APNewsBreak: Officers reprimanded for racial, sexual and other bullying
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fifteen CIA employees were found to have committed sexual, racial or other types of harassment last year, including a supervisor who was removed from the job after engaging in "bullying, hostile behavior," and an operative who was sent home from an overseas post for inappropriately touching female colleagues, according to an internal CIA document obtained by The Associated Press.
The examples, sent several weeks ago in an email to the CIA's workforce by the director of the agency's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, were meant to show how the agency is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment. But the announcement sparked heated commentary in postings on the CIA's internal networks, officials acknowledged, with some employees arguing the agency does not sufficiently ferret out and punish misconduct.
The CIA's personnel systems seem to be fundamentally broken, and harassment frequently goes unreported, one officer said in an excerpt of an employee posting obtained by the AP. The authenticity of the posting was not disputed by the agency.
CIA officials took issue with that assertion after agreeing to discuss the workforce message on the condition that they not be quoted by name.
The agency officials made available CIA Director John Brennan's March workforce message reaffirming the zero-tolerance policy, saying, "Words or actions that harm a colleague and undermine his or her career are more than just unprofessional, painful and wrong — they are illegal and hurt us all." Brennan assured employees that he would not tolerate acts of reprisal against those who complained of harassment.
VA official concedes 'integrity issue' over veterans' care as evidence of delayed care builds
WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Veterans Affairs Department official is acknowledging "an integrity issue here among some of our leaders" as the embattled agency reels from mounting evidence that workers fabricated data on veterans' waits for medical appointments in an effort to mask frequent, long delays.
"It is irresponsible," Philip Matkovsky, a top VA official who helps oversee its administrative operations, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee at an unusual Monday evening hearing. "It is indefensible, and it is unacceptable. I apologize to our veterans, their families and their loved ones."
Matkovsky's apology, rendered hours after his agency released fresh revelations about slow-moving care, echoed acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson's contrition shortly after he replaced Eric Shinseki atop the agency. President Barack Obama accepted Shinseki's resignation on May 30, but that has not stopped the uproar over veteran's care from becoming an embarrassment for the Obama administration and a potential political liability for congressional Democrats seeking re-election in November.
Matkovsky did not specify which VA officials had questionable integrity. The agency has started removing top officials at its medical facility in Phoenix, a focal point of the department's problems, and investigators have found indications of long waits and falsified records of patients' appointments at hundreds of facilities.
Asked by Veterans Affairs panel Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., whether officials at the agency's main office had ordered manipulation of patients' data, Matkovsky said he was not aware of that, adding, "I certainly hope they have not."
NATO service members killed friendly fire incident in southern Afghanistan, officials say
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Five NATO service members were killed in an apparent friendly fire incident in southern Afghanistan, the international coalition said on Tuesday.
A statement from the coalition said all five soldiers died on Monday but did not give further details on the attack or the nationality of the soldiers. Coalition policy is for home countries to identify their military dead.
Most of the forces operating in the area are from the United States.
"The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed during this difficult time," the coalition said in an announcement.
If confirmed, it would be one of the most serious cases involving coalition on coalition friendly fire during the nearly 14 year Afghan war. One of the worst came in April 2002 when four Canadian soldiers were killed when an American F-16 dropped a bomb on them near a night firing exercise in the southern Kandahar.
Pakistani spokesman says gunmen attacked airport security training center in Karachi
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen in Pakistan attacked a training facility near the Karachi airport on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
Pakistani television stations showed images of security guards rushing to the scene and frantically taking up positions behind buildings or earthen berms around the facility, which serves as a training center for airport security personnel. The facility is roughly one kilometer (half mile) from the Karachi international airport.
The attack began as at least two groups of gunmen tried to enter the facility from two different entrances, said Ghulam Abbas Memon, a spokesman for the Airport Security Force. The security forces were fighting them back, he said. Memon did not know how many attackers were involved or whether there were any casualties.
Details were sketchy and no one immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.
The firefight came on the heels of a brazen siege by the Taliban who on Sunday night stormed Karachi's Jinnah International Airport in an attack that killed 36 people, including the 10 Taliban gunmen. At least 11 members of the Airport Security Force were killed during that attack.
Crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan adds fuel to debate in Congress over tired truckers
WASHINGTON (AP) — A New Jersey highway crash that severely injured Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian is drawing attention to the dangers of tired truckers just as the industry and its allies in Congress are poised to roll back safety rules on drivers' work schedules.
A proposed change to federal regulations backed by the trucking industry and opposed by safety advocates and the Obama administration would effectively let drivers put in as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel. The current limit is either 60 hours or 70 hours a week, depending on the kind of company employing the driver.
The change was added to a transportation spending bill by a Senate committee last week.
Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety administration. The rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks rose from 1.03 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009 to 1.29 in 2012.
The trucking industry has been sparring with safety advocates and unions over driver hours for two decades, including several trips to federal court. Safety advocates, while extending their sympathies to Morgan and the family of comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, who was killed in the crash, said they hope that because a celebrity was involved in the accident it will boost their cause.
Militants overrun Iraqi provincial government headquarters, other areas in city of Mosul
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi police and army forces abandoned their posts in the northern city of Mosul after militants overran the provincial government headquarters and other key buildings, dealing a serious blow to Baghdad's efforts to control a widening insurgency in the country, a provincial official and residents said Tuesday.
The insurgents seized the government complex — a key symbol of state authority — late on Monday, following days of fighting in the country's second-largest city, a former al-Qaida stronghold situated in what has long been one of the more restive parts of Iraq. The gunmen also torched several of the city's police stations, freeing detainees held in lockups.
The fighters are believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida splinter group that is behind the bulk of the bloody attacks in Iraq and is among the most ruthless rebel forces fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria. The group has also tried to position itself as a champion for Iraq's large and disaffected Sunni minority.
Several worried Mosul residents reported seeing the gunmen hoisting the black flags inscribed with the Islamic declaration used by ISIL, al-Qaida and other jihadist groups.
As the militants worked to consolidate control over Mosul, a powerful blast struck a funeral in the central city of Baqouba, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad. The city, a onetime flashpoint between insurgents and U.S. forces, is home to both Sunnis and Shiites.
AP IMPACT: Wide scale Ukrainian scam intercepted billions in taxes using fake companies
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — On paper, the Ukrainian trading firm known as Mistral dealt in management consulting and research, doing millions of dollars' worth of deals before going bust after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was chased out of office earlier this year.
But when police recently tried to visit Mistral's Kiev office at No. 12 Saperne Pole Street, they found a huge hole in the ground, the foundation of an apartment complex to be completed next year. There was no trace of Mistral, whose name refers to a type of wind.
A receptionist at No. 5 on that street said there used to be a wine warehouse at the site, but it was cleared when construction began in 2011. Apartment numbers now jump from 9 to 22.
Officials tasked with cleaning the country's corruption-scarred tax system say the company didn't merely enter the wrong address. They say Mistral may never have existed in the first place — one of scores or even hundreds of phantom firms suspected of squeezing a total of 130 billion hryvnias ($11 billion) from Kiev's coffers over the past three years. The country's total tax revenue amounted to 210 billion hryvnias ($17.8 billion) in 2013.
Some 30 investigations are now underway, and a handful of companies have been raided, but the country's top tax official contends his predecessors were part of the fraud, which is why many phantom firms acted with impunity.
From rich areas to the slums, soccer fields abound in Rio de Janeiro
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Soccer fields are everywhere in Rio de Janeiro. Whether professional-grade expanses of grass or improvised rectangles of dirt and rocks, they're found in high-rent neighborhoods and tucked into "favela" hillside slums of this chaotic city of 12 million people that is one of the World Cup host cities.
In the slums, soccer is not only a favorite pastime but is seen as a way of helping keep kids out of the clutches of drug gangs. City- or charity-run "escolinhas," or soccer schools, operate in nearly all of the slums, from the Dona Marta shantytown ensconced in the middle-class Botafogo neighborhood to Mangueira, a historic favela overlooking mythical Maracana Stadium, where six World Cup matches plus the final are to be held.
Between the kids' soccer schools and the adults who cap off their workdays with a "pelada," or informal match, competition for fields is stiff, particularly in the late afternoons and evenings.
In Aterro do Flamengo, a sprawling park near Sugarloaf Mountain, towering streetlights illuminate much disputed fields where matches take place all through the night and into the wee hours, often at 2, 3 or 4 a.m.
A proper field is a real luxury that most of Rio's soccer fanatics have to do without, playing anywhere they can find a sufficiently large, flat surface.
Rough landing awaits World Cup fans traveling through Brazil's dilapidated airports
SAO PAULO (AP) — Before they see their teams battle on the fields, soccer fans arriving in Brazil will first have to fight their way past airport scaffolding, terminal flooding and two-hour taxi lines.
The World Cup opens Thursday and airports are bracing to welcome the crush of international travelers flying in for soccer's premier event. Brazilian authorities insist they're ready, but passengers may find themselves in for a rough landing.
For example, officials had nearly seven years to prepare Brazil's largest airport, Sao Paulo's Guarulhos, yet only a quarter of the new $1.3 billion international terminal is operational. Many weary travelers will deplane into a dim terminal with severe concrete architecture dating from the military dictatorship of three decades ago.
On Monday, the wait time for a taxi at Guarulhos was more than two hours and nearby traffic was at a standstill due to a crippling strike by subway workers.
"Let's just put it this way: We are not showing the world the best we could," said Luiz Gustavo Fraxino, an airport infrastructure consultant in Curitiba, one of the cities hosting World Cup games.
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