Morning Headlines - Monday, Mar. 6, 2023

U.S. & World and Wisconsin trending headlines, and the meme of the day.

Morning Headlines - Monday, Mar. 6, 2023

U.S. and World Headlines

Documents: DHS Has A Domestic-Intelligence Program

For years, the Department of Homeland Security has run a virtually unknown program gathering domestic intelligence, one of many revelations in a wide-ranging tranche of internal documents reviewed by POLITICO.

Those documents also reveal that a significant number of employees in DHS’s intelligence office have raised concerns that the work they are doing could be illegal.

Under the domestic-intelligence program, officials are allowed to seek interviews with just about anyone in the United States. That includes people held in immigrant detention centers, local jails, and federal prison. DHS’s intelligence professionals have to say they’re conducting intelligence interviews, and they have to tell the people they seek to interview that their participation is voluntary. But the fact that they’re allowed to go directly to incarcerated people — circumventing their lawyers — raises important civil liberties concerns, according to legal experts.

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Emails Show Dr. Fauci Lied About Involvement In COVID Lab Leak Study

Dr. Anthony Fauci commissioned a February 2020 paper to disprove the possibility that COVID originated in a lab — only to pretend he was not involved in the study at a White House news conference weeks later.

Newly-released emails uncovered by House Republicans probing the COVID-19 pandemic show the former head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases both commissioned and had final approval on a scientific paper which claimed it was 'improbable' that the virus leaked out of a lab in Wuhan, China.

Just a few weeks later, he stood next to then-President Donald Trump at a press conference and cited that very paper as evidence that the idea of a lab leak was implausible.

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Manafort, US Government Settle Civil Case For $3.15 Million

Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, has agreed to pay $3.15 million to settle a civil case filed by the Justice Department over undeclared foreign bank accounts.

When the civil case was filed in April 2022, prosecutors alleged that Manafort had failed to disclose more than 20 offshore bank accounts he ordered opened in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The government sought an order for Manafort to pay fines, penalties and interest, alleging he had failed to file federal tax documents detailing the accounts and failed to disclose the money on his income tax returns. The government said false tax returns were filed from 2006-2015 and that the Treasury Department had notified Manafort of the fines and assessment in July 2020.

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U.S. Firm’s Subsidiary Sold Electronics To Chinese Defense Firm Linked To Spy Balloon Program

When the U.S. blacklisted six Chinese entities last month in response to a suspected spy balloon’s traversing the country, a little-known tech firm in Northern California had reason to pay particularly close attention.

AXT Inc. has extensive ties to China that go beyond its manufacturing facilities there. The company owns an 85% stake in a Chinese subsidiary that produces materials for semiconductors and has counted as one of its biggest customers a giant state-owned defense firm linked to Beijing’s surveillance balloon program, according to AXT’s filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in August.

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The New World Of AI Chatbots Like ChatGPT

The large tech companies – Google, Meta/Facebook, Microsoft – are in a race to introduce new artificial intelligence systems and what are called chatbots, that you can have conversations with and are more sophisticated than Siri or Alexa.

Microsoft's AI search engine and chatbot, Bing, can be used on a computer or cell phone to help with planning a trip or composing a letter.

It was introduced on February 7 to a limited number of people as a test – and initially got rave reviews. But then several news organizations began reporting on a disturbing so-called "alter ego" within Bing Chat, called Sydney. We went to Seattle last week to speak with Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, about Bing and Sydney, who to some had appeared to have gone rogue.

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Wisconsin Headlines

Over $10 Million In Unclaimed Property Matched To Wisconsin Taxpayers

The Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue (DOR) announced Friday that $10.4 million in unclaimed property has been matched to their rightful owners.

According to a news release, the DOR will over send a collective $3.9 million in checks to over 33,000 Wisconsin residents. The remaining taxpayers will receive letters explaining how to claim the nearly $6.5 million in unclaimed property.

The DOR has matched $10.4 million in unclaimed property to tax records this year, according to officials.

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Missing Person’s Body Found In Wisconsin River

The body of a person reported missing has been pulled from the Wisconsin River.

On March 4, around 3 p.m., Stevens Point Police officers were called to a Stevens Point residence regarding a missing individual.

Cole B. Peterson, 20, was last heard from at 2 a.m. that morning and was near the area of the 900 block of Main Street.

“Several SPPD officers, along with the assistance of the Stevens Point Fire Department, began to check areas on the west side of town, where Cole’s cell phone last pinged at approximately 2:13 a.m.,” a release from Stevens Point Lt. Joe Johnson stated.

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Wisconsin Farmers Are 'Carbon Curious,' But Few Participate In Offset Programs

Even as momentum builds around carbon credit markets, few farmers in Wisconsin are participating, industry leaders say.

Will Fulwider is the regional crops educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Dane and Dodge counties. He said there's a larger pool of people interested, but many farmers are unsure if this is the best time to sign up.

"People haven't jumped in, but they're all kind of like toeing the line and walking around," Fulwider said. "But there's a lot more buy-in than there was 20 years ago from the consumer, business side of things."

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Merrill Woman Sentenced To Prison For Making False Statements During Purchase Of Firearms

Ashley Zastrow, 32, Merrill, Wisconsin was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 1 year and 1 day in federal prison for making false statements during the purchase of two firearms. This prison term will be followed by a 3-year term of supervised release.

On January 13, 2022, Zastrow purchased two firearms in Wisconsin Rapids. In order to complete the purchase of these firearms, she represented that she was the actual buyer of these firearms when in fact she was not. An investigation by law enforcement revealed that she purchased these firearms for an individual who accompanied her to the store and provided her with cash at the time of purchase. This offense is known as a “straw purchase.” The person Zastrow provided the firearms is prohibited by law from possessing firearms as a result of previous felony convictions and allegedly used one of the firearms purchased by Zastrow to commit a homicide.           

In sentencing Zastrow, Judge Conley stated that she made a “disastrous” choice to transfer firearms to a prohibited person and could not ignore the fact that this choice contributed to a woman’s death. Judge Conley also reasoned that a prison sentence was warranted given the defendant’s poor performance on pre-trial release and nominal efforts to confront her methamphetamine addiction.

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United States And State Of Wisconsin Secure False Claims Act Judgment Of Over $2.3 Million Against Substance Abuse Treatment Provider

United States Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that on March 2, 2023, United States District Judge Joseph P. Stadtmueller entered default judgment against Dr. Siamak Arassi and his clinic, Healing Corner, LLC, in the amount of $2,346,545.78 for violations of the False Claims Act. 

As alleged in the United States and State of Wisconsin’s Joint Complaint in Intervention, Healing Corner and its sole practitioner, Dr. Arassi, caused the submission of false claims to the Wisconsin Medicaid Program by ordering excess Vivitrol, a medication used to treat alcohol dependance and prevent relapse to opioid dependance.  Vivitrol is administered by a healthcare professional to patients monthly and reimbursed by Wisconsin Medicaid at approximately $1600 per injection.  Despite prescribing, requesting refill, and receiving delivery of prescription Vivitrol from a specialty pharmacy, Healing Corner routinely did not administer the Vivitrol to the patient for whom it was prescribed, but instead, at the direction of Dr. Arassi, routinely ordered Vivitrol prescriptions in the name of former patients of Healing Corner, which were reimbursed by Wisconsin Medicaid. This practice generated a stockpile of excess Vivitrol, which Healing Corner administered to non-Medicaid patients for cash—often paying Healing Corner over $1000 out of pocket per month.  Healing Corner also administered free samples of Vivitrol to Medicaid patients but still submitted claims to Medicaid for reimbursement.

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Last Update: Mar 06, 2023 6:46 am CST

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