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Sen. Paul Wants to cut aid to PA “Hamas is a terrorist organization, why should we pay them?”

 

 

Sen. Rand Paul calls to cut all American aid to the Muslims who call themselves Palestinians.
On his first day in office, President Trump freezed Obama’s $221,000,000 parting gift to the Muslims who call themselves “Palestinians”, It is time for the Trump administration to cut the rest of the aid ($400M).

400,000,000 dollars of US taxpayer money is going directly to Muslim terrorists.

Each year, the United States gives the Palestinian Authority $400M aid.

The Palestinian Authority uses American taxpayers’ money to pay Muslim terrorists who murdered non-Muslims in Israel.
American taxpayers should not be forced to finance Islamic terrorism.

 

 

President Donald Trump issued support for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s proposal to fund infrastructure projects in the U.S. with foreign aid halted from going to Islamic countries that burn US flags shout “Death to America”.

In a tweet Thursday, Rand, a Kentucky Republican, said he planned to introduce his proposal soon.

“I’m introducing a bill to end aid to Pakistan in the coming days. My bill will take the money that would have gone to Pakistan and put it in an infrastructure fund to build roads and bridges here at home.”

The US has given $34 billion in direct aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan since 2002.

The US shouldn’t give money to countries that mass burn American flag and put Christians in jail.
Trump has already cut the US aid to Pakistan.

Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and UNRWA(UN agency in Gaza) should be next.
Trump should suspend all aid to any country that has betrayed the US after the shameful UN vote against US sovereignty over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Every two and a half minutes US pays UN $38,000 for doing nothing American taxpayers pay more than any other country for the UN budget. There are 193 countries in the UN So why are the American taxpayers funding most of its budget?

President Trump should suspend all American aid to the UN as well.

 

 

Sen. Rand Paul calls to cut all American aid to the Muslims who call themselves Palestinians.
He repeatedly introduced a bill to cut all American aid to countries that working against American interests.

Posted by ‎Support Israel – תמיכה בישראל‎ on Thursday, April 12, 2018

 

 

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Watch: Muslim outrage in France After this video of a cop beating Burqa woman went viral

 

A Muslim provocation in Paris.

A Muslim woman refused to be identified and resisted arrest.

Policemen who were fed up with her, forcibly arrested her.

Muslims reacted with outrage after this video became viral.

Liberals and leftists in the West use the made up term “Islamophobia” to portray anyone who criticizes Islam as a “racist”.
They ignore the fact that Islam is an ideology that has nothing to do with race.

 

 

The list of European countries adopting Burqa and Niqab bans has gained a new member.

Countries that already had such a ban include

– France
– Belgium
– Netherlands
– Bulgaria
– Austria
– Denmark.
– Switzerland

Face-covering veils includes traditional headdresses like the burqa or nikab and other items concealing the face.

In countries that banned the full face veils it won’t be allowed in schools, hospitals, inside admin buildings, on public transport and other public places or buildings. The ban doesn’t prevent your head from being covered, just your face and identity.

Violators of tes ban could be fined up to 177 US dollars in Austria and up to €405 fine in the Netherlands.

In Muslim countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan The Islamic veil symbolizes oppression of women under Sharia laws.
There is no mention of an Islamic veil or burqa in the Koran.

There are moderate Muslims who call to ban the burqa in the West.

 

 

Do you support Belgium’s right to deport illegal immigrants back to where they came from? Yes or No

Posted by ‎Support Israel – תמיכה בישראל‎ on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

When Did ‘Amnesty’ Become a Dirty Word?

 

By BEN ZIMMER

 

Anti-immigration groups protest in front of the U.S. Capitol on April 10, 2013. | Allison Shelley/Getty Images

 

What killed the latest immigration deal on Capitol Hill? One of the deadliest weapons was a single potent word. When President Donald Trump suggested in January that a compromise might actually be possible and he would be open to considering a path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as children, Breitbart immediately slammed him as “Amnesty Don.” Immigration hard-liners in the House of Representatives followed suit, with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) saying that Americans would reject “amnesty or anything that looks like amnesty.”

Then, when a bipartisan immigration deal was proposed in the Senate, it was Trump’s turn to wield the A-word to bury it. In a tweet, he said the bill would create “a giant amnesty,” echoing a statement from the Department of Homeland Security that it was nothing more than a “mass amnesty bill for illegal aliens of all ages.” The bipartisan bill and a Trump-backed alternative went down to defeat in the Senate, both tarnished by the mere association with the word “amnesty.”

So how did “amnesty”—a word that politicians of both parties once used to invoke generosity and openness—become such a monstrous taboo? Its very invocation has scuttled attempts at immigration reform year after year. Despite its recent weaponization, the usage of the word “amnesty” has actually been rather benign over most of its history. But its more recent shift offers a window into the growing potency of immigration in American politics.

In today’s debate, amnesty has come to carry a sense of getting off scot-free, a kind of unearned forgiveness, but its origins lie in the more benign idea of forgetting. The word originated as “amnestia” in ancient Greek, with the same root as “amnesia.” Even in classical times, this word for not-remembering could also refer more specifically to the pardoning of a crime against the state. The historian Plutarch relates that after the assassination of Julius Caesar, the great Roman statesman Cicero “persuaded the senate to imitate the Athenians and decree an amnesty for the attack upon Caesar.” In English, “amnesty” was borrowed in the 16th century with a similar legal understanding, equated to an “act of oblivion” from the government to forgive someone of past offenses.

“Amnesty” has been present in American politics from the beginning. A search on documents collected by the American Presidency Project, hosted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, finds no less than 346 uses of “amnesty” by presidents from Washington to Trump. The history of the word’s presidential usage offers some insight into how “amnesty” has become so politically fraught.

When George Washington used the word in a 1794 State of the Union address, he spoke of “the proffered terms of amnesty” extended to those in western Pennsylvania who fought against the government in the Whiskey Rebellion. Fifty years later, John Tyler considered a “general amnesty” in a lesser-known uprising, Rhode Island’s Dorr Rebellion.

But it took the Civil War for “amnesty” to become entrenched in American political discourse. Less than a year into the war, in February 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order releasing political prisoners in military custody, granting them “an amnesty for any past offenses of treason or disloyalty,” as long as they upheld the conditions of their parole. In December 1863, Lincoln outlined his plan to offer amnesty to former Confederates at the war’s end, a policy that would be carried out by his successor, Andrew Johnson, as part of Reconstruction.

Presidential amnesties were also granted in the 1890s (by Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland) to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints charged with polygamy—laying the groundwork for Utah becoming a state. And in the early years of the 20th century, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt offered amnesty to rebels in the Philippines who had fought against American troops in the Spanish-American War.

In 1933, a new kind of amnesty was enacted by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his Christmas Amnesty Proclamation, granting clemency to those who had dodged the draft in World War I. Harry Truman followed Roosevelt’s lead in 1946, establishing an “Amnesty Board” to review the cases of conscientious objectors who had refused to serve in World War II. Truman ultimately pardoned only about 1,500 of the 15,000 violators of the Selective Service Act, despite pleas by Eleanor Roosevelt and others for more leniency.

In the U.S. and abroad, “amnesty” continued to be an expression of mercy and compassion for a broad class of people. In 1961, a British lawyer, Peter Benenson, declared an “Appeal for Amnesty” for prisoners of conscience around the world, a campaign that spawned the organization Amnesty International.

It was the cultural clash over the Vietnam War that began to move “amnesty” in a darker direction. Campaigning in 1972, Richard Nixon firmly stated that “when this war is over, there will be no amnesty for draft dodgers or deserters.” His opponent, George McGovern, took a more permissive line, contributing to the “three A’s” that opponents used to attack his campaign: “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion.”

If it was the draft that started “amnesty” on the road to lightning-rod status, it was immigration that landed it there for good. Jimmy Carter, speaking to reporters in 1977, said he thought that the immigration legislation then working its way through Congress would have to include “some element of amnesty.” Ronald Reagan, too, spoke favorably of amnesty in a 1984 debate against Walter Mondale. “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Reagan said, in a statement that would be anathema to many modern-day Republicans.

The tide turned against “amnesty” after Reagan signed the 1986 Immigration and Reform Act, which provided legal status to about 3 million undocumented immigrants who could show that they had resided in the country for more than four years. In retrospect, critics of the “Reagan amnesty” said the measure only encouraged further illegal immigration.

The retrospective blame placed on the 1986 law was largely responsible for a shift in the connotations surrounding “amnesty,” turning it from an expression of forgiveness into something more like an unearned “get out of jail free” card. In 2001, conservative pundit Georgie Anne Geyer sounded an alarm bell in a syndicated column warning George W. Bush against any amnesty plan as part of further reforms to immigration policy. “But what does this word ‘amnesty,’ which sounds so generous, really mean to the United States?” Geyer asked, adding ominously, “In truth, the word spells danger.”

By 2005, the rhetorical battle lines had been drawn. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that proponents of immigration reform, such as California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, were at pains to avoid the word “amnesty” in favor of more anodyne terms like “earned legalization,” “earned transition” and “earned adjustment.” “Why don’t the advocates of illegal immigration use ‘amnesty’?” asked Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “Because the polls tell them people hate it.”

The following year, “amnesty” became the go-to word among immigration hawks opposed to reforms advocated by the Bush administration. A Senate bill that promised “earned citizenship” was met by its opponents with endless repetitions of the nefarious A-word. Jeff Sessions, then serving in the Senate from Alabama, tossed aside any semantic nuances. “In every sense of what people mean by amnesty, it’s amnesty,” Sessions said, observing paradoxically, “If it’s not amnesty, it’s the same thing as amnesty.” His colleague in the House, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), took the logical next step, alluding to literature’s most famous A-word: “Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter, ‘A’ for amnesty, and they need to pay for it at the ballot box in November.”

Pushing back against his own party in a way that would seem unthinkable now, Bush told the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel in 2007: “This word ‘amnesty’ is often used to create confusion and doubt and anger.” He insisted that the immigration policy he championed was not amnesty, but recognized the power of the critique. “If you want to kill a bill,” he said, “then you just go around America saying, ‘This is amnesty.’” It worked. Soon thereafter, Bush’s immigration plan died in the Senate.

More than a decade later, the word “amnesty” remains the “linguistic third rail” in the immigration debate, as Matt Welch, editor-at-large of Reason, argued in the Washington Post last year. Welch has a bold suggestion for that third rail: “it is well past time that we stomped on it,” by embracing the term rather than running away from it. When it comes to codifying some form of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—the rescinded act that allowed “Dreamers” to stay in the country—politicians won’t make headway until they stop being afraid of the word “amnesty.” That would require rehabilitating the term, bringing it back to its compassionate roots. Why not declare amnesty for “amnesty”?

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Caves: Signs $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Bill Loaded With Everything Democrats Want – Pretty Much Nothing He Said He Would Fight For


On Friday, President Donald Trump may have well been Barack Obama, signing the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that only funds the central government for 6 months, but is full of unconstitutional spending that Democrats wanted while giving him virtually nothing in return.

Of course, Trump said that he was “unhappy” about many things in the bill, but tried to put it forth as somewhat of a victory in that he said it was for “national security” purposes that he signed it, meaning it had lots of military spending in it.



Trump: A lot of things I’m unhappy about in spending bill from CNBC.

He also said he was “very disappointed” that he signed it, but you know what, that just doesn’t fly.  He said he was considering vetoing the bill, which he should have done due to all the unconstitutional spending that was contained in it, which he probably can’t even list.  It appears the great “deal maker” has yet to make an actual deal here.




All he was concerned about was military spending, and that military spending is largely not for US defense but for the US empire across the planet.

“As a matter of national security I’ll sign this omnibus budget bill,” he said.  “There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have had in this bill but we were, in a sense, forced [to] if we want to build our military, we were forced to have.


“We have to have, by far, the strongest military in the world,” Trump added.  “And this will be the strongest military we ever had.”

While I am not one to attack the military, I do think there are principles that should be stood upon, namely the oath of office that Trump and the representatives of the people pledged when they took office and that was to be restricted to the spending that is limited by the Constitution.  Neither complied with their oath of office.

In fact, while Trump barely got any border wall money, and that was even restricted to the type of border wall that could be erected, the omnibus bill funds border security for Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia.

The spending package includes $1.6 billion for Trump’s long-promised border wall.   However, less than half of the nearly 95 miles of border construction that have been approved can be spent on new barriers. The rest may only be used to repair existing structures.


Trump complained that Congress was only given 1,000 minutes to read the over 2,200-page bill.

Even Communist Democrat Ted Lieu thought it was ridiculous.

“They created a series of documents that nobody was able to read,” Trump said.

So, why didn’t you just veto it, Mr. President?  You know they don’t know what all is in that thing, and Trump doesn’t even know what all is in it.

Both Congress and the President are to blame for this, and despite Trump “warning” that he will never sign a bill like this again, just wait till the six months are up and he’ll sign another just like it, full of unconstitutional spending.  I’ve told you he would do it before concerning the continuing resolutions and he’s done it.  I knew he would do it with this, and he’s done it.  There is no difference here in President Trump and those he complains about in DC.  They all are acting outside the parameters of the Constitution.

My goodness!  Even Rush Limbaugh “felt” like this was something bad. And it is!


We know that the Senate gave themselves a little bonus, like millions of dollars of bonus.  It increased its total salaries of officers and employees by $12.6 million.

However, the Senate was not the only part of Congress to increase its funding.  The House of Representatives increased its budget to $1.2 billion.

The Free Beacon reports:

The legislation increases the Senate budget to $919.9 million, up $48.8 million from fiscal year 2017, according to the congressional summary of the bill.

“The increase provides funding necessary for critical modernization and upgrades of the Senate financial management system and investments in IT security,” the summary states.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives increased its budget to $1.2 billion, which is $10.9 million above 2017 levels.

Salaries of staffers in the Senate are also set for an increase. Division I of the legislation breaks down the total salaries of officers and employees, which are being raised from $182 million in 2017 to $194.8 million in the final bill, an increase of $12.58 million.

The Senate also increased its expense account, as expense allowances are going from $177,000 to $192,000, an increase of $15,000.

The House, however, kept its budget for salaries the same at $22.3 million and lowered expenses by $4.4 million.

Committee offices got an increase of $22.9 million in salaries, from $181.5 million in 2017 to $204.4 million in the final bill.

Again, the problem is not just the Democrats, it’s the Republicans, too.  Just look at how the Republican leadership promised to fund the border wall to the tune of $15-18 billion in January of 2017.  They flat out lied.


Then again, this is the same Paul Ryan who handed Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah everything he wanted in another omnibus bill, which was his first unconstitutional act as Speaker of the House.  Remember how conservatives fell for the lie that Ryan is a conservative and how great he was with numbers?  I tried to warn people back in 2012, but they wouldn’t listen.  They called me a liberal and an Obama lover despite the plethora of articles I had written against the Obama administration and the RINOs while defending the Constitution and constitutional spending.

Now, you know but it’s too late.

Of course, on the other side, which is really the same side, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claimed a victory, though it was not a victory for the American people nor the Constitution.  It was a crime against both.


“The distinguished leader has clearly put forth many of the priorities that we’re very proud of in a bill that’s one yard high,” Pelosi said of House Speaker Paul Ryan.


“It’s one yard high,” Pelosi said, referring to the legislation. “About half of it is the bill, a quarter of it is earmarks, and another quarter are report language.”

Think about that!  That’s three feet tall, for one bill that funds DC for 6 months!  It’s absolutely reprehensible.

She then decided to comment on the timing of the bill and lack of ability for representatives to read it.

“I think one of the reasons they rushed it through – posting it last night, taking it to rolls on the floor today, not honoring the three-day rule – they didn’t want their Republican colleagues to see just what exactly was in the bill,” Pelosi said. “Because this bill was a victory for investment in our future … supporting our middle class and doing so in a way that was producing good-paying jobs.”

Of course, RINO Paul Ryan, who should just associate himself as a Socialist Democrat, only wanted to talk about military spending, ie. American empire building, not military defense.


Click Here for more on This Article!


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In Tragic Circumstance, Trump’s Trained Teachers is Proved Correct!!

Yesterday we saw another tragic shooting at a school. A deranged student decided that it would be ok to begin shooting at students (in this case it seems likely that the first victim had a prior relationship with the attacker).

Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, first shot a young girl and then a 14-year-old boy. At this point school officer, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill, stepped in and fired at the assailant. It is not yet clear whether Rollins died from being shot by the officer or shot himself after the gunfight. Either way…He is dead…and other people are not.

Trump has been calling for more school security, and in the wake of this attack, it appears he is right to do so. A trained professional with a firearm managed to engage the shooter and potentially stop what could have been another massacre.

Gun free zones are known as soft targets. Those wishing to cause murder and mayhem know that in a gun free zone, the first response will take time and as such will be free to carry out the crimes they wish.

It is truly sad that an event like this took place at all…But the parents of those kids that WERE NOT killed must be thinking that Donald Trump has a point. As they embrace their children tonight and perhaps feel a pang of guilt as they think “Thank God it was not MY child”, will they move a little further to Trump’s position on this? Will they be thinking that the only reason they have their child safe at home is that a good guy with a gun was there to intervene?


Yesterday we saw another tragic shooting at a school. A deranged student decided that it would be ok to begin shooting…

Posted by I Support The Police, Not Criminals on Wednesday, March 21, 2018


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Imagine if you spent your entire working life catching criminals who jump the border, only to have them released by…

Posted by I Support The Police, Not Criminals on Wednesday, March 21, 2018



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BLM, Al Sharpton and Nation of Islam Join Together in Expression of HATE!


Rep. Todd Rokita has introduced a House Resolution asking for members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to denounce Minister Louis Farrakhan of the nation of Islam for his bigoted and hateful stance towards white people and Jewish people (one of whom he says are the devil, and the other he calls for an extermination of).


While most conservatives want to keep identity out of politics, the fact that so many of the CBC has close ties to what is nothing more than a racially motivated hate group is cause for concern. All Rokita is asking for is that they disavow Farrakhan’s comments. Should be simple, no?


Of course, it isn’t simple. The New Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, Al Sharpton and others have decided to form a grand coalition shouting down this resolution…There reasoning? That Trump is a racist.


A press release from the group says:

“The coalition will be lobbying key members of Congress-the GOP in particular-to condemn President Donald J. Trump and to leave Louis Farrakhan alone. Please do not try to stop us because we will not turn back. We will represent professionally and politically vigorously.”


They may not like Donald Trump (they are allowed to not like him, it’s still, despite their best efforts, a free country), but to equate policies that he has proposed and enacted with the same hatred and vitriol that Farrakhan reserves for whites and Jews is just plain ridiculous.


Do you remember when Trump called for the extermination of a race? Me neither. What about the time he called all black people nothing more than devils that need to be gotten rid of? No me neither on that too!


Rep. Todd Rokita has introduced a House Resolution asking for members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to…

Posted by I Support The Police, Not Criminals on Tuesday, March 20, 2018


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British politician slams London Muslim Mayor "You turn London into a sh*thole"

 

 

An honest British politician defends President Trump and attacks the Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, after Trump canceled his visit.
Please watch and share this video.
The Mayor of London repeatedly went to the media and declared “Trump is not welcome in the UK”.
The Muslim mayor of London caused enormous damage to the relations of Britain and the United States, all in the name of Islam.
Shame on the Muslim mayor of London.

 

 

Multiculturalism has failed in Europe.
Most people are unaware of the consequences of the illegal mass immigration into Europe that lead to the changing face of Europe.
The British have become a minority in their Own capital city.
In Sweden the situation is even worse, Swedish majority will live long enough to see themselves becoming a minority in their own country.
More and more countries are taking steps against the immigrants’ culture.
France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria have banned the burqa.
Switzerland passed an anti-mosque law which bans preaching in Arabic and mosque’s minarets.
Austrian passed a law which restricts foreign funding for Austrian mosques and Islamic communities
All these measures were taken by these countries to force immigrants to integrate into Western society.
But there are Western countries that do not even acknowledge that there is a lack of integration within the immigrant communities.
The Western world must close the borders before it is too late.

 

Islamophobia is a made up word created by the Muslim Brotherhood specifically to silence debate.
Anti Muslim bigotry Should be challenged, but any idea, including Islam and all religions is open for criticism and debate.
To conflate the two is disingenuous.
A phobia is an irrational fear, if you fear the fact that Islam is producing more terrorists than any other religion at the moment then your fear is not phobic it’s justified.
Islamophobia is a neologism created to silence any possible debate about the problems Islamic extremism has got with modernity, with the intention of using the collective post-colonial “guilt” to exempt a particular set of beliefs from scrutiny, analysis and criticism.
It’s a buzzword used in an attempt to silence me, whenever I’ve had legit questions or criticisms about the religion.
Islam is not a race. It’s a religion.

 

 

 

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Should he be arrested?

Posted by ‎Support Israel – תמיכה בישראל‎ on Saturday, March 17, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

They come as “refugees” and then preach for Shari’a laws

Posted by ‎Support Israel – תמיכה בישראל‎ on Saturday, March 17, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

Raising hourly pay is a rallying cry for 2018, but states often fail to get workers the money that’s owed them.

By MARIANNE LEVINE

02/18/2018 06:51 AM EST

Updated 02/18/2018 10:40 AM EST

As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor.

That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.


But even those workers who are able to brave the system and win — to get states to order their bosses to pay them what they’re owed — confront a further barrier: Fully 41 percent of the wages that employers are ordered to pay back to their workers aren’t recovered, according to a POLITICO survey of 15 states.

That’s partly because, in addition to lacking resources, states lack the tools to go after the landscaping firms, restaurants, cleaning companies and other employers that shed one corporate skin for another, changing names while essentially continuing the same businesses — often to evade orders to pay back their workers.

This failure to enforce both the minimum hourly wage — $7.25 under federal law — and rules requiring higher pay for overtime distorts the economy, giving advantages to employers who break the law. It allows long-term patterns of abuse to take root in certain service industries, especially restaurants, landscaping and cleaning. Advocates for lowest-wage workers describe families facing eviction and experiencing hunger for lack of money that’s owed them. And, nationally, the failure to enforce wage laws exacerbates a level of income inequality that, by many measures, is higher than it’s been for the past century.

“Low-income workers are already in this fragile balance,” said Victor Narro of the UCLA Labor Center. “One paycheck of not being able to get the wages they’re owed can cause them to lose everything.”

Interviews with scores of state officials, legal-services advocates and labor specialists indicate that the failure to enforce minimum wages touches every corner of the country, but is especially acute in the six states that have no investigators probing wage violations at all.

All six states that have no minimum-wage investigators are in the South, and in a seventh, Florida, former Gov. Jeb Bush eliminated the state Department of Labor over a period of years in the early 2000s. In theory, its responsibilities were distributed among other state agencies, but in practice Florida failed to undertake a single enforcement action for more than four years. Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi all have labor agencies, but workers can’t file minimum wage or overtime claims with them; they must instead appeal to the U.S. Department of Labor, which takes cases only selectively, based in part on the number of employees involved and the extent of the wrongdoing.

“In Louisiana, it would have a substantial impact on the lives of working families to be able to call someone and say, ‘My employer hasn’t paid me in three weeks — what do I do?’ and to have someone who can go in and help you with that,’’ said Andrea Agee, staff attorney at the Workplace Justice Project in New Orleans.


The federal Department of Labor, Agee said, isn’t the answer for individual workers, because it only takes cases selectively, and because it, too, lacks resources and is slowed by bureaucracy. “If you’re someone in need of a check, reporting a wage claim to the DOL is not going to get you your rent in time,” she said.

The federal Department of Labor has 894 investigators — vastly more than any state agency. By historic measures, though, its investigative workforce isn’t particularly large. In 1948, when the United States had 23 million workers, the division had 1,000 investigators. Today, the U.S. has seven times as many workers, but slightly fewer federal wage-and-hour investigators than it had 70 years ago.

A Labor Department spokesman said, “The current number of wage-and-hour investigators is well within the average of the past several decades. Note that in fiscal year 2017, [the department] recovered $270 million in back wages — the second-highest amount ever recovered.”

Politicians who support higher-wage laws are often passionate about the need for higher pay, making the minimum wage one of the most hard-fought issues of recent years. But they give strikingly little attention to the enforcement of those laws, where they could push to add investigators and institute new laws to make it harder for employers to evade enforcement by changing their corporate identities.

Asked to comment on POLITICO’s findings, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who helps lead a group of 22 Senate Democrats who support a plan to gradually increase the federal minimum to $15 per hour, and who has pushed his own bill to provide up to $50 million in grants to employers, nonprofits, unions and others who can assist in the enforcement of wage and hour laws, expressed concern but quickly pivoted to the larger issue of raising the minimum wage.

“Wages are far too low to begin with, so when money is stolen right out of workers’ paychecks, we have to have effective tools in place to get that money back,” Brown said in a statement. “But wage theft is just one part of the problem that hard work simply doesn’t pay off the way it should. And that’s true for all workers — whether they punch a time clock, swipe a badge, make a salary or earns tips — they’re working too hard for too little.”

That’s little comfort for the workers who fight their way through government bureaucracies and hearings to get their back pay — only to discover that there’s no way for the government to collect.

How would you feel if I robbed you of [thousands of] dollars?” asked Alfonso de la Paz, a construction worker who, according to the state of Illinois, was stiffed on about $3,000 in back pay by a contractor who failed to respond to two notices from the state Department of Labor. “That’s what he owes me.”

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Battles over the minimum wage are fought along ideological lines, with liberals insisting that higher minimums prevent exploitation and support families who otherwise might need government assistance. Conservatives argue that the labor market should dictate wages, and that states, with their widely varying costs of living, are better positioned than the federal government is to set minimums. The 2016 Republican platform proposed that minimum-wage issues should be handled at the state level, and President Donald Trump, who suggested on the campaign trail that the federal minimum “has to go up,” has largely avoided the issue.

The issue shows every sign of going to the voters this November. Many Democrats are already stressing the importance of a $15-per-hour “living wage” as a way to energize lower-income voters. Meanwhile, many states have moved to raise their own hourly minimums far above the federal level — with Washington, D.C., requiring $12.50, Washington State demanding $11.50 and California clocking in at $11. Many other states exceed the federal minimum. In addition, federal law continues to require that hourly workers receive time-and-a-half for work beyond 40 hours per week.

But advocates for low-income workers across the country say employers routinely violate these laws, with little fear of getting caught. And even in states with comparatively robust labor departments, enforcement is lax.

Wage theft is the rule, not the exception, for low-wage workers,” said Michael Hollander, a staff attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, using a term that covers all forms of cheating on wages, including violating minimum-wage laws and overtime rules. Pennsylvania has 31 investigators probing wage and hours violations.


Richard Blum, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York, which has 114 wage-theft investigators, suggested that employers make a strategic decision to violate wage laws to gain a competitive advantage: “It is competitively smart to cheat and steal from your workers because the odds of getting caught are low and the odds of having to pay are low.”

In addition to the six states with no investigators and Florida, which had no enforcement for at least four years, POLITICO’s review found that other states, including Arkansas, Ohio and Hawaii have reduced the number of investigators in recent years. Of the states that have investigators for minimum wage, 26 have fewer than 10, according to surveys conducted between September and February. South Dakota has one, for example, and Indiana has one fulltime and one working part time. Meanwhile, two states — Kansas and Iowa — put a monetary ceiling on wage-theft cases they’ll pursue: As a matter of policy, these states decline to pursue enforcement actions if the amount involved is too high. In Kansas, the ceiling is $10,000; in Iowa, $5,000.

“These agencies are so underfunded,” said Tia Koonse, legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center, “that we rely on the honor system for employers to pay the minimum wage.”

Workers who are shortchanged on minimum wage or overtime pay have three options: They can hire a private attorney; they can file a complaint with the state labor agency, if it enforces wage claims; or they can file a complaint with the federal Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division.


The federal government does a better job than most states in recovering wages: Money changes hands after wage-theft judgments about 90 percent of the time. But that success rate is less impressive when one considers that the Labor Department cherry-picks the cases it takes on, with an eye for those that promise big payouts, and can’t enforce payment of state hourly minimum that exceeds the federal rate of $7.25. The federal Labor Department also has more power than many state agencies to impose and collect penalties, reducing employers’ incentives to fight back.

Even with those advantages, the federal Labor Department ends up returning, on average, $16 million annually to the Treasury Department because it’s unable to locate the workers who are owed the back pay. Typically that’s because the claim has taken so long to work its way through the system that the employee has moved and is unreachable. Low-wage workers tend to be more transient than higher-paid workers, and some are undocumented, which makes them reluctant to keep the government fully abreast of their moves.

That leaves state Labor Departments as the prime source of on-the-ground enforcement, but as watchdog agencies tasked with enforcing wage laws, their relationships with local businesses are often adversarial, and business groups often lobby state legislatures to cut their funding. The appetite to fund labor-related investigations shrank further during the past decade as the pro-business GOP acquired control of more state capitals.

In Virginia, where Republicans have controlled both houses in recent years, the Legislature didn’t fund its payment-of-wage program for an entire year starting in July 2012. Government officials working in that division were reassigned, and workers in Virginia had no state office through which to recover stolen wages. One year later, when the Legislature restored funding, the division had to be re-created, and the state had to hire new people.

“State labor agencies in the South that enforce wage laws are few and far between,” observes Meredith Stewart, a senior staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Arkansas is one of the few that does. As recently as 2014, it had 10 investigators dedicated to wage-theft complaints. But today, it has five, one of whom has had to take on administrative work. Meanwhile, a single attorney is left to handle the agency’s wage litigation; to analyze proposed legislation affecting her division; to review her division’s regulations; and to provide legal advice to enforcement staff, the attorney told POLITICO in an email.

Lindsay Moore is Arkansas’ labor standards manager and he oversees enforcement of wage and hour laws. Cuts to his division, he said, lengthened wait times for employees who file claims to as long as one year. Sometimes, Moore will advise complainants that they’d be better off hiring a private attorney or taking their cases to the federal Labor Department.

“We simply don’t have the manpower to work on this in an expedient fashion,” said Moore. Often, he said, by the time the labor standards division is ready to take up a case, the worker is “very frustrated with us” and tells Moore to forget about it.

Even states outside the South often lack the personnel necessary to process and enforce claims in a timely manner, though staffing levels vary widely. Idaho (with a population of 1.7 million) has five wage and hour investigators, of whom only one is tasked with making sure that companies actually pay whatever back wages the state says they owe. Missouri (6.1 million) has three. Wisconsin (5.8 million) is more protective of workers, with nine wage-and-hour investigators, all of whom collect back pay.

“When workers cannot collect, it sends the message that such claims are not worth pursuing, that scofflaw employers can profit illegally with impunity, and that the deck is stacked in favor of the relatively rich and powerful,” said Sally Dworak-Fisher, attorney at the Public Justice Center in Maryland, which has 11 investigators handling wage claims.


Labor agencies in large, worker-friendly states often boast in news releases about millions recovered in wage-theft enforcement actions. But these same agencies turn reticent when asked what percentage of those wages were successfully extracted from violators and handed over to the wronged workers. That’s because a high percentage of those wages never make it to the state, let alone workers.

POLITICO’s survey of 15 states with comparable data found that 41 percent of the money assessed against employers who violate wage laws was never recovered. POLITICO compared the total wages assessed to total wages recovered for the 15 states between 2007 and 2017. State figures included many forms of wage theft and enforcement actions depending on what the state reported, including minimum wage, overtime and unpaid wages and benefits. Not all of the states surveyed reported data for each year.

Collection rates varied widely from state to state. Montana recovered $7.9 million of $33.3 million in back pay assessed between 2007 and 2016, just 24 percent. Texas did better, recovering 54 percent of $70.5 million between 2010 and 2016. Indiana recovered $2.3 million of $3.1 million assessed between 2010 and October 2017. Missouri recovered $1.5 million of $2 million in back pay assessed since 2007.

Studies in states whose data wasn’t part of POLITICO’s survey suggest that they, too, had widely varying rates of recovery of wage-theft cases, though even the best rates still left more than a third of all money unrecovered.

New York recouped about 64 percent of back pay assessed, according to data collected for a 2015 report by the Urban Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Massachusetts recovered in full on 56.3 percent of citations for wage violations between January 2015 and August 2017.

In California, by contrast, only 17 percent of workers who won wage-theft judgments between 2008 and 2011 received their money, according to a 2013 study by the UCLA Labor Center and the nonprofit National Employment Law Project. Paola Laverde, a spokesperson for the California Department of Industrial Relations told POLITICO in an email that the state enacted new “enforcement tools” in 2016, but “there has not been sufficient time to evaluate the impact of those tools.”

But by its mere willingness to evaluate its success or failure, California is ahead of many states that don’t bother to keep track of how much they recover compared to how much they assess. Of the states that had investigators, 15 had comparable statistics for assessment and recovery, four compiled their data in different forms, and 24 could not say what their rate of recovery was. Florida, which did not perform any enforcement action from late 2011 through early 2016, according to records obtained by the publication In These Times and reviewed by POLITICO, did not respond to requests for updated information. And neither Jeb Bush, who as governor eliminated the state Labor Department, nor his spokesperson answered emailed requests for comment.


The recovery percentages from all states pale in comparison to the federal Labor Department’s claim that 90 percent of its judgments against employers end with the worker collecting back pay. But some questions have been raised about whether the federal Labor Department’s collection rate is really as high as it claims. In 2009, the Government Accountability Office said that the Bush administration’s Wage and Hour division “instructed many offices not to record unsuccessful conciliations, making [the division seem] better at resolving conciliations than it actually is.” GAO staffers posed as employees struggling to collect back pay and found some wage-and-hour inspectors recorded that they received it when they didn’t.

When the Labor Department determines that an employer owes an employee back pay, the agency can require that the employer pay the employee directly, or it can collect the money from the employer and pay the worker itself. A 2015 report from the Office of the Inspector General found that when President Barack Obama’s Wage and Hour Division followed this second route, it “did not make reasonable efforts to locate employees” in about 71 percent of cases, according to a random sample.

David Weil, who headed the Wage and Hour department under Obama, said that rebuke has to be viewed in context: Fully 76 percent of back wages are paid directly to workers by their employers, he said, and the amount returned to Treasury represents only 5 percent of the total owed. Weil conceded, however, that Wage and Hour must follow up more aggressively on its wage-and-hour judgments and that it needs to find better ways to locate employees to whom back pay is owed.

In January 2015, he said, the Labor Department created an online application in which workers can enter their names and those of their employers to find out if they’re owed back pay.

***

Even when states and the federal government are able to collect on back pay, the total represents only a fraction of the billions lost each year to wage theft. The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, estimated that annual wage thefts top $15 billion; they extrapolated that figure from a study of the 10 most populous states, accounting for more than half the country’s population. The vast majority of those dollars are never returned to workers, because employers have many tactics to avoid enforcement, including simply closing up shop.

Many of the service-industry companies that violate wage-and-hour laws have little in the way of brand identity or fixed costs. Their owners can therefore dissolve the business with comparative ease, transferring all assets to a new business entity that operates under a different name. Once the transfer is complete, there’s usually little a state labor agency can do to punish the owner, because on paper the offending company no longer exists.

The problem can be exacerbated by the long delays in processing claims. Twelve years ago, the New York state Labor Department ruled that a limousine company called Altour Service owed 25 drivers more than $250,000 in back pay.

Altour Service allegedly charged all its customers a 20 percent gratuity fee and then didn’t share that money with its drivers. In 2005, the New York Labor Department ordered the firm to give the drivers nearly $260,000 in back pay. Altour Service appealed that decision to the state Industrial Board of Appeals, which in 2012 upheld the state Labor Department’s decision. Altour then appealed again, this time to the New York state Supreme Court appellate division. In 2015, a full 10 years after the initial ruling, the court once again upheld the state Labor Department’s decision.

Even after the appellate division upheld the drivers’ claim, several told POLITICO that no money changed hands. That was because the company, Altour Service, no longer existed. Even as it continued filing briefs in its court cases, Altour Service dissolved as a company in April 2014.


Altour Service shared an address with a much larger firm, the 1,500-employee Altour International, but that firm has no legal responsibility for its debts, according to Altour Service’s attorney.


States fumble recovery of stolen wages

Even when states determine employers owe their employees wages, a POLITICO survey of 15 states found they didn’t recover 41 percent of what was owed.

41% of lost wages were unrecovered

Like Altour Service, Altour International was run by a businessman named Alexandre Chemla, who remains its president. Altour Service’s 2014 certificate of dissolution listed Chemla as chief executive officer and listed 1270 Avenue of the Americas, 15th floor, as the dissolved company’s address. Altour Internationalresides at the same address, same floor.

“Altour Service and Altour International were separate corporate entities involved in different lines of business,” Justin Sher, an attorney for the now-liquidated Altour Service, told POLITICO in an email. “Altour Service was not a subsidiary of Altour International. Altour International has no obligations with respect to Altour Service’s debts.”

Asked about whether Altour International would speak on its own behalf, Sher responded in an email, “I am in touch with the company, and it has no further comment.” Altour International did not respond to a request for comment from Chemla.

Altour Service’s former limousine drivers, though, think those who backed Altour Service, and profited from it, should still be held accountable for its debts.

“They dragged it out for years,” one of the drivers, Edgar Lewis, told POLITICO. “The finding was that we were right and they were wrong. But then Altour and its management — they refused.” Another driver, Fredy Monzon, said he hadn’t received any back pay, either. “To me, this is news,” he said. “Jesus Christ … I didn’t realize how much I was awarded.”

A third driver, lead plaintiff Raymond Hulen, declined to speak to POLITICO directly. But through a friend, Kenneth Brown, he confirmed that he not received any money, either, as of last December. “All the money you spent [to go to court] is way more than it would cost you to reimburse your employees and give them their money back,” Brown said, referring to Altour Service.

When POLITICO asked Sher, the Altour Service attorney, whether any of the 25 drivers received their back pay, Sher emailed that Altour Service was “party to an agreement that contains confidentiality restrictions and will not comment further about the details of any payments.”

***

In general, larger companies avoid the risk of violating wage-and-hour laws by keeping low-wage workers off the payroll. Unlike small businesses, big ones can’t easily be dissolved, and they’re much more sensitive to bad publicity. They also make fatter targets for wage-theft investigations because they have deeper pockets.

Big companies typically steer clear of low-wage workers through what Weil, who administered the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division under Obama, called “the fissured workplace” in an influential 2014 book of that name.

Weil cited three ways in which a large company typically avoids responsibility for low-wage workers. It can contract hourly work out to another, smaller company — for example, by hiring a janitorial service rather than employing janitors directly. Or the big company can consign hourly work to franchisees; more than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are owned not by McDonald’s but by McDonald’s franchises, who do the hiring and firing. Or the big company can classify certain workers as independent contractors (i.e., “gig” workers), as Federal Express’ ground service has done with its drivers.

Whenever “there’s attenuated supply chains and so much subcontracting, it’s much harder to track down the contractor,” Janice Fine, a professor at Rutgers University, explained.

“Fissuring” the workplace has allowed big companies to focus on their core competencies, enhancing productivity. But it’s also increased the likelihood that wage-and-hour laws will be violated. Low-wage employers win contracts by bidding low; franchisees, by signing franchise contracts that, especially with big brands, can be financially burdensome; and independent contractors, by working for whatever the buyer is willing to pay. (Independent contractors, who theoretically work on their own, are not covered by minimum-wage laws.) All three downstream arrangements squeeze profit margins, creating, for contractors and franchisees, a potential incentive to cut corners on labor laws.

A large company needn’t worry it will be held liable for any wage theft committed by a contractor or franchisee unless it can be demonstrated that the large company’s arms-length relationship with the contractor or franchisee’s low-wage workers is a fiction. That’s difficult to prove.

The Obama administration made it somewhat easier by broadening the legal criteria for classifying a company a so-called joint employer. But the Trump administration reversed that policy in December in a ruling from its majority-Republican National Labor Relations Board.

In September, Trump nominated Cheryl Stanton to lead the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division. Since 2013, Stanton has been executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce in South Carolina, one of the states that dedicates not a single government employee to investigate minimum wage and overtime violations.

Stanton was herself sued in March 2016 for failing to pay a housekeeper named Laurie Titus, the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting reported in July. “I have emailed, mailed and certified mailed trying to get payment,” Titus said in her complaint, which requested $360 for four cleanings in September and October 2015, plus $80 to cover court costs and $125 in late fees. Last year, Stanton resolved her dispute with Titus, who told the court that Stanton had “paid in full.”

The Labor Department declined to comment on Stanton’s dispute with Titus, and declined a request for comment by Stanton, who is awaiting confirmation.

A source familiar with Stanton’s dispute with Titus told POLITICO that “this was a contractual dispute with a company, not a wage dispute with an individual … it involved what days services had been performed and what had been paid.”

***

The simplest way to prevent employers from simply closing up shop and avoiding wage-theft judgments would be for both the federal government and state governments to give their labor departments and individuals the authority to file liens, or property claims, even before a state agency or court determines whether the claim has merit, according to workers’ advocates. That way, a company’s assets would be secured even if the owner tries to close up shop.

Liens are not a new concept. They date back to 1791, when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison requested that the Maryland state Legislature create a so-called mechanics’ lien to speed up construction of Washington, D.C. Today, every state has a mechanics’ lien allowing a construction worker to, in effect, seize some portion of the property he’s helped build if his contractor fails to pay him. In addition, there are about 600 state lien laws that apply to other professions, from jewelers to veterinarians.

Many state governments have given their labor departments the authority to place a lien on an employer’s property only after they determine that a worker is owed money. Because a final judgment can take many months, worker advocates say such laws give employers too much time to fold their companies, transfer their assets, or reincorporate under a different name. Prejudgment liens, they argue, would discourage employers from using these tactics.

“I don’t think it’s going to get us to 100 percent, but a generalized wage lien is going to get us a lot closer,” said Hollander, of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. “It gives you the ability to put a hold on the employer’s property from the beginning of the case so there’s not the opportunity for the employer to divest.”

Wisconsin and Maryland have broad prejudgment liens. Similar bills have been introduced in New York, Connecticut, Washington State, Oregon and California.

Wisconsin’s law that allows for prejudgment liens was enacted 1976. Under the law, the state’s Department of Workforce Development or a worker claiming wage theft may file a notice of lien in county court before a judgment is reached on the merits of the case. As a result, fully 95 percent of claims filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development were “settled, dismissed or paid in full” between 2007 and 2012,” according to an analysis by UCLA and the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning nonprofit.


On the other hand, Maryland’s prejudgment lien law, passed in 2013, has yet to make much difference because its Department of Labor has never used it. One problem, worker advocates in Maryland say, is that many scofflaw employers don’t have any assets to seize.

Businesses have fiercely opposed prejudgment lien laws. When California considered prejudgment liens in 2013, a broad coalition of business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce wrote state legislators that such liens would “cripple California businesses” by allowing liens “on an employer’s real property or any property where an employee ‘bestowed labor’ for an alleged, yet unproven, wage claim.” They further argued that the bill would hurt commercial and real estate investments by prioritizing wage theft liens over other liens.

Some alternatives to prejudgment lien laws have been considered. In Texas, Rep. Mary González, a Democrat representing El Paso, introduced a bill in 2016 that would create a database of employers who have failed to pay their workers the wages that they are owed legally. In New York, after The New York Times ran a series on wage theft in New York City nail salons, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive action that required nail-salon owners to purchase wage bonds to guarantee that workers awarded stolen wages actually receive their money. Under the executive action, if a nail salon owner decided to fold, the surety bond company would pay the workers.

Tools like prejudgment liens and wage bonds might help workers recover their wages, but, advocates insist, they won’t be effective without a stronger commitment from states. For states to do a better job enforcing wage and overtime laws, they must first demonstrate that they care enough to devote the manpower necessary. Until they do that, advocates say, the nation’s wage-and-hour laws will be followed only when employers feel like doing so.

Said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee: “If there is not strong enforcement of wage theft, then any efforts to raise the minimum wage, strengthen overtime, or protect workers’ tips are ineffectual.”

__________________________________________________________________________

7th-grader with distraction device shoots himself at school

MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio seventh-grader who brought a gun to school and shot himself inside a restroom just before classes began on Tuesday also had a device in his backpack meant to cause a distraction, police said.

(1 of 2) A police car is parked outside Jackson Township Middle School, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Massillon, Ohio. A school official in Ohio says a middle school student apparently shot himself after bringing a gun to school. Police say Jackson Middle School, near Massillon, is on lockdown Tuesday and that the students and staff are safe.(Bob Rossiter/The Canton Repository via AP)

(2 of 2) An official talks with a motorist outside Jackson Township Middle School, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Massillon, Ohio. A school official in Ohio says a middle school student apparently shot himself after bringing a gun to school. Police say Jackson Middle School, near Massillon, is on lockdown Tuesday and that the students and staff are safe. (Bob Rossiter/The Canton Repository via AP)

While investigators said the device was not an explosive that would have harmed anyone, they also would not describe it in detail. The student, who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was being treated at a hospital, but police and school officials said they did not know his condition.

No other students were hurt in the shooting at Jackson Middle School, near Massillon. It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was intentional or how the boy, who rode the bus to school, managed to sneak the .22-caliber long gun into the building, said Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink.

Authorities said they also did not know where the boy got the gun or if anyone else was involved. Bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building, investigators said. “They wouldn’t tell us what was going on. I thought there was a school shooting. There was a lot of waiting,” eighth-grader Alex Garcia told The Independent. “I didn’t have any idea there was someone with a gun until I was released.”

Parents rushed to the school, which has about 1,400 students, to get their children soon after administrators sent out a notice about the shooting. Some waited outside the school for hours before the students were allowed to leave.


“That Florida shooting just happened, and you keep thinking about your kid,” said Daniela Biller, who has three students at the school.

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Russia admits that U.S. airstrike killed Russian citizens in Syria

After pro-regime forces closed in on a U.S.-backed Kurdish base in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zor province on Feb. 7, the U.S.-led forces took defensive action with an airstrike that reportedly killed over 100 Russian mercenaries.

In a stunning development, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry admitted on Thursday that as many as five “Russian citizens” embedded with soldiers loyal to the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad may have been killed by the American airstrike.


“According to preliminary information, we could be talking about the deaths of five people — presumably Russian citizens — as a result of an armed confrontation whose causes are being examined,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing Thursday.

The admission is the first official acknowledgment that American forces have killed Russian nationals in the Syrian theater.

Slain mercenaries

Zakharova insisted that the slain fighters were not from the Russian armed forces, leading U.S. military officials to speculate that they belonged to a Russian mercenary group.

However, former Pentagon official Mark Simakovsky believes that these private contractors are working in league with Russian military planners. He explained:

The Russians in many areas, including Ukraine, have claimed that their forces are not involved. But it’s a fig leaf, because their forces are involved…[and] have coordination and liaison with Russian intelligence and security forces.

The private Russian security firm Wagner is known to operate with pro-Assad forces in Syria, clandestinely deploying thousands of contract soldiers to the region to fight rebel groups and the remnants of the Islamic State. Russian law formally bans mercenary service, and Moscow has never publicly acknowledged the role of private security operations in the Syrian theater.

Earlier this week, a Reuters report listing the names of two Russian contractors killed in the Deir al-Zor incident likely compelled Moscow officials to acknowledge their deaths in following days. However, sources also told Reuters that “dozens” of other Russian fighters were also killed in the blast, a narrative disputed by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The fog of war

The Pentagon has defended the airstrike, arguing that it was an act of “self-defense…to defeat an unprovoked military attack.” Officials elaborated on the incident, claiming, “The enemy moved in an approximate battalion-sized dismounted formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.”

In an attempt to avoid inadvertently eliminating any Russian support elements that were attached to the approaching forces, the U.S.-backed Coalition attempted to contact Russia through a “de-confliction” telephone line to advise them of the unprovoked attack.


Simakovsky believes that both the U.S. and Russia have no interest in either purposefully or inadvertently attacking one another. While their goals in the region are different, the analyst argued that the U.S. “doesn’t want to be killing Russian citizens in Syria. So, I think both sides will be more careful.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Syria in December and signaled his intent to begin sending Russian forces home. However, 2018 has included many setbacks for Moscow, including drone attacks on Russian air bases and the loss of a Russian jet and its pilot earlier this month.


The U.S. coalition is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) opposed to the Assad regime and the dwindling Islamic State. Approximately 2,000 U.S. service members are present in the country, mostly special forces operators supporting the SDF.


Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is a regular contributor at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Yahoo News.


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