Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

National

09/25/2014

US to pay Native American Navajo tribe $500m settlement

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The lawsuit had centred on how the US government managed the Navajo tribe's land

The US government has agreed to pay $554m (£339m) to the Native American Navajo tribe to settle a legal dispute.

It is the largest payment ever made by the government to a single tribe.

The litigation included claims that dated back more than 50 years, with the US accused of mismanaging resources on tribal lands. The Navajo Nation has now agreed to waive these lawsuits.

The US has previously reached similar agreements with other tribes over the use of their land and goods.

The Navajos are the largest Native American tribe, with more than 300,000 members.

About 14 million acres (5.7 million hectares) of Navajo land is leased out for purposes including farming, oil and gas production, and mining.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly called the settlement a "victory for tribal sovereignty".

The "fair and just compensation for the Navajo Nation" came after "a long, hard-won process", he said.

Navajo officials stressed that the settlement did not prevent the tribe from filing lawsuits over the US government's future conduct, or separate potential claims over water and uranium pollution.

Meanwhile, US Attorney General Eric Holder said: "This historic agreement resolves a longstanding dispute between the US and the Navajo Nation."

The deal showed the government's commitment to "strengthening our partnership with tribal nations", he added.

In 2012, the US reached a similar settlement with 41 tribes, agreeing to pay out about $1bn.


Obama administration agrees to pay Navajo Nation $554M to settle funds, natural resources claims

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The accord will be formally signed at a ceremony on Friday in Window Rock, Ariz. and will settle decades-old claims that the U.S. government mismanaged the tribe's trust accounts and resources.

The Obama administration has agreed to pay the Navajo Nation a record $554 million to settle longstanding claims by America's largest Indian tribe that its funds and natural resources were mishandled for decades by the U.S. government.

The accord, resolving claims that date back as far as 50 years and marking the biggest U.S. legal settlement with a single tribe, will be formally signed at a ceremony on Friday in Window Rock, Ariz., the capital of the sprawling Navajo reservation.

The deal stems from litigation accusing the government of mismanaging Navajo trust accounts and resources on more than 14 million acres of land held in trust for the tribe and leased for such purposes as farming, energy development, logging and mining.

In return for $554 million, the Navajo agreed to dismiss its lawsuit and forego further litigation over previous U.S. management of Navajo funds and resources held in trust by the federal government.

The deal does not preclude the tribe from pursuing future trust claims, or any separate claims over water and uranium pollution on its reservation, Navajo Attorney General Harrison Tsosie said.

He declined to quantify the total sum the Navajo had claimed it was owed before the settlement, saying he needed to review non-disclosure clauses.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly hailed the outcome as a "victory for tribal sovereignty" and promised to host town hall meetings to decide how to allocate settlement funds.

The Navajo Nation is the most populous American Indian tribe, with more than 300,000 members, and the largest by land mass, occupying 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

"After a long, hard-won process, I am pleased that we have finally come to a resolution on this matter to receive fair and just compensation for the Navajo Nation," Shelly said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the agreement historic and said it showed the Justice Department's commitment to "strengthening our partnership with tribal nations."

The deal comes over two years after the administration announced similar settlements with 41 tribes for about $1 billion collectively. Since then, the government has resolved breach of trust claims by nearly 40 additional tribes for more than $1.5 billion, a U.S. Justice Department official said.

Shelly publicly disclosed in May that the Navajo had reached an agreement in principle. The sides revealed on Wednesday that the deal had been...



09/22/2014

A troubled veteran at the White House's door

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Omar Gonzalez was always popular along this quiet cul-de-sac of neat suburban homes near Ft. Hood. "Omar, Omar!" children would shout as they ran to his front door. But at some point, neighbors of the decorated combat veteran started to worry.

David Haslach, an Army sergeant who lived three doors down, kept trying to call him, and finally went to his front door, wanting to know what Gonzalez had done with his phone. "It's in the microwave," Gonzalez told him. The government was trying to track him.

Gonzalez had started to go "off," Haslach said. He installed motion detector lights and examined the dirt outside his house for footprints. Then after the winter of 2013, Gonzalez left the neighborhood without explanation. "He didn't want anybody to know where he was going," Haslach said.

Omar Gonzalez enlisted in the Army in 1997, then reenlisted in 2005 as the U.S. deepened its commitment to Iraq. After returning from Baghdad, he was treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as physical injuries.

Gonzalez reemerged in dramatic fashion Friday when he briskly scaled a fence at the White House and sprinted across the lawn, making it through the north doors before being tackled by Secret Service agents.

In its immediate aftermath, the incident focused attention on whether White House security was sufficient. But Gonzalez's status as a troubled veteran — and what is known so far about his life after combat — serves as a reminder of the government's struggle to care for service members with traumatic deployment histories in Iraq or Afghanistan.

By some estimates, up to a fifth of the 2.6 million troops who served in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Gonzalez was being treated for both.

Interviews with family members and others who know him suggest that the 42-year-old Puerto Rico native had become increasingly disillusioned with the wars, the military and the care he was receiving from the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs.

The son of a Korean War veteran, Gonzalez split most of his childhood between Puerto Rico and Southern California. He played with toy soldiers for hours on end and dreamed of joining the military.

After earning a GED at Orange High School and spending several years in Puerto Rico, he enlisted in the Army in 1997. He completed his duty in 2003, but reenlisted two years later as the U.S. deepened its...


White House intruder was armed with knife

The Texas man arrested on Friday for charging at the White House was armed with a knife when he climbed a fence and made it into the executive mansion after President Barack Obama had departed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said on Saturday.


Previously, the US Secret Service had said Omar Gonzalez, 42, had been unarmed.


Gonzalez was charged with unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a “deadly or dangerous weapon,” according to an affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Saturday.


If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.


The affidavit, signed by Daniel Hochman, a Secret Service officer on duty at the White House when the incident occurred, said Gonzalez was carrying a folding knife with a 3-1/2-inch long serrated blade.


It said Gonzalez went through the north doors and got inside the mansion.


“After he was apprehended, Omar Gonzalez told United States Secret Service Agent Lee Smart that he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and (he) needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” the affidavit said.


The incident, one of the most significant breaches since Obama became president, raised questions about security procedures at the White House, a heavily guarded complex filled with Secret Service officers and snipers.


The Secret Service increased security around the White House on Friday and started a review of its response, including a physical assessment of the area and interviews with involved personnel, the agency said.


Shortly before the intrusion, Obama and his daughters had departed for Camp David. First Lady Michelle Obama had traveled separately to the presidential retreat in nearby Maryland.
“Every day the Secret Service is challenged to ensure security at the White House complex while still allowing public accessibility to a national historical site,” the agency said in a statement.


“Although last night the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject, the location of Gonzalez’s arrest is not acceptable.”


The results of the review will be delivered to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.


While waiting for the results of the review, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ordered increased security around the area where the intruder got onto the White House grounds.


Tourists and others can get a close-up...



09/16/2014

Damaging Benghazi Docs Purged From State Dept Files

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A former State Department official says he witnessed departmental employees separating out damaging documents on the Benghazi investigation before handing them over to the Accountability Review Board.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, said he saw the actions take place in a basement room at the State Department over a weekend.

Mr. Maxwell headed the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the time and was in charge of collecting emails and documents related to the probe of the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic facility on September 11, 2012.

“I was not invited to that after-hours endeavor, but I heard about it and decided to check it out on a Sunday afternoon,” Mr. Maxwell said.

Once there, he said he saw stacks and boxes of documents. He saw one person who directly worked for him there, though he had not been advised of her extra duties.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the Near Eastern Affairs front office or the 7th fl in a bad light,'” Mr. Maxwell. ”

At the time the 7th Floor referred to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her advisers.

Mr. Maxwell said he suggested that was unethical, to which the woman replied, “Ray, those are our orders.”

Moments later, Mr. Maxewell said, 2 high-ranking State officials walked in. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)  they were Clinton’s Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan.

“When Cheryl saw me, she snapped, ‘Who are you?'” Mr. Maxwell.” Jake explained, ‘That’s Ray Maxwell, an NEA deputy assistant secretary.’ She said, ‘Well, OK.'”

Mr. Maxwell said he decided to leave a short time later because “I didn’t feel good about it.”

Mr. Maxwell was eventually put on paid leave for a year, though no formal charges were filed. He said he and three other State Department employees were scapegoated while higher-ranking officials responsible were not disciplined.

He said he talked to the State Department ombudsman about his punishment. “She told me, ‘You are taking this all too personally, Raymond. It is not about you,'” he said.

“I told her that ‘my name is on TV and I’m on administrative leave, it seems like it’s about me.’ Then she said, ‘You’re not harmed, you’re still...


State rejects report that key Benghazi documents were withheld

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The State Department on Monday rejected a report saying that senior officials purposely withheld sensitive documents from the group that was investigating the 2012 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Earlier in the day, the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal reported that senior officials worked to identify and withhold potentially damaging documents from the Accountability Review Board, which was investigating the incident. That story said former Deputy Assistance Secretary Ray Maxwell watched State Department officials and even some top aides to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sift through documents.

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Monday rejected a press report saying key documents about Benghazi were withheld from an investigation. 

But when asked about that report, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected the entire story, and said the ARB had open access to all documents.

“The ARB had full and direct access to State Department employees and documents,” she told reporters. “Any accounts to the contrary, like that one you mentioned, are completely without merit, completely ill-informed.”

“These reports show a complete lack of understanding of how the ARB functioned,” she added.

Harf said the ARB had the authority to collect documents directly from “anybody in the department,” and said everyone in the department was told to provide documents to the body directly.

“That’s what happened,” she said, adding that ARB’s own cochairmen have said they had “unfettered access to all the information they needed, period.”

While State rejected the Daily Signal story, the issue could come up later this week. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has scheduled his first public hearing of the Select Committee on Benghazi, which he chairs.

That hearing will feature a State Department official who deals with diplomatic security, who will testify on his view of the attack that killed four Americans on September 11, 2012.



09/08/2014

Obama delays acting on immigration until after November elections

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U.S. President Barack Obama answers a question at a news conference at the conclusion of the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales September 5, 2014.

(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama reversed course on Saturday and delayed taking executive action on immigration reform until after November congressional elections, bowing to concerns it could cost his fellow Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

Obama had promised in a high-profile White House appearance in June to announce unilateral measures by the end of summer if Congress did not enact immigration reform legislation.

But Obama said the surge of nearly 63,000 children from Central America crossing the border to the United States in the past year had made Americans wary of new immigration measures.

"The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," Obama said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" set to air on Sunday.

Obama said he plans to act later this year after making more of a public case for his actions, which are expected to remove the threat of deportation for some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

A White House official cited partisan politics as the main reason for the delay, saying taking action before the election would harm long-term prospects for reforming immigration laws.

"The reality the president has had to weigh is that we're in the midst of the political season," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Immigration reform advocates called the delay a betrayal and accused Obama of putting politics first.

"Today the president and the Senate Democrats have made it very clear that undocumented immigrants and Latinos are simply viewed as political pawns," said Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for the PICO immigration reform group.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a tight midterm race himself, called the decision cynical.

"He's just saying he'll go around the law once it's too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections," the Kentucky senator said in a statement.

Republicans, who already control the House of Representatives, have seized on immigration to attack vulnerable Democratic senators.

Republicans blamed the flood of migrant children coming across the border on Obama's 2012 decision to grant temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

They have called for rolling back that policy. Hispanic groups, on the other hand, have pressed the...


Obama Punts on Immigration

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President breaks promise, pushes immigration reform until after elections.

President Barack Obama decided that discretion is the better part of valor and will postpone executive action on immigration until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

This delay comes amid pressure from fellow Democrats in competitive Senate races for Obama to hold off on unilateral action, or not approve such action at all, because they fear adverse reaction from voters will jeopardize their campaigns and cost Democrats their Senate majority.

Obama said he will still take action by the end of the year. In an interview broadcast Sunday, Obama told NBC, "I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country. But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on unaccompanied children and why it's necessary."

The delay reverses Obama's promise of June 30 to overhaul the immigration system at the end of the summer. At that time, he said he would use his executive powers to suspend deportations of many people who entered the United States illegally. Obama said it was clear that congressional Republicans would not act, so he would.

But with the November elections looming, the timetable has changed. A White House official told the New York Times Saturday, "Because of the Republicans' extreme polarization of this issue, the president believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administration action before the elections. Because he wants to do this in a way that's sustainable, the president will take action on immigration before the end of the year."

Immigrants' rights activists are up in arms. Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United We Dream, said Obama was "playing politics" with the well-being of immigrant families. "The president's latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community," she added.

Obama and White House officials said the arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children into the United States in recent months threw off the president's timing. It revived objections to an overhaul of the immigration system that could be seen as a form of amnesty--which is how critics have characterized Obama's objectives.

Several Democratic senators facing tough re-election races this fall has called for Obama to back away from announcing a big...



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