Study: U.S. crime rate is at an historic low; USPIRG identifies road...

Study: U.S. crime rate is at an historic low; USPIRG identifies road boondoggles

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U.S. crime near historic low
A report from the Brennan Center for Justice cites a dramatic drop in crime over the last 25 years that today remains near its historic lows. Since 1991, the overall crime rate has fallen by more than half, from 5,856 crimes per 100,000 persons to 2,857 crimes. Apart from increases in murders in just three cities—Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C.—the nation’s murder rate fell from 9.8 per 100,000 population to 5.3, the Brennan study said. The study does not mention that private gun ownership has increased substantially during the 25-year period of declining crime.

Study identifies road boondoggles
A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group identifies nine wasteful highway expansion projects across the nation that will pluck at least $10 billion from taxpayers. Instead of building unjustifiable highways, the money could be better spent for repairing and maintaining existing roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair, USPIRG said. Using money to build new highways, report co-author Lauren Aragon said, is “using tomorrow’s money to pay for yesterday’s policies.”

Happy tax day! Three indicted for bogus refunds
Indictments were unsealed for three Florida residents—Israel Tassy, Evens Julien and Jean Destine, of Broward and Miami-Dade counties—who are charged with filing more than 2,000 phony tax returns that claimed more than $6.8 million in refunds, the Department of Justice said. According to the indictment, the trio recruited and paid others to obtain Electronic Filing Identification Numbers from the IRS, and used them to file the fraudulent returns.

Back pay ordered for enslaved worker
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division said that Himanshu Bhatia, the CEO of Rose International, a leading staffing company based in Chesterfield, Mo., will pay $135,000 in back wages to a former domestic service worker who was paid subminimum wages and forced to sleep with Bhatia’s dogs. DOL said Bhatia confiscated the employee’s passport and forced her to sign a document that falsely stated she was receiving an adequate salary and had no employment dispute.

Medical data base adds conflict statements
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said that PubMed, an online database of medical and life science abstracts, has started including authors’ conflict-of-interest statements. The policy change was ordered by the National Library of Medicine and comes 13 months after it was recommended by CSPI, six other advocacy organizations, and five U.S. senators: Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

59 countries are exempt from Trump’s “Buy America” order
President Trump’s “hire American, buy American” orders drew general praise from Public Citizen, an advocacy group which has opposed U.S. trade agreements in the past. But, PC noted, the executive orders might not affect trade relations with 59 countries which are immune from U.S.-imposed Buy America requirements as a condition of their World Trade Organization memberships. PC said President Trump could give 60 days notice of withdrawal from the WTO without incurring a penalty, and then invoke his authority to reverse the 59 Buy American waivers.

Priest sex-abuse defamation dismissal affirmed
A divided U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a defamation suit against William Donohue, a frequent television spokesman for the Catholic League, for claiming a Missouri man who told a Kansas City newspaper he’d been sexually abused by a priest had been “implicated in a murder.” The court held that the suit should have been based on New York defamation law that sets a one-year deadline for filing a complaint.

Agency files briefs to protect whistleblowers
The Office of Special Counsel filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two cases that urge federal courts to uphold laws that provide special protections for whistleblowers. One of the cases, pending in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, involves a Merit System Protection Board decision. In the other case, involving the Pentagon, the OSC argues that a whistleblower doesn’t lose protection when a complaint is based on personal motive.

Cuba national gets life sentence for terror plans
Harlem Suarez (aka: Almlak Benitez), 23, of Monroe County, Fla., was given a life prison sentence for attempting to create an explosive device to kill Americans at a public beach in Key West, and attempting to provide material support to the radical Islamic terrorism cult known as ISIS, the Department of Justice said. Suarez, a legal U.S. resident and citizen of Cuba, was accused of purchasing components for the device, which was to contain galvanized nails, to be concealed in a backpack, and to be detonated by a cell phone.

New York doctor guilty in bribery scheme
Ahmed El Soury, 44, of Monmouth Junction, N.J., pleaded guilty to charges of taking bribes for referring patient blood specimens to Biodiagnostics Laboratory Services LLC, of Parsippany, N.J., the Department of Justice said. Dr. Soury, an internal medicine doctor in Staten Island, N.Y., accepted $66,000 in exchange for approximately $650,000 in lab business for BLS. He is among 44 persons who have been convicted—30 of them doctors—in connection with the bribe scheme that has so far bilked Medicare and private insurance companies out of $100 million, DOJ said.

Pay-to-play New Jersey mayor is sentenced
Alex Blanco, 45, the former mayor of Passaic, N.J., was given a 27-month prison sentence for accepting $110,000 in bribes from two developers who wanted the city’s permission to build eight low-income housing units on property they owned in Passaic. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the developers were asked by a mayor’s agent to provide a payment after they gained approvals for their project from the city council and the zoning board.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Monday, April 17

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