Since General David Petraeus took over command of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan more than a month ago, one of his top priorities has been rooting out corruption there. He has intensified efforts to uncover bribery in the Afghan government and watch the workings of U.S. contracting practices. Last week, he was joined in his efforts by Congressman Edolphus Towns, the chair of the House Oversight Committee. The New York Democrat just returned from a trip to Afghanistan where he visited with Petraeus to investigate waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
It's been 11 years and the nation's black farmers have still not received the nearly $1.25 billion settlement they were promised by the Agriculture Department. The Senate was expected to approve the measure before the start of recess last Thursday, but Republicans put the brakes on the vote after citing concerns that Democrats had not outlined a plan to pay for the settlement.
In the last five months, U.S. military raids in Afghanistan have captured or killed more than 130 insurgents deemed significant in the war. The recent shift in the military's counterterrorism approach now focuses more on targeted killings. According to a senior White House official, the intent of the new strategy is to pressure the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
But some historians say what they are seeing in Afghanistan is reminiscent of the Phoenix Program, a strategy used during the Vietnam War intended to target, capture and kill important people within the Viet Cong. The program led to widespread killings of innocent civilians.
Fourteen people, mostly of Somali descent, have been accused of providing support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab. That’s the group that claimed responsibility for a bombing last month that killed 76 people who were watching a World Cup match in Uganda, including an American aid worker. Al-Shabab have declared war on the United Nations and humanitarian organizations in Somalia. A handful of people have been arrested in recent weeks on charges they were leaving to aid the terrorist group.
This week, we discuss two big stories, each of which considers the original intent of the 14th Amendment. Known as the "Reconstruction Amendment," as it passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, this clause of the Constitution guarantees U.S. citizenship for anyone born in the United States. It prohibits state governments from depriving anyone of "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," and mandates "equal protection of the laws" for all citizens.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in California ruled Proposition 8, the voter-backed ballot measure to prohibit same-sex marriage, unconstitutional based on "due process" and "equal protection" grounds: both clauses in the 14th Amendment.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, several Republican senators are proposing to repeal or change the Amendment. They say we should no longer automatically give citizenship to American-born children of illegal immigrants.
The Senate still has a few things to do before it goes on August recess. From the "spill bill" to Elena Kagan, Takeaway Washington correspondent, Todd Zwillich has the latest from Capitol Hill.
Owning a gun is a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment. But the Appleseed Project believes Americans should not just own guns, they need to be trained how to use them. To that end, the North Carolina-based non-profit organization trains Americans to accurately shoot a man-size target up to 500 yards away. According to its founder, Jack Dailey, it is a skill that is fundamental to protect the liberty of all Americans. The Appleseed Project has already trained 25,000 people and expects to have 7,000 more clients by year's end.
We look ahead this week to birthdays, oil in the Gulf and unemployment numbers. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama turns 49; former White House correspondent Helen Thomas turns 90 on the same day. Besides birthdays, there will hopefully be another cause for celebration down on the Gulf coast: BP may have found a way to permanently seal the well that has gushed roughly 184 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
According to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT, child poverty is on the rise in America. The report, which looked at data from 2008, shows that even before the recession hit, one million more children were living in households below the poverty line than in 2000.
"That's a real warning sign for us," says Laura Beavers, national KIDS COUNT coordinator for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "We are fully expecting that when the Census Bureau releases new data on child poverty this year, the child poverty rate is likely to climb above 20 percent."
The report also revealed the states with the highest ranking for overall well-being of children, and the states with the lowest rankings: New Hampshire ranked first, while Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked in the bottom three.
Since 1993, Greg Mortenson has dedicated his life to building schools, mostly for girls, in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Author of The New York Times best-seller, "Three Cups of Tea," Greg Mortenson, approaches diplomacy in Afghanistan through education and working with village elders. And even as a strong advocate against the war there, he and his book have been warmly embraced by top ranking members of the U.S. command in Afghanistan, who have turned to Mortenson for advice on how to approach locals there.
On Thursday, Arizona's SB 1070 officially goes into effect, meaning law enforcement will be able to question anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally. Leading up to Thursday, there has been a growing climate of fear among immigrants in the state. Many undocumented families have decided to leave Arizona, some heading to other states and some going back to their home countries. Monday was the first day of school in the Balsz Elementary School District, an area where more than 70 percent of the population is Hispanic. We talk with Superintendent Jeffrey Smith who says that more than 500 students were not in attendance yesterday.
Updated 6:57pm EST
Arwa Gunja here on the night shift.
We’re watching two breaking stories in different American cities. In Detroit, Police Chief Warren Evans unexpectedly stepped down earlier today. And in Chicago, the defense rested in the trial of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, even without having him testify. We’ll get updates on both stories.
And a third city is making headlines today. In a 5-2 vote, Oakland City Council approved an ordinance to allow industrial marijuana production. This comes just weeks before a vote in California on whether to legalize recreation use of marijuana. Currently, fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. The decision in Oakland now opens up a new avenue for the crop to enter the commercial sector. Tomorrow, we’ll talk with Ryan Nerz, author of the book, “MarijuanAmerica,” about whether our society is growing more tolerant of pot and its legalization.
Also tomorrow, Slate writer Emily Bazelon returns to the show to talk about her article, “What Really Happened to Phoebe Prince.” The story of Phoebe Prince made international headlines when the 15-year-old girl took her own life in January, after she was alledgebly the repeated victim of bullies in school. Tomorrow, six of accused bullies are facing felony charges, including charges for statutory rape charges for two of the accused. But Bazelon, who has bee investigating the case since February, says the story is much more complicated than it appears. She’ll share her findings tomorrow on the show.
Updated 6:00pm EST
Arwa Gunja here on the evening shift.
Tomorrow, Senate Democrats are going to reignite their fight to extend unemployment benefits to millions of unemployed Americans. With a new Senator from West Virginia being sworn in on Tuesday, Democrats are confident they will get the 60 votes they need to push the measure through. But for those tired of waiting on Congress to get some relief, there is another federal program aimed at helping unemployed Americans get back on their feet – job re-training programs. For Sandra Cole, the experience so far has been worthwhile. She retrained as a dental assistant and just last week was hired for part-time position. She is hoping to transition into a full-time job soon, but she recognizes that she is "one of the lucky few." Many people tend not to find jobs as easily, even after going through training. Jeanette Brown is one of them. After being unemployed for two years, she trained in a bookkeeping and accounting program. She completed the training in May and still unemployed. But, she says she is optimistic.
Tomorrow we'll hear from Cole and Brown about their experiences. And if you’ve gone through a similar situation, tell us if you think job re-training works. Were you able to successfully find a new job after going through a training program? Leave us your comments by calling us at 877-8-MY-TAKE, visiting us on Facebook, or leaving a message right here on our website.
This morning, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest broke an exclusive story about the increased use of intelligence contractors. After years of research and information gathering, Priest found that billions of dollars are being wasted because of redundancies between the intelligence community and its contractors. And even though many top government officials know this is going on, little is being done to make operations more efficient or rein in spending.
Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to take the witness stand this week to testify in his own defense at his federal corruption trial. In the five weeks since the trial began, prosecutors have played many recordings of the former politician using countless expletives in multiple profanity-laced tirades. Now, when Blagojevich takes the stand, law experts say he will have to win over jurors, leave behind his notoriously arrogant attitude and even admit some faults.
Since September 11th, the intelligence community has handed off many of its responsibilities to private contractors. The private intelligence industry has grown, and been paid billions by the government despite a culture of waste and mismanagement. Because the intelligence community and contractors now share many similar responsibilities, the line distinguishing the two is blurry.
Oil may have stopped gushing into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, but the longterm economic damage caused by the BP catastrophe is only beginning to be seen. Workers along the along the Gulf Coast are not the only ones taking a hit. Columnist for The New York Times, Dan Barry found that the oil gusher will have far reaching consequences. He says it will impact everyone from the fishermen who mine the oyster beds in Louisiana to the Minnesota businessmen who rely on crushed oyster shells to be used as poultry feed.
More than 23 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes. After it was approved by the FDA in 1999, Avandia quickly became the world's most popular drug to treat type 2 diabetes. However, in 2007 studies began to show that the drug increased the risk of cardiovascular problems, and concerns about the drug's safety have persisted ever since.
Yesterday an FDA advisory committee voted on the safety of Avandia. Although most agreed that the drug increases the chance of a heart attack and stroke, the majority also voted to keep the drug on the market with revisions to its labels and more restrictions on its sale.
Airline fees are high enough, but do you really know how much you are paying for your plane ticket? Consider the amount you charge on your credit card when you purchase your tickets, plus the extra fees you pay to check your luggage or get that extra leg room or window seat. Those kinds of costs alone raked in an addition $8 billion in 2008 and 2009 for airlines, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Now airlines are facing mounting scrutiny from the Obama administration and Congress. And soon new guidelines may be put in place by the GAO.
Arwa Gunja here on the evening shift.
Tomorrow we’re going to be talking about questions of immigration and identity. More than two decades ago, President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to three million illegal immigrants. We’ll talk with Steven Thrasher from New York City’s Village Voice who profiled three formerly illegal immigrants (who Reagan's act made legal) to see how far they have come since 1986.
And as the nation mulls another round of immigration policy, we'll turn to Utah where the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information of 1,300 people were leaked early this morning. An anonymous group has said the names on the list are those of illegal immigrants, and the governor quickly responded by saying he will issue an immediate internal investigation to see how the information was gathered and made public. Tony Yapias is the former director of the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs. He says his phone has been ringing all day long with calls from residents fearing their names might be on the list. Yapias described the situation as a state of utter “hysteria,” with residents and their families fearing their privacy has been invaded and they will be hunted down.
But it’s not all bad news for Latinos in Utah. Horacio Vallejo owns a pastry shop in Salt Lake City, Utah. His business is one of the represented in new Census data that shows a massive jump in minority and women-owned businesses between 2002-2007. We’ll talk with some small business owners to try to understand this sharp jump and how business has been going since the recession.