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Pompeos taxpayer-funded gifts to dinner guests: $ 10,000 in engraved pens from China

WASHINGTON – High-profile guests at a controversial dinner series hosted by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received bespoke gifts that cost taxpayers more than $ 10,000. This is evident from documents received this week from an independent watchdog.

Pompeo spent a total of $ 10,433 on 400 Chinese-made engraved pens embossed with the emblem of the Madison Dinners, a series of events that raised concerns about their questionable diplomatic value and political overtones in the Office of the State Department’s Inspector General.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal government watchdog also known as CREW, received documents about the bespoke gifts at the request of the Freedom of Information Act.

During his tenure as Secretary of State, Pompeo emphasized a tough approach to China as an organizational principle for the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Pompeo’s last tweet on his personal Twitter account continues on this topic and asks how every American “wants to transfer taxpayers money to the CCP,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Pompeo joined the Hudson Institute, a think tank, after leaving office.

– McClatchy Washington Bureau

MEP Ilhan Omar takes on a leading position on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

US Representative Ilhan Omar joins the House Foreign Affairs Committee as she takes on the role of vice-chair of the subcommittee on Africa and global human rights issues.

Omar’s office said her new position will be announced in Washington Thursday. The full name of the body is Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

“Upholding basic human rights around the world is a key priority for me and the Minnesota 5th District,” said Democrat Omar in a prepared statement. “As someone representing a large African diaspora community and being the first African-born immigrant to serve in Congress, I am particularly excited to play a leadership role in overseeing our international aid and foreign policy on the continent.”

The Minneapolis-St. The Paul region is home to the largest Somali community in the United States. Omar was born in Somalia, but her family left the country as a child in the civil war.

Since joining Congress in 2019, Omar has sought to bring her unique background into foreign policy law and advocacy for global human rights. She has called for a revision of the US foreign policy approach to give more prominence to the impact on countries around the world.

– Star Tribune

The government is investigating how more and more counterfeit N95 masks are popping up

N95 masks are best for protecting against the spread of coronavirus. However, federal agencies have found that scammers are faking the masks and selling them to hospitals and governments in the United States

The counterfeit masks, which are often made overseas, have been found in at least five states, The Associated Press reported. They can be difficult to spot, even for medical professionals.

“We saw a lot of fraud and other illegal activity,” Steve Francis, investigator with the Department of Homeland Security, told the AP. Francis did not disclose which states or companies were targeted.

3M makes a large portion of the N95 masks in the United States and has filed 29 lawsuits against impersonators, according to its website. The company encouraged people wearing N95 masks to use the information on the website to verify that their masks were counterfeit.

Federal agencies have launched more than 1,250 raids and confiscated 10 million counterfeit 3M masks, the AP reported.

In September, the government intercepted 500,000 counterfeit masks from Shenzhen, China, to New Jersey. In December, 100,000 counterfeit masks were among the defective personal protective equipment confiscated in El Paso, Texas.

– New York Daily News

The main entrance to Yosemite has reopened, but you still need an online reservation to get in

An important entrance to Yosemite National Park, which has been closed for a few weeks, reopened on Thursday. However, visitors still need an online reservation to get into the popular park by at least February.

The south entrance to the park via Highway 41 was closed for more than three weeks due to severe wind damage.

Glacier Point Road to Badger Pass ski area reopened earlier this week. The ski area is not in operation, but there are cross-country trails there for those with their own equipment.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias will remain closed until further notice. During the big mono wind event last month, at least 15 giant sequoias are said to have fallen into the grove.

Reservations for the park in February became available on February 1st at recreation.gov. People with overnight and camping reservations in Yosemite do not need a ticket to enter the park.

Yosemite officials said the temporary reservation system for daytime use was put in place, largely due to COVID-19, to cope with the crowds seeing the “fire fall” phenomenon – where the horsetail fall in Yosemite Valley at sunset from mid-year can shine golden until the end of February. It is not yet known if reservations will be required to enter the park after February.

These $ 2 per day reservations through recreation.gov, which are required in addition to normal parking fees at the entrances, were first implemented in Yosemite last summer to reduce the number of visitors due to COVID-19 .

– The Fresno bee

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