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 July 22

 


Government investigators were able to procure health plans and federal subsidies for fake applicants. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

In undercover tests of the new federal health insurance marketplace, government investigators have been able to procure health plans and federal subsidies for fake applicants with fictitious documents, according to findings that will be disclosed to lawmakers Wednesday.

The results of the inquiry by the Government Accountability Office are evidence of still-imperfect work by specialists intended to assist new insurance customers as well as government contractors hired to verify that coverage and subsidies are legitimate. The GAO also pointed to flaws that linger in the marketplace’s Web site, HealthCare.gov.

According to testimony to be delivered before a House Ways and Means subcommittee, undercover GAO investigators tried to obtain health plans for a dozen fictitious applicants online or by phone, using invalid or missing Social Security numbers or inaccurate citizenship information.

All but one of the fake applicants ended up getting subsidized coverage — and have kept it. In one instance, an application was denied but then approved on a second try. In six other attempts to sign up fake applicants via in-person assisters, just one assister accurately told an investigator that the applicant’s income was too high for a subsidy.

In their testimony, GAO officials plan to emphasize that the findings are preliminary and that they are continuing the investigation before reaching final conclusions, probably next year. The tests have been done in several states. Because the work is not finished, the GAO is not identifying the states.


California and Florida lead the way for state and federal healthcare sign-up markets.

House Republicans were eager for early information because the findings reinforce their contention that the Obama administration set up the health insurance marketplace in ways that leave it vulnerable to fraud and waste of taxpayer money. The allegation that HealthCare.gov does not properly verify the identity and eligibility of consumers has been one of several lines of attack that congressional Republicans have used in trying to discredit the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the way administration officials set it in motion.

The GAO investigation was requested before the marketplace opened in the fall, by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.); Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr. (R-La.), chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee; and Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

Even before the GAO delivered the early findings, the lawmakers were seizing them as fresh ammunition. “We are seeing a trend with Obamacare information systems: under every rock, there is incompetence, waste and the potential for fraud,” Camp said in a statement. “Now, we learn that in many cases, the exchange is unable to screen out fake identities or documents.”

A spokesman for the federal agency that oversees the marketplace, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noted that the procedures for ensuring that the applicants’ information is accurate remain a work in progress. “We . . . will work with GAO to identify additional strategies to strengthen our verification processes during this first year of the Affordable Care Act,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said.

The GAO’s account of fictitious applicants obtaining subsidized coverage goes beyond a related problem that surfaced this spring and that the investigators also cited: The government may be paying incorrect insurance subsidies to a significant share of the 5.4 million Americans who signed up for health plans for this year through the federal marketplace.

The GAO testimony contains updates on that problem, saying that, as of mid-July, about 2.6 million “inconsistencies” existed among applicants who had chosen a health plan and that 650,000 of them had been resolved.

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Last Friday, July 18, Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed into law anti-gun Assembly Bill 1964.  AB 1964 unnecessarily removes existing exemptions for all single-shot pistols, other than those with a break top or bolt-action, from California’s roster of “not unsafe” handguns.  It is unfortunate that this legislation was passed and Governor Brown signed such a law that does not address any legitimate public safety problems and conflicts with well-established constitutional principles.

Criminals are not purchasing single shot handguns from firearms dealers to commit their crimes.  Rather than target criminal behavior, AB 1964 will only impact law-abiding gun owners.  This new law effectively eliminates the only option for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the United States.  As the U.S. Supreme Court made clear, the Second Amendment protects firearms that are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 624-625.  By improperly expanding California’s ban on common handguns, AB 1964 violates the Second Amendment and will add to the growing list of litigation the state is already facing.

Another point that AB 1964 only affects law-abiding gun owners is that it further reduces handguns available for purchase in California, which is already greatly reduced by the microstamping law taking effect in May of 2013.  As a result of the microstamping law, a large number of handguns were “delisted” and can no longer be sold by retailers in California.  And the state Department of Justice (DOJ) Newly Added Firearms list has been blank since May 2013, only on June 13 of THIS year were twenty-five new model handguns added to the list.  To view the list of newly added handguns click here.  To view more information on the microstamping fiasco, please click here.

The NRA understands the need to fight the criminal misuse of firearms, and supports policies that are truly aimed at improving public safety instead of measures like AB 1964 that will only impact law-abiding Americans.

Please call AND e-mail Governor Brown respectfully informing him of your disappointment on his lack of protection for law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen.  Governor Brown can be reached at 916-445-2841 and by e-mail at:  http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php.

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EXCLUSIVE: RINCON PENINSULA, Texas — U.S. Border Patrol agents on the American side of the Rio Grande were forced to take cover Friday night when high-caliber weaponry was fired at them from the Mexican side of the river, sources told FoxNews.com.

The weapons were fired at the U.S. side of the riverbank in the area of the Rincon Peninsula across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico, at about 8:30 p.m., sources said. Bullets ricocheted into an area where Border Patrol agents were positioned, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told FoxNews.com.

Border Patrol sources confirmed Gohmert’s account, and said the shots may have been fired by .50-caliber weapons.

“We don’t have any armor that can stop a .50-caliber round, so our Border Patrol agents had to take cover when the rounds were richocheting around them,” said Gohmert, who has been in the area for the last week to get a first-hand look at the border situation.

“When the shooting stopped, about 40 to 50 people came out on the U.S. side and turned themselves in. So clearly the rounds were being fired to suppress every effort to stop anybody intervening with anyone or anything coming across,” Gohmert added. “We have no idea what or how many or whom came across with the other illegal immigrants.”

Sources said they believe the gunfire came from members of Mexican drug cartels, which include former military members trained in shooting that type of weaponry.

Border Patrol sources said the rounds were clearly identifiable because .50- caliber weapons make a distinctive noise when fired. Sources said they also believe this is the first time that Border Patrol agents have taken direct fire from the Mexican side of the river in this area.

“I don’t know why we’re out here like sitting ducks,” one Border Patrol source said. “We need help.”

As of Saturday evening, a Border Patrol spokesman did not immediately return FoxNews.com’s request for comment.

The Rio Grande sector has been the busiest part of the 2,000-mile border with Texas in recent months as a surge of illegal immigrants, many from Central America, has poured in to the U.S. in the mistaken belief that U.S. policy allows for them to remain in America once they make it in. More than 60,000 unaccompanied children had crossed in the last nine months. But Border Patrol officials have warned that the deluge has left the border largely unattended, and vulnerable to cartel infiltration.

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Saturday, July 19 to discuss the implementation of the newly expanded ban on the use of lead bullets for hunting throughout California.  The CDFW workshop will be held at the Community Room at City Hall, 777 Cypress Ave. in Redding from 7-8:30 p.m.  Following the presentation, hunters and other interested parties will be able to comment and provide input.

Last year Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 711, which requires the California Fish & Game Commission (Commission) to adopt regulations to ban the use of lead ammunition for all hunting throughout the state by no later than July 1, 2015, and to fully implement and enforce the ban no later than July 1, 2019.

At the July 19 and future workshops, CDFW representatives will explain its proposed plan to implement the lead ammo ban. The CDFW’s PowerPoint presentation is available on the CDFW website.  Although we do not endorse the AB 711 workshops, and many hunters, sportsmen, and other outdoor enthusiasts have been somewhat disappointed by the CDFW’s prior workshops, we believe that we cannot simply avoid the process and ignore these proceedings. Therefore, we urge our members to closely follow these events and attend when it is prudent.  The participation of hunters in the process is necessary to closely monitor the CDFW’s and the Commission’s actions to implement AB 711. Accordingly, individuals and organizations should try to attend, or at least submit their concerns to the contacts referenced in below.

Governor Brown directed the CDFW and the Commission to work with all stakeholders and interested parties to adopt regulations that make implementation of AB 711 as minimally disruptive to the hunting community as possible. But without question, implementing the lead ammo ban will have an extremely negative impact on hunting.

CDFW has been holding AB 711workshops throughout the state, including previous workshops in Ventura in April and in Eureka in June.  After the Redding workshop, CDFW plans to hold additional workshops later this year in Sacramento, San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino.

CDFW anticipates presenting its recommendations to the Commission at its September meeting in Sacramento. Comments submitted to CDFW may shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Commission regarding implementation of the lead ammo ban.  To that end, comments can be emailed to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line), and correspondence can be mailed to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

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Published July 14, 2014

DARPASmartBullet.jpg

This image shows a guided bullet’s path to its target (green) compared to the rifle’s aim point (red).DARPA

‘Smart’ bullets look set to join guided missiles in the military’s growing arsenal of high-tech weapons.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently conducted its first successful live-fire tests of 0.50-caliber bullets capable of “in-flight guidance.” This means that even if a sniper’s aim is off, the bullets can still reach their intended target.

Part of DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, the specially designed bullets are tracked and directed to their target by an optical guidance system. The system compensates for factors such as weather, wind and target movement, according to DARPA.

video posted on the DARPA website shows a round heading towards a rifle aim point, then maneuvering in mid-flight to hit its intended target.

Funded by DARPA, EXACTO is being developed by Thousand Oaks, California.-based Teledyne Scientific and Imaging. The program aims to revolutionize rifle accuracy.

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July 09, 2014concealed.jpg

A new study finds that an increase in concealed carry permits has accompanied a decrease in murder. (AP)

A dramatic spike in the number of Americans with permits to carry concealed weapons coincides with an equally stark drop in violent crime, according to a new study, which Second Amendment advocates say makes the case that more guns can mean safer streets.

The study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, up from 4.5 million in 2007. The 146 percent increase has come even as both murder and violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent.

“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals,” said the center’s president, John R. Lott, a Fox News contributor. “Some criminals stop committing crimes, others move on to crimes in which they don’t come into contact with victims and others actually move to areas where they have less fear of being confronted by armed victims.”

“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals.”- John R. Lott, Crime Prevention Research Center

Increasing gun ownership, litigation and new state laws have all contributed to the rise in concealed carry permits. In March, Illinois became the 50th state to begin issuing concealed weapons permits. But the cost and other requirements for obtaining the permits varies greatly, from South Dakota, where a permit requires $10, a background check and no training, to Illinois, where the cost of obtaining a permit comes to more than $600 when the fee and cost of training programs are taken into account.

Six states don’t require a permit for legal gun owners to conceal their weapons, and Lott notes those states have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation.

The real measure of the deterrent effect of concealed carry permits, according to Lott, is not laws on the books, but the percentage of a given state’s population that holds the permits. In 10 states, more than 8 percent of adults hold concealed carry permits, and all are among the states with the lowest crime rates. Lott claims his group’s analysis shows that each one percentage point increase in the adult population holding permits brings a 1.4 percent drop in the murder rate.

“We found that the size of the drop [in crime] is directly related to the percentage of the population with permits,” Lott said.

Between 2007 and the preliminary estimates for 2013, murder rates have fallen from 5.6 to 4.4 per 100,000.

Tod Burke, a former police officer and a professor of criminal justice at Radford University, in Radford, Va., said he doesn’t buy the idea that gun permits are driving the reduction in crime. Burke said several factors, including smarter, “data-driven” policing and increased incarceration of violent criminals likely play a bigger role.

“I think we have to be cautious about having a causal relationship between gun permits and a decrease in crime,” Burke said. “[Lott’s] theory is one to consider, but not to the exclusion of others.”

The report is the first tally of concealed carry permit holders since a survey in 2011 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 8 million Americans held them.

The total of 11,113,013 Americans who currently hold concealed carry permits represents 4.8 percent of the total adult population. But the center stated that the number of concealed carry permit holders is likely much higher, because numbers are not available for all states that issue permits, such as New York. Additionally, four states and the majority of Montana do not require that residents have a concealed handgun permit to carry within the state, so the number of residents who carry a concealed weapon is not recorded.

Florida has the most active concealed carry permits, at nearly 1.3 million. Texas is second, at just more than 708,000, while Hawaii, at 183, has the fewest of states whose data was available.

Earlier this year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California must allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms in public, striking down the core of the state’s permit system for handguns.  The judges found in a 2-1 holding that San Diego County’s rule that residents must show “good cause” — and not merely the desire to protect themselves — to obtain a concealed-weapons permit, violated their constitutional rights.

That ruling is awaiting an en banc review by the entire circuit.

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Posted on June 20, 2014

Gun control activists have recently renewed their efforts to gain ground on Capitol Hill.  As we reported this week, they continue to exploit high-profile national tragedies in an attempt to push their anti-gun agenda. They use grieving victims to falsely claim that enacting their “reforms” would have prevented these tragedies.  Anti-gun groups sponsored by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are trying to convince Congress to enact their proposals.  And as we saw this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to help them do just that.

As reported this week by the Washington Examiner, Reid said Tuesday that he may call for a vote on so-called “universal” background check legislation.  The article noted that Reid said he had no expectation the legislation would pass, but the vote would help highlight the differences between the two parties when it comes to gun control.

“We need some more votes,” Reid said. “But it may be good to bring this up just to send the American people another message about how 85 percent of the American people can agree on one thing, but it doesn’t mean a thing to the Republicans here.”

As you know, in April 2013, the U.S. Senate, on a bipartisan vote, soundly rejected gun control attempts pushed by Sen. Reid, President Obama and a host of anti-gun legislators in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The current push by the anti-gunners is all the more disingenuous in light of the fact that some anti-gun activists themselves have acknowledged that their proposed “solutions” won’t work.  This week, Mark Glaze, the former executive director of Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, admitted that “nothing we have to offer” would prevent mass shootings.

The bottom line is this:  The anti-Second Amendment agenda being financed and pushed by Bloomberg and his anti-gun supporters restricts the rights of lawful gun owners and does nothing to stop violent crime.  It’s clear that their agenda is not to make our communities safer, but simply to eliminate our Second Amendment freedoms.  If they were truly concerned with saving lives, they would work to address our broken mental health system and ensure that violent criminals are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Michael Bloomberg and Harry Reid are not telling the truth to the American people.  Your U.S. Representative and Senators need to hear from your today.  Tell them you won’t stand for more ineffective bans on firearms; so-called “universal” background check systems; or any other gun control scheme that restricts the rights of law-abiding Americans.  Let them know they should focus on fixing our broken mental health system and prosecuting violent criminals.  Bloomberg thinks he can buy the American people and the U.S. Congress.  While he may have billions of dollars, he doesn’t have you.  Please contact your Senators and Representative today and tell them to stand up to Bloomberg’s lies!

You can contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative by using the “Write Your Lawmakers” tool at www.NRAILA.org.  You may also contact your Senators by phone at (202) 224-3121, and your Representative by phone at (202) 225-3121.

 

 

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June 18, 2014

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Visitors walk past 76/62mm ammunition manufactured by Italian company Oto Melara, Italy, presented at the Eurosatory show.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

There’s some heavy duty hardware on show at Eurosatory this week.

The five-day defense and security trade show, which takes place every other year in Paris, showcases the latest in land warfare technology from around the world.

Defiant in the face of reduced defense budgets, a few companies chose to go big this year and bring in new firepower – and it is paying off.

These biggies are drawing crowds of visiting forces looking both to increase their firepower and to see what other militaries are acquiring.

CAESAR Artillery
The buzz on the floor this year included debate over whether CAESAR, French-based Nexter System’s 155mm/52 caliber wheeled self-propelled artillery system, “reigns supreme.”

At least four countries seemed to agree that it does, since they placed orders for the system.

As you’d expect from its name, the self-propelled howitzer is neither small in size nor in capability. It weighs more than 17 tons, holds 18 rounds and can be operated by a crew of three to five.

It has a firing range of about 26 miles using an Extended Range Full Bore (ERFB) shell. If fed rocket-assisted shells, then its range can be greater than 30 miles.

Its fire control systems can be customized and fitted with a number of options, including a protected cab. The French SANG CAESARs utilize the Thales ATLAS computerized fire control system.

Indonesia ordered 37 CAESARs, plus a complete suite of 155mm ammunition for training and use by two battalions. Nexter plans to get them to Indonesia quickly; the first ones are expected to arrive this year.

The French Army is also a solid fan of the hardware. It has 72 CAESARS and has deployed them for use in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Mali.

Eventually, the French Army plans to replace all its remaining 155mm TR series towed guns and 155mm AUF1-TA tracked self-propelled guns with additional CAESARs.

The Royal Thai Army acquired six CAESARs, and an undisclosed Middle East customer – speculated to be the Saudi Arabian National Guard – has acquired a whopping 136 of them.

The French, Thai and Indonesian CAESARs are based on a Renault Trucks Defense Sherpa 5 that has a 6×6 cross-country truck chassis.

Those for the Middle East buyer are also based on 6×6, but on a German Mercedes-Benz Unimog instead.

Nexter is looking to gain further ground in the emerging markets. Working with Larsen & Toubro, the manufacturer is customizing the howitzer for the Indian market using a higher payload 6×6 Ashok Leyland Defence.

Going forward, Nexter is looking to improve cross-country mobility, offer more ammunition capabilities and enhance protection. It’s considering using the 8×8 Tatra chassis to achieve these objectives.

Robotic Trucks with Better Range
The new version of the Autonomous Truck Mounted System, or ATMOS, made its big reveal at Eurosatory.

Made by Israeli-based Elbit Systems, the 155mm, 52cal self-propelled howitzer is a new variant with a Tatra vehicle chassis. The Tatra 6×6 truck has a speed of about 50 miles per hour and, with a V-12 engine, a range of more than 600 miles.

How has it advanced? When ATMOS’ upgraded howitzer uses Extended Range Full Bore – Base Bleed ammunition and propellant charges, it can reach targets about 25 miles away.

With its new load assist tech, its gun can fire six rounds per minute, and its semi-automatic loading system reduces its required crew size to five or six.

The gun can fire all types of 155mm ammunition and projectiles.

While it currently uses a Tatra truck, it’s adaptable to a 6×6 or 8×8 chassis that would give it more agility. The flexibility to fire and immediately move to a new position to avoid counter-fire could be a useful advantage.

Next year, Elbit will be delivering $30 million worth of ATMOS to an undisclosed army in the Far East.

SPEAR for lethal shelling
Another Elbit product – a fully autonomous, mobile, soft-recoil mortar system called SPEAR – also made its first appearance in Paris this week.

SPEAR is designed to provide maximum tactical mobility and lethality with accurate mortar fire.

The U.S. Army, the Israeli Defense Force and NATO use a similar combat-proven soft-recoil mortar that is muzzle loaded, but SPEAR leverages a system that dramatically reduces the 120mm barrel’s firing loads from 120 tons to less than 10 tons. This means it can be mounted on a range of light combat all-terrain vehicles, including jeeps and Humvees, and it takes only two or three people to operate.

These advances make it better able to engage a wide range of targets and maneuver rapidly.

Its rate of fire is up to 15 rounds per minute, using all types of qualified 120mm smooth bore mortar systems and ammunition. It has a high level of accuracy, with approximately 30 meters of circular error probability.

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