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Weeks before the Obama Administration starts letting Mexican cargo trucks travel deep into the U.S., the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals that, in the last few years, trucks coming from Mexico had more than 1 million safety violations.This is hardly earth-shattering news since Mexican trucks have long failed to meet U.S. safety standards. That’s why they aren’t allowed to travel freely throughout the country, but rather in restricted zones within 25 miles of the southern border. Even within their limited boundary, they have created a huge risk to Americans’ safety, according to the Transportation Department Inspector General.Regardless, the Obama Administration carved out a deal to allow Mexican trucks to travel freely on U.S. highways as part of a 17-year-old international trade pact known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In a few weeks Mexican trucks will be allowed to travel into the interior of the United States, even though it could endanger American lives.In Texas alone, 1.2 million Mexican trucks had safety violations between 2007 and 2011, according to an El Paso newspaper report that quotes official statistics from state public safety officials. Among the safety violations in trucks coming from Mexico were bad brakes, flat tires, axle problems and defective lights. During that period inspectors placed more than 30,000 trucks and 625 drivers out of service.Federal transportation officials claim that, under the new cross-border trucking program, all Mexican vehicles will be thoroughly inspected and all must comply with rigid U.S. safety standards. The Mexican trucks, notorious for their dismal, third-world country safety standards, must also be equipped with electronic monitoring systems to keep track of drivers’ service hours.Don’t be surprised if U.S. taxpayers get stuck with the tab. After all, earlier this year the Obama Administrationpaid to upgrade outdated Mexican trucks that hemorrhage illegal amounts of exhaust when they deliver merchandise near the border. Generous Uncle Sam stepped in for the sake of improving air quality on both sides of the border by replacing old mufflers on dozens of Mexican trucks at a cost of $1,600 each. U.S. truck drivers are required to have the type of converters that Mexicans are getting from the government but they must pay for theirs.

Military Aircraft Alone Reportedly Cost at least $430,000

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Washington, DC — August 25, 2011

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on August 19, 2011, against the United States Air Force to obtain records related to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her family, and her staff to South Africa and Botswana (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Air Force (No. 11-1496)). Judicial Watch is seeking the documents to determine details about the trip and, in particular, a breakdown of the costs to taxpayers.

The Judicial Watch FOIA request filed on June 28, 2011, seeks:

  • Any and all records concerning mission taskings of First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 21-27,
    2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
  • Any and all records of concerning transportation costs for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27 trip to
    South Africa and Botswana.
  • Any and all passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27, 2011 trip to South
    Africa and Botswana.

According the U.S. Postal Service records, Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was received by the Air Force on July 6, 2011. A response to the request was due within 20 working days, or by August 3, 2011. As of August 19, 2011, the date of the complaint, the Air Force has failed to produce the records requested or respond with a date they will be forthcoming.The professed purpose of Mrs. Obama’s trip was to encourage young people living in South Africa and Botswana to get involved in national affairs. The First Lady’s remarks focused on education, health, and wellness issues. However, accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, the trip also included such tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums as well as a visit with Nelson Mandela, described by Mrs. Obama as “surreal”. The trip ended with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to Washington on June 27.Judicial Watch is investigating the total cost of the trip to the taxpayers in the face of a ballooning federal debt and a sinking economy. As stated in an analysis by White House Dossier (the blog of White House reporter Keith Koffer, who writes for CongressDailyNational JournalRoll Call and Politico), the cost to taxpayers for the C-32 was $430,000 alone. This cost is based on an estimated charge of $12,723 an hour, which is what the Department of Defense charges other federal agencies for use of the aircraft. If a military cargo plane was included – which typically accompanies a First Lady – the cost of transportation could have escalated by another $200,000.Other costs, such as Secret Service protection, the care and feeding of staff, and pre-trip advance work done by administration officials in Africa, cannot be determined without examining records.“How much did the American people spend to send the First Lady on a family outing in Africa? That’s what we want to know,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “On the surface, the trip seems to have been totally unnecessary and was as much an excuse for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a mission intended to advance the nation’s business in Africa.”Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered that the First Couple’s 2009 “date night” trip to New York for dinner and a Broadway show cost taxpayers over $11,000 in Secret Service costs alone.Judicial Watch continues to probe the abuse of Air Force Aircraft by Members of Congress. For example, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period – $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing the widespread use of luxury military aircraft by Members of Congress on Speaker-authorized congressional delegation trips (CODELS).

The economy remains in shambles yet President Obama keeps wasting taxpayer dollars expanding an already bloated U.S. government, this month launching a new office to help build a “diverse and inclusive workforce” at all federal agencies.The new Office of Diversity and Inclusion will ensure that the entire U.S. government develops comprehensive strategies to drive and integrate diversity and inclusion practices. It will assist the different agencies in building a workforce that “respects individual and organizational cultures” by examining policy options, data trends and employee survey findings.The goal is to eliminate demographic group imbalances in targeted occupations and improve workforce diversity. To attain this, special initiatives have been created targeting specific groups, including Hispanics, African Americans, American Indians, women and gays and lesbians. The idea is to create a workforce that truly reflects America’s diversity, according to the Obama Administration.In fact, the Obama executive order creating the new agency assures that it will promote the federal workplace as a model of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion. It will also establish a coordinated government-wide initiative to promote the cause. The investment is worth it because a commitment to equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion is critical for the federal government as an employer, according to the commander-in-chief.The president’s new plan will force agencies to identify and remove barriers to equal employment opportunities that may exist in the federal government’s recruitment, hiring, promotion, retention, professional development and training policies and practices.

Keeping its promise to suspend deportations for a broad class of illegal immigrants, the Obama Administration has officially started the process that’s expected to spare tens of thousands from removal in the coming months.Among the first illegal aliens to benefit from the president’s backdoor amnesty plan is a Mexican man living in Florida. He got busted a few years ago after applying for a work permit and was earmarked for deportation. Earlier this month local media portrayed the man, Manuel Guerra, as a desperate undocumented worker trying to build a new life after fleeing violent street gangs in his native Mexico.This week the 27-year-old, who has lived in the U.S. illegally for more than a decade, became the poster child for Obama’s newly implemented amnesty program. Federal immigration authorities officially suspended his deportation, according a mainstream newspaper report that says Guerra had been caught in a “tortuous and seemingly failing five-year court fight against deportation.”Guerra was spared after a working group from the departments of Homeland Security and Justice met to start reviewing 300,000 deportation cases pending before immigration courts nationwide. Under Obama’s new plan, authorities will have wide discretion to halt deportations and will be encouraged to do so in cases where illegal immigrants attend school, have family in the military or are primary bread winners.The stealth amnesty plan was first introduced last year in case Congress doesn’t pass legislation to legalize the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year political appointees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), actually issued a directive to enact “meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action.” The plan includes delaying deportation indefinitely (“deferred action”), granting green cards, allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. indefinitely while they seek legal status (known as “parole in place”) and expanding the definition of “extreme hardships” so any illegal alien could meet the criteria and remain in the country.This goes hand in hand with the president’s new blueprint for immigration reform, which was recently issued by the White House. Titled “Building A 21st Century Immigration System,” the plan strives to strengthen the U.S. economy and “competitiveness” by creating a legal immigration system that reflects the nation’s “values and diverse needs.” After all, it claims that the “overwhelming majority” of people living in the U.S. with “no legal status” are “simply seeking a better life for themselves and their children.”The president’s new plan, which has already allocated $8 million to community groups that operate immigrant “integrational programs,” also expands “anti discrimination provisions of immigration law” and provides more “comprehensive anti-retaliation protections.”

Just when you thought President Obama’s deplorable backdoor amnesty plan had gone too far, his Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues an order halting deportation proceedings against a broad class of illegal immigrants.Additionally, the agency responsible for keeping the nation safe announced that a crucial program (Secure Communities) that’s helped capture dangerous illegal alien criminals will essentially be weakened to assure compliance with “civil rights and civil liberties laws and policies.”The open-borders National Council of La Raza, which is colluding with the administration to grant illegal immigrants amnesty, was quick to praise the move. In a statement published this week, the group, which annually receives tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, revealed that an “interagency team of senior leaders” at DHS and the Justice Department will identify “low-priority” deportation cases that should be considered for an “exercise of discretion.”Under the new plan the Homeland Security agency responsible for removing dangerous illegal aliens, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will have wide discretion to halt deportations on a “case-by-case basis.” Illegal immigrants attending school, those with family in the military or a family’s primary bread winner will be allowed to remain in the U.S. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano claims the new policy will actually“enhance public safety” by focusing deportation efforts on those “who pose a threat.”Earlier this month ICE Director John Morton made similar claims in a letter to the governors of states that have implemented Secure Communities. In the letter Morton also said that his agency would focus its limited resources on individuals who pose a threat to public safety or who have flagrantly violated the nation’s immigration laws “in a way that respects civil rights and civil liberties.” It also lists ways ICE will actively avoid deporting run-of-the-mill illegal aliens.The administration launched its stealth amnesty plan sometime last year in case Congress doesn’t pass legislation to legalize the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year political appointees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), actually issued a directive to enact “meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action.” The plan includes delaying deportation indefinitely (“deferred action”), granting green cards, allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. indefinitely while they seek legal status (known as “parole in place”) and expanding the definition of “extreme hardships” so any illegal alien could meet the criteria and remain in the country.Judicial Watch has sued DHS to obtain records detailing the stealth amnesty plan because the agency has ignored a federal public records request that dates back to July 2010.

Obama HHS Spends Millions of Taxpayer Dollars on “Guerrilla Campaign” to Track Search Engine Web Traffic and Push Internet Search Engine Users to Government Website Promoting Obamacare; Propaganda Campaign Targets Key Obama Campaign Voter Demographics

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Washington, DC — August 18, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it obtained documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing that the Obama White House helped coordinate a multimillion dollar taxpayer-funded campaign to use Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive web traffic to a government website promoting the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare). The expressed purpose of this campaign is to increase public support for the president’s health care overhaul among key Obama campaign demographics, specifically Hispanics, blacks, and women.
The 2,328 pages of records, obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 11-608)), include internal correspondence between officials at the HHS office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA), as well as communications with representatives from The Ogilvy Group, the public relations firm hired by the Obama administration to manage the Obamacare campaign. The following are highlights from the documents:

  • The Obama HHS launched a campaign to track Internet searches and to use online search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive traffic to a government website promoting Obama’s healthcare overhaul. Using “pay-per-click” advertising tools, such as Google Adwords, HHS purposely targeted for influence people searching the term “Obamacare,” a word that has been described as “disparaging” by political agents of the president. One HHS email details:

    A few keyword groups continue to be top performers, and have subsequently driven most of the traffic to the campaign websites:

    • Affordable Care Act, including such terms as health care reform, government health insurance, Obamacare, and affordable care act.
    • Health Insurance Group, including terms as health insurance.
    • Health Care Group, including terms as health care.

    While other keyword groups have not performed as well, and are not driving significant traffic to the campaign websites:

    • Health Insurance, Health insurance options, Medical Insurance, and Insurance companies
  • According to a budget summary prepared by Ogilvy, from October 2010 through February 2011, the Obama administration spent $1,435,009 on these online advertisements alone, including advertising campaigns with Google and Yahoo, almost $300,000 per month.
  • According to a December 10, 2010, email from Margo Gillman, Senior VP of Ogilvy Public Relations to Jenny Backus, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and the Principal Deputy for Strategy and Planning for HHS, the Obama White House was involved in coordinating the HHS propaganda campaign:

    Just a quick note to see if you have any feedback/direction on how we should proceed with the radio and TV concepts that were presented a few weeks ago. You mentioned on our last call that you were planning to discuss them with the White House on either Friday or yesterday. We would appreciate any guidance that you can provide, so we can determine immediate next steps and a production schedule. Also, we are awaiting your feedback on the overarching strategic campaign plan.

    Another HHS internal email dated December 1, 2010, from then-HHS official Jaime Mulligan to agency colleagues references the need to present recommendations to the White House regarding a number of components of the Obamacare campaign, including “a big guerilla campaign splash…” (Mulligan is currently the White House New Media Analyst for Public Health.)

  • A number of documents address the need to target the Obamacare propaganda campaign to Hispanics, blacks, and women. For example, according to an email from Chris Beakey, Vice President of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, to HHS officials on December 16, 2010, summarizing a conference call, “You want to utilize the bulk of their paid media efforts (which would include expenditures for Radio One and Univision) on media that reaches African Americans and Hispanics. The money will go farther and these audiences continue to be a top priority.” A January 18, 2011, email from Ogilvy to HHS New Media Communications Director Julia Eisman notes with respect to a Spanish banner ad campaign, “I realize we really can’t use the blond mom and child for this audience.”
  • An October 25, 2010, email from Julia Eisman to Imani Green, Senior Vice President and Director of Paid Media for Ogilvy Washington suggests changing the online advertising campaign to accommodate web traffic patterns caused by the mid-term elections: “Given the high performance, we’re wondering if we should we consider reallocating resources from the lesser performing words and put more $$ to ‘Obamacare’ – at least for the next 7 days,” she suggests.

In previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, HHS describes in detail the key to success of the propaganda campaign in a “Statement of Work” accompanying the agency’s Acquisition Plan: “Health and program-related messages are processed by the target audience according to a particular reality, which he or she experiences. Attitudes, feelings, values, needs, desires, behaviors and beliefs all play a part in the individual’s decision to accept information and make a behavioral change.” [Emphasis added.] These documents suggest the total cost of the Obamacare propaganda campaign could reach as much as $200 million.“The Obama administration is using taxpayer dollars to manipulate public opinion regarding his socialist healthcare overhaul while also trying to get a leg up in the 2012 presidential campaign,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people should be disturbed that the Obama administration is using taxpayer funds to try to brainwash people simply searching the Internet for information on health care. This Big Brother campaign is underhanded, potentially unlawful, and it must be stopped. As the congressional ‘super-committee’ begins negotiations to cut the deficit, this wasteful Obamacare propaganda campaign is the first place they should look.”

Documents Uncovered

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Washington, DC — August 17, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that a federal court ruled today against the Obama administration that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The decision was issued by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 09-2312).In its lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service, Judicial Watch asked the court to order the release of Secret Service logs of White House visitors from January 20, 2009, to August, 10, 2009. The Obama administration attempted to advance the erroneous claim that the visitor logs “are not agency records subject to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act].” As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint filed on December 7, 2009, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly.” Despite White House misinformation to the contrary, tens of thousands of visitor logs are being withheld from disclosure by the Obama administration. These records are now subject to disclosure under FOIA.Judge Howell ruled that “the proper course of action by the Secret Service is duly to process [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request, disclose all segregable, nonexempt records, and then assert specific FOIA exemptions for all records it seeks to withhold.” Currently, the White House releases visitor information at its own discretion, the timing and specifics of which, it insisted, was not subject to court review.“This is a major victory for open government and an embarrassing defeat for the Obama administration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This administration will now have to release all records of all visitors to the White House – or explain why White House visits should be kept secret under law. It is refreshing to see the court remind this this administration that the rule of law applies to it.”

In its ongoing effort to develop seemingly elusive renewable technology, the Obama Administration keeps pouring huge sums of taxpayer dollars into questionable “green energy” projects that, ironically, could infest the air with more pollutants.Already hundreds of millions of dollars have been steered to dubious adventures that claim to create environmentally friendly energy. In fact, in April Judicial Watch reported a $30 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to a “Biomass Research and Development Initiative” that promises to help advance “biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products.”A few months later an in-depth news report revealed that the government-backed projects actually infest the air with a “toxic brew of pollutants.” It turns out that the new power plants, promoted as innovative and environmentally-friendly generators of electricity, are polluting the earth with nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and particulate matter. They also release thick plumes and visible dust and fail to monitor equipment or file emissions reports.Regardless, these sorts of enterprises continue receiving a steady flow of cash from Uncle Sam. Just a few days ago, the DOE and USDA doled out an additional $12.2 million for research projects across the nation that “accelerate bioenergy crop production.” This will “spur economic impact,” according to the two agencies and will provide “a more secure future for America’s energy needs.”The “potential benefits” of this costly research range from decreasing oil imports to increasing options for American farmers, according to the government. That’s because crops will be optimized to tolerate conditions such as drought and poor soils and can be grown on marginal lands unsuitable for food crops, thereby avoiding competition with food production. Additionally, farmers will have the option to grow bioenergy crops in addition to other existing crop choices.The latest allocation was announced with great fanfare at a new bioenergy facility in Vero Beach Florida, which has received generous sums of cash from U.S. taxpayers to operate a “biorefinery” capable of producing millions of gallons of ethanol and electricity each year. Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, refers to the plant, which is still under construction, as a “waste-to-energy bioprocessing facility.” The plant was chosen because one of the state’s largest public universities, the University of Florida, will get a chunk of money to “improve energy production from cane biomass.”Ironically, recession-hit Americans likely will get slapped with higher energy costs if Obama’s precious biofuel plan comes to fruition. For instance, a huge biofuel project under consideration by Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission will likely stick residents with “significant” increases in energy costs, according to a local news report. The adventure has ignited a stormy public policy debate about whether biofuel is in the best interest of the state and its ratepayers.

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