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Pruitt quietly approved “super polluting” freight trucks upon departure

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One of Scott Pruitt’s final acts as Environmental Protection Agency administrator was effectively creating a loophole “that will allow a major increase in the manufacturing of a diesel freight truck that produces as much as 55 times the air pollution as trucks that have modern emissions controls,” reports the New York Times.

Impact level: The New York Times explains that “[o]ne year’s worth of truck sales was estimated to release 13 times as much nitrogen oxide as all of the Volkswagen diesel cars with fraudulent emissions controls, a scheme that resulted in a criminal case against the company and more than $4 billion in fines.” The move was opposed by several health groups such as the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, United Parcel Service, and Volvo Group.

Source: https://www.axios.com/pruitt-quietly-approved-super-polluting-freight-trucks-upon-departure-cfb24dca-8e93-4ba9-ad96-cda29e174177.html

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New York Rep. Christopher Collins indicted on insider trading charges

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New York Republican Rep. Christopher Collins has been indicted on insider trading charges, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

“These charges are a reminder that this is a land of laws and that everyone stands before the bar of justice,” Geoffrey Berman, an attorney for the U.S. Southern District of New York, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The indictment also names the congressman’s son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of his son’s fiancée. The fraud counts relate to securities of an Australian biotechnology company called Innate Immunotherapeutics, where the 68-year-old congressman served on the board.

“Christopher Collins, the defendent, violated the duties he owed to Innate by passing material; nonpublic information regarding the Drug Trial results to his son, Cameron Collins, the defendent, so that [his son] could use that information to make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others,” the indictment states. “Cameron Collins traded on the inside information and passed it to Stephen Zarsky.”

Among the charges, the defendants are accused of multiple counts of securities fraud, along with one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count each of making false statements.

All three pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutors allege that Collins passed along secrets to his son, Cameron, in June 2017. They say the son traded on the inside information and passed it to Zarsky. They added that Zarsky traded on it and tipped off at least three others.

According to the indictment, Collins specifically got early word that a drug the company developed to treat multiple sclerosis wasn’t performing well in a medical trial and passed on the tip to his son.

Prosecutors said the three avoided over $768,000 in losses by trading ahead of the public announcement of the failed drug trials.

The advocacy group Public Citizen filed a request for an investigation of Collins’ stock dealings with the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Securities and Exchange Commission in January of 2017.

The Republican congressman, who has served New York’s 27th District since 2013, surrendered to federal agents in Manhattan on Wednesday morning and is expected to appear in federal court in lower Manhattan later in the day.

Attorneys representing Collins released the following statement on Wednesday: “We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name. It is notable that even the government does not allege that Congressman Collins traded a single share of Innate Therapeutics stock. We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”

In 2017, the House Ethics Committee probed the congressman at the behest of the late Rep. Louise Slaughter. She authored the STOCK Act, which barred lawmakers and aides from using propietary information to trade securities.

The Ethics Committee report on Collins was muddled. It did not punish Collins. But it did not exonerate him either.

When asked about the report by Fox News, Collins at the time called Slaughter “a despicable human being,” a rare moment of course language used by a U.S. congressman to describe a colleague. Collins disputed the findings and said he has “always followed ethics.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on Wednesday that he was removing Collins from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ryan called insider trading “a clear violation of the public trust.” He said he’s moving against Collins even though a court will decide whether the lawmaker is guilty of the allegations.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that “the charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington.”

“The American people deserve better than the GOP’s corruption, cronyism, and incompetence,” she added.

Collins has a track record of publicly backing Trump, including being one of the first sitting members of Congress to endorse his candidacy. Most recently, Collins called for an end to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into campaign collusion and blamed the Obama administration for failing to push back on Russia.

“I share President Trump’s continued frustration as the left continues to try to nullify the 2016 Presidential election with claims of Russian interference,” he said.

Collins ran unopposed in the Republican primary and holds what’s largely considered a safe Republican seat in a state that went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. He’s being challenged by Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island, New York, town supervisor.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/08/08/new-york-rep-christopher-collins-indicted-on-insider-trading-charges.html

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NRA sues New York officials over what it calls a “blacklisting” campaign

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The National Rifle Association is suffering grave financial harm that threatens its ability to pursue its advocacy mission because of a “blacklisting” campaign by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York regulators, the gun rights group said in a federal lawsuit.  In an amended version of a federal lawsuit filed in May, the Virginia-based NRA said it lost insurance coverage after the state’s enforcement actions against companies underwriting an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard. It said the Cuomo administration was persuading other insurers to avoid doing business with the NRA.

Without liability coverage, the NRA said it can’t maintain its offices, operate educational programs or hold rallies and other political events.

The amended complaint was filed in late July in federal court in northern New York. It names the Democratic governor along with the state Department of Financial Services and its superintendent, Maria Vullo, as defendants.

Cuomo said late Friday the state is filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “New York will not be intimidated by the NRA’s frivolous lawsuit to advance its dangerous gun-peddling agenda,” he said.

Cuomo added, “If I could have put the NRA out of business, I would have done it 20 years ago.”

On Saturday, advocates of stricter gun control measures protested outside the NRA’s headquarters in Northern Virginia. Organizers were pushing for, among other things, the revocation of the heavyweight group’s tax-exempt status.

The lawsuit said “back-channel communications” by the Cuomo administration “made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA.” As a result, it said multiple financial institutions have entered into consent orders that compel them to end longstanding business relationships with the NRA in New York and elsewhere.

“Absent injunctive relief, defendants’ blacklisting campaign will continue to damage the NRA and its members, as well as endanger the free speech and association rights guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the State of New York,” the lawsuit said.

“The actions of defendants are a blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of our organization,” William A. Brewer III, an attorney representing the NRA, said in a statement on Friday.

The lawsuit asks the court to have the Cuomo administration stop its practices against the NRA.

In addition to various communications between Vullo and financial institutions at Cuomo’s direction, the lawsuit referenced an April 20 tweet by Cuomo: “The NRA is an extremist organization. I urge companies in New York state to revisit any ties they have to the NRA and consider their reputations, and responsibility to the public.”

The lawsuit said, “Defendants’ abuses will imminently deprive the NRA of basic bank-depository services, corporate insurance coverage, and other financial services essential to the NRA’s corporate existence and its advocacy mission.”

The motion to dismiss argues that the actions by the governor and Department of Financial Services were designed to protect New Yorkers and they don’t harm the NRA’s First Amendment rights or other constitutional protections, Cuomo said.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nra-sues-new-york-officials-over-what-it-calls-a-blacklisting-campaign/

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Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Resigns Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

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A prominent Vatican diplomat and the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., has resigned from the College of Cardinals over sexual abuse allegations. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick presented his resignation on Friday evening.

In a statement on Saturday, the Vatican said: “Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.”

McCarrick, now 88, has been one of the Vatican’s most prominent officials. As archbishop of Washington, a post he served in from 2001 to 2006, McCarrick helped form church policies aimed at protecting young people from sexual abuse within the church.

His resignation follows an investigation by law enforcement officials and an independent forensic agency that found evidence that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York.

Responding to the allegations in a statement released in June, McCarrick said:

Some months ago, I was advised by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, that an allegation of sexual abuse of a teenager from almost fifty-years ago had been made against me. At that time I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.

My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated.

In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry …

While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.

There are also claims of misconduct and harassment against McCarrick involving adults. Earlier this month, a New York Times investigation detailed the story of a man who said he was abused in his early 20s by McCarrick. At the time, McCarrick was serving as a New Jersey bishop in the 1980s. The Times investigation uncovered secretly paid settlements by two New Jersey dioceses in the mid-2000s to two men over allegations against McCarrick.

In a blog post, Vatican analyst Rocco Palmo noted that the Vatican’s statement on McCarrick’s resignation references several allegations against him, “Notably, while McCarrick’s de facto suspension from ministry already took place upon the archdiocese of New York’s June judgment of his abuse of a 16 year-old boy on two occasions in the early 1970s as being ‘credible and substantiated,’ today’s statement refers to ‘allegations’ in plural.”

Father Desmond Rossi, currently a priest in the Diocese of Albany, says he was one of McCarrick’s victims. Rossi told NPR’S Weekend Edition he’s relieved that the cardinal resigned. “Greatly relieved, because I had tried to get the attention of various people for quite a while and he was a very powerful man in the institution. And as we know of most institutions — not only the church but even in the secular world — wherever there’s power, there’s an opportunity for the abuse of power.”

On June 20 in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, the Rev. Thomas Reese of the Religion News Service said of McCarrick, “The simple fact that he was not only an archbishop but also a cardinal shows that, I mean, you can’t get much higher than that in the Catholic Church. Not only that, he was used by the Vatican on all sorts of diplomatic missions. And he was highly respected not only within the church but also by government officials around the world, including in the United States.”

McCarrick helped create the child protection policy that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in 2002, and in 2006, he spoke with NPR’s Renee Montagne about the issue of priests and sexual abuse:

“The middle way would be that man cannot exercise ministry, because he’s dangerous … We really have to make sure that we are organizing the most perfect child protection program, so that this will never happen again.”

According to Palmo, McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is the first since Father Louis Billot resigned in 1927. McCarrick will now face a canonical trial, which could lead to further sanctions.

Source: https://www.npr.org/2018/07/28/633388892/cardinal-theodore-mccarrick-resigns-amid-sexual-abuse-allegations

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