Murray the Beagle intercepts exotic foods
Credit a beagle named Murray for helping customs agents at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport intercept 46 pounds of exotic fruit, peppers and beef that was being smuggled into the country by passengers on flights from Ecuador and Peru. Murray, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, is the newest member of CBP’s “beagle brigade” of dogs that have been trained to alert agents to potentially illegal shipments. Murray’s first week on the job found him sniffing out such prohibited items as potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes, banana passion fruits, yellow Dragon fruits and beef.
Congress’s words mean what they say
Among Freedom of Information Act exemptions is one that permits government from disclosing “geological and geophysical information…concerning wells, including maps.” AquAlliance, an environmental group that monitors water supplies in California’s Central Valley Project, submitted an FOIA request for information about water wells, but the Bureau of Reclamation cited Exemption 9 as grounds for denying the request. In a lawsuit, AquAlliance argued that the exemption applied to oil and natural gas wells, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said “Congress meant what it said, and said what it meant.”
Television ownership juggernaut keeps rolling along
The top five television broadcast corporations collectively owned 443 television stations by the end of 2016, a statistic that won’t change if top-ranked Sinclair Broadcasting completes its proposed $3.9 billion deal to acquire 42 more stations from fifth-ranked Chicago-based Tribune Media. Altogether, the Pew Research Center said, the five companies own 37% of the nation’s television stations and they raked in $8.3 billion in revenues in 2016, a presidential election year that saw candidates and SuperPACs pour several billion dollars into television advertising.
CDC sounds alarm on hepatitis C
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounds an alarm that warns of an increase in hepatitis C virus infections that is reaching epidemic proportions. CDC said the number of cases grew from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015, but added the statistics don’t reflect the number of Americans who don’t know they have been infected. CDC estimated that about 34,000 new hepatitis C infections actually occurred in 2015.
ICE sweeps 1,378 gang members off U.S. streets
A six-week operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led to the arrests of 1,378 gang members across the country. Of those arrested, 1,098 were wanted for state or federal criminal charges. ICE said the operation caught 445 illegal aliens from 21 countries. Also, agents arrested 241 members of the Crips and Bloods street gangs that are based in Los Angeles, and 104 members of the Marastrucha-13 narco-gang that spread to the U.S. from El Salvador.
Ex-Rep. Brown convicted for fraudulent activity
Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) was convicted by a federal jury for creating a fraudulent scholarship charity and engaging in activities that generated money to pay her personal expenses and advance her political agenda, the Department of Justice said. Brown, 70, of Jacksonville, Fla., raised over $800,000 for the bogus One Door for Education—Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund and spent $300,000 for political events, including a golf tournament in Ponte Verda Beach, Fla., and the rental of luxury boxes at concerts and Washington Redskins football games.
Tax preparer preyed on clients’ confidence
Jonathan Peirsol, 42, a tax preparer in Pocatello, Idaho, was given a one-year-and-a-day prison sentence for submitting falsified tax returns that generated inflated tax refunds which Peirsol diverted to his own bank account. The Department of Justice said Peirsol inflated deductions without his clients’ knowledge or consent, and arranged to have the refunds deposited into a bank account under his control.
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 Thursday, May 11