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Defense start

Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 1: Defense – NFL.com

You have lineup questions. We have answers. At least we hope. Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em has helped fantasy managers for years make those pressing lineup decisions. And you know what is a good decision? Starting Patrick Mahomes. But that’s too obvious, so you won’t see that here. Instead here are some of the most-pressing questions. And, if you can’t find a player you are looking for, please check out latest NFL Fantasy lineup rankings right here.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers

2020
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New York Giants

The Steelers were second with 11.25 fantasy points per game last season, based on their pass rush. The Steelers led the NFL in sacks and takeaways last year and face Daniel Jones who led the NFL with 23 giveaways in 2019. That was second in the NFL. And if the Steelers offense can actually do its job and score points, that could force the opposition to be one dimensional to create more opportunities for turnovers.

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings didn’t really cede a lot of fantasy points to opposing defenses last year, so you don’t always want to stream a defense against them. But ICYMI, the Packers were pretty great against Kirk Cousins last year, sacking him five times and forcing one interception. I expect the Vikings to play it really conservative here. But if the Packers can open it up a little bit, they can force Cousins into some mistakes. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles

2020
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Washington Football Team

Washington Football Team

2020
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The FT scored the fewest points of any team last year. They have a new offensive coordinator in Scott Turner. And in a normal season, they would have had more time to implement the system, so I’m looking to pick up defenses that have teams with continuity. Washington allowed the fifth-most sacks per game last year, so the Eagles are a great choice if you’re scrambling for a defense. 

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

The Bears allowed the fourth-fewest points last season in what was kind of a lost year (they were 8-8, though). The defense is now in the second-year of that Chuck Pagano system and will be much better with Robert Quinn replacing Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson moving back to his natural safety position and Aikem Hicks returning (which was low-key the reason the defense didn’t seem as good last year).  

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

I need to show the Jets with a little love here. Because the defense was pretty good at the end of last season. Here’s my thing. I might not stream the Jets in traditional fantasy leagues unless you’re in some sort of 20-teamer. But daily fantasy fans should take a look at the Jets because they are a really good value. 

Washington Football Team

Washington Football Team

2020
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Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles

2020
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The FT will be playing its first game under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The FT has a lot of former first-round picks in the front seven and if they can ever get their secondary sorted, they could be a really good squad. But it has scored fewer than five points in four of its last five games against Philadelphia. 

Atlanta Falcons

Seattle Seahawks

One of the biggest questions for the Falcons this season is can they get to the quarterback? Dante Fowler replaces Vic Beasley and it looks like an upgrade on paper. The Falcons were tied for second-fewest with 1.6 sacks per game last year. Fowler is coming off a breakout season where he had 11.5 sacks, but how many of those were because he played with Aaron Donald. It’s like being the popular kid in your dorm because your roommate is one of the few with a car.

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers

2020
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The Giants threw a lot of money at James Bradbury this offseason, but recently let go of former first-round pick Deandre Baker following armed robbery charges. The Steelers will welcome back Ben Roethlisberger who missed most of last season, and yeah, this could be a long night for the Giants. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals

2020
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Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers

2020
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Say what you will about Tyrod Taylor (I love him as a player) but he doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s had fewer than six interceptions in three career seasons as a starter (Nathan Peterman nearly knocked that out in one half when he replaced him in a game). The Chargers’ game plan will likely be very conservative which means you can’t hope for turnovers or sacks. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars

2020
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Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts

2020
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Look, to all my friends in Duval County, it’s going to get much better for you in the future. I promise. But the Colts offensive line is one of the best. The Colts allowed just two sacks per game in 2019, the ninth-fewest total in the league last year. Again, unless they get Philip Rivers into a situation where he’s frustrated and throwing YOLO balls to his receivers, it could be a long game. And also this. (Both guys are on new teams this year, it should be pointed out.)

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Defense rankings

NFL defense rankings for the 2020 season (Updated Weekly) – Sportsnaut

NFL defense rankings for the 2src2src season - San Francisco 49ers
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Teams that top the NFL defense rankings each season always challenge for the Super Bowl. And that’s even with the league implementing plenty of rule changes to increase scoring and boost offenses.

We saw it this past season in Super Bowl LIV. The San Francisco 49ers defense carried them to an NFC title, but it was the Kansas City Chiefs defense that came through in the fourth quarter to help complete the Super Bowl comeback.

The teams with the best defenses in the NFL give their organization a chance to compete for a championship. So, let’s take a look at the best defenses in the NFL entering the 2020 season.

16. Tennessee Titans

Not enough is being made about how good Tennessee’s defense is going to be under head coach Mike Vrabel in 2020. This unit yielded the 12th-fewest points in the NFL last season and just added three-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney to the mix.

More than that, the young talent on this unit should show out come Week 1. Harold Landry had a breakout sophomore campaign with eight sacks. Last year’s first-round pick, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, is at 100% after missing seven games as a rookie. Add in veterans Malcolm Butler and Kevin Byard in the secondary, and there’s no reason to believe Tennessee’s defense won’t take the next step in 2020.

15. Dallas Cowboys

Holdovers Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were already enough to make this Cowboys defense formidable heading into the 2020 season. After all, Dallas still found a way to rank in the top-11 in scoring defense last season.

With that said, the addition of Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen and stud defensive tackle Dontari Poe changes the dynamics here. Griffen will team up with Lawrence as one of the top edge pass-rush duos in the NFL. If Dallas can get anything from free-agent signing Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory stays on the field, this unit could surprise when it’s all said and done.

14. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia made two key additions to its defense this offseason that have helped it make our Top 15 2020 NFL defense rankings.

Additions include, Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay gives the Eagles a No. 1 cornerback who can quiet No. 1 receivers and give the front seven more time to hit the quarterback.

Signing Javon Hargrave was a sneaky offseason addition, strengthening a defensive line that already had Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. We also can’t forget the acquisition of Nickell Robey-Coleman, a reliable slot corner to boost the secondary. The Eagles will be better this season and their defense will be a big part of that.

13. Green Bay Packers

There’s no denying Green Bay’s defense was demolished by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The front office failed to address the issue during the offseason, but that final game shouldn’t take away the overall impression for how this defense performed in 2019.

The duo of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith combined for 60 quarterback hits and 25.5 sacks last season. Meanwhile, 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary is poised for a bigger year and nose tackle Kenny Clark is an unstoppable interior force. In the secondary, Jaire Alexander has the talent to be an All-Pro cornerback, Kevin King is a solid No. 2 corner and Darnell Savage should improve in his second season. This is a talented, young group that will be fun to watch.

12. Minnesota Vikings

The blockbuster trade for Yannick Ngakoue changes the entire dynamic of Minnesota’s defense. Disgruntled in Jacksonville, Ngakoue is an upgrade over Everson Griffen and should help provide one of the game’s best pass rushes with holdover Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter.

At linebacker, both Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have shown themselves to be elite. The only question here is at corner in front of the elite safety tandem of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. Minnesota moved on from Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander during the offseason. Can youngsters Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney and Kris Boyd step up?

11. Denver Broncos

Denver’s defense failed to play to its normal standard during the 2019 season. It was particularly surprising given Vic Fangio is one of the NFL’s brightest defensive minds and this team carries plenty of talent on that side of the ball. We’re expecting a turnaround in 2020.

The Broncos took advantage of Tennessee’s cap situation, acquiring Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey for a seventh-round pick. Denver also landed A.J. Bouye, who should flourish in the new surroundings. Add in star safety Justin Simmons, future Hall of Famer Von Miller and emerging edge rusher Bradley Chubb, too. If the Broncos make the playoffs this season, a resurgent defense will be the driving force behind it.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Everyone wants to talk about the Buccaneers’ offense and it’s understandable with the All-Pro supporting cast of weapons surrounding Tom Brady and a loaded backfield. However, Tampa Bay’s defense is being slept on and might be one of the most underrated units in the NFL — one we’re putting in the top 10 in our early 2020 NFL defense rankings.

A young secondary really came together in the second half of the 2019 season. As detailed by Pro Football Focus, Tampa Bay’s secondary posted the third-highest coverage grade (88.1) and forced the most incompletions (44) from Weeks 10-17 last season. The Buccaneers just added Antoine Winfield Jr. to their secondary and have an outstanding defensive line. Credit to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for turning this unit around into a real force.

9. Seattle Seahawks

The addition of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams changes the entire dynamics in Seattle. Here’s a unit that surprisingly gave up the 11th-most points in the NFL last season. Adams will be just as much of a force stopping the run as playing coverage. 

He’s joined by fellow recent acquisition Quinton Dunbar and a Pro Bowl-caliber corner in that of Shaquill Griffin in building one of the best secondaries in the NFL. While Seattle will have issues getting to the quarterback, it’s pass defense is among the best in the game. Period.

8. Chicago Bears

There’s no question Chicago boasts one of the league’s top defenses, a group capable of potentially winning the Super Bowl. Even after losing defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, one of many NFL players who opted out this season, this is a defense that can dominate on Sundays.

Expect Chicago’s front seven to cause a lot of problems for opposing quarterbacks. Khalil Mack is a yearly candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Robert Quinn can be a force off the edge and Akiem Hick will be healthy this season. On top of that, the Bears boast a secondary with Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. It might not be the elite defensive unit we saw in 2018, but this remains one of the NFL’s best defenses.

7. New England Patriots

Bill Belichick’s defense this past season was beyond insane. It allowed the fewest points (225), first downs (261) and total yards (4,414) in the NFL. Frankly, this defense played at a Super Bowl-caliber level and its the offense that kept it from reaching the top. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to see the Patriots replicate that defensive success in 2020.

The losses of Kyle Van Noy and Danny Shelton will hurt the front seven. The likes of starters Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. New England will struggle to create as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and its linebacker corps takes a significant hit. Even with those losses, though, the secondary will shut down plenty of passing attacks. Stephon Gilmore will be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate once more and the NFL’s deepest secondary keeps this unit as an elite defense.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers went into the offseason knowing they would rely on their defense to win. An offense with Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert at quarterback will need a defense capable of generating turnovers and shutting down the passing game.

We don’t expect that to be an issue for Los Angeles. This is the best secondary in the NFL with shutdown corner Casey Hayward and All-Pro defensive backs Chris Harris Jr. Even with the serious injury to Derwin James, these Chargers still have Desmond King in the back end. It will be difficult for opposing receivers to get open. Now add in the recently extended Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram creating havoc off the edge and Linval Joseph collapsing the pocket inside, it’s a nightmare for quarterbacks. If rookie Kenneth Murray lives up to his first-round billing, this could even become a top-three defense this year.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s defense nearly carried it to the playoffs in 2019 despite the team playing most of the season with a No. 3 quarterback and an inconsistent rushing attack. Proof that if you’re towards the top of seasonal NFL defense rankings, you’ve got a chance regardless. And there’s plenty of credit to go around for this unit’s emergence, but Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt are the crucial ingredients to this group’s dominance.

Watt is a monster off the edge, racking up an absurd 36 quarterback hits, 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2019. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is the playmaker capable of incredible pick-sixes and the trade to acquire him will go down as one of the best moves in this team’s recent history. Don’t look past the likes of Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, who help make one of the NFL’s best defensive lines. If Devin Bush takes the next step, this defense gets even scarier.

4. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans finished last season ranked 13th in points allowed. It was a disappointing performance under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Most had this unit pegged as a top-10 bunch heading into the season. There’s a reason for this. We’re talking about talent on top of talent.

Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan remains one of the most-underrated players in the game. He’s joined by a high-upside edge rusher in Marcus Davenport, who needs to trun in a completely healthy 2020 season to live up to his billing as a first-round pick. Meanwhile, this secondary is loaded. It’s led by stud corner Marshon Lattimore and just added veteran Malcolm Jenkins to the mix. Expect New Orleans defense to take a major step forward this season.

3. Buffalo Bills

Tre’Davious White is quickly emerging as one of the league’s elite cornerbacks. He’s also now being paid like it. Behind him, the outstanding safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will help cover for any of Josh Norman’s mistakes and take away the run. In the front seven, Buffalo added defensive end Mario Addison and edge rusher A.J. Epenesa, making this defense even stronger.

We’re particularly excited about Ed Oliver. While he didn’t always play like a top-10 pick in 2019, the pure talent and athleticism are off the charts. If he takes a big step forward this year, he will likely make the Pro Bowl and this defense gets even better. Buffalo’s defense will carry it to an AFC East crown in 2020, the rest will be up to Josh Allen and this offense.

2. Baltimore Ravens

We already loved Baltimore’s defense before the offseason. A big move to land Marcus Peters as the secondary started shutting down air space all year long. It turns out, that wasn’t enough for general manager Eric DeCosta.

The Ravens made two huge additions this past offseason with Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. Instantly, a productive pass-rush unit turned into a ferocious defensive line. Oh, they also drafted Patrick Queen to address their remaining need at linebacker. From the defensive line to the secondary, Baltimore’s defense is loaded. Even after releasing Earl Thomas, this unit still makes Baltimore a legit Super Bowl contender.

1. San Francisco 49ers

Yes, trading away All-Pro DeForest Buckner is a hit for this defense. If we’ve learned anything from the 49ers, they know how to identify and develop talent. Javon Kinlaw can develop into a star and this defense already has the force that is Nick Bosa.

We’ll also need to keep an eye on Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford’s health this season. If they can stay on the field, this group will keep playing at an elite level. Even if the front seven isn’t as dominant, Richard Sherman will shut down No. 1 receivers. When it’s all over, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will use this defense’s dominance to prove he is ready to become a head coach.

At this point we can’t look beyond the 49ers to top the NFL defense rankings for the 2020 season.

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contractor Defense

Defense contractor with billions in sales got millions in pandemic loans intended for small businesses – The Washington Post

A military equipment supplier that has been accused of fraudulently misrepresenting its size in order to benefit from privileges associated with being a small business has received a Paycheck Protection Program small business loan worth at least $2 million, public records show.

Atlantic Diving Supply, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based reseller of specialized military gear, is the latest organization whose receipt of taxpayer-backed loans through the Paycheck Protection Program has raised questions about a program launched in early April to help sustain employment at small companies through the economic crisis.

In late April, the Treasury Department retroactively clarified its rules after well-known restaurant chains, car dealerships and hotel companies reported receiving PPP loans. Several of them returned the loan funds following public uproar; others kept the money. The SBA has said it will audit all PPP loans above $2 million to determine whether the recipients were eligible.

Representatives from the Small Business Administration and Atlantic Diving Supply did not comment on the company’s receipt of SBA loans.

The company’s legal issues are detailed extensively in a report released Monday by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, known as POGO. A review of business data by POGO and the nonprofit Anti-Corruption Data Collective concluded that ADS was one of at least 27 PPP recipients estimated annual sales of more than $1 billion in 2019. Another 2,068 loan recipients cleared $100 million in sales last year, according to the analysis.

Nick Schwellenbach, a senior investigator at POGO, questioned whether it’s appropriate for ADS to receive small business coronavirus loans. Schwellenbach’s investigation also found that two other firms allegedly tied to ADS ― including one that was named in a settlement with the Department of Justice ― separately received smaller PPP loans.

“It’s important that taxpayer funding reserved for genuine small businesses isn’t siphoned off by companies that are not eligible,” Schwellenbach said. “As a top government contractor with revenues well over a billion dollars a year, it strains credibility that Atlantic Diving Supply is a real small business, especially given several recent settlements and law enforcement outcomes related to their alleged small business contracting fraud.”

Although it received a favorable ruling from the SBA as recently as November 2019, ADS’s small business credentials have long been called into question.

ADS started as a small, family-owned shop focused on the military diving community in Virginia Beach, which includes the Navy SEALs. It was transformed under the leadership of long-time chief executive Luke Hillier, winning its first major government contract in 2000. It grew quickly to meet an insatiable demand for military gear of all sorts in the years following 9/11.

That fast growth became permanent business as the U.S. military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere dragged on for nearly two decades.

At one point, ADS filed papers to go public, something that is usually the purview of large corporations. In 2015 it purchased Theodore Wille International, a military food and equipment supplier with offices in seven countries.

Its business has remained healthy despite recent troop reductions. ADS received more than $3 billion in unclassified government contract dollars in 2019, procurement records show. That’s more than some well-known, objectively large government contractors, including Bechtel, KBR and CACI. ADS has already cleared $1 billion in federal contract receipts in 2020 despite the economic crisis.

As it has grown ADS’s continued status as a small business status has been critical to its participation in the Defense Department’s Tailored Logistics Support, or TLS program, a lucrative military supply line that is largely restricted to SBA-approved small and disadvantaged businesses.

In recent years, ADS’s official headcount has teetered close to the SBA’s 500-employee limit for small-company designation, and the company has fought off repeated challenges to its size status. If ADS were declared “no longer small,” it would not only be ineligible for SBA coronavirus assistance, but would also be forbidden from competing on small business set-aside contracts that drive its business.

In 2017, ADS settled federal allegations that it used a network of allegedly-affiliated companies to rig bids and fraudulently misrepresent its size. The Justice Department called the $16 million settlement “one of the largest recoveries involving alleged fraud in connection with small business contracting eligibility.”

Hillier, who has moved on from the CEO role but remained the company’s chairman as of July 20, according to a company filing, separately paid $20 million to settle federal allegations that he “violated the False Claims Act by fraudulently obtaining federal set-aside contracts reserved for small businesses that his company was ineligible to receive.” The settlements resulted from a Qui Tam lawsuit brought by whistleblowers.

Two of the alleged affiliate businesses — Karda Systems and SEK Solutions — were named in a related case in which Ron Villanueva, a former state lawmaker from Virginia Beach, pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to defraud the United States. Villanueva admitted that he and a friend pretended both companies were run by people who qualified for particular grants and drafted a misleading letter to the SBA that mischaracterized the degree to which one firm relied on other suppliers.

ADS briefly lost its small business designation as a result of those allegations when a Defense Department contracting officer, concerned by ADS’s settlement, requested a formal SBA review of the company’s size status and its degree of affiliation with other companies named in the whistleblower lawsuit, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. That SBA review determined that ADS was “other than small,” which temporarily blocked the company from bidding on set-aside contracts. But ADS successfully appealed that ruling, which was reversed because it relied on old financial records.

Today the company continues to receive federal contracts designated for small firms. Because the settlements arrived at by ADS and Hillier did not include a determination of liability, the company has been allowed to keep benefiting from the SBA’s various small business programs. Its most recent size determination, which found it to be a small business, was finalized in November 2019.

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Defense secretary

Defense Secretary Esper, In Careful Exchange, Denies Being Briefed On ‘Bounties’ – NPR

Defense Secretary Mark Esper (left) and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify Thursday before a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images


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Defense Secretary Mark Esper (left) and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify Thursday before a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper never received a briefing about alleged Russian practices against U.S. troops in Afghanistan that included the term “bounty,” he told Congress on Thursday.

Esper said so in an answer to a carefully worded question from Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who appeared to be aware about how to cue Esper, potentially from the lawmaker’s own awareness of the still-secret underlying intelligence about the Russian allegations.

“To the best of my recollection, I have not received a briefing that included the word ‘bounty,’ ” Esper said.

He and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, vowed they are working to ensure American forces in Afghanistan are as well-equipped and well-protected as possible and they suggested the reports about alleged bounties paid by Russian intelligence to Taliban insurgents still aren’t confirmed.

Turner also asked Esper whether, if he had been told about “bounties” specifically, he would have taken action.

Yes, he said.

“If it was a credible report, a credible, corroborated report, that used those words, certainly it would have been brought to my attention by chain of command, by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others, for action. We would have taken upon that action an interagency effort to make sure we addressed it,” Esper said.

Experts Say Intel Should Have Reached Trump On Russian Bounty Program

Neither Esper nor Milley appeared to dispute that some underlying activity might be playing out in Afghanistan, but they both presented the situation as one still unresolved or requiring further investigation.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of all that,” Milley said.

Another Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, suggested that she and other lawmakers had been briefed about the alleged bounties on Thursday and asked the witnesses to restate their commitment to protecting American forces serving abroad.

“You have a thousand percent commitment,” Milley said.

Esper revealed another clue about the origins of the bounty allegations in a separate answer to a question about whether the Defense Department was responsible for assessing that bounties have been paid to Afghan insurgents.

The defense secretary said this: “It was not produced by a DOD intelligence agency” — which rules out a number of big organizations, including the intelligence components of the military services, the Defense Intelligence Agency and perhaps the National Security Agency. The NSA is structured organizationally as a support agency to the Pentagon.

Esper said he’d first learned about the allegations in February in an “intelligence piece of paper” — perhaps a reference to a reported classified CIA bulletin that has been described by The New York Times.

Trump Calls Bounty Report A 'Hoax' Despite Administration's Briefing Of Congress

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee sought to defend President Trump on Thursday and puncture the criticism that his administration bungled the discovery of the alleged bounty practices.

In their telling, officials continue to assess unreliable reports and that’s why the matter was never singled out for the president in an in-person presentation.

Trump has called the alleged bounty practices a “hoax,” and the White House hasn’t said it’ll take any action against Russia in retaliation for whatever is taking place on the ground in Afghanistan.

Congress Unites To Demand Answers From Trump On Russian Bounties In Afghanistan

The underlying intelligence has not become public.

A number of press reports, however, including those led by The New York Times, have described a broad range of evidence, including electronic wire transfers and personal comments by Taliban insurgents, confirming that Russia offered monetary incentives to insurgents for targeting Western troops.

Critics have faulted Trump for creating a process inside his administration in which he reportedly isn’t given pertinent intelligence because it might upset him or in which aides effectively bury unpleasant material in written documents that Trump doesn’t read.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., said the presence or absence of a specific term in official briefing materials “proves nothing — what matters is the substance.”

Also on Thursday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., asked Esper in a letter whether the Defense Department is investigating if any American deaths in Afghanistan may have been linked with the alleged Russian bounty practices.

Her letter alluded to the families of such fallen troops, often denoted with a gold star, and the Russian military intelligence agency that has been connected with the practice, the GRU.

“It is unacceptable that to date, the Trump administration appears to be ignoring a matter of great importance to Gold Star family members whose loved ones were killed while serving in Afghanistan: Were any U.S. troop casualties in Afghanistan connected with the alleged GRU bounty payments to Taliban-linked militants?” Duckworth asked. “Gold Star families deserve an answer to this question.”

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Defense Trump

Trump will use Defense Production Act to ORDER meat-processing plants to stay open – Daily Mail

President Donald Trump on Tuesday will sign an executive order declaring the food supply chain is critical infrastructure and order meat processing plants to remain open amid scares of a shortage.

Trump will use the Defense Production Act to order the plants to stay open, a person familiar with the order told DailyMail.com, and the government will provide additional protective gear to the employees. 

The president confirmed to reporters he would be signing an order late Tuesday. 

‘We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe,’ Trump said in the Oval office. ‘We’ll be in very good shape. We’re working with Tyson, one of the big companies in that world. We always work with the farmers.’

‘There’s plenty of supply, it’s distribution,’ he added. ‘And we will probably have that today solved. It’s a very unique circumstance, because of liability.’ 

Earlier Tuesday Trump tried to calm mounting fears of a food crisis by telling Americans ‘there is no shortage of meat.’

The country’s largest meat companies – including Smithfield Foods Inc , Cargill Inc , JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc – have halted operations at about 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America since April after workers became ill with the coronavirus, sparking fears of a meat shortage. 

The president took to twitter to try and calm concerns, retweeting a post from The Counter, a nonprofit that examines the nation’s food supply. 

‘First, there is no shortage of meat destined for the grocery store shelf. It might take stores longer than usual to restock certain products, due to supply chain disruptions. But we have many millions of pounds of meat in cold storage across the nation,’ it read.  

President Donald Trump tried to calm mounting fears of a food crisis by telling Americans ‘there is no shortage of meat’

President Trump retweeted a message about the country’s meat supply

The pork industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus as meat processing plants have closed throughout the country

The USDA reported last week there is 921 million pounds of chicken in storage and 467 million pounds of boneless beef, including hamburger, roasts and steaks. 

The demand for meat has gone up under stay-at-home orders with more Americans cooking instead of eating out.  

But before much of that meat could be sold at grocery stores it would need to be recut and repackaged, as restaurants buy in greater bulk than an individual at a market. 

Even if there is no shortage of meat, prices are expect to rise and selection is expected to decrease as companies warn that grocery shelves may take longer to fill.

The Agriculture said last week beef prices are expect to rise 1% to 2% this year, poultry as much as 1.5% and pork between by from 2% and 3%.

More than 5,000 meat and food processing workers have been infected by the coronavirus and 13 have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said last week.

Meanwhile, live stock farmers are facing difficult choices. With meat processing plants unable to take animals, the farmers are considering having piglets aborted and euthanizing animals as they run out of space to house them 

The pork industry typically slaughters around 510,000 pigs daily for bacon, hams and sausage. 

But, because of the coronavirus, plants that handle one-fifth of the daily total, or 105,000 pigs a day, have closed – leading to a backup on farms and raising the prospect of having to euthanize them and then render or bury the carcasses, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The pork industry has been hit especially hard. Three of the largest process plants in the United States have gone offline indefinitely: Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa.

Unlike cattle, which can be housed outside in fields, hogs are fattened up inside temperature-controlled buildings. If they stay too long, they get big and injure themselves. Mature animals have to be moved out before the sows who were impregnated before the pandemic give birth. 

‘We have nowhere to go with the pigs,’ Iowa farmer Al Van Beek told Reuters. ‘What are we going to do?’

The president’s reassurance also comes as the chairman of Tyson Foods warned Sunday that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking after coronavirus outbreaks forced the closure of their plants. 

John Tyson said ‘millions of pounds of meat’ will fail to reach stores and there will be a ‘limited supply of our products available in grocery stores’ until they are able to reopen facilities currently closed.  

Tyson Foods announced last week that it was shuttering two pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

‘We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America,’ John Tyson said.

‘This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.’

Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, pictured, after operating at reduced capacity

ATyson Foods Inc unit said on Thursday it will temporarily halt production at a beef facility in Pasco, Washington, pictured, adding to the meat processing plant the company has had to shutter as it tests workers for COVID-19

Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, pictured, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19

Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after operating at reduced capacity. 

Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19. 

John Tyson, pictured, has warned that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking

The company also temporarily closed a beef processing plant in Pasco, Washington. 

The closures are limiting the amount of meat the United States can produce during the outbreak and adding stress on farmers who are losing markets for their pigs.

Lockdowns that aim to stop the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented farmers around the globe from delivering food products to consumers. 

Millions of laborers cannot get to fields for harvesting and planting, and there are too few truckers to keep goods moving. 

Tyson’s statement, in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday, came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer. 

Employers have struggled to contain the virus in meatpacking plants, where workers toil side by side on production lines and often share crowded locker rooms, cafeterias and rides to work. 

One Tyson worker at the plant in Waterloo told CNN he called HR amid concerns coronavirus was at the facility. 

Ernest Latiker said: ‘I was scared for me and my family. They told me I was safe and they told me that everything was ok.

‘They told me I have a better chance of catching the coronavirus going out to Walmart than at Tyson, if you come to work you’re safe. 

‘I wanted to believe to them and I needed the money at the same time so I went to work.’  

Tyson Foods worker Ernest Latiker, pictured, said he called HR amid coronavirus concerns

Tyson’s statement in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer

Spread of coronavirus closes meat plants

Some of the facilities that have shut or reduced production as coronavirus spreads:

JBS USA said it would indefinitely close a pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota, that processes 20,000 hogs a day.

JBS closed a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, until April 24. 

Smithfield Foods indefinitely shut a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant that produces about 4% to 5% of U.S. pork. 

Smithfield also shuttered two plants in Wisconsin and Missouri that process bacon and ham.

Tyson Foods Inc closed a hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa. It has since reopened

National Beef Packing Co suspended cattle slaughtering at an Iowa Premium beef plant in Tama, Iowa

 National Beef said it suspended operations at a Dodge City, Kansas, beef plant for cleaning and to install stainless steel partitions 

Aurora Packing Company temporarily closed a beef plant in Aurora, Illinois

JBS shut a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania. It reopened on April 20

Cargill closed a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that produces meat for U.S. grocery stores

The health department in Ogle County, Illinois, on April 17 ordered a Rochelle Foods plant owned by Hormel Foods Corp to close for two weeks

Hormel-owned Alma Foods suspended production at a Kansas plant until May 4 

Sanderson Farms Inc reduced chicken production to 1 million birds a week from 1.3 million at a plant in Moultrie, Georgia.

‘Consumers will see an impact at the grocery store as production slows,’ Tyson Fresh Meats Group President Steve Stouffer had said last week.

‘It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.’

After the closure of the Logansport facility, slaughterhouses that account for 19 per cent of pork production in the United States will be shut. 

And coronavirus-related staffing shortages at chicken processing plants will lead farms in Maryland and Delaware to destroy nearly two million chickens.

The Baltimore Sun reported Friday that the plants are unable to keep pace with the number of birds that are ready for harvest. They had been placed into poultry houses as chicks several weeks ago.

The chickens will not be processed for meat.

The trade group the Delmarva Poultry Industry said that every poultry plant on the Delmarva Peninsula has struggled with a reduced worker attendance. The reasons include workers being sick with the coronavirus and people following guidance to stay home if sick.

The Delmarva Peninsula includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The trade group said that one unidentified company has become the first to do what’s called ‘depopulation.’ The trade group said the company was unable to find other options, such as allowing another company to take the chickens.

Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc said the chickens will killed ‘using approved, humane methods’. 

The former Chief Veterinary Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Clifford, said at the time of avian flu ‘the fastest way and probably the most humane way to take care of this’ was to ‘shut off ventilation systems.’

The trade group said that the extermination methods have been approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for handling cases of infectious avian disease.      

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