Waller County authorities arrest man, 19, in connection to July shooting at Texas World Speedway | Local News

Waller County authorities arrested a man Friday believed to have been involved in the July shooting at the Texas World Speedway in College Station.

William Lamar Wagner, 19, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

According to the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, around 10:30 p.m. July 1 first responders rushed to the Four Hoursemen Trail Ride and Campout event at the Texas World Speedway after receiving a report of a shooting. A 21-year-old man had been shot in the shoulder and was rushed to a College Station hospital. In the crowds and chaos, authorities did not locate a shooter but were able to make contact with witnesses who said they could identify the person suspected of being the shooter.

Authorities said a friend of the victim said he had been at a trail ride in Chappell Hill before the July event with Wagner. The man said during that event, Wagner attacked him with his car and on the night of July 1, the man and his friends wanted to confront Wagner in person about the previous incident.

Several people said they and the victim had gotten into a verbal argument with Wagner and his friends, officials said. At some point during the argument, Wagner is accused of taking out a gun and firing a shot into the victim’s shoulder.

“Following the shooting, the victim did not want to cooperate with police,” Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk said.

According to the sheriff’s office, the victim’s friends identified Wagner out of a photo lineup, but the victim — who survived his injuries and has been released from the hospital — did not participate.

Kirk said Wagner left Bryan-College Station the night of the shooting, but Waller authorities located him this week and Brazos County deputies traveled to Waller to pick up Wagner. Kirk could not comment on Wagner’s criminal history, but did say authorities have dealt with him before. His only arrest in Brazos County was on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in May.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Wagner is being held in the Brazos County Jail on $40,000 bond.

New court to connect Native American foster kids with family

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Bonnie Littlesun is raising eight children, all but one of whom are her grandkids, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They’re crazy,” she said, laughing. It was midmorning and she had a brief break while her grandbaby slept and the others were at school. The kids range in age from 13 months to 18 years old.

Littlesun has legal guardianship of some of the kids and is caring for the others as a licensed foster care provider through the Northern Cheyenne tribe.

She speaks Cheyenne at home with the kids, even when they don’t understand it all, and they make regular trips to Lame Deer to visit extended family for birthdays and family dinners.

Officials involved in Montana’s foster care system lament the shortage of homes like Littlesun’s, where Native American kids who have been removed from their parents can still grow up with family and their cultural identity intact.

And they’re hoping a new specialty court in Yellowstone County will improve outcomes for all Native American kids experiencing abuse or neglect.


In July, Montana’s 13th Judicial District began operating the nation’s fifth Indian Child Welfare Act court. It will handle all ICWA cases in Yellowstone County for Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Assiniboine and Sioux children, since those are the tribes with the highest number of cases in the district.

The new specialty court doesn’t have the resources to handle all of the county’s ICWA cases, so cases for members of other tribes will still be seen in regular district court proceedings.

In Yellowstone County last year, 43 percent of the 550 civil child abuse and neglect cases filed involved children who are tribal members or eligible for membership. Native Americans make up about 6.5 percent of the state population. The vast majority of these child welfare cases are neglect cases where parents are using meth.

Each week, state and tribal officials who have worked for more than a year to start the court convene for hearings. Those involved say poor communication and lack of relationships in the past stymied progress on the cases, but all that is changing.

Other ICWA courts are in Los Angeles, Denver, the north Denver metro area and Duluth, Minnesota.

Under ICWA, which Congress passed in 1978, officials who remove Native American kids from their homes must work to keep the kids as close to family as possible. The first preference for placement goes to the child’s family members. If none are able, officials then try other members of the child’s tribe, and next members of different tribes. After all of those options are exhausted, social workers then place the kid in a non-Native foster home.

At every stage in the process of an ICWA case — from the initial inquiry by social workers to the decisions judges make about removal — officials must meet a higher burden of proof that the child’s home is unsafe. That burden of proof is lower in child abuse and neglect cases for non-Native kids.

The law was passed in response to what Native American leaders saw as an alarming trend among their children: 25 to 35 percent were being removed from their homes due to concerns about abuse or neglect, and 85 percent of the placements that followed were in non-Native foster care settings, even when suitable family members were available.

Many feared they were losing the younger generation.

Edie Adams, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for decades and has lived on five Indian reservations, said that in the summers she often saw young adults come back to the reservations during powwows, looking for relatives.

“(They’d) say, ‘I think I’m from this tribe, I think my parents are from this tribe. I was adopted out,'” Adams said. She’d ask around, trying to “find out who they belonged to.”


Although the law has been in place for nearly 40 years, many say state officials were slow to comply.

“There were courts out there that had no clue — still don’t have a clue — what ICWA’s about,” said Crow Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid.

Not Afraid said that in the past, state courts in Montana, Wyoming and other states did not properly notify the tribe when removing Crow kids from their homes, leaving it no chance to intervene.

“We would lose the Crow child in the system,” he said.

Noncompliance with ICWA is still widespread but difficult to address, said David Simmons, of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. That’s because unlike other federal child welfare laws, ICWA does not require regular data collection or reviews, making it hard to pinpoint problem areas.

In one Oregon county, for example, Simmons found that social workers were routinely recording Native American kids as racially “unknown,” and not working to determine whether they were members of one of several nearby tribes. Identifying kids as Native American is the first step in applying ICWA.

That was roughly 20 years ago, and Simmons stressed that many states, not just Oregon, have failed to comply with ICWA.


Social workers are the first point of contact on abuse and neglect cases. They’re responsible for notifying the state when they’re concerned about kids’ safety.

And their job isn’t easy.

“You have parents who will try and take their kids and run,” said Heather Eleazer, Child and Family Services Division supervisor for the Billings area. “We have parents who get very angry and violent. Social workers are threatened a lot.”

Once a dad picked up a grill and tried to throw it at the social worker.

“It’s emotional every day,” Eleazer said. “It’s draining. I think workers get a bad reputation that they don’t care, that they just go out and remove kids whenever they want. And that’s not the case — they don’t want to remove kids.”

Because the number of foster homes run by Crow, Northern Cheyenne or other Native Americans is so limited, it makes social workers’ jobs harder when trying to place kids according to the law.

Eleazer said social workers must carefully document all the circumstances that warrant concern, such as evidence of illegal drugs, unsanitary conditions or unexplained injuries to children.

“And even when all of that is true, it’s just heart-wrenching to have to take children from their parents,” she said.


State, county and tribal officials involved in the new court say it marks a turning point that promises better relationships between the state and the tribes and better outcomes for children.

The team of attorneys, social workers, ICWA specialists and others working on the new court have designated primary contacts to speed up communications.

“There’s no lag time,” said Fort Peck Chief Judge Stacie Smith. “There’s no question of, ‘Are we contacting the correct people or not?'”

Judge Rod Souza, who presides over the new court in Billings, agrees.

“It’s a lot easier to work with someone and come up with effective, collaborative solutions on a problem if you know the person you’re working with,” he said, “if it’s not just a number in a phone book. If it’s not just an email.”

The group has set up cultural competency trainings for social workers and regular meetings between state and tribal officials — a practice that social workers in Miles City say they’ve taken up. A new form that better documents efforts to place children with family members has been shared around the state. And those involved with the court are hoping to partner with area nonprofits or law firms to expand their work.

Those involved say they feel a new spirit of teamwork since the court has started up.

“The No. 1 goal is always reunification with parents, if that can be done in a safe way,” said Brooke Baracker-Taylor, a Montana assistant attorney general.

But when that can’t be done, “the state has an obligation to make sure that those kiddos are connected to their extended family, their tribe and their culture.”


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

Suspect arrested in brutal ax attack outside West Hollywood 7-Eleven


A suspect was arrested in a brutal ax attack that left a man seriously wounded outside of a West Hollywood 7-Eleven.

The man suspected of stabbing another man multiple times with an ax outside of the convenience store early Saturday morning, was identified as 41-year-old Kisu Brady Brown.

“It’s a very gruesome attack, and we’re hoping we can get an attempted murder charge filed against this individual,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Bishop with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The victim saw Brown stealing from the store and offered to pay for his items to prevent the crime. An associate of the victim, who is seen in surveillance video wearing orange, watched the attack happen.

“The suspect walks away. He’s still in view of the camera. He then turns around and continues to chop at the victim’s face while he’s lying on the ground before he flees,” Bishop said.

Caryn West teaches at an acting school next to the 7-Eleven. She recognized the suspect from surveillance video.

“I’ve always wondered because there’s so much of this happening in this area and it’s been a long-term problem. I worry about my own safety coming around because there are homeless people in the parking lot and walking around the 7-Eleven to class,” she said.

The victim sustained serious injuries in the attack, but is expected to survive. The sheriff’s department said the suspect had several felony and assault convictions. He was thought to be in an apartment complex that day, but he hasn’t been located.

Anyone with more information was urged to call the West Hollywood sheriff’s station.

(Copyright ©2017 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

China’s role in the race to connect the next billion

A Huawei phone. Photo by: Kārlis Dambrāns / CC BY

SAN FRANCISCO — The logo for Huawei, a leading information and communications technology solutions provider, is a flower in bloom. Headquartered in Shenzhen, China — but with products and services in 170 countries — the company has made headlines recently for becoming the third largest smartphone maker in the world, second only to Apple and Samsung. And its growth in emerging markets in Latin America and Africa, made possible with support from the China Development Bank, is what has allowed Huawei to blossom.

The Rise of Chinese Aid series

As China continues to grow as a global power, so too does its footprint on the development sector. Its rise comes at a moment when the status quo is shifting in the aid industry. Traditional standard bearers such as the U.S. and EU may still drive the majority of funds and set the agenda, but protectionist policies and changing domestic priorities are setting in motion significant changes.

In this six-week special series, Devex examines China’s expanding role in aid and development across the globe. From tensions in Ghana to projects in Pakistan, from climate financing to donor partnerships, from individual philanthropy to state-financed investment, this series traces the past, present and future of Chinese aid and development.

Join the conversation on our Facebook discussion forum.

There is growing awareness of the importance of internet access to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. But as new players enter the race to connect the 4 billion people who remain offline, new questions are emerging about who is providing that connection and what their agenda is. As China’s interest in global development has grown, so too has its influence in the telecommunications sector, with two companies in particular — the privately owned Huawei and state owned ZTE — making up the majority of China’s efforts to connect the unconnected.

In Kenya, M-KOPA, which is known for its pay-as-you-go home solar energy systems, is now selling Huawei smartphones along with solar panels. Partnerships such as this result from work that Huawei has done to pioneer new models to provide access in rural areas where the business case is not always as clear, said Adam Lane, a senior director of public affairs for Huawei, who spoke with Devex from South Africa, but is mainly focused on Kenya.

In 2015, Huawei released a 42-page white paper looking at how to bridge the digital divide. The report outlined what strategies have and have not worked for the company in its mission and motto: “Building a better connected world.”

“Our origin is in providing connectivity in rural areas of China,” Lane said of Huawei, which began with a focus on manufacturing phone switches, but has since grown to more than four times the size of ZTE. “That has always been at the heart of our company and culture. And our founder never lets us forget about it. This is what created our company.”

In a more recent report, the 2017 Global Connectivity Index, Huawei makes three recommendations for digital transformation planning, which provide insight into its own approach to bring ICT to emerging markets. The first is to focus on ICT policies that will incentivize digital transformation; the second is to consider more industry friendly policies to promote digital transformation; and the third is to collaborate with others to ensure there is education for building digital access and skills. Forums such as the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development allow Huawei to collaborate with other organizations in the global internet access space, Lane said.

Huawei and ZTE rely on state-owned banks in China to offer export credits — non-concessional state loans meant to foster Chinese investment — in order to expand their operations abroad.

“The bases for Chinese state support in telecom is that the industry is ‘strategic’ and Huawei, for example, can be globally competitive,” Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a focus on China, told Devex. “If you believe the government can correctly identify which industries deserve support and which companies will prove most competitive, the Chinese demonstrate a number of powerful tools to assist both industries and firms. But for the U.S., picking ‘strategic’ industries would be a political nightmare and picking worthy firms a legal one.”

A new infrastructure

Even as policymakers become more aware of the value of internet access, and the opportunity to partner with technology companies to deliver it, not all governments can take the same approach that China takes to position these companies for success in emerging markets.

“The internet should be thought of as infrastructure in the same way as roads, highways and ports,” said Suhas Subramanyam, managing partner at the Global Corridor Group, who formerly worked with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. “When development agencies are thinking about development plans or when countries are thinking about development plans, they should always consider broadband and telecommunications in their plans. It’s the ultimate equalizer and access to it means access to prosperity and economic gains short term and long term.”  

Lane told Devex that Huawei welcomes the competition, but is watching it closely to see whether companies such as Facebook can take projects like the Telecom Infra Project, which is building and deploying telecom network infrastructure, to scale. Meanwhile, when Chinese businesses dominate the internet infrastructure of a particular country, they also dominate the market, with a different internet architecture that can make it difficult for U.S. companies to compete. Advocates for more coordinated efforts between technology and industry to provide universal access say that China’s growing involvement might be the kind of factor that would influence governments to take a more coordinated approach to connectivity.

“The question for the U.S. becomes how can we — having created the internet — export American innovation abroad, and encourage developing countries to retain policies that encourage competition and internet freedom?” said Manu Bhardwaj, a global ICT leader who was formerly a senior advisor on technology and internet policy at the U.S. Department of State. “Given our history with the World Wide Web, countries across the globe rely on our country’s unique expertise and perspectives in the development of their own digital economies. Helping them makes good business sense for our country and remains consistent with our democratic values.”

Suspicions that the Chinese government may have installed backdoors in Huawei equipment have kept the company out of the U.S. market. The company has dismissed concerns that it is wiring emerging market countries for surveillance. But even as Huawei denies these allegations, it remains to be seen whether a country that restricts access to certain sites, including Google, within its own borders will export that approach to other countries.

“There are clear differences between the U.S. and China when it comes to censorship,” Subramanyam said.

Contracts race

While Huawei and ZTE have provided low-cost and generally reliable equipment that has brought the benefit of connectivity to many, they continue to face criticisms, ranging from their tendering and procurement processes, to their tendency to bring in Chinese workers rather than build local capacity.

When Chinese companies are contracted for factors other than competition — such as diplomatic ties resulting from intergovernmental loans between China and African countries that require the purchase of equipment only from Chinese companies — services can end up being less extensive and less reliable, said Ignio Gagliardone, the author of the recently published book The Politics of Technology in Africa.

In 2006, ZTE signed the largest agreement in the history of telecommunications in Africa with the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation. Backed by the China Development Bank, the company offered a loan of $1.5 billion to overhaul and expand the country’s telecommunication system. Six years later, ZTE and Huawei each got $800 million contracts to continue the expansion, bringing Chinese investment in Ethiopia’s ICT sector to more than $3 billion.

Ethiopia is just one example of a country where Western equipment suppliers, such as Ericsson, have not been able to match Chinese offers. And despite the unprecedented investments, the low quality of ICT services provided to customers in Ethiopia has kept the country at the bottom of regional and global rankings, Gagliardone said.

Another example is Cuba. While Google offered a plan to provide faster internet at lower cost to the Cuban government, it appeared that Cuba was more interested in working with ZTE and Huawei. Chinese companies have typically provided better quality services in countries where they have more competition, such as Kenya and Nigeria, said Gagliardone, and greater scrutiny for contracts in countries such as Uganda and Zambia have forced ZTE and Huawei to adhere to higher standards.

In fact, in its Internet for All report, the World Economic Forum mentions Huawei’s work on Zambia’s Universal Access Project as an example of the kind of multiparty coordination and cooperation needed to achieve global connectivity. Since 2013, the company has worked with the Zambian Information and Communication Technology Authority and local carriers to implement this initiative, which is designed to deliver network coverage to remote areas. In 2014, the report reads, Huawei connected more than 500 villages for the first time by installing 169 base stations in remote areas of the country’s 10 provinces.

No strings?

Whereas Western donors emphasize liberalization and democratization when supporting ICT programs, China has more of a no-strings-attached approach, which extends from internet infrastructure to its global development strategy more broadly. The government and the technology companies it supports refrain from asking aid recipients to introduce policy changes, Gagliardone said. While some say this more relational and less transactional approach is part of what helps the Chinese win contracts, critics say it allows governments they support with ICT infrastructure to pursue their own priorities, even if that means increasing state control and limiting space for debate because they are less dependent on conditional aid.

Huawei and ZTE have also been criticized for undercutting the prices of their competitors and locking their users into contracts they cannot escape.

“It’s hard to get out of a relationship in the mobile connectivity space,” said Troy Etulain, project director for Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance and Research at the nonprofit development organization FHI 360. “It’s like you marry a company and its services and equipment.”

Huawei tends to follow the old paradigm, in which a mobile network operator, or

MNO, invests in a spectrum license and large-scale infrastructure. But the most exciting innovations in last mile connectivity are a combination of increasingly reliable low-cost hardware with emerging business models that can make these products profitable, Etulain said. New business models are challenging the traditional models of operators, and while that might not be a good thing for Huawei given its preference for large MNO contracts, this shift is welcome news for ICT4D advocates who say the old paradigm has failed in connecting the poorest of the poor.

“It remains to be seen if Huawei will divorce their model from services as part of the picture and just sell their equipment to operators who use it themselves,” Etulain said.

As a leader in sales for network infrastructure equipment, Huawei has a unique capability to drive innovation in how to profitably provide connectivity to the last mile. But in working with MNOs, which typically focus on higher revenue markets where people have smartphones and can afford data, the company is not focused on the poorest markets. It does not seem like Huawei is aware of the emerging competition from low-cost hardware manufacturers — and Etulain said those companies may not mind keeping it that way, since Huawei is so big it could easily produce lower cost hardware and undersell these companies if it wanted to.

“We want the underdogs to succeed, but are technology agnostic,” he said. “We are simply focused on the development goal of equitably connecting people to the internet, which can alleviate social challenges and improve lives.”

In this six-week special series, Devex examines China’s expanding role in aid and development across the globe. From tensions in Ghana to projects in Pakistan, from climate financing to donor partnerships, from individual philanthropy to state-financed investment, this series traces the past, present and future of Chinese aid and development. Join the conversation on our Facebook discussion forum.

Alchemia teachers find joy in connection | Petaluma Argus Courier

At one time or another, everyone has had that one special safe spot where they can be their true selves. That one place they can walk into and feel like they belong. In Petaluma, the staff at Alchemia art gallery create that “second home” sensation every day.

“I’m having more fun in my life,” says Mary Lester, of Petaluma, Finance Manager for Alchemia, and (starting in September) quilting instructor at the gallery. Says Mary, “I have a connection to people that I didn’t in my previous jobs.”

Alchemia, a non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Rosa, with its gallery located on Kentucky Street, features both fine arts and performing arts for adults with developmental disabilities. In 1998 the organization started as a social theatre group around a Petaluma kitchen table.

Now it flourishes in locations throughout Sonoma and Marin Counties.

The students, who range from age 22 and above, come in day to day, to not only learn about various art styles, but to produce their own original art to display for the public. Currently, several student artists are featured in the show “Kindred Two.” The exhibition displays a main theme of original animal portraits and ceramics.

Mary has taught a variety of art classes at the gallery for about eight years, and has spent even longer as an advocate for people with disabilities. She also spent many of her past years working with the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA), a network of technology resource centers that strives to connect people with disabilities to technological tools. However, she found that the position did not quite supply the joy of working one-on-one with people.

At Alchemia, Mary does find that joy.

“I am just way more connected to incredible people,” she says, “both the artists and the teachers.”

Mary adds that even though the organization is available to help students grow artistically, it also serves to help them shape their character and their confidence.

“I’m at a loss for words in terms of how far some people have come,” she says. “It’s awesome.”

Alchemia’s theatre arts department is known around the community for putting on original productions, including “Wabi Sabi” and “Little Red,” that are, as Mary describes them, “about teaching people to be good self-advocates, and being aware of how to protect themselves.” “Little Red,” an adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood,” featured stories from students’ own life experiences.

As for future art shows to look out for, Alchemia plans to produce an exhibit centered around Day of the Dead, which will be displayed in Aqus Cafe throughout the month of October. Dates for the display are still pending.

Staff member Sidney McNulty teaches theatre, singing and dancing at Alchemia, while pursuing her own performance career in other theatre companies as well. Like Mary, Sidney is always inspired by her student artists and by how they shine in the spotlight.

“Every day I come to work, it is a blessing,” she says. “(The students) are so free and confident, and able to tell people ‘I’m an amazing actor’ or ‘I’m a great dancer!’ That is such a gift.”

For ceramics teacher Nuala Creed, who has shaped the program since 2001, Alchemia has changed her life in all the best ways.

Auburn steps on gas early, cruises past Ga. Southern

(Source: Auburn Athletics)(Source: Auburn Athletics)
(Source: Auburn Athletics)(Source: Auburn Athletics)


Auburn (1-0) opened up strong against Georgia Southern (0-1) and never looked back, cruising to a 41-7 victory at Jordan-Hare Saturday night.

Auburn Quarterback Jarrett Stidham in his first action as an Auburn Tiger put up a strong performance accounting for three of Auburn’s five touchdowns. The first of which he picked up on the ground, scampering in from 14 yards out to give Auburn a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Stidham picked up 185 yards in the air on 14 of 24 passing to go along with the two touchdown passes he had. The first touchdown pass connecting with Ryan Davis for 19 yards and the second, another 19-yard strike to Will Hastings giving Auburn its final score of the night.

Running back Kerryon Johnson left the game in the first half with an apparent injury, but not after rushing for 136 yards, just 10 yards off his career mark.

Auburn posted two 100-yard rushers on the evening as Kam Martin also eclipsed 100 yards for the Tigers accounting for 136 yards himself, including a long 36-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

The Tiger defense swallowed the Georgia Southern offense, keeping them to just 78 yards total and eight first downs for the entire game. The Tiger offense itself ran wild, accounting for 535 yards.

Daniel Carlson knocked through two field goals and five extra points, becoming Auburn’s all-time leader in career points with 364.

Next Saturday, Auburn will travel on the road to take on the defending national champions in Clemson. That game is slated for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

Teenage girl, 2 men arrested in connection with fatal shooting…

BOCA RATON, Fla. – A teenage girl and two men have been arrested on first-degree murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting of MMA fighter Aaron Rajman, 25, authorities said on Friday.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspects as Roberto Ortiz, Jace Swinton, both 18, and Summer Church, 16. 

Deputies said they were called about 10:30 p.m. July 3 to Rajman’s home in the 22700 block of 65th Terrace in unincorporated Boca Raton.

Investigators initially said that a group of men entered the home and an altercation ensued before Rajman was shot.

State Attorney Aronberg assured residents in the area that they live in a safe community.  

“This was no random act of violence,” Aronberg said in a news release. “Mr. Rajman was targeted by these defendants, and we intend to seek justice for the victim and his family.”

Aronberg said the suspects have been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of armed home invasion robbery. 

He said Church has been charged as an adult. 

Further details about the shooting have not been released.

Local 10 News has requested the suspects’ arrest reports.

Copyright 2017 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved.

Lightning strikes at Connect office in Khanna

LudhianaPosted at: Sep 1, 2017, 1:15 AM; last updated: Sep 1, 2017, 1:15 AM (IST)

Our Correspondent

Khanna, August 31

A building housing the office of Connect and a local cable network company was struck by lightning on Thursday, resulting in a loss of about Rs 5 lakh.
Internet services provided by the company in the city were disrupted. The repair of damaged equipment was continuing till the reports last came in.
A telephone exchange of Connect and computers, tower, LCDs, cameras and transmitters of the local cable network company were damaged. The rain started at about 3.30 and lightning struck the building at about 4 pm, said Baljit Singh, an employee.

All readers are invited to post comments responsibly. Any messages with foul language or inciting hatred will be deleted. Comments with all capital letters will also be deleted. Readers are encouraged to flag the comments they feel are inappropriate.
The views expressed in the Comments section are of the individuals writing the post. The Tribune does not endorse or support the views in these posts in any manner.

Hillary Clinton’s Ukrainian connection a question worth exploring

The latest news headlines indicate that the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation is ramping up. Connected with this probe is the now infamous meeting President Trump’s son, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSteve King defends Arpaio: ‘I don’t agree that profiling is wrong’ Eminem leads anti-Trump chant at music fest Enraged Dems vow to protect ‘Dreamers’ program MORE Jr., had with Russian officials last June. While we are still trying to ascertain who all was in that meeting and what, if any, information was shared that could have helped Trump’s presidential campaign, we cannot ignore another meeting with a foreign government — one where we have proof serious campaign violations were committed.

Back in January of this year, Politico reported that Democratic official met with Ukrainian officials to get information on the Trump campaign in an effort to boost Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSpecial counsel probing if Trump tried to hide purpose of Russian meeting: report Ten notable departures from Team Trump Is Trump responsible for violent rallies? Law says probably not MORE’s presidential bid. While it didn’t get nearly the mainstream media scrutiny that the Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting is getting, it did prompt President Trump to correctly ask why it was being swept under the rug.

In a tweet last month, Trump said “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — ‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.” It even prompted a Ukraine member of parliament, Andre Derkah, to send a letter last month to Ukraine’s prosecutor general requesting “that authorities launch a pretrial investigation into ‘illegal interference in the election of President of the United States organized by a criminal investigation.’” It also raised some very serious concerns for our organization, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).


This month, FACT filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Ukrainian-American consultant, Alexandra Chalupa, for knowingly soliciting and accepting illegal, in-kind contributions from the Ukrainian government.

Specifically, the complaint contends that, last year, Ukrainian-American operative and DNC consultant, Alexandra Chalupa met with Ukrainian government officials to get information in an effort to expose ties between Trump, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russia. As reported, a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy was instructed to help Chalupa conduct research on connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia. The DNC subsequently acknowledged that it had knowledge of the research.

First, according to federal law, an in-kind contribution consists of “anything of value, including information and leads, the fruits of paid research, or similar investigatory activity, to a political committee.” Second, federal law also prohibits accepting or receiving anything of value from foreign nationals and the Ukrainian government officials are foreign nationals.

Since Chalupa allegedly engaged in both activities as a DNC staffer, this collusion would constitute an illegal, in-kind contribution. And, even though the DNC claimed it “did not incorporate [Chalupa’s] findings in its dossiers on the subjects,” that would be irrelevant as the DNC solicited and received valuable opposition research.

Given what we know today about both situations, it’s clear they both merit serious investigation.

To date we have no proof that anything of value was received by the Trump campaign as a result of the Donald Jr. meeting. In fact, the Russian lawyer who meet with Trump’s son, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said: “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.”

Foreign influence in our politics is nothing new but it is very concerning and should be investigated. The DNC/Ukraine connection is serious, and the public deserves answers.

Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, is executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonprofit ethics watchdog.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

New millennials connect through Tampa entrepreneur’s innovation

TAMPA – Andrew Machota has made nearly 700 friends in the six years since he impulsively moved to Tampa.

He’d be glad to have you meet them, too.

The gregarious certified public accountant from Rolling Prairie, Ind., population 500, knew only one person when he came to town. Mingling at networking events with other young professional millennials could be interesting, but then what?

Machota knew what: more opportunities to meet and hang out with potential pals. He would start a social club with a calendar of activities to choose from, a concept that he envisions replicating in other cities.

“Trust me, I learned the hard way,” he said. “I know how hard it is to make adult friends.”

Machota wrote a business plan for New Town Connections, then quit his job and sent out 2,000 texts and emails to an August 2015 launch party at the Vault in downtown Tampa.

When 300 people showed up that night, “I had my Field of Dreams moment,” he said.

Machota had a line-up ready — brunch, happy hour, pool party — and momentum began to build.

“This is my calling,” he said, “to connect people … bringing like-minded people together in real life and forming genuine friendships.”

Locals are just as welcome as bay area newcomers, he adds. And unlike a business networking group, there’s no competition or pressure.

As the club expanded, Machota compiled his friend-making experiences and published a self-help book: Friend Request Accepted: Connecting In A Disconnected World (available on Amazon.com).

In outlining 18 proactive steps, Machota encourages readers “to just be available.” He suggests ditching the technology — smartphone, Email, texts — and position yourself to meet people face to face.

You never know who will alter your lifepath, he writes. Every person you meet really does matter.

Participating in New Town Connections works two ways: Pay membership dues of $19 a month plus individual event fees, such as $25 to go paddleboarding. Or join for $49 a month with no surcharges.

Machota, 36, is the only full-time employee organizing 10 events every month. Hillsborough members slightly outnumber Pinellas folks. “Mostly single,” he said, “maybe 20 percent are in a relationship. But it’s not a dating club and I don’t keep track.”

That said, Machota did indeed meet his girlfriend, Jane Thai, through the club.

“We were friends for nine months before I asked her out.”

With a limited advertising budget, the start-up relies on members and social media to attract attendees, the biggest challenge.

Software tech support analyst Constanza Lanata, 34, counts people she didn’t even know a year ago, “now my best friends.” She met Machota at a chamber of commerce Emerge Tampa Bay event. Of course, he invited her to the next NTC gathering and she joined right away, in May 2016.

“Andrew gets to know you and introduces you to people you have something in common with,” Lanata said. “I’m very outgoing once I feel comfortable. I just need a little push. He broke the ice.”

Will Pedersen, 26, knew exactly two people when he left Hong Kong three years ago: his parents.

“In October of my first year here, I didn’t speak to a single person for eight days,” he said. “My parents were away and it was incredibly lonely. The only conversation I had was with a Uber driver.”

Googling Meet-Up groups led Pedersen to NTC and now, 250 Facebook friends.

“Taco Tuesday was the first thing I went to,” recalled the Tampa real estate agent. “There was a really interesting group of young professionals drinking margaritas and watching a sunset at a children’s museum. On a Tuesday. I said, ‘This is how you make friends.'”

Pedersen said he attended every event for the next four or five months.

“Each time you know at least one person, than two, and they add up.”

“Really,” he continued, “it’s the only reason I stayed in Tampa.”

Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected]

>>looking ahead

New Town Connections September events

Sept. 7: Dali Museum, private tour; 6 p.m.; $20.

Sept. 10: White Party at the Tampa Museum of Art; 2-6 p.m.; free.

Sept. 13: Tony Robbins Leadership Training; Little Donut House; 6 to 8 p.m.; free.

Sept. 14: Acro Yoga, Movement Sanctuary, 910 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg; 7:30 -9 p.m.; $10.

Sept. 17: Fanny Pack Pool Party; Hollander Hotel, 2 -8 p.m.; free.

Sept. 21: Social at The Hall on Franklin; 7:30 to 10 p.m.; free.

Sept. 29: Connect 4 Tournament and Happy Hour, Centre Club; 5:30 – 8:p.m.; free.

Sept. 30: Boating; St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, 500 1st Ave SE, St. Petersburg; 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; $55, BYOB.

New millennials connect through Tampa entrepreneur’s innovation 08/29/17

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 4:04pm]

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