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How does a $50 million charter scam work? Here's what happened in California (before 11 people were

Original report: Inside the Charter School Empire Prosecutors Say Scammed California for $80M (Voice of San Diego)


Source: Washington Post

How does a $50 million charter scam work? Here’s what happened in California (before 11 people were indicted).

By Valerie Strauss
June 17 at 11:41 AM

Late last month, San Diego officials indicted 11 people in what they described as a charter scam that defrauded the state of California of more than $50 million in education funds.

The indictment details a scheme in which an Australian man and his business partner in Southern California opened 19 charter schools throughout the state and then took the public funding the schools received to operate and used it instead for real estate and other ventures.

This post explains the scam that the 235-page indictment spells out in detail. This is long but worth the time to read to get an understanding of how easy it is, because of lax charter sector laws in some states, to defraud the public.

California, which has more charter schools and more charter school students than any other state, now has one of the most lax charter laws in the country, allowing these schools to operate with little if any accountability or transparency to the public.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/06/17/how-does-million-charter-scam-work-heres-what-happened-california-before-people-were-indicted


District Attorney Summer Stephan discusses the indictment of several people tied to an alleged scam involving the charter school management company A3. / Image courtesy of NBC San Diego

Source: Voice of San Diego

Inside the Charter School Empire Prosecutors Say Scammed California for $80M

The indictment against the leaders of A3 Education lays out a complex organizational structure with two top leaders and several lieutenants who led the charge to enroll thousands of summer school students, who did not actually take classes. Several superintendents, knowingly or not, helped fuel the network’s growth. And untold coaches, students and parents were roped in to help boost enrollment.

Will Huntsberry
June 12, 2019

Sean McManus and Jason Schrock created an online charter school empire that covered more than half the state of California, according to prosecutors and investigators for an outside charter school organization.

From the port of entry at San Ysidro up to Los Angeles, past the cliffs of Big Sur all the way to Santa Cruz; east through Raisin City, past the giant sequoias of Sierra National Forest, and down into the flat and quiet of Death Valley; south again to the Mexican border; and back to the coast – a person could travel unbroken through 20 counties that made up the lower half of their empire. An outpost of 14 counties encompassing Sonoma and Sacramento sits further north.

From this vast swath of territory, McManus and Schrock absorbed mind-blowing profits. Take just some of their 2016 tax returns: Their nonprofit charter management company A3 brought in $14.2 million in revenue. It spent only $3.6 million. Of the money it spent, $855,796 went to McManus and Schrock’s salaries. They appeared to be the only two employees, according to the tax return.

The profits climbed even higher in the months that followed, according to an indictment filed by prosecutors. A3 Education and other companies controlled by McManus and Schrock ultimately brought in more than $80 million, prosecutors say.

Nothing in the law stops a nonprofit charter management company from operating on wide profit margins or paying its officers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But the company’s “profits” aren’t ever supposed to make it into personal bank accounts. To get them there requires shady accounting. Prosecutors say McManus and Schrock extracted roughly $8 million into bank accounts and personal charities and bought a $1.6 million house for joint use in San Juan Capistrano.


Read more: https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/inside-the-charter-school-empire-prosecutors-say-scammed-california-for-80m/

Intelligence Experts Question Iran Video: 'U.S. Track Record on Ginning up Evidence for War is Not G

Source: Newsweek



The black and white surveillance video is exceedingly grainy. It shows what U.S. military officials say is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp patrol boat bobbing alongside the Kokuka Courageous, one of the two tankers damaged by explosions Thursday in the Gulf of Oman that the Trump administration blamed squarely on Iran.

In the 1:39-minute video, released late Thursday by the U.S. Central Command, several crew members aboard the Gashti-class patrol boat appear to be removing an object from the hull of the tanker before the boat then backs up and motors away. The video is far too fuzzy to discern what the object is. But according to the U.S. military officials, the Iranian crew members removed one of their own unexploded limpet mines to hide evidence of their involvement in the explosions. The officials said several Iranian patrol boats had rushed to the Kokuka Courageous to rescue crew members who had abandoned ship in rafts and told the Iranians about the unexploded mine.

The video was released a few hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a statement: "It is the assessment of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today."

Pompeo said the assessment was based on "the intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication."

But independent intelligence experts say the video provides no proof whatsoever of Iran's alleged responsibility for the attacks, a charge Iran denies. That's not to say Iran did not carry out the attacks, these experts hasten to add, noting that as the Trump administration tightens economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Tehran has ample reason to carry out such hard-to-trace terrorism against tankers, if only to raise the price of the dwindling amount of oil Iran is selling these days. But amid the rising tensions in the Middle East, these experts say, there are numerous other players in the region with compelling motivations to carry out such attacks.


Read more: https://www.newsweek.com/intelligence-experts-question-iran-video-us-track-record-ginning-evidence-war-not-good-1444169

Trump's order to slash number of science advisory boards blasted by critics as 'nonsensical'

Source: NBC News

Trump's order to slash number of science advisory boards blasted by critics as 'nonsensical'

"It's no longer death by a thousand cuts. It's taking a knife to the jugular,” one science advocate said of the order to eliminate a third of the advisory boards.

June 15, 2019, 4:11 PM EDT
By Phil McCausland

President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Friday to cut the number of government advisory committees by a third across all federal agencies, a move that the White House said is long overdue and necessary to ensure good stewardship of taxpayers' money.

But critics said it is the Trump administration’s latest effort to undermine science-based and fact-supported decision-making.

“This is another example of how disconnected the Trump administration is from the needs of the American people and how to protect them from harm," said Mustafa Ali, who resigned in 2017 as the senior adviser for environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Experts on the advisory committees, which were formalized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 1972, give the executive branch input on issues ranging from high-level nuclear waste disposal, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, AIDS, drug addiction, school improvement and housing.


Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/trump-s-order-slash-number-science-advisory-boards-blasted-critics-n1017921

Dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis. Corporate marketing lies behind it.

Source: Washington Post

Dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis. Corporate marketing lies behind it.

As a result, when African nations ban bleaching products, the bans will probably backfire

By Ramya M. Vijaya June 15 at 7:00 AM

In the past several years, multinational corporations have heavily marketed the idea that lighter skin leads to more prosperity. As a result, dangerous skin bleaching has become a public health crisis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In response, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) recently passed a resolution recommending a regional ban on cosmetics with hydroquinone, a skin-bleaching agent — a ban that looks likely to pass. Several countries, including Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan, have also banned bleaching cosmetics in recent months.

Despite these warnings and bans, the skin-whitening industry has experienced phenomenal growth in parts of Asia and Africa in recent years. A WHO report found that nearly 77 percent of Nigerian women reported using skin-lightening products regularly. In India, 61 percent of the skin-care market consisted of skin-lightening products. Analysts project still more growth in years to come. However, in my research on the cosmetic industry’s global colorism marketing, I found that banning bleaching agents is counterproductive and might exacerbate the crisis, as I explain below.

Market research shows continued, exponential growth in the global market for skin-whitening products. One forecast projects the industry to reach about $24 billion in value by 2027. Another puts the figure at $31.2 billion by the year 2024. Multinational brands Unilever, Beiersdorf and L’Oreal are the three dominant players in this industry globally. In India and Nigeria, the two country case studies in my chapter in the book “Race in the Marketplace,” Unilever and Beiersdorf have the largest market shares respectively. The dominance of multinational corporations in the industry is creating a new dynamic in colorism, the preference for lighter skin tones even among nonwhite majority populations. Their marketing is amplifying colonial-era associations of power and privilege with white skin already embedded in parts of Asia and Africa.

Attempting to cash in on a growing, aspirational middle-class consumer base in these regions, companies use advertising to link lighter skin with perceptions of not just beauty but also socioeconomic mobility.

In the early 2000s, Unilever began airing what became a notorious commercial for its Fair and Lovely whitening cream on Indian television. ...


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/15/dangerous-skin-bleaching-has-become-public-health-crisis-corporate-marketing-lies-behind-it/

U.S., others object to U.N. counterterrorism chief visit to China's Xinjiang

Source: Reuters


U.S., others object to U.N. counterterrorism chief visit to China's Xinjiang

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States and other western countries have objected to a visit by the United Nations counterterrorism chief to China’s remote Xinjiang, where U.N. experts say some one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers.

Vladimir Voronkov, a veteran Russian diplomat who heads the U.N. Counterterrorism Office, is in China at the invitation of Beijing and is due to visit Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, according to an email sent by his office to countries that raised concerns.

Diplomats said that along with the United States several other countries, including Britain, also complained.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan spoke with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday “to convey deep concerns” about Voronkov’s trip because “Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not.”

“The Deputy Secretary expressed that such a visit is highly inappropriate in view of the unprecedented repression campaign underway in Xinjiang against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.


Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un/u-s-others-object-to-u-n-counterterrorism-chief-visit-to-chinas-xinjiang-idUSKCN1TF2NW

Sara Netanyahu pleads guilty in illegal meals case as corruption probes loom over husband

Source: CNN

Sara Netanyahu pleads guilty in illegal meals case as corruption probes loom over husband

By Oren Liebermann, CNN
Updated 0847 GMT (1647 HKT) June 13, 2019

Jerusalem (CNN) — Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed to a plea deal on Wednesday morning in a case concerning illegally ordered meals at the Prime Minister's residence, according to a statement released by Israel's Justice Ministry.

Sara Netanyahu, who was initially charged with fraud one year ago, agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of taking unfair advantage of a mistake, the Justice Ministry statement said. She will also pay 55,000 shekels (approximately $15,300) -- 45,000 shekels back to the state, and 10,000 shekels in the form of a fine.

A spokesman for Israel's first lady had no comment.

According to an amended indictment sheet, the case involved the ordering of catered meals delivered to the residence worth a total of 175,000 shekels (just under $50,000).


Read more: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/12/middleeast/sara-netanyahu-plea-deal-israel-meals-intl/index.html

Viewpoint: What series on Central Park Five teaches us today

Source: BBC

Viewpoint: What series on Central Park Five teaches us today

By Barrett Holmes Pitner

13 June 2019

A true-crime Netflix series which focuses on a failure of the US justice system during the late 1980s has reminded a new audience that the horrors of the past still have meaning today.

Director Ava DuVernay's miniseries When They See Us tells the story of five young African-American and Latino boys who were falsely accused and wrongly convicted of attacking and raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989.

The scope of the injustices inflicted upon these teenagers, ages 14 to 16, has left audiences terrified and outraged.

"I didn't know that this kind of thing still happened past the 50s and 60s," says Jessica Randolph, who lives in Maryland.

Ms Randolph, 26, African-American, was born after the trial and had previously heard about the Central Park Five case, but she did not know the explicit details. For her, watching When They See Us felt like re-living a real-life horror story that tragically has always been a part of every-day black existence in America.


Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48503826

Dana Milbank: How Trump will remake the Fourth of July to his benefit

Source: Washington Post

How Trump will remake the Fourth of July to his benefit

By Dana Milbank
June 7 at 6:23 PM



Lincoln Memorial

July 4, 2019

My fellow Americans, welcome to the First Annual Trump International Independence Day and Casino on the Mall, brought to you by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and by the official hotel of Independence Day, the Trump International, preferred destination of discerning sheikhs.

Today, Americans celebrate what makes our country great, and that thing is your favorite President, me. We come together as one nation, even the haters and losers, the fake news, Low IQ Joe, Nervous Nancy, Cryin’ Chuck — what a creep! — socialists, murderers, rapists and MS-13 animals. This is the largest crowd ever. I have all the records. I hold all the cards.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from this very spot, but I am hearing that my speech is already better than his — maybe the greatest ever. Abe Lincoln is also honored by my presence here. Abe was a good president, but he was never as popular as me. Ninety-four percent approval rating in the Republican Party! All-time record! Love records. Also, the White House physician says I am now 6-foot-5, which makes me taller than Abe and means my BMI is not in the obese category.

Thank you to those seated up front who contributed to my campaign at the Emolument Level. Before me tonight, I see the beautiful melting pot of America: people from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. It is almost as great as seeing my royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-trump-will-remake-the-fourth-of-july-to-his-benefit/2019/06/07/584e49da-8934-11e9-a491-25df61c78dc4_story.html

Trump to Ireland: Post-Brexit border 'wall' will work out well

Credit to Rachel Maddow for the heads up.

I used to consider a Trump-like border wall in Ireland was a good idea for satire. Even Trump could not be this crazy, could he?


Source: Politico

Trump to Ireland: Post-Brexit border ‘wall’ will work out well

The US president said Brexit ‘should be good’ for Ireland.

By JAMES RANDERSON 6/5/19, 7:41 PM CET Updated 6/5/19, 7:44 PM CET

Donald Trump wished Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar well with his country's border "wall" after Brexit, ahead of a one-to-one meeting between the two leaders.

The U.S. president flew to Ireland from a D-Day commemoration ceremony in Portsmouth on the south coast of England Wednesday — the culmination of his state visit to the U.K.

During a brief exchange before his meeting with Varadkar at Shannon Airport, near Ireland's west coast, Trump said to Varadkar: "Probably you'll ask me about Brexit because I just left some very good people who are very involved with Brexit."

"I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border," Trump added before drawing parallels with the U.S. southern border with Mexico. "We have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it's going to work out very well here."

Varadkar replied, "I think one thing we want to avoid, of course, is a wall or border between us."


Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/donald-trump-to-ireland-leo-varadkar-post-brexit-border-wall-will-work-out-well/


EU legal expert says online defamation enforceable worldwide

Source: Associated Press

EU legal expert says online defamation enforceable worldwide

June 4, 2019

BRUSSELS (AP) — A top European Union legal adviser said Tuesday that social media networks like Facebook could be ordered to take down anywhere in the world any text, photo or other media ruled to be defamatory by a court.

The U.S. social network said the opinion risks letting countries undermine freedom of expression beyond their borders.

The case concerns a Facebook user who shared an online article on their personal page about Austrian Greens politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek.


In his legal opinion , EU Court of Justice Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said companies like Facebook can be ordered by a court “to seek and identify” duplicate copies of information that a court has deemed illegal posted by any users of a platform.

Szpunar added that because European law on electronic commerce “does not regulate the territorial scope of an obligation to remove information disseminated via a social network platform,” platforms can be ordered to remove the information posted by users worldwide.


Read more: https://apnews.com/5ff1e6534c3944babb2a2c57a95a95b5
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