US Government Giving Military Contracts to Known Fraudsters

On August 18, 2014, First RF Corporation announced a new $2.2 million contract with the US Navy “to develop enabling RF technologies for future Navy and Marine Corps systems.”

Less than a month later, on October 24, the Justice Department announced that First RF agreed to repay $10 million to resolve allegations of fraud stemming from a 2005 contract with the Army. First RF provided the Army with antennas used to combat Improvised Explosive Devices but gouged the government on the price.

“Specifically, the United States alleged that First RF knowingly submitted false data to the Army that misrepresented First RF’s cost to manufacture the antennas, and thereby inflated the price for the antennas and the payments First RF received for them,” reads the press release.

A search of a database of US government contracts issued for First RF in 2005 returns three contracts related to “electrical and electronic equipment components” totaling $21,622,308 as well as 11 contracts for “research and development” totaling $3,227,028.

The Center for Effective Government website also indicates the contracts for electrical components were not competitively bid on, while the research and development contracts were. With First RF returning $10 million, the US Army either received $11.6 million worth of goods and services, is taking the $11.6 million as a loss, or a combination of the two.

The money continues to roll in

This has not kept the government from continuing to pour money into First RF. The company has received $2.2 million in SBIR contracts for 2014 alone. SBIR’s are effectively government grants financed by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, EPA, Department of Agriculture, and others. Continue reading

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Data Encryption and the FBI. Crying Wolf in the Digital Age

Apple announced that data on their new iPhone operating system would be encrypted by default, and Google quickly followed suit. Privacy advocates cheered while law enforcement groaned. What’s followed has been a full-court press by government officials to try to pressure the tech giants into changing their mind.

What Difference Does Encryption Make?

Without getting technical, encryption means that data is more secure and more difficult to access by third parties. Only the person who has the password can access the information.

The data now being encrypted by default includes the content of text messages and emails as well as the content of communications in third-party applications. Photos, documents, contacts, voicemail, and notes are also protected.

The idea is that now not even Apple or Google can access this information without a password.

So what’s the problem

This presents a conundrum to law enforcement who have, in part, relied on access to this information to track down and convict criminals. The Director  of the FBI James Comey recently presented his agency’s view on the new data encryption to the Brookings Institution. And according to him, well, the sky is falling and criminals can now use their phones to aid them in committing crimes with impunity.

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US Arming Group in Kobani that it Considers Terrorists

The US Government acknowledged on Sunday that it air dropped small arms, ammunition, and medical supplies to rebels fighting ISIS in Kobani, Syria.

The Turkish President balked when asked if he supported the operation. Adding that “There has been talk of arming the PYD to form a front here against the Islamic State. For us, the PYD is the same as the PKK, it’s a terrorist organisation.”

This is why Erdogan has been reluctant to set up a land route through Turkey to help supply the fighters in Kobani with material as well as reinforcements. It’s worth noting that the corridor opened yesterday by Turkey is for Iraqi Kurdish fighters, the pesh merga, and still prohibits any Turks from crossing the border to fight in Kobani.

Here’s the kicker, though. The United States has, since 1997, also considered the PKK a foreign terrorist organization.

There’s no debate about whether the PYD is connected to the PKK. It’s merely the amount of collusion that’s an open question.

Therefore, the United States government is openly providing not only logistical support but also weapons to a group that, at the bare minimum, is affiliated with what the US considers a terrorist organization.

US Government Provides Arms to Kobani Defenders

Last night the White House held an on background conference call to brief reporters on the provision of arms to Kurdish fighters in Kobani over the weekend.

According to officials, a total of 27 bundles of small arms, ammunition and medical supplies were air dropped into Kobani. When asked exactly what kinds of arms were dropped, the official noted the weapons themselves were provided by the Kurds, noting that “I just don’t have the breakdown of exactly what types they were,” so effectively they don’t know (or aren’t saying.)

One official noted that this is the continuation of a campaign that began last year to arm rebels.

The call also more bluntly describes the US mission against ISIS than what the press describes it as. The officials describe efforts to bleed out ISIS in a long protracted campaign where “what we’re trying to do with this resupply is support those who are seeking to inflict greater losses” on ISIS. Two officials noted that airstrikes have killed hundreds of fighters and destroyed scores of pieces of equipment. They described our strategy against ISIS as “opportunistic” and said that “if we, again, see ISIL massing forces, massing equipment, and presenting us with an opportunity to set back ISIL capabilities, we’re going to act.”

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Tip of the Day: Don’t get on an airplane if you’ve treated someone with Ebola

Nurse Amber Joy Vinson treated the Dallas man who recently died of Ebola. She was running a slight fever. She got on a plane anyway.

What is wrong with this lady?

First and foremost, the US government should bear a lot of the blame for allowing this woman to get on two flights after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who recently died of Ebola. The fact that they knew about her plans to fly and said “yeah sure no problem” lacks any sort of common sense, especially when they were aware she had a slight fever. Continue reading

Egypt Begins the Slow Work of Rebuilding a Dictatorship

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has his work cut out for him but he’s made great headway in the past 5 months of sowing the seeds of autocracy.

Let’s go through our handy dictatorial checklist:

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Pennies Cost 1.6 Pennies to Make. It’s Time to Ditch them Altogether

The price of Zinc is rising, taking the production price of a penny with it. With each coin costing 1.6 cents to make, the U.S. Mint stands to lose $55 million this year.

It’s time to get rid of them altogether.

Source: USA Today / U.S. Mint

Other countries have done so. The most recent of which was our Northern neighbor, Canada, who stopped making one cent coins in 2012 because they cost 1.6 Canadian cents to make. New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and The Netherlands have also eliminated their once cent coins (or stopped circulating one cent Euros.)

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