Monday, March 30, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/27/2015

"Shields and Brooks on Harry Reid’s retirement, Yemen turmoil response" PBS NewsHour 3/27/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement announcement, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Presidential prospects and U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict.

CONGRESS - House Approves Payment Plan for Doctors

"House approves permanent fix for Medicare doctor payment" PBS NewsHour 3/26/2015


SUMMARY:  For more than a decade, doctors who treat Medicare patients have been threatened with pay cuts due to a faulty formula of how doctors are reimbursed.  But in a rare bipartisan agreement, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a deal to permanently end the problem and reward quality of care, not quantity.  Gwen Ifill learns more from Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  In Congress today, a rare and significant bipartisan agreement.  The House of Representatives overwhelmingly agreed to repair Medicare.  For over a decade, doctors have faced repeated threats of pay cuts.  But this new deal would permanently end the uncertainty.

Plus, it put House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in the rare position of being on the same side.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House:  This will be the first real entitlement reform that we have seen in nearly two decades.  And that’s a big win for the American people.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, House Minority Leader:  I just have confidence that the quality of what we have done, what has been crafted in the House is really a good bipartisan initiative.

GWEN IFILL:  Here to explain the deal and how it would work is Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

Mary Agnes, there have been 17 patches, fixes, temporary fixes for this over the years.  It’s not a new problem.  What changed this time?

MARY AGNES CAREY, Kaiser Health News:  A couple years ago, members of the House and the Senate, bipartisan member of the relevant committees, came together and decided a policy on how to move forward to pay Medicare physicians.

SUPREME COURT - EPA Limits on Mercury and Work Accommodations for Women

"Supreme Court tests EPA’s limits on mercury air pollution" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2015


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court heard arguments over federal pollution mandates.  The EPA says its limits on toxic contaminants like mercury in power plant emissions are vital to human health, but energy producers are arguing the EPA didn’t take costs into consideration when the limits were created.  Gwen Ifill gets debate from Vickie Patton of the Environmental Defense Fund and David Rivkin of BakerHostetler.

"Supreme Court weighs in on accommodations for pregnant workers, Alabama redistricting" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2015


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court released two significant decisions on Wednesday.  In one, the court revived a lawsuit by a UPS worker who sued her employer after she was put on unpaid leave when she could not perform normal duties because she was pregnant.  In another, the justices split 5-4 over voter redistricting in Alabama.  Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal joins Gwen Ifill to discuss the cases.

MEDIA - Vital Arts vs OnLine Entertainment

"How do we keep arts vital in an age of online entertainment?" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2015


SUMMARY:  When was the last time you went to the theater, or watched a modern dance concert?  Why are Americans less connected to the arts?  In his new book, “Curtains?  The Future of the Arts in America,” Michael Kaiser, a former chief of the Kennedy Center, American Ballet Theatre and others, considers what arts organizations can do to thrive and survive.  Kaiser discusses his book with Jeffrey Brown.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Have you been to the theater lately, seen a modern dance concert?  Have your children?  Will those theater dance and other arts institutions survive?

The questions are at the heart of a new book with a question in its title, “Curtains?:  The Future of the Arts in America.”

Author Michael Kaiser has headed many arts organizations, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Ballet Theater and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe.  He now heads the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.

And welcome to you.

What’s the — if I say, what’s the essential problem, is it economic, cultural?  What is it?  How do you sum it up?

MICHAEL KAISER, Author, “Curtains?:  The Future of the Arts in America”:  We have faced many challenges in the arts for many years, but more recently, so much entertainment and arts are available online or in movie theaters.  And they are becoming very important competitors to those who present live performances in their theaters.

FAILING STATE - Yemen Government Collapses, What's Next

"Yemen’s government collapses after rebels offer bounty for President Hadi" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2015

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the chaos in Yemen, which seems to be growing with each passing hour, with questions of who’s in control.

The last vestiges of Yemen’s government crumbled as Shiite Houthi rebels advanced on Aden.  The pro-American president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, had taken refuge there, but the Houthis offered $100,000 for his capture, and local officials said he fled on a boat.

Hadi’s foreign minister, speaking from Egypt, disputed that report.

RIAD YASSIN, Foreign Minister, Yemen (through interpreter):  Until now, Aden is still standing.  The president is still in Aden, and he is trying as hard as possible to withstand.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In Washington, the State Department said only that Hadi has left the presidential palace.

JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman:  He is no longer at his residence, which you have seen in reporting, but we can certainly confirm.  I’m not in a position to confirm any additional details from here about his location.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Houthi advance was aided by fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2011.  The rebels now control the capital, Sanaa, and have spread south and west.  Their advance, with Iran’s apparent support, prompted Saudi Arabia to station forces along its border with Yemen.

“Victory to the revolution,” they cried. “Victory to the south.”

As the rebels cheered today, Hadi’s aides formally asked the Sunni Arab states to come to his aid.

"Who will fill Yemen’s power vacuum?" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2015


SUMMARY:  In Yemen, Houthi Shiite rebels now control the capital, have spread south and west, and are making an advance on Aden, driving out President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.  Who will rise to power and how does the turmoil affect the region?  Leslie Campbell of the National Democratic Institute joins Judy Woodruff to offer analysis.

"Yemen chaos takes another sharp turn with Saudi airstrikes" PBS NewsHour 3/26/2015


SUMMARY:  In Yemen’s capital Sanaa, people awoke overnight to explosions as Saudi jets bombarded military targets.  The goal of the operation, which killed at least 18 civilians, was to drive out Shiite Houthi rebels who have taken over much of the country.  Iran, key supporter of the Houthis, denounced the strikes.  Judy Woodruff reports.

DISPATCH IRAN - Inside Look, Modern Life

"Journalist offers inside look at modern life in Iran" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2015


SUMMARY:  Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, offers a rarely seen personal look at daily life in Iran, the first report in a series called 'Dispatch:  Iran.'

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Tonight, the first in a series of short films we will bring you by Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief of The New York TimesThe Dutch-born journalist has lived in Iran since 2002.

Personal rather than political, his portraits show a side of life in the country few get to see.

Tonight, an introduction to our series, Dispatch: Iran.

THOMAS ERDBRINK, The New York Times:  This is where it all started, here in the desert in the middle of Iran.

I was a young journalist and came here the write about a student uprising.  I fell in love with Newsha, an Iranian photographer, and decided to move to Tehran.

It was so different for me to be here, and I think Newsha in many ways symbolized that.  Of course, yes, I could have married a girl from the Dutch countryside and it maybe would have been different and maybe in many ways would have been easier, but I’m happy I choose you.

NEWSHA TAVAKOLIAN:  Of course you should be.


THOMAS ERDBRINK:  This is the mysterious and isolated country where I arrived as a young man and where I have been working as a correspondent for the past 12 years, first for some Dutch newspapers and television channels, and since a couple years for The New York Times.

MEDICAID - The Immortal Bill

"The Medicaid bill that doesn’t go away when you die" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2015


SUMMARY:  Medicaid is thought of as free health insurance for the poor, but federal law requires that recipients pay for the costs of long-term care.  And when patients die, Medicaid charges the expenses to the leftover assets in their estates, sometimes passing the burden on to heirs.  Special correspondent Sally Schilling reports on how California is debating the rule.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Our next story is about Medicaid.  The government health insurance program recently expanded to millions of Americans.  Although often considered free health insurance for the poor, federal law requires Medicaid to charge recipients for certain services, and they are sometimes billed after they die.  Medicaid then charges the expenses to their leftover assets.  It’s called estate recovery, and it’s making many people think twice.

Sally Schilling, a student at the University of California Berkeley Journalism School, brings us the story.

SALLY SCHILLING, UC Berkeley:  The rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid brought hope to people like Ruth and Rod Morgan, who had gone without health insurance for 10 years.

RUTH MORGAN:  When I heard about the Affordable Care Act, we were very excited.  We were finally going to have health coverage.

SALLY SCHILLING:  The Morgans live in Stockton, California.  They are in their early 60s and are retired, aside from Rod’s occasional construction jobs.

RUTH MORGAN:  We were pretty much forced into retirement because of the economic downturn.  There just wasn’t any work.

ROD MORGAN:  And, I mean, we don’t have much.  But I would love to give our kids something.  I would like to leave them a little something when we’re gone.

SALLY SCHILLING:  In states that have opted to expand Medicaid, like California, anyone making $16,000 or less per year now qualifies for Medicaid.  But the Morgans were hesitant to sign up for California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.  They had heard that Medi-Cal would bill their estate after they die.

SUPREME CORT - Specialty License Plates and Voter ID Laws

"How the First Amendment affects your specialty license plate" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2015


SUMMARY:  Does the state of Texas have the right to issue specialty license plates featuring a Confederate flag?  Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal fills in Gwen Ifill on the case being argued at the Supreme Court, as well as a decision to not take up a Wisconsin voter ID case.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  It was a busy day at the Supreme Court.  The justices decided not to take up a voter I.D. case out of Wisconsin, and they heard arguments over the right to issue license plates in Texas that feature a Confederate Flag.

NewsHour contributor Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal was there again and joins me now.

Let’s start by talking about this Wisconsin case.  In 2011, it was a big deal, this idea that voters had to present photo I.D.s at the polls.  And this was considered by Democrats to be voter suppression and by Republicans a chance to beat back voter fraud.

So now this gets to the Supreme Court, and they decided to end it?

MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal:  Not really.

They decided not to hear the Wisconsin case, so that leaves in place the lower court decision upholding Wisconsin’s law.  But the court said nothing about the merits of the challenge to Wisconsin’s law.  And, Gwen, right now, there are a number of other cases pending and moving up the pipeline that challenge other states’ voter I.D. laws, and, in particular, Texas and North Carolina.

Texas, there was a full-blown trial and the judge in that case found intentional racial discrimination by the state of Texas, unlike in Wisconsin.  That case is now on appeal in the Fifth Circuit, and it is expected whoever loses will take it to the Supreme Court.  So as of today, we really don’t know how the justices think about some of these laws.

GWEN IFILL:  But we know that, originally, this was put on hold not because of the merits of the case, but because it was too close to an election.

MARCIA COYLE:  Exactly.  There’s a court doctrine.  The court doesn’t like to see changes to election law shortly before elections.

The Wisconsin law was going to go in effect right before midterm elections.  Now, today, the ACLU and other groups that have challenged Wisconsin’s law immediately went to the lower court to ask again that it be put on hold temporarily, because there is an April 6, I believe, election.  And, again, they haven’t had time to implement the changes.

GWEN IFILL:  Right.  OK.

Well, let’s move on to the arguments of the case today, because it seems like we never get away from a debate, periodically, politically, legally, about the Confederate Flag, this time on a license plate.

HISTORY - WWII Women Code Crackers

"Hacking the Nazis:  The secret story of the women who broke Hitler's codes" by Nick Heath, TechRepublic
Ruth Bourne, aged 18, wearing her Wrens uniform.

Of the 10,000-plus staff at the Government Code and Cypher School during World War II, two-thirds were female.  Three veteran servicewomen explain what life was like as part of the code-breaking operation during World War II.

"I was given one sentence, 'We are breaking German codes, end of story'."

It was Ruth Bourne's first job out of college, when, like thousands of other young British women during World War II, she was recruited to aid the Allied cipher-breaking efforts at Bletchley Park.

Today, the mansion in the heart of the southeast English countryside is famous for being where the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing cracked the Nazi's Enigma code.

Because Turing's individual achievements were so momentous, it's sometimes forgotten that more than 10,000 other people worked at the Government Code and Cypher School, of whom more than two-thirds were female.  These servicewomen played a pivotal role in an operation that decrypted millions of German messages and which is credited with significantly shortening the war.

The vital importance of preempting German plans led to a huge push to create machines that could crack ciphers at superhuman speeds.  These efforts produced Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic digital computer.

However, the reality of running these electromechanical machines, setting rotors and plugging boards day in day out, was often less than thrilling, with the 18-year-old Bourne envying the girls who test-piloted aircraft fresh off the production line.

"That was exciting but standing in front of a machine for eight hours was not," she said.

As mundane as her daily routine was, it was vital in deciphering coded messages sent by the German army, navy and air force and helping the Allied forces turn the tide of war.

The problem facing Britain and its allies early in the war was that the Enigma machine used to encrypt Nazi military traffic could scramble a message in 158 million million million ways, and each day the settings used would be changed.  On top of that, on an average day at Bletchley Park code-breakers were tasked with breaking between 2,000 and 6,000 messages of German, Italian, Japanese and Chinese origin.  There were far too many to check by hand.

The code-breaking needed to be automated, and it fell to British mathematician and father of the computer Alan Turing, with the help of the British Tabulating Machine Company, to devise the machine for the job.

His solution was the Bombe, an electromechanical machine designed to emulate the workings of 36 Enigmas.

Bourne was a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service, known as the Wrens, who were charged with preparing the machines each day, turning the drums on the front and plugging up the boards at the back according to settings laid out in a menu.  These settings were derived from cribs, which were best guesses at fragments of plain text—for example, standard openings such as weather reports—from the enciphered messages.

If correct, these cribs would reveal some of the Enigma settings used to encode the message and provide a starting point for devising the remaining settings.  The Bombe could check the possible ways the Enigma could have been set up incredibly rapidly, dismissing incorrect settings one at a time.

If the crib and initial settings were good, then the Bombe could return the information needed to crack the code within minutes.

"I joined just around D-Day and at that time the traffic was tremendous.  We were breaking thousands of messages," Bourne said.

"We knew that every 24 hours the code was changed and that was why time and accuracy were of the absolute essence.  You were really pressured."

Like Bourne, many of the Navy Wrens operating the Bombs were teenagers not long out of school, who found themselves working a punishing schedule, with very little margin for error.

Bourne said, "You didn't have to be rocket scientists but what you had to be was 125 percent accurate.  You worked in pairs and you and your checker would plug up the back of your machine, which was extremely complicated.  You had to brush out the wires on your drums so there wouldn't be short circuits, make sure the plugs at the back of the machine were pushed in and straight, and you had to be on the go for the eight-hour shift, as you were standing for the whole time."

There was little respite during a shift for the Bombe operators, even during meal times.

"You had half an hour off for a meal," said Bourne.  "The Bombs were in a building with high brick walls, barbed wire and sentries, you had to get out from there, run to your canteen, grab your meal and run back and then your checker, who'd been operating while you were away, could go and get her meal.  It was very intense and very concentrated. We were young and learned quickly."

The high-point of the day was getting a "Job Up" message, as it meant that their machine had broken a code, but she was always conscious one mistake could wreck their chances.

Bourne said, "You were a link in the chain and you couldn't be the weakest link.  If you'd made a mistake on your machine—you hadn't pushed a drum on properly or you'd put a plug in incorrectly—and the machine wouldn't work, you would get a reprimand, 'If you had been more accurate, we might have brought the job up'."

Adding to the stress were the working conditions.  Bombe operators worked round the clock, with teams spending one week working 8am to 4pm, the next 4pm until midnight and then midnight to 8am after that.

"The main pressure was the changing of the shifts, because you were always jetlagged.  Your body clock was all over the place.  I found it very hard to sleep during the daytime as there were not really proper blackout curtains, they were very flimsy and thin," said Bourne.

Outside this serious work, however, Bourne and her fellow Wrens were pretty normal teenagers, with similar preoccupations to those of young people today.

"We had two lives really," Bourne said.  "One where you were in your workstation and you knew your Bombe machine was ticking over and you brought a job up.  But outside that it was being a normal girly in the Wrens.  'Who were you dating tonight?  Where have you been?  Are you going dancing in Covent Garden?'  That kind of thing."

HILLARY CLINTON - Private Emails

"Private Emails Reveal Ex-Clinton Aide’s Secret Spy Network" by Jeff Gerth (ProPublica) and Sam Biddle (Gawker), ProPublica 3/27/2015

The whole issue of Hillary's emails is a made-up Chicken Little event by Republicans.  Also, what is wrong with a Secretary of State getting intelligence directly from an insider?

Emails disclosed by a hacker show a close family friend was funneling intelligence about the crisis in Libya directly to the Secretary of State’s private account starting before the Benghazi attack.

Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.

The emails, which were posted on the internet in 2013, also show that Blumenthal and another close Clinton associate discussed contracting with a retired Army special operations commander to put operatives on the ground near the Libya-Tunisia border while Libya’s civil war raged in 2011.

Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations.  They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.

The contents of that account are now being sought by a congressional inquiry into the Benghazi attacks.  Clinton has handed over more than 30,000 pages of her emails to the State Department, after unilaterally deciding which ones involved government business; the State Department has so far handed almost 900 pages of those over to the committee.  A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica (which are collaborating on this story) that she has turned over all the emails Blumenthal sent to Clinton.

The dispatches from Blumenthal to Clinton’s private email address were posted online after Blumenthal’s account was hacked in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar, who went by the name Guccifer.  Lazar also broke into accounts belonging to George W. Bush’s sister, Colin Powell, and others.  He’s now serving a seven-year sentence in his home country and was charged in a U.S. indictment last year.

The contents of the memos, which have recently become the subject of speculation in the right-wing media, raise new questions about how Clinton used her private email account and whether she tapped into an undisclosed back channel for information on Libya’s crisis and other foreign policy matters.

Blumenthal, a New Yorker staff writer in the 1990s, became a top aide to President Bill Clinton and worked closely with Hillary Clinton during the fallout from the Whitewater investigation into the Clinton family.  She tried to hire him when she joined President Obama’s cabinet in 2009, but White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly nixed the idea on the grounds Blumenthal was a divisive figure whose attacks on Obama during the Democratic primary had poisoned his relationship with the new administration.

It’s unclear who tasked Blumenthal, known for his fierce loyalty to the Clintons, with preparing detailed intelligence briefs.  It’s also not known who was paying him, or where the operation got its money.  The memos were marked “confidential” and relied in many cases on “sensitive” sources in the Libyan opposition and Western intelligence and security services.  Other reports focused on Egypt, Germany, and Turkey.

Indeed, though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005.  Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC.  He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield.  DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”

In one exchange in March 2013, Blumenthal emailed Drumheller, “Thanks.  Can you send Libya report.”  Drumheller replied, “Here it is, pls do not share it with Cody.  I don’t want moin speculating on sources.  It is on the Maghreb and Libya.”  Cody is Cody Shearer, a longtime Clinton family operative—his brother was an ambassador under Bill Clinton and his now-deceased sister was married to Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott — who was in close contact with Blumenthal.  While it’s not entirely clear from the documents, “Moin” may refer to the nickname of Mohamed Mansour El Kikhia, a member of the Kikhia family, a prominent Libyan clan with ties to the Libyan National Transition Council.  (An email address in Blumenthal’s address book, which was also leaked, was associated with his Facebook page.)

There’s no indication in Blumenthal’s emails whether Clinton read or replied to them before she left State on February 1, 2013, but he was clearly part of a select group with knowledge of the private address, which was unknown to the public until Gawker published it this year.  They do suggest that she interacted with Blumenthal using the account after she stepped down.  “H: got your message a few days ago,” reads the subject line of one email from Blumenthal to Clinton on February 8, 2013; “H: fyi, will continue to send relevant intel,” reads another.

The memos cover a wide array of subjects in extreme detail, from German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s conversations with her finance minister about French president Francois Hollande – marked “THIS INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE”—to the composition of the newly elected South Korean president’s transition team.  At least 10 of the memos deal in whole or in part with internal Libyan politics and the government’s fight against militants, including the status of the Libyan oil industry and the prospects for Western companies to participate.

One memo was sent on August 23, 2012, less than three weeks before Islamic militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.  It cites “an extremely sensitive source” who highlighted a string of bombings and kidnappings of foreign diplomats and aid workers in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, suggesting they were the work of people loyal to late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi.

While the memo doesn’t rise to the level of a warning about the safety of U.S. diplomats, it portrays a deteriorating security climate.  Clinton noted a few days after the Benghazi attack, which left four dead and 10 people injured, that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t have advance knowledge of the threat.

On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a “sensitive source” saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.

Blumenthal followed up the next day with an email titled “Re: More Magariaf private reax.”  It said Libyan security officials believed an Islamist radical group called the Ansa al Sharia brigade had prepared the attack a month in advance and “took advantage of the cover” provided by the demonstrations against the video.

An October 25, 2012 memo says that Magariaf and the Libyan army chief of staff agree that the “situation in the country is becoming increasingly dangerous and unmanageable” and “far worse” than Western leaders realize.

Blumenthal’s email warnings, of course, followed a year of Libyan hawkishness on the part of Clinton.  In February of 2011, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that "it is time for Gaddafi to go.”  The next month, after having described Russian reluctance over military intervention as “despicable,” Clinton met with rebel leaders in Paris and drummed up support for a no-fly zone while in Cairo.  On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted to back Libyan rebels against Gaddafi.

It’s this buildup, which Clinton still proudly recalled in her 2014 memoir, that Blumenthal appears to join in on 2011.  In addition to the intel memos, his emails also disclose that he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition, and even plotted to insert operatives on the ground using a private contractor.

A May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.”  Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria.

“Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal.  “It is going to be around $60,000, covering r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”

After Blumenthal forwarded that note to Shearer, he wrote back questioning the cost of the operation.  “Sid, do you think the general has to send four guys.  He told us three guys yesterday, a translator and two other guys.  I understand the difficulty of the mission and realize that K will be repaid but I am going to need an itemized budget for these guys.”

“The general” and “Grange” appear to refer to David L. Grange, a major general in the Army who ran a secret Pentagon special operations unit before retiring in 1999.  Grange subsequently founded Osprey Global Solutions, a consulting firm and government contractor that offers logistics, intelligence, security training, armament sales, and other services.  The Osprey Foundation, which is a nonprofit arm of Osprey Global Solutions, is listed as one of the State Department’s “global partners” in a 2014 report from the Office of Global Partnerships.’

Among the documents in the cache released by Lazar is an August 24, 2011, memorandum of understanding between Osprey Global Solutions and the Libyan National Transition Council—the entity that took control in the wake of Qadaffi’s execution—agreeing that Osprey will contract with the NTC to “assist in the resumption of access to its assets and operations in country” and train Libyan forces in intelligence, weaponry, and “rule-of-land warfare.”  The document refers to meetings held in Amman, Jordan between representatives of Osprey and a Mohammad Kikhia, who represented the National Transition Council.

Five months later, according to a document in the leak, Grange wrote on Osprey Global letterhead to Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, introducing Osprey as a contractor eager to provide humanitarian and other assistance in Libya.  “We are keen to support the people of Libya under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Finance and the Libyan Stock Exchange,” Grange wrote. Shapiro is a longtime Clinton loyalist; he served on her Senate staff as foreign policy adviser.

Another document in the cache, titled “Letter_for_Moin,” is an appeal from Drumheller to then-Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan offering the services of Tyler Drumheller LLC, “to develop a program that will provide discreet confidential information allowing the appropriate entities in Libya to address any regional and international challenges.”

The “K” who was, according to Shearer’s email, to be “repaid” for his role in the Tunisia operation appears to be someone named Khalifa al Sherif, who sent Blumenthal several emails containing up-to-the-minute information on the civil war in Libya, and appears to have been cited as a source in several of the reports.

Contacted by ProPublica and Gawker, Drumheller’s attorney and business partner Danny Murray confirmed that Drumheller “worked” with Blumenthal and was aware of the hacked emails, but declined to comment further.

Shearer said only that "the FBI is involved and told me not to talk.  There is a massive investigation of the hack and all the resulting information.”  The FBI declined to comment.

Blumenthal, Grange, and Kikhia all did not respond to repeated attempts to reach them.  Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton had no comment on Blumenthal’s activities with Drumheller.

Whatever Blumenthal, Shearer, Drumheller, and Grange were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf, it appears that she could have used the help:  According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012—the height of the Libya crisis—State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers.  Today, State has three Libyan desk officers and 11 people in the Near Eastern Magreb Bureau.  A State Department official wouldn't say how many officers were on the desk in 2011, but said there was always "at least one" officer and "sometimes many more, working on Libya."

Reached for comment, a State Department public affairs official who would only speak on background declined to address questions about Blumenthal’s relationship to Clinton, whether she was aware of the intelligence network, and who if anyone was paying Blumenthal.  Asked about the Tunisia-Libya mission, the official replied, “There was a trip with the secretary in October of 2011, but there was also a congressional delegation in April, 2011.  There were media reports about both of these at the time."  Neither trip involved traveling via Tunis.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

VACCINE WARS - The Lie, Vaccines Cause Disorders

There is a war against vaccines that is putting our children in danger.

It is a war from parents who have no scientific evidence that vaccines cause disorders like Autism, their evidence is ONLY coincidental.

Example:  Autism presents during the same period that the triple-shot vaccine is given to children, so some parents make a connection.  But there is NO validated study that supports any connection between Autism and the triple-shot vaccine.  In fact there are studies that prove there is NO connection.

Suggest all who are concerned view the full documentary:

"The Vaccine War" Frontline 3/24/2015

There is also a mistaking idea that the diseases prevented by vaccinations are eradicated.  They are NOT.  The problem is parents who do not understand the medical science that viruses do not go away, they are still in the world and the diseases can come back, and WILL COME BACK if vaccinations are not given.

The younger generations have no experience with diseases that are prevented by vaccinations so they have no idea of the danger they are exposing their children, and children in they community, if they do not vaccinate.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SPORTS - Legalized Sport Gambling?

"Is legalizing sports gambling a mad idea?" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2015


SUMMARY:  Billions of dollars every year are wagered on the outcome of various sporting events, but except for bets made in Las Vegas and a few other states, they're all illegal.  Now, representatives from cash-strapped states and even the NBA commissioner are behind the push to legalize sports betting, which they say will yield economic benefits.  But plenty of opponents to the idea remain.  NewsHour's William Brangham reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Right now, millions of basketball fans in America are breaking the law… by betting on the NCAA’s March Madness tournament.  And it’s not just college hoops, it’s bets placed on any sport:  the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA. Billions of dollars every year are wagered, but — except for bets placed in person, in Las Vegas — they’re almost all illegal.

Chad Millman is the editor of ESPN the Magazine, which put NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — and his discussion of legalizing sports betting — on last month’s front cover.

Right now, outside of Las Vegas, it is illegal for me to place a bet on sports.  So how does one go about doing that?

CHAD MILLMAN, ESPN:  You call your bookie.  You go online.  A lot– there’s a lot of internet sites where you can make a bet.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Off-shore betting sites like this one, called Bovada, are a huge hub for betting on sports.  It’s illegal for Americans to use these sites, but they do.  Authorities have cracked down on these transactions, but they still continue.  Notice the website’s address — it’s — you might think that stands for ‘Las Vegas’?  No, it’s Latvia.

Because it’s a black market, it’s hard to know exactly how much money gets wagered illegally, but the Federal government estimated it ranges from 80 to 300 billion dollars — that’s billion with a 'b' — every year.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/20/2015

"Shields and Brooks on Netanyahu’s election provocation, human trafficking holdup" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including provocative pre-election comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the House Republicans’ budget priorities, the congressional standoff over the human trafficking bill, plus personal predictions for March Madness.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Let me turn you both to this country, to Congress.

Right now, the budget, Republicans — we now see, David, what the Republicans want to do with the budget.  Many of them are arguing we need to cut $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years, cutting Medicaid, cutting food stamps.  Democrats are screaming, this is way too much.  Do you see balance here?  What do you see?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Yes, this is sort of happening on two levels.

One is the grand vision level, what do you want, and the budget — the Republican budget in the House does have a grand vision.  They’re right to say we need massive changes to get the balance in budget.  Over the next 10 years, the national debt is rising significantly up to about 78 percent of GDP.  It’s very high, getting way higher the 10 out years.

So they do need to do things.  I think the Republican budget priorities are messed up.  I salute for the way they’re attacking some of the entitlement programs, but they are taking huge cuts, by pretending they’re just block-granting it to the states, out of Medicaid, from the least fortunate.

Then they’re taking huge cuts out of domestic discretionary spending, which is already at his historic lows.  And so I agree with the idea of cutting, but it should all be coming out of entitlements for the affluent and not out of domestic discretionary, which is welfare, education, all the stuff the government does, parks, FBI, and it shouldn’t be coming out of Medicaid.

So, I like their approach.  I just don’t like the priorities they demonstrate in the broad brush.  Let me just quickly on — the narrow thing is over where to cut defense.  And the Republicans are just hugely divided.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  I think they want to increase defense, Judy.  It’s part of the Republican creed.

And they — for the first time, understandably, they have a real advantage on national security.  And it’s measured in the polls.  We’re going into what they hope would be a national security election.  But it’s also part of what has been the consistent Republican position.

And they now are a more interventionist party than they have been at any time since George W. Bush left office.  But I — at the same time, you have got the deficit hawks who really are — it’s beyond — they have given a bad name to smoke and mirrors.  I mean, they are saying, we’re going to report — repeal the Affordable Care Act and we’re going to cut — we’re going to cut Medicare and Medicaid.

The Senate doesn’t do that, the Senate Republicans.  They voted for it when they were not in power, but they don’t include it as part of their agenda when they are in power.  So I think what we’re seeing is a lot of back and forth.  As long as Republicans won’t — won’t raise taxes and as long as Democrats won’t in any way make entitlements based on need, rather than just across the board, I really think that we’re doomed to this deadlock.
JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, the other story out of the Senate this week has to do with holding up the nomination, the confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch, the president’s choice to be attorney general.

In fact, the President, in an interview today with Huffington Post, said, don’t hold the attorney general nominee hostage for other reasons.  It’s the top law enforcement job.  He’s been arguing that they need to break the logjam.

But, Mark, the argument that Democrats are making is — or that Republicans are making is that we’re going to hold this up until you pass this human trafficking bill.  That’s now being held up by language over abortion.

Is there a real difference here, or is it just — is it pure politics?

MARK SHIELDS:  It’s the Senate at its worst.

The human trafficking bill was reported out unanimously.  The Hyde amendment, which has been in power — been in office for 40 years, Judy, prevents the use of public funds for abortion, except in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

And it was on page four, page five of the bill.  It’s there.  And, finally, somebody at one of the pro-choice groups, ever vigilant, gets this language.  And it becomes a matter of faith for the Democrats.  You have to understand that Republicans are on lockstep on one issue.  They will not raise taxes.  Democrats are in lockstep on another issue, pro-choice in all cases on abortion.

So they have turned this in — human trafficking is lost.  Human trafficking is a human tragedy.  It’s an outrage against any decent people.  It’s — the victims are terribly, terribly treated, whether in sex trade or whatever.  This is a chance to get them back, to help them, to help local law enforcement do it.

And the Democrats are standing on one side, and the Republicans are playing games on the other.  Both sides are playing games.  They ought to pass the human trafficking immediately and they ought to confirm Loretta Lynch.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.  If we had a government that worked, the Republicans would say, OK, the attorney general has nothing to do with human trafficking.  We will let her go through.  And the Democrats would say, the Hyde amendment, it’s always been in these sorts of laws.  It has loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through.  It doesn’t have that much practical effect.  We will let that go through.

And both good things would get through.  But we don’t live in that country.

YEMEN - Escalating Violence

"Why violence is on the rise in Yemen" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2015


SUMMARY:  Yemen’s deadliest terror attack in decades left hundreds of casualties.  Judy Woodruff talks to Nabeel Khoury, a former State Department official in Yemen, about rising violence, ethnic tensions and power struggles in that country.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We want to take a closer look at today’s violence in Yemen and what it says about the state of that region.

Joining me now is Nabeel Khoury.  He had a career in the Foreign Service and was the deputy chief of mission in Yemen for the State Department from 2004 to 2007.

Welcome to the program.

NABEEL KHOURY, Former State Department Official in Yemen:  Happy to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, a terrible situation today.  Over a hundred and, what is it, 30 were killed, over 300 wounded, worst violence in decades.  How do you explain this?

NABEEL KHOURY:  Well, this attack was perpetrated against the Houthi in principal, who are in charge in Sanaa.

But, unfortunately, a soft target was chosen, meaning a mosque, where Zaidi Yemenis go.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Zaidi, a particular group.

NABEEL KHOURY:  Zaidism is a part of Shia Islam.  It broke off Shia Islam centuries ago.  But it’s closer to Shia Islam than it is to Sunni Islam.

PARENTING - Talking to African-American Sons

"How parents talk to their African-American sons about the police" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2015


SUMMARY:  As communities around the nation grapple with questions of race and police brutality, a New York Times short documentary asks parents of African-American boys what they say to their sons about how to respond if stopped by police.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Finally tonight, a special contribution to our series Race Today, where we have been exploring how different generations see the issues making headlines.

The conversation is a short film from the Op-Docs team at The New York Times.

Directors Geeta Gandbhir and Blair Foster spoke to parents of African-American boys about the conversation they have with their sons on how to respond when stopped by the police.

MAN:  There’s this unspoken code of white — of racism and white supremacy that says that my life doesn’t matter.

WOMAN:  You can put your hands up and say — and cooperate and say that I’m choking and still be killed and then there’s no repercussions.

WOMAN:  It’s maddening.  I get so frustrated and angry about having to prepare my kids for something that they’re not responsible for.

WOMAN:  And these are conversations that people of other races do not have to have with their children.

MAN:  The conversation with him was really just, look, you’re a beautiful young boy.

WOMAN:  Being African-American is a wonderful thing, it’s a wonderful blessing, you have come from great people, but it’s also a hard thing.

MAN:  In America, because of your skin color, as a black boy and as a black man, we are going to be dealing with a lot of danger.

"A Conversation With My Black Son" New York Times Op Docs

WHITE HOUSE - Keeping of Secrets

"Obama White House keeping more secrets than any before" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2015

My opinion?  President Obama has just run up against the reality of the post-9/11 world.  Some things made public mean our enemies get the same information, which is not good.  Then add all the talk about 'privacy' and so why wonder some redactions may be about privacy.


SUMMARY:  Despite a pledge to deliver the most open and transparent administration in U.S. history, some say that the Obama White House has fallen short on that promise, with harsh punishments for high-profile whistleblowers and a record number of Freedom of Information Act request denials.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more from Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Even before he was elected, President Obama promised his would be the most open and transparent administration ever.  He can claim credit for some progress on that front, including opening up Presidential records, declassifying some data, and pushing federal agencies to reveal more information to the public.

But, by other measures, many experts and journalists say the administration falls far short, including in its treatment of high-profile whistleblowers.

And a new Associated Press analysis says the administration has set a record for denying access to files or censoring them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The analysis looked at requests for information made to 100 federal agencies last year by citizens, journalists and businesses.  More than 700,000 requests were made.  The Associated Press said the administration either denied access to information or censored in 39 percent of those requests.  That’s more than 250,000 cases overall.

Sometimes, the denial was small, such as a phone number.  Sometimes, it was the majority of a document.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was pressed on the administration’s transparency.  His analysis was quite different.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  Across the administration, we actually do have a lot to brag about when it comes to responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act requests.

And just today, the Justice Department did release records or metrics to fiscal year 2014.  The administration in fiscal year 2014 alone processed 647,142 FOIA requests, and over 91 percent of those requests resulted in the release of either some or all of the requested records.

FADING DREAM - Haves and Have-Nots

"What’s splitting a new generation of haves and have-nots" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2015


SUMMARY:  Political scientist Robert Putnam grew up in Port Clinton, Ohio, a town where, he says, both rich and poor children grew up together and had bright opportunities.  But in the past few decades, social mobility has declined and the haves and have-nots have become increasingly segregated.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman offers a look at what drove Putnam to write his new book, “Our Kids.”

DAVE BRICKNER (interviewee):  I am a little strong here, and I’m going to need a little elbow room.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Dave Brickner, currently ranked 31st worldwide in the video golf betting game “Golden Tee.”


Brickner owns and runs this bar in Port Clinton, Ohio, to supplement his first job doing maintenance on Wendy’s restaurants in the northwest part of the state.

DAVE BRICKNER:  I’m working two jobs to make ends meet.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Jim Cornell is a carpenter.

JIM CORNELL:  There’s only part-time jobs for most people around here.

DAVE BRICKNER:  The haves and have-nots is — you’re definitely seeing it.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Rust Belt decline, growing inequality, a familiar tale, perhaps, but one getting a new twist from Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who grew up in Port Clinton, returned after decades away and was stunned by what he saw, the death of social mobility.

“My hometown was, in the 1950s, a passable embodiment of the American dream,” he writes in his new book, “Our Kids,” “a place that offered decent opportunity for all the kids in town, whatever their background,” including those who lived on the wrong side of the tracks.

BOOK - Poignant Memoir of Caretaking

"Memoir marks the moment when parent and child roles are reversed" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2015


SUMMARY:  George Hodgman left a fast-paced life as an editor in Manhattan for small town Missouri to care for his elderly mother.  Judy Woodruff sits down with Hodgman to discuss his poignant memoir of caretaking, “Bettyville.”

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It is a memoir of a son and his mother at the twilight of her life, the son who returns from the fast track Manhattan life to the small town of Paris, Missouri. It’s about loss, but also about discovery.  It’s about struggle and courage, but ultimately it’s about love.

The it is “Bettyville” by George Hodgman, a former magazine and book editor at Simon & Schuster and Vanity Fair and Talk magazine.

George Hodgman, welcome to the program.

GEORGE HODGMAN, Author, “Bettyville”:  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You spent years as an editor, but you had never written a book until this one.  Did that make it easier or harder?

GEORGE HODGMAN:  I think that I always, always wanted to write a book, and I had been carrying around little slivers.

And this emotional moment just had to allowed me to access everything.  And the editing, I learned a lot about what I should have been doing as an editor all these years when I became a writer.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I want you to fold that in to coming home to Missouri, a place you left, maybe thinking you would never go back.

GEORGE HODGMAN:  I am surprised to find myself back, but I also am surprisingly happy there.

I had lived on my own and for myself in a lot of ways, and it’s nice to be in a different kind of community for a little while.  I have been around hard-driving, ambitious, kind of self-centered people.  And I’m enjoying a completely different kind of life.

I mean, it’s interesting, because my East Coast friends are — were so determined to get me back.  And they had such negative attitudes about this part of the country and, you know, religious fanatics and right-wingers and everything.  And it was a good lesson in learning that the stereotypes that I had sort of acquired were not always so accurate.

FEDERAL BUDGET - According to the GOP

"Trillion Dollar Fraudsters" by Paul Krugman, New York Times 3/20/2015

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition:  Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground.  Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks:  one on spending, one on revenue.  And that’s actually an understatement.  If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law.  Or you might say that this is what all politicians do.  But it isn’t.  The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.  And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum.

So, about those budgets:  both claim drastic reductions in federal spending.  Some of those spending reductions are specified:  There would be savage cuts in food stamps, similarly savage cuts in Medicaid over and above reversing the recent expansion, and an end to Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies.  Rough estimates suggest that either plan would roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance.  But both also claim more than a trillion dollars in further cuts to mandatory spending, which would almost surely have to come out of Medicare or Social Security.  What form would these further cuts take?  We get no hint.

Meanwhile, both budgets call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the taxes that pay for the insurance subsidies.  That’s $1 trillion of revenue.  Yet both claim to have no effect on tax receipts; somehow, the federal government is supposed to make up for the lost Obamacare revenue.  How, exactly?  We are, again, given no hint.

And there’s more:  The budgets also claim large reductions in spending on other programs.  How would these be achieved?  You know the answer.

It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior.  The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant.  And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.

O.K., I can already hear the snickering, but it’s the simple truth.  Remember all the ridicule heaped on the spending projections in the Affordable Care Act?  Actual spending is coming in well below expectations, and the Congressional Budget Office has marked its forecast for the next decade down by 20 percent.  Remember the jeering when President Obama declared that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term?  Well, a sluggish economy delayed things, but only by a year.  The deficit in calendar 2013 was less than half its 2009 level, and it has continued to fall.

So, no, outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan.  It’s a modern Republican thing.  And the question we should ask is why.

One answer you sometimes hear is that what Republicans really believe is that tax cuts for the rich would generate a huge boom and a surge in revenue, but they’re afraid that the public won’t find such claims credible.  So magic asterisks are really stand-ins for their belief in the magic of supply-side economics, a belief that remains intact even though proponents in that doctrine have been wrong about everything for decades.

But I’m partial to a more cynical explanation.  Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements.  What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts.  And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do:  make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained.  So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.

Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere?  Yes, it does.

Look, I know that it’s hard to keep up the outrage after so many years of fiscal fraudulence.  But please try.  We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.

MISSISSIPPI - 'Jesus Take the Wheel Act'

"Mississippi House passes 'Jesus Take the Wheel Act'" by Jen Hayden, Daily KOS

Mississippi lawmakers are once again tackling the big issues in the state.  The highest poverty rate of any state in the country?  Hahahaha ... no.  The second-highest high school dropout rate in the country?  No, no.  The second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country?  Awww, hell no.

What is more pressing than extreme poverty?  Well, the Mississippi House did pass a bill (HB 132), nicknamed the "Jesus Take the Wheel Act", that would exempt churches from commercial driver's license requirements:

"This just allows small churches, some don't have people with commercial licenses at all, and they can pick a person to drive the bus," said state Rep. Robert Johnson III, D-Natchez, who chairs the Transportation Committee which had passed the bill earlier in the session.

Current law requires CDL-certified drivers for any vehicle transporting more than 16 passengers, including the driver.  The bill would amend that law to exempt church buses designed to carry 30 passengers or less.

To be clear, we aren't talking about extended passenger vans.  Thirty-passenger buses, like the one pictured below, are much larger than vans and all other business and schools would still have to have a CDL license to operate such a vehicle.

Since the exemption would also include buses and large transport vehicles carry children to and from events, not everyone is happy about the exemption:

When contacted by The Clarion-Ledger, longtime CDL-certified driver Troy Coll of Hattiesburg called the measure potentially dangerous.

"I think this bill is trading the safety of everyone on the road for the convenience of those operating church vehicles," Coll said.  "Since the bill covers vehicles up to 30 passengers, we're not just talking vans with extra rows of seats – these are buses, with long frames and much larger blind spots than passenger vehicles."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

POLITICS - Republican Obsession With Money

Republican actions (not words) prove that they are obsessed with money.

They refuse to pay for anything that costs too much (in their eyes) EXCEPT national defense and tax breaks for the top 1% high-income people.  Any program that would benefit the other 99% of the people are on the chopping block.  The 99% of 'the people' are not worth the cost.

"What House Republicans hope next year’s budget will look like" PBS Newshour 3/17/2015


SUMMARY:  House Republicans revealed their 2016 budget plan, pushing for deep cuts to lower the deficit, while preserving defense spending.  What are the political calculations behind the proposal?  Political editor Lisa Desjardins joins Gwen Ifill for a look at the priorities fueling the GOP budget.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A new budget plan released today by House Republicans reveals the yawning partisan chasm that still exists when it comes to taxes and spending, as the GOP pushes for deep cuts and a balanced budget, and Democrats say the budget needs to grow.  As always, the choices are not that simple.

Joining me with the story of the policies and priorities behind the budget debate is NewsHour political editor Lisa Desjardins.

Thank you for joining us again, Lisa.

And maybe you can explain this for us.  They’re talking about $5 trillion in savings in this proposed budget that the House leaders put out today.  What does that represent?

LISA DESJARDINS, Political Reporter & Editor:  Five trillion dollars in savings is over 10 years.  That represents two priorities for Republicans.

What they are choosing with this budget, let’s just put it simply, is they’re choosing to try to pay down the debt.  They would balance the budget in a remarkable nine years.  Usually, it’s 10 years.  And then the other priority they’re choosing here, Gwen, is defense.  Even as they’re paying down the deficit and the debt ultimately, they also are increasing spending for defense.

That’s a bit like trying to dig out a hole even as you’re putting more dirt in it.  It’s very ambitious.  Because those are their priorities, this would mean dramatic cuts for everyone else, for discretionary funding, which means most of government.  Very hard to see these cuts taking place without government layoffs, for example.

SPORTS - Technology to Prevent Brain Trauma

"Can a helmet sensor help prevent brain trauma in athletes?" PBS Newshour 3/17/2015


SUMMARY:  As we learn more about the effects of concussions and sports-related head trauma, parents, coaches and medical professionals are debating how to keep players safe.  Some are looking to technology, like a device worn under the helmet that shows the force of impact after a fall or collision.  Hari Sreenivasan reports as part of our Breakthroughs series.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Next, the risk of concussions in sports and trying to lower those odds.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the pro football world yesterday by announcing his decision to retire from the game after a strong rookie season.  Borland, who is 24 years old and was expected to earn more than a half-million dollars next season, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” he was concerned about head trauma from repeated hits.

CHRIS BORLAND, Former NFL Player:  It was just kind of the realization.  I had just started my professional career.  And am I going to go down this road?  Am I going to commit the prime of my life to something that could ultimately be detrimental to my health?  And that just kind of triggered my thinking and changed the way I viewed the risks.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Borland becomes the most prominent player to leave the game in his prime based on those risks.

But worries are also growing among many parents of younger athletes and kids playing sports.  It turns out researchers are looking into whether electronics can make sports safer.

Hari Sreenivasan reports on new innovations for brain safety on the playing field.  It’s part of our continuing series on Breakthroughs.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Contact sports like hockey can be brutal; 19-year-old Oliver Bech-Hansen describes getting hit so hard, he lost his memory.

OLIVER BECH-HANSEN:  I just couldn’t remember everything.  It took me a couple weeks before I finally — I slowly started remembering things that happened.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  As the spotlight on concussions and head trauma intensifies, parents, coaches, and medical professionals are debating how to keep players safe, and some are looking to technology.

The Jersey Wildcats, a league of 16-to-20-year-olds, have been experimenting with a head impact device donated by Reebok.  The device, called Checklight, is worn under the helmet and features an LED light on the back of the neck that flashes if a player takes a big blow.

COLLEGE - Stressing About Admissions

"Why families stress too much about college admissions" PBS Newshour 3/17/2015


SUMMARY:  The college admissions process can be riddled with anxiety and stress for high school seniors and their parents.  But in the book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” author and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni argues it doesn’t have to be this way.  Jeffrey Brown sits down with Bruni to discuss how the obsession with getting into the right school may not pay off.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Where did you go to college?  And more to the point, for many young people now awaiting decisions, where do you hope to go, and how much do you have riding on it?

A new book with the provocative title “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” proposes that the whole college admissions process is out of whack and even that rejection can be a wonderful thing.

Its author is New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who, for the record, attended the University of North Carolina.

So, madness, nonsense, those are just some of the words you use for what you see as a broken system.  What’s the brunt of the argument? What happened to our system?

FRANK BRUNI, Author, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be“:  What happened to our system is, we became brand-obsessed.  We became convinced, or at least parents did, that if their kids didn’t get into the right colleges, they wouldn’t have as bright futures, they wouldn’t make as much money.

We somehow bought that this moment in late March, early April, when you find out where you’re going to go to school, sets the whole trajectory for your life.  And it’s so untrue and it’s the source of so much unnecessary anxiety.  And that’s what I go into in the book.

MILLENNIALS - Student Debt to Retirement

"Between student debt and part-time work, what Millennials should do now to save for retirement" PBS Newshour 3/17/2015


SUMMARY:  As Baby Boomers approach retirement, the Millennial generation is getting its foothold in the workforce, and facing financial challenges making it hard to save for later years.  Judy Woodruff talks to Jen Mishory of Young Invincibles and David John of AARP about the different factors that have shaped each generation’s saving habits and how young Americans can meet their retirement goals.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  This year, millennials, the group roughly 18 to 34 years old, will overtake baby boomers as the largest living generation in the country.  And even at the dawn of their careers, it turns out they are more worried about retirement than previous generations.  And perhaps they should be.

Here to help fill in the picture, Jen Mishory. She is executive director of Young Invincibles.  It’s a research and advocacy group for young adults.  And David John, he’s a senior policy adviser with AARP.  He also works on retirement issues at the Brookings Institution.

And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.

DAVID JOHN, AARP:  Thank you.

JEN MISHORY, Young Invincibles:  Thanks so much for having us.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So we know today the average retirement age for men is 64.  For women, it’s 62.  And we also know that studies are showing that most millennials expect to retire, they say, by age 65, but they plan to keep on working while they’re in retirement.

Jen Mishory, how much are they thinking about retirement, this generation?

JEN MISHORY:  Yes, absolutely.

Young people are thinking about retirement today.  When young people, for example, have access to a retirement account, they are actually saving at relatively consistent rates.  The problem is we’re actually not seeing young people accessing things like retirement accounts at the same rate.

So only about half of workers have access to that kind of traditional retirement account.  Young people, 25 percent of young people are part-time workers, so you’re seeing just fewer and fewer young workers having access to those kinds of mechanisms to actually save and at the same time struggling with things like student debt, struggling coming out of this recession.

So we’re looking at a problem also around wealth accumulation.

CANCER - Training Immune Cells

"Experimental therapy trains immune cells to hunt and kill blood cancers" PBS Newshour 3/17/2015


SUMMARY:  At the University of Pennsylvania, a research team has been working on an experimental treatment to kill leukemia with a patient's own immune system cells.  So far, the results have shown startling success.  Special correspondent Jackie Judd reports on the growing research on immunotherapy in fighting cancer.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to a promising medical story in the continuing fight against cancer.  It’s about a big change in the world of oncology.

These days, there’s growing interest, better results and more pharmaceutical dollars to develop immunotherapy, or using one’s immune system to attack cancer cells.  It’s been a long road to get to this point.  For decades, researchers have tried to find a way to make this kind of treatment work for patients.  And now oncologists believe they are turning a corner.

Special correspondent Jackie Judd has our report about one intriguing approach in Philadelphia.

JACKIE JUDD (NewsHour):  This is your first look?

DR. CARL JUNE, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania:  Yes, it is.

JACKIE JUDD:  If buildings tell a story, the story here is one of progress.  Dr. Carl June leads the team responsible for a promising trial in which the body’s immune system is turned into a cancer-fighting weapon.

He and a once-small group of researchers began work in a closet-sized space, but soon will have two floors of what will be a state-of-the-art building at the University of Pennsylvania.

And this will be the largest group of people working on immunotherapy in an institution?

DR. CARL JUNE:  Oh, yes, we think by far it’s the largest group in the world.

JACKIE JUDD:  Here is why.  Since 2010, a group of children and adults suffering from leukemia and running out of treatment options have been in an experimental trial in which their immune system cells were genetically modified to kill cancer.  It is an approach other institutions are pursuing as well.  The first results at Penn startled even Dr. June.

SYRIA - War Rages On

"Can anything break the Syrian war stalemate?" PBS Newshour 3/16/2015


SUMMARY:  Since the start of Syria's war four years ago, more than 200,000 people have died and millions have been made homeless.  Two rounds of peace talks have already failed.  What can be done to bring an end to the war?  Judy Woodruff talks to Steven Heydemann of the United States Institute of Peace, Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya News and former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  On Israel’s border, a morbid anniversary passes this week for a raging war which has claimed more than 200,000 lives, and has left millions homeless.

Four years in, and there’s no end in sight to the killing in Syria.  Just today, new government airstrikes hit a suburb of Damascus.  And Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted again he’s staying until his own countrymen decide otherwise.

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through interpreter): Whether they say I remain or not, the Syrian people have the final say on this particular matter.  Anything that came from outside the borders was only words and interference that disappears after a while.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  That last was aimed at Secretary of State John Kerry.  Sunday, on CBS, he suggested any effort toward a transition in Syria would include Assad after all.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  I am convinced that, with the efforts of our allies and others, there will be increased pressure on Assad.

QUESTION:  And you would be willing to negotiate with him?

JOHN KERRY:  Well, we have to negotiate in the end.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Kerry’s words raised eyebrows, but U.S. officials quickly insisted President Obama’s policy has not changed from this in 2012.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  President al-Assad has lost legitimacy.  He needs to step down.

JOBS - Home Care Workers Wages

"Why home care workers struggle with low wages" PBS Newshour 3/16/2015

Because money-before-people Republicans will block any attempt for fair wages.


SUMMARY:  With most aging Americans wanting to stay in their own homes, the need for in-home caregivers is skyrocketing.  But unlike most other jobs, there's no federal guarantee that these workers get minimum wage or overtime.  Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports on the challenge of getting care that’s reasonably priced while still paying caretakers a living wage.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We now turn to another in our occasional series on long-term care.

As Americans age, most prefer to stay in their own homes and get help when needed with the basics of daily living.  A nationwide campaign kicked off last week calling attention to the jobs and the wages of home care workers.

Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports.

OLA MAE JONES:  Good morning.

THERESA KING:  Good morning.

It’s a passion job, so it takes a lot of patience, a lot of kindness.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY (NewsHour):  In Long Beach, California, Theresa King cares for 88-year-old Ola Mae Jones, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

THERESA KING:  I’m cooking you some fish.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY:  From cooking, to cleaning, to comfort.

THERESA KING:  Don’t you love me, huh?

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY:  The job is physically demanding and emotionally draining.  King makes $9.70 cents an hour, almost exactly the average for the nation’s two million home care workers.

THERESA KING (singing):  I want to shout about it.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY:  About 90 percent are women.  Half are people of color.  Like King, many don’t work full-time and don’t get benefits.  She qualifies for food stamps and says, on her income, she can’t afford some basic necessities.

HUMOR - Outragious to Cute

Squeaker Than Toys
Screaming Frog