Browsing articles from "November, 2017"

Trump Reportedly Considers Replacing Secretary Of State Tillerson

Nov 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Trump Reportedly Considers Replacing Secretary Of State Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo in as soon as a few weeks, according to multiple media reports.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo in as soon as a few weeks, according to multiple media reports.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump brushed aside reports that he is considering replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, though multiple news outlets say Tillerson could be shown the door within weeks.

Pressed about those reports Thursday morning during an Oval Office meeting, Trump said only: “He’s here. Rex is here.”

The cryptic answer did little to dispel speculation that Tillerson’s days as the country’s top diplomat could be numbered.

The New York Times and other outlets are reporting that Tillerson could be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. In turn, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is reportedly a top contender to take Pompeo’s place running the spy agency.

What We Know About Rex Tillerson, Trump's Pick For Secretary Of State

Tillerson — a former CEO of Exxon Mobil — has had a rocky tenure at the State Department. He came into the position with no government or diplomatic experience and has frequently found himself at odds with the president on issues such as the value of the Iran nuclear deal and the standoff between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In early October, reports surfaced that Tillerson had called the president a “moron.” He pointedly did not dispute those accounts.

Tillerson Says He Never Considered Resigning, Doesn't Deny Calling Trump A 'Moron'

Tillerson was thought to have an ally in White House chief of staff John Kelly. But according to reports, which NPR has not independently confirmed, Kelly crafted the plan to replace the secretary. Pompeo has risen in the president’s estimation during frequent White House intelligence briefings. And Cotton’s views are closely aligned with Trump’s on Iran and immigration.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders echoed the president’s comment that Tillerson hasn’t been replaced.

“There are no personnel announcements at this time,” Sanders said in a statement. “Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire Cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump’s administration.”

'I'm The Only One That Matters,' Trump Says Of State Dept. Job Vacancies

Any shake-up would come at a difficult time for the State Department, which critics say has been hollowed out during the Trump administration. The president has called for cutting the department’s budget by nearly a third.

Pelosi Calls For Conyers To Step Down

Nov 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Pelosi Calls For Conyers To Step Down

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls for Rep. John Conyers to resign. Also, news organizations are reporting that the White House is readying a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Def Jam’s Russell Simmons Steps Down Amid Sexual Attack Allegations

Nov 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Def Jam’s Russell Simmons Steps Down Amid Sexual Attack Allegations

Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam records, steps aside from leadership positions in his companies because of allegations of a sexual attack. Host David Greene speaks with NPR’s Elizabeth Blair.

How The Loss Of U.S. Psychiatric Hospitals Led To A Mental Health Crisis

Nov 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on How The Loss Of U.S. Psychiatric Hospitals Led To A Mental Health Crisis

The Northville Psychiatric Hospital is seen in Northville, Mich., Monday, July 28, 2003. Many of the patients who moved out of the facility shortly before it closed either had to leave southeast Michigan for hospitals elsewhere in the state or ended up in community programs that haven’t always met their needs, an advocacy group says.

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The Northville Psychiatric Hospital is seen in Northville, Mich., Monday, July 28, 2003. Many of the patients who moved out of the facility shortly before it closed either had to leave southeast Michigan for hospitals elsewhere in the state or ended up in community programs that haven’t always met their needs, an advocacy group says.

Paul Sancya/AP

A severe shortage of inpatient care for people with mental illness is amounting to a public health crisis, as the number of individuals struggling with a range of psychiatric issues continues to rise.

The revelation that the gunman in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting escaped from a psychiatric hospital in 2012 is renewing concerns about the state of mental health care in this country. A study published in the journal Psychiatric Services estimates 3.4 percent of Americans – more than 8 million people – suffer from serious psychological distress.

Texas Shooter's History Raises Questions About Mental Health And Mass Murder

The disappearance of long-term care facilities and psychiatric beds has escalated over the past decade, sparked by a trend towards deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients in the 1950s and ’60s, says Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care at the University of Pennsylvania.

“State hospitals began to realize that individuals who were there probably could do well in the community,” he tells Here Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “It was well-intended, but what I believe happened over the past 50 years is that there’s been such an evaporation of psychiatric therapeutic spaces that now we lack a sufficient number of psychiatric beds.”

A concerted effort to grow community-based care options that were less restrictive grew out of the civil rights movement and a series of scandals due to the lack of oversight in psychiatric care, Sisti says. While those efforts have been successful for many, a significant group of people that require structured inpatient care can’t get it, often due to funding issues.

A 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that works to remove treatment barriers for people with mental illness, found the number of psychiatric beds decreased by 14 percent from 2005 to 2010. That year, there were 50,509 state psychiatric beds, meaning there were only 14 beds available for nearly 100,000 patients.

In Texas, People With Mental Illness Are Finding Work Helping Peers

“Many times individuals who really do require intensive psychiatric care find themselves homeless or more and more in prison,” Sisti says. “Much of our mental health care now for individuals with serious mental illness has been shifted to correctional facilities.”

The percentage of people with serious mental illness in prisons rose from .7 percent in 1880 to 21 percent in 2005, according to the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights.

Many of the private mental health hospitals still in operation do not accept insurance and can cost upwards of $30,000 per month, Sisti says. For many low-income patients, Medicaid is the only path to mental health care, but a provision in the law prevents the federal government from paying for long-term care in an institution.

As a result, many people who experience a serious mental health crisis end up in the emergency room. According to data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 6 percent of all emergency department patients had a psychiatric condition between 2001 and 2011. Nearly 11 percent of those patients require transfer to another facility, but there are often no beds available.

“We are the wrong site for these patients,” Dr. Thomas Chun, an associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at Brown University, told NPR last year. “Our crazy, chaotic environment is not a good place for them.”

How Gaps In Mental Health Care Play Out In Emergency Rooms

Most hospitals are unable to take care of people for more than 72 hours, Sisti explains, so patients are sent back out into the world without adequate access to treatment.

In order to bridge the gap between hospital stays and expensive community-based care options, Sisti argues for “a continuum of care that ranges from outpatient care and transitional-type housing situations to inpatient care.”

While President Trump and others have claimed a connection exists between mental illness and the rise in gun violence, most mental health professionals vehemently disagree.

“There is no real connection between an individual with a mental health diagnosis and mass shootings. That connection according to all experts doesn’t exist,” says Bethany Lilly of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

For Many, Medicaid Provides The Only Route To Mental Health Care

Sisti says the stigma around mental health is “systematized” in our health care system, more so than in the public view.

Health care providers are “rather leery about these individuals because these people are, often at least according to the stereotype, high-cost patients who maybe are difficult to treat or noncompliant,” he says. “I think the stigma that we should be really focused on and worried about actually emerges out of our health care system more than from the public.”

North Korea Claims New Missile Makes It A Nuclear Power

Nov 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on North Korea Claims New Missile Makes It A Nuclear Power

A man in Seoul, South Korea, watches a local news report about North Korea’s missile launch on Wednesday.

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A man in Seoul, South Korea, watches a local news report about North Korea’s missile launch on Wednesday.

Lee Jin-man/AP

North Korea says a new intercontinental ballistic missile tested on Wednesday proves it has a nuclear deterrent that can reach any target in the United States.

According to a statement from the Korean Central News Agency, the ICBM is capable of carrying a “super-large heavy warhead, which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S.”

The missile was launched in the early morning hours local time on Wednesday from a site near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. It soared almost 2,500 miles into space and traveled a distance of around 620 miles east before crashing into the Sea of Japan. The total flight time of 53 minutes was longer than North Korea’s two previous ICBM tests.

The missile was lofted high into space on a “fly-ball” trajectory, as a way to avoid alarming neighboring nations. But independent analysts say that if it had been aimed differently, it could have traveled more than 8,000 miles.

“This range could cover all of the mainland United States, including Florida,” says Melissa Hanham, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “It’s a much farther range than they had ever demonstrated with their previous ICBM tests.”

In response to the test, President Trump tweeted that sanctions would soon be ratcheted up on the North.

North Korea has long had a stated goal of being able to hit anywhere in the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped ICBM. The North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has posed in front of maps targeting cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. This latest test appears to show the country has that capability, says Vipin Narang, an associate political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I think they’re confident now that they can hold the U.S. Eastern Seaboard at risk, which is a big deal,” Narang says.

North Korea designated its new missile a “Hwasong-15.” In July, it conducted two tests of the Hwasong-14, an ICBM capable of hitting targets in much of the U.S. mainland. Many experts suspect the “new” missile might actually be a variant of the Hwasong-14. “Maybe it’s a higher-thrust engine on the first or second stage,” Narang says. “But until we see pictures, we don’t know what it is.”

This new missile is designed to deliver a nuclear warhead that the North has been testing separately underground.

Earlier this year, North Korea conducted its largest nuclear test yet. Independent monitors put the yield in the range of 100 to 600 kilotons, similar to that of modern U.S. nuclear weapons. News reports in August stated that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency now believes that North Korea had “miniaturized” some of its nuclear devices in order to fit them onto a missile.

Not everyone believes the North’s claim that all this activity means the country can strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead. “There are a lot of things that are still not 100 percent sure about North Korean missiles,” says Markus Schiller, an aerospace engineer with Schmucker Technologie, a German company that consults on security issues. There are still questions about accuracy, practical use and whether a warhead could survive launch and re-entry, he points out.

But Narang says that continuing to doubt the North’s capabilities might be dangerous. The ultimate proof that the North can do what it says would be the launch of a live nuclear warhead over the Pacific Ocean. North Korea has suggested it might try such a test, but Narang and many others think that could prove catastrophic. “There’s just a lot of risk of things going wrong,” he says.

In the end, even if the North’s claims that it can strike all of the U.S. aren’t completely proven, Narang suspects policymakers might need to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

“Do they need to hit New York with certainty and accuracy? No,” he says. “A 30 percent chance that they can park one on the Upper East Side is enough to deter us.”

Garrison Keillor Accused Of ‘Inappropriate Behavior,’ Minnesota Public Radio Says

Nov 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Garrison Keillor Accused Of ‘Inappropriate Behavior,’ Minnesota Public Radio Says

Garrison Keillor, creator and former host of A Prairie Home Companion, talks at his St. Paul, Minn., office in July. Minnesota Public Radio has announced it is cutting ties with Keillor and his production company owing to allegations of inappropriate behavior.

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Garrison Keillor, creator and former host of A Prairie Home Companion, talks at his St. Paul, Minn., office in July. Minnesota Public Radio has announced it is cutting ties with Keillor and his production company owing to allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Jeff Baenen/AP

Garrison Keillor, the creator and former host of A Prairie Home Companion, has been accused of inappropriate behavior, according to Minnesota Public Radio, which has announced it is cutting ties with Keillor and his production company.

In a statement released Wednesday, the NPR member station says it learned of the allegations in October and has retained an outside law firm to investigate them. That investigation is ongoing.

Keillor no longer hosts A Prairie Home Companion, the show indelibly tied to his name, but continues to produce The Writer’s Almanac. Both shows are widely carried by public radio stations across the country.

MPR says in its statement that it will no longer distribute Writer’s Almanac, and it will stop rebroadcasting The Best Of A Prairie Home Companion. In addition, new episodes of A Prairie Home Companion — now hosted by Chris Thile — will be given a new name.

The allegations “relate to Mr. Keillor’s conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion,” MPR says. “Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff.”

“Garrison Keillor has been an important part of the growth and success of MPR, and all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances,” Jon McTaggart, the president of MPR, said in that statement. “While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees and supporters of our public service.”

Keillor told The Associated Press that MPR cut ties with him over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.”

On Tuesday, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Keillor in which he defended Sen. Al Franken, accused of forcibly kissing a radio host and groping another woman during a photo, against calls for his resignation.

“On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss [Leeann] Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness,” Keillor wrote. “No kidding.”

Allegations of misconduct — specifically, of sexual harassment — have caused a number of prominent men to lose their jobs in recent weeks, including two top editors at NPR.

Earlier today, NBC News announced that longtime Today host Matt Lauer had been fired over a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

Lo Moon Shares Its Origin Story

Nov 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Lo Moon Shares Its Origin Story

When bass player and keyboardist Crisanta Baker heard Matt Lowell’s song “Loveless,” she fell in love with the sound immediately. The song was still a work in progress at the time, but it would eventually become Lo Moon‘s breakout hit.

Lowell had just moved from New York to Los Angeles and was eager to get a band together. Following an epic garage jam with Baker and guitarist Sam Stewart, the trio knew this was the start of something special. In the video above, the band shares its origin story.

Below, the trio talks about its highly-anticipated 2018 album and performs three songs, live in Emerson College’s WERS studio in Boston.

SET LIST

  • “Thorns”
  • “This Is It”
  • “Loveless”

Scientists Move A Step Closer To Making Synthetic Life

Nov 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Scientists Move A Step Closer To Making Synthetic Life

Bacterial cells can now read a synthetic genetic code and use it to assemble proteins containing manmade parts.

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Bacterial cells can now read a synthetic genetic code and use it to assemble proteins containing manmade parts.

Gary Bates/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Scientists say they have created a partly manmade bacterium that can produce proteins not found in nature. This new life form, the latest development in a field called “synthetic biology,” could eventually be used to produce novel drugs.

The Scripps Research Institute’s Floyd Romesberg and colleagues have been pushing toward this goal for well over a decade. Three years ago, they announced that they’d added two more letters to the genetic alphabet of a bacterium. In addition to DNA’s familiar A, T, C, and G; they added X and Y.

That expanded genetic alphabet vastly increased the number of “words” that DNA could store, and so expanded the language of life.

Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet

Now they report in the journal Nature that they’ve engineered those bacterial cells to read that new code, and to use it to assemble proteins that contain manmade parts.

“Proteins have become hugely important for drug discovery,” Romesberg says. “Proteins are now being used as drugs.”

Examples include insulin, antibodies, interferons and enzymes. Romesberg started a company a few years ago to develop potential new medicines. He says the company has been able to grow these partly synthetic bacteria in huge vats.

“They in fact have done large scale fermentation and we get very, very nice yields, very high protein purity,” Romesberg says, though he says there are still plenty of kinks to work out.

One feature of this new system is that these germs need to be fed the precursors for the X and Y components, as well as synthetic amino acids, which are the building blocks for the artificial proteins.

“There’s actually an advantage of having to do it this way,” he says, and that’s safety.

Scientists Build A Live, No-Frills Cell That Could Have A Big Future

“I think synthetic biology by its very nature scares a lot of people, because you’re sort of playing with life and trying to optimize it to do new things. And people say, ‘Hey wait a minute that could be dangerous. What if they escape into nature?’ And I think that’s a significant concern. I think people should be worried about that kind of thing.”

But because his organisms need to be fed manmade starting materials, he says they can’t survive outside the lab.

“We’ve done lots of experiments where we take the organisms and get them to grow and replicate in the absence of those raw materials,” he says. “And they can’t survive. They simply die.”

That feature also reassures Dieter Soll, a biochemist at Yale University. He has been involved in the ethical issues surrounding new genetic technology since the 1970s. “This is a really fragile system and self-limiting,” he says.

As for the significance of the finding itself: “I think this is a big step,” Soll tells Shots. He notes there are many other techniques for producing novel proteins using synthetic biology – some quite advanced, and “they should not be forgotten.”

In fact, people have been creating other sorts of synthetic DNA for several decades. For example, some labs have changed the way bacteria read certain letters of the DNA code, so they can incorporate novel amino acids. Romesberg uses parts of this system in his own, but says it isn’t nearly as flexible. His, in principle, can incorporate 152 novel amino acids into the same protein.

Steven Benner, director of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Florida, pioneered efforts to add new letters to the genetic code.

GMOs Are Old Hat. Synthetically Modified Food Is The New Frontier

“This is all over the place in diagnostics and medicine and materials, so if you have, for example HIV, it’s quite likely that your viral load is measured using synthetic DNA with extra letters, that we invented,” Benner says.

There, the DNA containing new letters is built right into a diagnostic system, but it’s not used in a living organism to produce novel proteins. That’s the step forward reported in the latest study.

Benner, who is developing his own version of this technology, is dismissive of his rival’s latest paper. He takes issue not with the results themselves, but with how the paper describes the underlying chemistry. But he’s also eager to push forward, along with Romesberg, into this potentially powerful new branch of synthetic biology.

You can contact Richard Harris via email.

Jade Bird On World Cafe

Nov 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Jade Bird On World Cafe

There is no way to know — at least not from the depth and maturity of her music — just how young Jade Bird was when she wrote the songs on her new EP. She tells us in this session that she just turned 20, and that many of her songs were written when she was 17 or 18! She may be young, but the London-based singer-songwriter tells us she draws inspiration from an older crowd: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, even Son House. She was blown away to record with producer Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers in his studio in the Catskill Mountains.

In this session, we get to see if she can remember all the words to the Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere” and hear a brand new song. Listen in the player above.

‘Washington Post’ Says It Foiled Apparent Sting By James O’Keefe’s Activist Group

Nov 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on ‘Washington Post’ Says It Foiled Apparent Sting By James O’Keefe’s Activist Group

The Washington Post published video of reporter Stephanie McCrummen, left, speaking to Jaime Phillips, who claimed to be a source for a story about embattled politician Roy Moore. Days later, members of the paper’s staff watched Phillips walk into the offices of activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas organization.



The Washington Post/Screenshot by NPR

The Washington Post says a woman who approached reporters with a story that Alabama’s Roy Moore got her pregnant as a teen actually “appears to be part of undercover sting operation” run by conservative activist James O’Keefe — suspicions the newspaper says were confirmed when the woman was spotted walking into the offices of Project Veritas on Monday.

O’Keefe, who founded Project Veritas, is countering the newspaper’s story with his own narrative, releasing secretly recorded videos of Post employees that he says prove “how shockingly one-sided their editorial team is.”

O’Keefe and the Post have put out dueling videos of a brief interview outside his offices on Monday in which the conservative activist seeks to turn the tables and question Post reporter Aaron C. Davis, who repeatedly asks O’Keefe whether the woman works for him.

The Post also published video footage of one of its reporters speaking to the woman who claimed to be Moore’s victim. In it, reporter Stephanie McCrummen asks her who she is working for and tells her, “If there’s anything you want to say about why you’re here and how you came to be sitting her, I really would like to know that story as well.”

The Post says the apparent sting operation began with an email that was sent to reporter Beth Reinhard the morning after she and McCrummen wrote a Nov. 9 story breaking the news that several women said Moore, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, pursued them as teenagers — including one who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 14 and he was 32.

The email promised “I might know something” about Moore — and after a series of communications through the Signal encrypted messaging service, the woman eventually said her name was Jaime Phillips, and that she was willing to meet in person.

In separate interviews with Reinhard and McCrummen, Phillips “shared a false story about an alleged sexual relationship in 1992 with Moore” that led to an abortion when she was 15, the Post says. The newspaper adds that Phillips also tried to get the journalists to say whether her allegations might sink the political prospects of Moore, who left a controversial career as a judge to embark on what has become an even more controversial senatorial campaign.

The reporters grew skeptical over inconsistencies in Phillips’ story. And then Post researcher Alice Crites found a GoFundMe page posted earlier this year by someone named Jaime Phillips seeking donations to fund a move to New York after accepting “a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”

The poster wrote about moving from Atlanta to New York to work as a researcher and fact-checker “to help our movement.” Of the two donations listed on the page, the Post says one was made by someone with the same name as Phillips’ daughter.

“McCrummen agreed to meet Phillips that afternoon,” the Post says, an encounter that took place at the Souvlaki Bar restaurant in Alexandria, Va., last Wednesday. The newspaper describes a brief chess match as the reporter put her purse down on the table to block a possible camera in Phillips’ purse — only to have Phillips reposition her bag.

Confronting Phillips with a printout of the GoFundMe page, McCrummen said, “So I just wanted to ask you if you could explain this, and I also wanted to let you know, Jaime, that this is being recorded and video recorded.”

Phillips acknowledged the ad as hers, but she said the job had fallen through — and that it had been a position she interviewed for at the Daily Caller, a conservative news website. She also said she no longer felt comfortable going public with her story and soon took her leave. And again, Post reporters said they found that the new details provided in that meeting did not check out.

The newspaper had positioned videographers in the restaurant; on Monday, it also sent a reporter and videographer to Mamaroneck, N.Y, the town where O’Keefe’s Project Veritas offices are located. There, the Post says, they watched Phillips park her car and enter the building.

The apparent connection between Phillips and O’Keefe led the Post to take the rare step of publishing remarks that had previously been off the record.

From the Post:

“We always honor ‘off-the-record’ agreements when they’re entered into in good faith,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “But this so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us. The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled, and we can’t honor an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith.”

In its report, the Post describes a flurry of propaganda attacks meant to discredit its reporting on Moore.

In one instance, the paper says, conservative media outlet Gateway Pundit repeated false allegations that a Post reporter had offered money to women willing to accuse the Republican Senate candidate. In another, a pastor said he received a fraudulent voice mail from a man claiming to be a Post reporter named “Bernie Bernstein” — who, again, was offering thousands of dollars to any woman who would make claims against Moore.

O’Keefe’s Project Veritas is a tax-exempt organization that has reported more than $8 million in contributions — its sole source of declared revenue — since it was founded in March 2011, according to federal filings collected by ProPublica.

In the past, O’Keefe has carried out “sting” operations against a variety of organizations, including NPR in 2011. He first rose to prominence in 2009, when his undercover video of ACORN employees giving advice on tax breaks and home loans for a business involving underage El Salvadoran girls led to the group losing federal funding.

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