An audit report obtained by Politico reveals a division of the Defense Department, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), cannot account for more than $800 million in building expenses. The money is believed to have gone to construction projects, but there is no paper trail. The auditors concluded this is not an isolated incident, but a result of the agency's failure to develop any "reliable way to track the huge sums it's responsible for," Politico reports.
The DLA has an annual budget of about $40 billion, less than 6 percent of the $700 billion in this year's DoD budget. Its audit is part of the first full audit the Pentagon has ever undergone, despite being required by law to submit to an annual audit for decades.
DoD representatives told Politico that findings of this sort are to be expected because the Pentagon has not been audited before. "The key is to use auditor feedback to focus our remediation efforts and corrective action plans, and maximize the value from the audits," said the DLA in a statement. "That's what we're doing now."
However, critics including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expressed doubt that a "successful DoD audit" will ever be completed because "keeping track of the people's money may not be in the Pentagon's DNA." Bonnie Kristian
Air pollution is a well-known villain in the modern world. The dark smoke emanates from cars and factories, while big cities have been blamed for everything from climate change to the reduced visibility of the stars in the night sky.
But the scourge of urban smog isn't the only thing that contributes to air pollution. In fact, it might be time to point the finger of blame at a surprising culprit: farms.
Agricultural land in California alone contributes to between 25 and 41 percent of the nitrogen oxide in the air, a dismaying new study conducted by the University of California at Davis found. Nitrogen oxide is a blanket term for several compounds made of nitrogen and oxygen that contribute heavily to air pollution. While harmless in small quantities, large amounts of these gases can cause smog and even, in extreme circumstances, acid rain.
Writing in the journal Science Advances, researchers explained how large amounts of excess fertilizer, combined with the typical climate conditions of California, make for a stunning amount of pollution. While half of the nitrogen in fertilizer is used by the plants as nourishment, the other half sinks into the soil, where tiny bacteria convert the gas into nitrogen oxide. "Since you can't see it coming from the soils, it's very easy to miss," Ben Houlton, one of the scientists who led the study, told Newsweek.
Unfortunately, this problem doesn't have an easy solution: Farming remains a major industry in California, which grows about half of the fruits and nuts produced in the U.S. Read more about the study at Newsweek. Shivani Ishwar
Hawaii's governor was slow to correct the missile false alarm because he forgot his Twitter password
When the government of Hawaii accidentally sent a statewide text message telling residents a ballistic missile was about to strike their home, the first official indication the warning was a false alarm came from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Twitter. It would have come from Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), he said Monday, but he couldn't remember how to get into his Twitter account.
"I have to confess that I don't know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that's one of the changes I've made," Ige told The Washington Post for a report published Tuesday. Now, he added, he has been putting account information "on my phone so that we can access the social media directly."
While Gabbard got her Twitter post up within 12 minutes of the alert, Ige's password kerfuffle delayed him another five. The official corrective text message did not send until 38 minutes after the false alarm. Bonnie Kristian
Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency mistakenly sent a text message to Hawaiians Saturday morning warning of an incoming ballistic missile, sending island residents into a panic for the 20 minutes it took to correct the false alarm.
"Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill," the original message said in all caps. "NO missile threat to Hawaii," the agency tweeted soon after.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also took to Twitter to calm worried constituents. See a screenshot of the original alert in her post below. Bonnie Kristian
HAWAII - THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. THE ALERT WAS SENT OUT INADVERENTLY. I HAVE SPOKEN TO HAWAII OFFICIALS AND CONFIRMED THERE IS NO THREAT. pic.twitter.com/hwRGct2aTa
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) January 13, 2018
On Monday, President Trump's former deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka published a column in The Hill defending the president against several explosive claims in Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff's new book about the Trump White House. Gorka's op-ed would likely please the president, as he gleefully bashes the "#FakeNews" and uses a paragraph-long parenthetical to scoff at the "outrageous assertion" that the Trump campaign and Russia worked together during the 2016 election.
There's just one problem: Gorka writes that he met Wolff in the White House on an unnamed person's orders and declined an interview with the author. While that may be exonerating for Gorka himself, given the furor the book has stirred, it directly refutes Trump's claim that he personally rejected Wolff's requests to visit the White House:
So, when I met Michael Wolff in Reince Priebus' office, where he was waiting to talk to Steve Bannon, and after I had been told to also speak to him for his book, my attitude was polite but firm: "Thanks but no thanks." Our brief encounter reinforced my gut feeling that this oleaginous scribe had no interest in being fair and unbiased. [Sebastian Gorka, via The Hill]
Gorka isn't the only Trump ally who remembers Wolff at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.; White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last Wednesday that the author had "just over a dozen interactions" at the White House.
Still, Gorka deploys one of the president's favorite linguistic constructions in his efforts to discredit Wolff, calling the author a "partisan self-promoter with credibility issues the likes of which we haven't seen in a very long time." Read the op-ed in its entirety at The Hill. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Leaked emails containing purported excerpts of speeches Hillary Clinton gave after leaving the State Department see her discussing Russian President Vladimir Putin in strikingly positive terms as recently as 2014.
Putin is an "engaging" man and a "very interesting conversationalist," Clinton wrote. "I would love it if we could continue to build a more positive relationship with Russia," she remarked during one speech at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs in 2013, adding, "obviously we would very much like to have a positive relationship with Russia and we would like to see Putin be less defensive toward a relationship with the United States so that we could work together on some issues."
Those comments, made behind closed doors, are markedly different from her public takes on Putin both in 2014 and this year. In March of 2014, for instance, Clinton compared Putin to Hitler. In the 2016 race, she has argued that rival Donald Trump's admiration for Putin "raises national security issues" and released a video suggesting Trump is working with Putin to manipulate the U.S. election via Russian hacking and leaks. She reiterated the latter claim in the second presidential debate Sunday. Bonnie Kristian