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AT&T Replaced 200 Workers For A Computer Program

AT&T is replacing over 200 Texoma workers with a computer program.  Until today AT&T contracted some of its services through two staffing firms. Those contracts are now broken.

Newschannel 6 went to the front doors of the AT&T Call Center located on Kell Blvd. Security stopped us where an AT&T manager spoke with us on the phone. He denied an interview and was unwilling to make a comment.

We also spoke with representatives of both I.T. Staffing firms, including the Vice President of Metasys Technology. We were denied comments by both companies.

Newschannel 6 found one of the employees who was suddenly let go to get a better understanding of this complicated situation. The man we spoke with wished to remain anonymous, for fear of never getting another job.

The anonymous employee said the company terminated over 200 employees today but is forcing them to stay until May 30th. He says if anyone leaves early they will be unable to find a job anywhere else.

“I’ve heard the Texas Work Commission calls it a hostile work environment,” said the anonymous employee. “Most people don’t last there thirty days.”

The notice was given to employees around 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

This blow to the job market will increase the Texoma unemployment rate by two percent.  See video here.

http://www.newschannel6now.com/story/25570415/att-replaced-200-workers-for-a-computer-program

CBP releases study critical of Border Patrol shootings, makes policy changes

By Daniel Borunda

A study critical of U.S. Border Patrol shootings was released Friday by the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection who announced policy and training changes intended to reduce the need for deadly force by border agents.

New CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, who said transparency was a priority, released the agency’s newly revised handbook on the use of force policy and a study by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) that looked at fatal shootings by the Border Patrol. The study had been withheld by CBP for more than a year.

“We initiated both internal and external use of force reviews to improve ourselves and our responsibility to the public and to use force only when necessary,” Kerlikowske said. “This release and, most importantly, the policy and training changes they represent are the beginning of a continuous review of our responsibility to only use force when it is necessary to protect people.”

Kerlikowske said that agents will receive more training on how to safely handle situations, use nonlethal weapons and tire-deflation devices that will give agents other options than using deadly force.

PERF, a respected consultant group that researches police issues, was commissioned by CBP to review the use of force by its agents.

The documents had been sought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil-rights advocates critical of fatal shootings by border agents, such as the death of a 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca, who was shot while standing in the Juárez edge of the Rio Grande during a rock throwing confrontation in 2010.

“The release of these two documents hopefully heralds a new and welcomed age of transparency for the agency,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights in Las Cruces. “It will still be important to see how these revised policies on use of force are translated into training and the agency will require monitoring to ensure that agents who violate these new policies are held accountable.”

The PERF study acknowledges that patrolling the border can be dangerous but found that some agents unnecessarily placed themselves in danger, such as standing in front of moving vehicles, leaving them little option but deadly force.

The study recommended agents should not fire at moving vehicles and refrain from shooting rock-throwers unless agents are at risk of serious injury or death.

The revised CBP handbook stated that agents “shall not discharge their firearms at the operator of a moving vehicle” unless there is imminent danger to the agent or another person.

PERF found that some rock-throwing related shootings were self defense but that the more questionable cases involved people who were throwing rocks from Mexico. PERF reported that “frustration” by agents was a motivating factor in some shootings.

Continue reading here.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/latestnews/ci_25867983

House call for reform

Texans in the House don’t see Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation Friday as a cure-all for the VA’s problems.

http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2014/may/31/texans-in-house-call-for-reform/

Exclusive: Texas VA Run Like a ‘Crime Syndicate,’ Whistleblower Says

by Jacob Siegel

For years, employees at a Texas VA complained that their bosses were cooking the books. For years, the VA insisted there was no widespread wrongdoing.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.

Last week, President Obama pledged to address allegations of corruption and dangerous inefficiencies in the veterans’ health-care system. But before the president could deliver on his pledge, the scandal has spread even further. New whistleblower testimony and internal documents implicate an award-winning VA hospital in Texas in widespread wrongdoing—and what appears to be systemic fraud.

Emails and VA memos obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast provide what is among the most comprehensive accounts yet of how high-level VA hospital employees conspired to game the system. It shows not only how they manipulated hospital wait lists but why—to cover up the weeks and months veterans spent waiting for needed medical care. If those lag times had been revealed, it would have threatened the executives’ bonus pay.

What’s worse, the documents show the wrongdoing going unpunished for years, even after it was repeatedly reported to local and national VA authorities. That indicates a new troubling angle to the VA scandal: that the much touted investigations may be incapable of finding violations that are hiding in plain sight.

“For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,” a whistleblower who works in the Texas VA told The Daily Beast. “People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”

“I see it in the executives’ eyes,” the whistleblower added. “They are worried.”

The current VA scandal broke in Phoenix last month, when a former doctor at a VA hospital there became the first whistleblower to gain national attention. The doctor’s allegations of falsified appointments—and veterans dying while they waited for treatment—unleashed a wave of similar claims from VA employees nationwide. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Chicago, and Albuquerque, more VA whistleblowers came forward claiming that the same fraudulent scheduling was being used in the hospitals where they worked. At last count, the VA inspector general’s investigation had expanded to 26 separate facilities.

The torrent of claims led to Senate hearings, calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, multiple investigations and President Obama’s own public statement last week. Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), believes that even more revelations are coming.

“This newest case just further illustrates that the scandal is much more far reaching than most people realize,” Rieckhoff said, “Phoenix was just the tip of the iceberg. Scandal has become the new normal, it’s the status quo at the VA right now.”

But, despite the political uproar and the growing investigations, the root causes of the VA crisis have remained murky. New documents and whistleblower testimony obtained by The Daily Beast shed light on exactly how fraud is being perpetrated in the VA and its underlying causes.

There’s enormous pressure to report favorable wait times for VA patients, the Texas whistleblower explained, even if those wait times are completely false.

“If [VA] directors report low numbers, they’re the outlier. They won’t stay a director very long and they certainly won’t get promoted. No one is getting rewarded for honesty. They pretty much have to lie, if they don’t they won’t go anywhere,” the whistleblower added. Weighted more heavily than other performance measures, the wait time numbers alone “count for 50% of the executive career field bonus, which is a pretty powerful motivator.”

Though VA hospitals may be struggling with increasing patient loads and inadequate resources—including too few medical providers—they are punished for acknowledging those problems. The VA’s current system appears to reward executives’ accounting tricks that mask deep structural issues and impede real solutions.

The whistleblower—who will alternately be called “the clinician,” referring to the job they have held with the Texas VA for almost a decade—asked to remain anonymous due to fear of losing their job or being otherwise punished for speaking out.

ANATOMY OF A FRAUD

The clinician has been alerting authorities to the wrongdoing at their facility for years but the corruption has persisted despite multiple reports and investigations by the VA’s inspector general.  Continue reading here.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/exclusive-texas-va-run-like-a-crime-syndicate-whistleblower-says.html

Man accused of pointing laser at APD helicopter appears in court

Landing an aircraft isn’t an easy task by far and the last thing pilots need is a green light shining in their faces from a prankster down on the ground.

“Once it hits the windshield, it looks almost like a disco ball in there where the light goes everywhere, causes distraction, and possible impairment of the crew members that are inside the aircraft,” said APD Corporal Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij.

On Thursday, 25-year-old Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr. made his first appearance at the federal courthouse in chains. His mug shot isn’t being released…but according to a “criminal complaint” the young man pointed a green laser pointer at an APD helicopter on February 15.

“Today he’s made his initial appearance before the United States magistrate here in our court and he’ll be coming back next week for a probable cause detention hearing,” said Ashley Hoff with the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District.

The “Criminal Complaint” says the APD pilot was on the way to Austin Bergstrom when the laser beam appeared…he had to turn his head away.

Court documents say the incident happened after the helicopter was cleared to land. So the pilot told Air Traffic Control that he’d figure out where the laser beam came from. Turns out, it came from the 6100 block of Larch Terrace near the airport.

With the help of the chopper pilot, APD units on the ground caught Ruedas with the laser pointer in his pocket and took him into custody.

Corporal Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij with the APD Air Support Unit says these so-called “laser strikes” are a growing problem both locally and nationally.

He says they see it at least once a month.

“Shield yourself with our hands or look away and maneuver the aircraft in such a manner that it’s…no longer pointing into the cockpit,” he said.

The corporal says when it’s not their aircraft being targeted, Air Traffic Control will often call them to respond.

He wouldn’t go into exactly how they trace the laser back to the source but he says it’s not that difficult.

“Wherever you’re shooting from, it pretty much pinpoints your location where it’s coming from. So it’s pretty obvious and we’re going to…look at those areas and get our officers in the area immediately to apprehend the suspects,” he said.

We were at the hearing today. Ruedas was polite to the judge, answered all of his questions and was concerned about a job he was supposed to start today.

APD says pointing lasers at aircraft is also against Texas law but the feds took this case.

So if convicted, Ruedas could face up to five years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.  See video here.

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/25645574/man-accused-of-pointing-laser-at-apd-helicopter-appears-in-court

VA Scandal in Texoma

by Jack Carney

The Veterans Affair’s Office of Inspector General called for a nationwide review to determine whether veterans were falling through the cracks unable to receive health care. One Texoman Veteran, Robert Sander, says he was one of the many to get lost in the system. He served his country for nearly ten years in the 50′s and 60′s.

“I have liver problems I have a number of problems, why are they not being addressed. Now they tried to tell me that my whole medical records were lost from 1966 to now,” said Sanders.

Sanders said he has driven to Oklahoma City and Dallas multiple times, waiting in long lines, filling out and filing paperwork without getting any care or treatment. Sanders problem is one that mirrors and echoes what other veterans have experienced throughout the country. Many Americans are calling for VA Eric Shinseki to be fired or resign.

“Even if the secretary of veterans affairs is replaced that’s not going to solve the problem the problem is deeper than that,” said Congressman Thornberry

Thornberry said the problem lies within the VA system and not with its staff. When asked what needs to be done, Congressman Thornberry said that the country has to make sure that all veterans are receiving care and not just a few.

“Congress has got to look at some really strong reforms of the whole VA system to make sure they take care of the people who have taken care of us,” said Thornberry.

Thornberry said veterans have floated a few ideas his way about the possibility of making the system more user friendly.

“This idea would be you could stay locally go to the local hospital choose your local doctor and then the VA would pay for the bill,” said Congressman Thornberry.

Over the next few days congressman Thornberry said he would be actively talking and working with others in the house to help build a bill that would address the issues that have recently come to light. Sanders said talk is cheap, he wants to see action taken to make sure he receives his health care he said he deserves.

“I didn’t have any other way to get out of Vietnam other than to fight a war now they are telling me I can’t have this that or have the other and I’m just standing on the front line,” said Sanders.  See video here.

http://www.newschannel6now.com/story/25635717/va-scandal-in-texoma

Border Patrol overwhelmed in South Texas

The surge of immigrants into southernmost Texas has so overwhelmed the Border Patrol there that it’s run out of room for detainees even in a neighboring sector.

Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley have made nearly 160,000 arrests in less than eight months, a more than 70 percent increase on last year. Last week, the agency shipped hundreds of those recent detainees to Laredo for processing. By the weekend, the overcrowding in that neighboring sector’s stations had become serious, said Laredo Fire Chief Steve Landin, who sent a fire marshal to inspect one station.

“Every single one of the holding cells was over capacity,” Landin said Friday. It became a safety issue and “it was uncomfortable for those people.” Cells intended for 17 to 25 people held as many as 44, he said. Landin discussed the issue with the Border Patrol and by Tuesday, a follow-up inspection showed the overcrowding had been alleviated.

Berin Salas, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, said that after the fire marshal’s visit the Rio Grande Valley sector stopped bringing additional immigrants to Laredo, he said.

Hector Garza, a Border Patrol union representative who made the complaint to the fire marshal and accompanied him on his inspection, said the sector was getting 400 transfers a day last week.

“The situation just got way worse,” Garza said. Ventilation systems couldn’t keep up in overcrowded holding cells so doors were left open. People sat on the floor in hallways; some were kept outside in an unloading area. Eventually, the agency began holding people in parked vans and buses, he said.

The Border Patrol is grappling with a dramatic shift in illegal border crossings from Arizona and California to South Texas that began three years ago.

The Rio Grande Valley sector has been making more than 1,000 arrests per day recently. The sector has temporarily brought in about 115 additional agents, turned to private charities and the Defense Department to help look after a wave of unaccompanied children, and bused and even flown hundreds of detainees to less busy sectors in West Texas and Arizona for processing.

Compounding the problem is that the majority of the immigrants are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who require more processing time and can’t just be taken back across the U.S.-Mexico border. Many are being released and told to appear in an immigration court once they arrive at their destination in the U.S.

It’s unclear why the agency has struggled to reallocate the necessary resources to the Rio Grande Valley, which became the busiest sector on the border last year. So far this year it has more than double the number of arrests of any other sector.

Confusion mounted Friday when the Border Patrol commander overseeing South Texas operations abruptly canceled a news conference 10 minutes after it was scheduled to begin. Border Patrol spokeswoman Sara Melendez-De Los Santos told the assembled media that the event was canceled by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Officials in Washington later said it was canceled due to a lack of required coordination with headquarters.  Continue reading here.

http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2014/may/30/border-patrol-overwhelmed-south-texas/

Update: Streets reopen around Fairmont Hotel after no suspicious devices were found

By Tasha Tsiaperas

Updated at 8:25 a.m.: The streets have been reopened around Fairmont Hotel after a bomb threat.

No explosive devices were found in the hotel.

Police said a guest complained to hotel staff that someone had left a bomb in his room. The man asked for help taking his belongings to his car. Officers found a box that appeared to be an explosive device in the man’s vehicle.

The man was taken to Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation, police said.

Original post at 7:45 a.m.: The Dallas Fire-Rescue hazardous materials team has responded to the Fairmont Hotel to investigate a bomb threat this morning.

Dallas police have closed streets surrounding the 545-room hotel in the 1700 block of North Akard Street. Ross Avenue, North St. Paul Street, San Jacinto Street and Ervay Street have been affected.

The hotel has not been evacuated, according to Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans.

More details to come.

 

Rocket Fuel


 

 

Continue reading here.

http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/2014/05/authorities-investigating-bomb-threat-at-fairmount-hotel-in-downtown-dallas.html/

Millions improperly spent at North Texas

Financial documents show the University of North Texas improperly obtained $83.5 million in state money for employee benefits and salaries over more than 10 years ending in April.

Chancellor Lee Jackson says it’s not clear how much the Denton school may have to repay and how much time it might get to repay.

Jackson tells the Denton Record Chronicle (http://bit.ly/SY3ELD ) he believes state officials would agree to a settlement that doesn’t hurt the school’s educational mission. Results of an investigation by a consulting firm released Thursday don’t say if the money was obtained deliberately or by mistake. Jackson says more investigating is needed.

The school’s annual budget is about $520 million.

A new president took over this year, three top finance officials have resigned and a state audit is continuing.

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/25651234/millions-improperly-spent-at-north-texas

Fort Worth boy declared co-champion of National Spelling Bee

by BEN NUCKOLS

The dreaded bell that signals a misspelled word tolled for each of the last two spellers in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. But in an exhilarating twist, it wasn’t the end for either of them.

Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas, got back-to-back words wrong, each giving a reprieve to the other. Neither stumbled again, and a dozen words later, they ended up as co-champions of the bee for the first time in 52 years.

“The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other,” Sriram said after both were showered with confetti onstage. “I’m happy to share this trophy with him.”

Ansun said afterward that he knew the word that Sriram got wrong: “corpsbruder,” a close comrade. Ditto for 14-year-old Sriram, who said he was familiar with “antigropelos,” which means waterproof leggings. That word dashed 13-year-old Ansun’s chance for an upset victory.

After their misses, the boys staged a riveting duel, plowing through the toughest words the bee had to offer: Skandhas. Hyblaean. Feijoada. Augenphilologie. Sdrucciola. Holluschick. Thyemelici. Paixtle. Encaenia. Terreplein.

Finally, only four of the 25 championship words remained. Two had to be kept in reserve so that the bee wouldn’t end with an incorrect spelling.

Sriram’s last word was stichomythia, a theatrical term for dialogue representing an altercation and delivered in alternating lines.

Sriram rarely appeared flustered, nodding confidently when he got a word he knew. Ansun was more nervous and demonstrative, no more so than on the word that gave him a share of the title: “feuilleton,” the features section of a European newspaper or magazine.

Upon hearing the word, Ansun opened his mouth wide, grimaced and rolled his eyes. As the stage lights turned red, signaling that he had 30 seconds left, he said, “Ah, whatever!” before beginning to spell.

They became the fourth co-champions in the bee’s 89-year history and the first since 1962. Although they hoisted a single trophy together onstage, each will get one to take home, and each gets the champion’s haul of more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.

In addition to their shared love of spelling, both boys play double-reeded instruments: oboe for Sriram, bassoon for Ansun, who also plays piano and guitar and has perfect pitch. Sriram’s parents are both physicians, and he hopes to become an ophthalmologist.

Both champions are also Indian-American. The past eight winners and 13 of the past 17 have been of Indian descent, a run that began in 1999 after Nupur Lala’s victory, which was later featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”

Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Missouri, finished third, and Ashwin Veeramani of North Royalton, Ohio, was fourth.

With only one previous appearance in the bee, Ansun said he looked up to Sriram.

“I’d seen him in the finals, and I wanted to be like that,” he said.

Said Sriram: “I guess a veteran and, let’s say a rookie, it’s pretty cool.”  See video here.

http://www.khou.com/news/texas-news/Fort-Worth-boy-declared-co-champion-of-National-Spelling-Bee-261227991.html