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NEWS BRIEFS

Garden City Telegram

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

WASHINGTON - High-powered guests at a controversial dinner series hosted by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were treated to custom-made gifts that cost taxpayers more than $10,000, according to documents obtained by an independent watchdog this week.

Pompeo spent a total of $10,433 on 400 engraved pens made in China, embossed with the emblem of the Madison Dinners, an event series that raised concerns within the State Department inspector general’s office over its questionable diplomatic value and political overtones.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal-leaning government watchdog also known as CREW, obtained documents on the customized gifts through a Freedom of Information Act request.

During his tenure as secretary of state, Pompeo emphasized a tough approach to China as an organizing principle for former President Donald Trump’s administration.

Pompeo’s last tweet on his personal Twitter account continues on this theme, asking how any American would “want taxpayer dollars to be funneled to the CCP,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Pompeo joined the Hudson Institute, a think tank, after leaving office. - McClatchy Washington Bureau

Rep. Ilhan Omar takes leadership post on House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is rising on the House Foreign Affairs Committee as she steps into the role of vice chair of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Africa and global human rights issues.

Omar's office said her new position was being announced Thursday in Washington. The panel's full name is the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

"Upholding basic human rights around the world is a core priority for me and the 5th District of Minnesota," Omar, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement. "As someone who represents a large African diaspora community and is 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. Paul area boasts the largest Somali community in the U.S. Omar was born in Somalia but her family left amid civil war when she was a child.

Since joining Congress in 2019, Omar has sought to bring her unique background to bear on foreign policy legislation and advocacy of global human rights. She has called for an overhaul of the U.S. approach to foreign policy in a way that puts more importance on how it impacts countries around the world. - Star Tribune

Feds investigating as more and more fake N95 masks are turning up

N95 masks are best for protecting against the spread of coronavirus, but federal authorities have found that fraudsters are faking the masks and selling them to hospitals and governments in the U.S.

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

“We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity,” Department of Homeland Security investigator Steve Francis told the AP. Francis did not reveal which states or companies had been targeted.

3M manufactures a large share of the N95 masks in the U.S. and has filed 29 lawsuits against impersonators, according to its website. The company encouraged people wearing N95 masks to use the site’s information to check if their masks are fakes.

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

In September, the feds intercepted 500,000 counterfeit masks from Shenzhen, China, bound for New Jersey. In December, 100,000 fake masks were among the faulty personal protective equipment seized in El Paso, Texas. - New York Daily News