction to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. In 2010, hundreds of thousands of Haitians lost their lives in a tragic earthquake. Gail McGovern, the Red Cross’ CEO, and her staff quickly responded with a massive marketing push to raise funds. They received countless celebrity endorsements and even President Obama jumped on the train. In just a few days, they raised a half a billion dollars.

However, of that half billion, the Red Cross kept $125 million for themselves and didn’t disclose it until they were investigated. An investigation later revealed that the rest of the money the Red Cross spent in Haiti resulted in just six permanent homes, NPR and ProPublica found.

But that’s not all. The Red Cross’ response to Katrina was so horrific that some observers noted they were on the verge of criminal wrongdoing. Years later in 2012, it failed again for Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac.

The response was “worse than the storm,” one Red Cross driver told ProPublica during its jaw-dropping investigation. The Red Cross was more concerned with their public image than helping the storm victims so much so that they ordered employees to drive around empty trucks to make it appear like they were responding. “We were sent way down on the Gulf with nothing to give,” the driver said.

But that’s not all. Fast forward to 2016 and the Red Cross was responding to the 1000-year flood in Louisiana. Despite Nancy Malone, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, saying that it was misinformation, there were countless reports of Red Cross stations turning down donations of supplies. Wheel chairs, crutches, canes, diabetic supplies and other goods like clothes and water, were just some of the supplies refused by the Red Cross.

What’s more, when they did take donations during the flood, many of them were reported for throwing them away. 

As Justin Elliott notes, writing for Pro Publica, the Red Cross stopped helping people once it was taken over by a team of former AT&T executives who tried to turn it into a profit machine instead of a charity.

As part of her effort to run the Red Cross more like a business, McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions. The move stirred resentment inside the organization, with some longtime Red Cross hands referring to the charity as the “AT&T retirement program.’’

McGovern laid out a vision to increase revenue through consolidated, powerful, breathtaking marketing.”

“This is a brand to die for,” she often said.

The bottom line is that the Red Cross has become a massively centralized bureaucracy that is seemingly more concerned with self-preservation and corporate salaries than they are helping victims of natural disasters.

So, where can you go to help? Well, the answer is not simply donating to a single company who may or may not use that money to help victims. Luckily, there are smaller organizations—far more transparent than the Red Cross—who specialize in certain areas that you can choose to fund.

Below is a list of 10 ways you can help the victims of Harvey.

If you want to help the those who can’t help themselves, Portlight Strategies is working to help to help older adults and those with disabilities. Donate here.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas is helping displaced animals. You can donate at www.spca.org/give or sign up to adopt a displaced animal at www.spca.org/foster. Austin Pets Alive, which transferred more than 200 pets to its shelter as of Saturday morning, is also seeking help, as are the Animal Defense League of Texas and the Houston Humane Society. If you see a stranded marine animal, call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Regional Office at 1-877-942-5343.

Because these aid efforts will be prolonged for months or even years, it is best to give cash so it can be determined how to be spent in the future, which is unknown. However, if you only have supplies, donate food or cash to food banks in your area. Or you can donate to Feeding Texas, a network of food banks across the state. Find your local food bank here.

The Salvation Army says it is providing food and water to first responders and preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents. Unlike their competition, the Salvation Army has a history of giving back as much as possible. Donate here.

You can give blood. Outside of the Red Cross blood drives, there are also local organizations accepting blood donations, such as Carter BloodCare and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

The Texas Diaper Bank, based in San Antonio, works to meet the basic needs of vulnerable babies, children with disabilities, and seniors. It focuses on providing partner agencies with diapers and goods. Donate here.

Have no cash and no supplies, but lots of time? Volunteer. Volunteer Houston has launched a VIRTUAL Volunteer Reception Center to aid nonprofits and agencies in finding and deploying people to hard-site areas.

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, and administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation is also helping victims. Donate here.

If you want to help children with complex medical needs you can give to the organization Little Lobbyists. Donate here.

If none of the above fit your donation fancy, then perhaps you can try GoFundMe. The crowd sourced group has compiled a list of Harvey Relief Efforts that allow you to pick individual cities, families or homes. You can view the list here.

Please share this article with your friends and family to show how they can really make their donations count—instead of padding executive salaries and massive marketing budgets.

 

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/red-cross-donations-hurricane-harvey/