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National Govt & Politics
Congress blocks money from being spent on everything from phone books to Chinese chicken and topless dancers
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Congress blocks money from being spent on everything from phone books to Chinese chicken and topless dancers

Congress blocks money from being spent on everything from phone books to Chinese chicken and topless dancers
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Congress blocks money from being spent on everything from phone books to Chinese chicken and topless dancers

As Congress moves toward a vote this week on a long overdue budget plan to fund the operations of the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year, the fine print of that bipartisan deal again shows a variety of efforts by the Legislative Branch to rein in the use of taxpayer dollars, blocking everything from a military base closure commission, to spending government money on 'topless or nude entertainers.'

The provisions in the 1,665 page bill are headlined by the phrase, "None of the funds" - as the Congress tells the Executive Branch that taxpayer dollars cannot be spent on specific items or activities.

A search of the "Omnibus" spending deal uncovered over 460 instances where the Congress makes clear how money should not be spent.

Here are some of those restrictions:

+ No Chinese Chicken in school lunches. First approved by Congress in a 2014 spending bill, the ban on Chinese poultry for school lunches is back in this Omnibus spending measure. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to procure processed poultry products imported into the United States from the People’s Republic of China for use in the school lunch program under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act."

+ Keep Naked Dancing off government charge cards. After an internal Pentagon report several years ago found government charge cards were being used by civilian and military employees at casinos, and for adult entertainment, Congress is making clear that such card use is not approved "for gaming, or for entertainment that includes topless or nude entertainers or participants."

+ Don't close down my military base. The Omnibus bars the use of taxpayer dollars to create any military Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). One thing to chuckle about is that prohibition on spending money appears in the bill just after the 'topless or nude entertainers' provision.

+ Make that mooring chain in the U.S. Once again, the defense portion of this bill includes a provision that directs the Pentagon to only buy ship mooring chains that are Made in America. "None of the funds in this Act may be available for the purchase by the Department of Defense (and its departments and agencies) of welded shipboard anchor and mooring chain 4 inches in diameter and under unless the anchor and mooring chain are manufactured in the United States from components which are substantially manufactured in the United States."

+ Keep the Chinese away from NASA. Congress is continuing a ban on spending any taxpayer dollars to host visitors from China; this began six years ago, and has been kept around after concerns that a Chinese scientist working with NASA was really a spy. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA."

+ Don't screw with states that have medical marijuana laws. One provision in the Omnibus specifically tells the Executive Branch not to try to do anything to stop states "from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

+ Leave the Hurricane Hunter planes alone. Stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron often gets a line in these funding bills, telling the Executive Branch not to even think about transferring their duties and planes elsewhere. "None of the funds appropriated or made available in this Act shall be used to reduce or disestablish the operation of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the Air Force Reserve."

+ Don't change the $1 bill. A yearly feature when it comes to "None of the funds," is a provision from the Congress that tells the feds to leave the $1 bill alone. None of the funds appropriated in this Act or otherwise available to the Department of the Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing may be used to redesign the $1 Federal Reserve note."

+ A reminder that reading the bill isn't enough. When you research the "none of the funds" spending restraints, it becomes obvious that you need to know a little more on some of these provisions - "none of the funds made available to the Federal Trade Commission may be used to implement subsection (e)(2)(B) of section 43 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1831t)." Google that one and figure it out.

+ No federal steps on a national ID card. Just in case anyone was thinking about doing it, the Omnibus makes clear yet again that the Executive Branch should stay away from the issue. "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for planning, testing, piloting, or developing a national identification card."

+ No government propaganda or fake news. "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to disseminate information that is deliberately false or misleading."

+ No money for a group that no longer exists. Even after disbanding in 2010, and filing for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy laws, the group "ACORN" is still getting Legislative Shade thrown at it by the Congress.

+ Don't drop off a Congressional telephone book. I am old enough to remember when it was a valuable document - the Congressional phone book. But times have changed, and lawmakers are again including prohibitions on spending money to print and deliver that in the halls of Congress - in the House. "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to deliver a printed copy of the United States House of Representatives Telephone Directory to the office of any Member of the House of Representatives

+ Limits on overtime pay at Amtrak. One provision in the Omnibus says that if you are an employee at Amtrak, you can't make over $35,000 per year in overtime pay. That's a little less than in the Department of Homeland Security, where employees are limited to no more than $45,000 a year in overtime.

+ Some messages to the District of Columbia. Seven provisions in this bill tell the government of Washington, D.C. what it cannot do with federal tax dollars - one of them dealing with putting pressure on the Congress itself. "None of the Federal funds provided in this Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes or implementation of any policy including boycott designed to support or defeat legislation pending before Congress or any State legislature."

 

Read More

News

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  • A man who police said made threats toward children months ago outside an Incredible Pizza restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, has been arrested. Zantarrian Ferguson was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and evading arrest with third-party injuries, police said. Police told WHBQ-TV that Ferguson was asked to leave the business in November after threatening a group of people about stealing a phone. >> Read more trending news Once outside, Ferguson pulled out an AK-47 and aimed it at a bus filled with children, according to police.  People at the scene pleaded for Ferguson to put the gun away, but he continued to yell at the bus, authorities said. Police said Ferguson eventually got into the driver's seat of a silver SUV and fled the scene. Officers reportedly found Ferguson on Cordova Road fleeing the scene south of Incredible Pizza. Police said they caught up with Ferguson in the Walmart parking lot in the 500 block North Germantown Parkway. When police approached the vehicle, Ferguson fled the scene again at a high rate of speed, authorities said. Ferguson eventually crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of Walnut Grove and Germantown Parkway. Police said Ferguson fled the scene again, but several children were in the car at the time of the crash. The youngest child was only 2 years old. Investigators also located the AK-47 and two Glock pistols inside the vehicle, police said. Ferguson is being held on a $21,000 bond. His next court appearance is July 2 at 9 a.m.
  • A Memphis, Tennessee, family is devastated and trying to cope with the loss of their 4-year-old son.  Ayden Robinson was accidentally shot and killed by his 3-year-old brother Monday at the Pershing Park Apartments in Frayser, authorities said.  >> On Fox13Memphis.com: Boy, 4, accidentally shot and killed by 3-year-old brother, police say When WHBQ-TV spoke with the boys' parents on Tuesday, their emotions were still raw from the tragic death.  Precious Wright and Travis Robinson are not only grieving their child’s loss  but also figuring out how they are going to pay for his funeral. “I wish he could come back,” Wright said. “I just want my baby to come back.” Wright was understandably emotional as she described the loss. On Monday afternoon, Wright rushed Ayden to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital after he was shot accidentally by his brother. Police said Ayden and his little brother, Jayden, found an unattended gun in a dresser drawer inside the apartment. Investigators confirmed that the boys were alone inside that room when the shooting happened. “Ayden, he was always a nice child,” said Travis Robinson, the boys’ father. “He was that child that needed special attention – that love. He always acted like a baby, so I treated him like a baby. Because in my eyes, he still is a baby.” According to police documents, Jayden accidentally shot Ayden. He was rushed to the hospital but later died. Nathaniel Wilkins, Wright’s boyfriend, is now being charged with reckless homicide. Wilkins admitted the gun belonged to him and that he 'left it in an area accessible to the children,' according to the arrest affidavit.  “Jayden, when it comes down to it at night, he’s going to be like, ‘Momma, where’s Ayden at? I want Ayden.’ I don’t even know how I’m going to explain to him where his brother’s at,” said the boys’ father. >> Read more trending news Now, the boys’ parents are dealing with the grief while also making plans to bury their son. “I never thought I’d be wearing a ‘Rest in Peace’ shirt of my son, with his name on it, or put ‘Long Live Ayden,' his picture or his name. I never expected it,” Travis Robinson said. The young parents didn’t have insurance, leaving them with large medical bills and funeral expenses. “Just help me and my baby. Help my family. He didn’t mean no harm. I just love him so much,” Wright said. If you are interested in donating to the family’s GoFundMe campaign, click here.
  • Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify publicly in House hearings on July 17. >> Read more trending news House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a joint statement that the special counsel has agreed to testify about the Trump-Russia report he issued in April. The Justice Department declined to comment. >> MORE: Mueller resigns as Special Counsel, refuses to exonerate Trump on obstruction The committees have been in negotiations with Mueller for more than two months about his testimony. But he has been hesitant to testify and speak about the investigation beyond a public statement he issued last month. >> Read the latest from our Washington Insider, Jamie Dupree  In a letter to Mueller accompanying the subpoenas, the committee chairmen said “the American public deserves to hear directly from you about your investigation and conclusions.” President Donald Trump has denied all wrongdoing and consistently framed Mueller’s investigation as an expensive and politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at hurting his presidency.  Late Tuesday, Trump appeared to respond to the news in a tweet. “Presidential Harassment!” he wrote. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Scientists at the University of St. Andrews taught three young gray seals to sing, literally. >> Read more trending news Seals, which generally bark, and other marine mammals are known for some of the sounds they make. Whales sing, dolphins click, penguins peep and walruses bellow. Researchers, though, were able to train the three young seals to bark out the notes to the opening bars of the theme from “Star Wars” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The research is published in the journal Current Biology. It’s not just that teaching a seal to sing is an interesting project, St. Andrews scientists said they wanted to learn more about how seals communicate with each other, according to Smithsonian magazine. Knowing how seals communicate in the wild could become important in the future to conservation efforts.
  • An Orlo Vista, Florida, man believes someone brutally tortured and killed his dog after finding it burned to death in an ash pile down the street from his home. >> Read more trending news The Chihuahua, Stink, never left the side of Rick Parmenter. 'She was so wonderful,' Parmenter told WFTV. 'Anyone who has been to a concert in the Orlando area knows Stink.' Rick's grandson found the dog's charred remains with her collar still on in an ash pile surrounded by beer cans and bottles behind a business. The family posted missing signs and even offered a $200 reward after Stink escaped the family home Saturday morning. Rick said he cannot imagine why someone would hurt such a little dog. Animal crime investigators continue to search for clues and speak with those who live nearby while officials conduct a necropsy to learn how exactly Stink died. 'The findings on that will help, you know how forensics are these days,' said Paramenter. 'So we'll see what happens.' Although the family has its suspicions about who might have been involved with the dog's death, no one has been arrested for the crime.