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Speculation Runs Rampant About Mission of X-37B Space Plane

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Air Force’s X-37B space plane has just returned from a two year mission and speculation about what that mission was is running wild.

The aircraft — a mini version of the Space Shuttle at 29 feet long and 15 foot wingspan — officially says the craft carried out experiments in advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, and aircraft electronic systems, which is about as general as you can get.

But specifics have been lacking which has set off an internet storm that includes conspiracy theories about top secret surveillance programs, developing bombing capabilities, and even anti-satellite warfare. That last is an area the US lags behind China and Russia as it is thought that both countries have carried out experiments in crippling communications and surveillance satellites from the ground.

ABC News:

Weeden, now a technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation, said speculation seemed to run rampant specifically because so little has been disclosed.

“Because it is a secret military space plane, there is tons and tons of speculation about what it’s doing in orbit,” Weeden said.

Popular online theories included that “it’s testing the ability to drop bombs in orbit or covertly going up and disabling satellites,” he said.

Weeden said looking at past instances of American spacecraft, he believes the spacecraft is more likely involved in something less shocking.

“What I think is more practical is that it’s setting up technology for surveillance,” said Weeden, who pointed out the military has relied heavily on satellite surveillance for decades.

Weeden also said the fact that the spacecraft can be reused and can return unmanned can allow faster turnaround on experiments.

Weeden said the ship might provide a kind of fast-track space for the military to try out new equipment in orbit before it is sent via satellite. If new equipment breaks on a satellite in orbit, it can be difficult to fix. However, if it breaks in on a returnable spacecraft, engineers can make changes before it returns to orbit.

Of course, the question that would be uppermost in everyone’s mind is just who the government wants to surveil.  Since the NSA and affiliated agencies don’t appear to be slacking off in their mania for our communications, you have to believe they are inventing more and better ways to keep track of us.

But whatever the X-37B was up to out there, it’s still a cool piece of technology.

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Obamacare Deductibles Forcing Patients to Forgo Preventive Care

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

One notable problem with Obamacare insurance policies that has been commented on extensively is the higher-than-average deductibles that make seeking routine health care an expensive proposition.

In fact, according to this New York Times story, the sky-high deductibles — double what many consumers carried in their old policies — is preventing them from getting preventive care that could lead to serious health issues later.

About 7.3 million Americans are enrolled in private coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than 80 percent qualified for federal subsidies to help with the cost of their monthly premiums. But many are still on the hook for deductibles that can top $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families — the trade-off, insurers say, for keeping premiums for the marketplace plans relatively low. The result is that some people — no firm data exists on how many — say they hesitate to use their new insurance because of the high out-of-pocket costs.

Insurers must cover certain preventive services, like immunizations, cholesterol checks and screening for breast and colon cancer, at no cost to the consumer if the provider is in their network. But for other services and items, like prescription drugs, marketplace customers often have to meet their deductible before insurance starts to help.

While high-deductible plans cover most of the costs of severe illnesses and lengthy hospital stays, protecting against catastrophic debt, those plans may compel people to forgo routine care that could prevent bigger, longer-term health issues, according to experts and research.

“They will cause some people to not get care they should get,” Katherine Hempstead, who directs research on health insurance coverage at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said of high-deductible marketplace plans. “Unfortunately, the people who are attracted to the lower premiums tend to be the ones who are going to have the most trouble coming up with all the cost-sharing if in fact they want to use their health insurance.”

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Islamic State Training Pilots to Fly MIGs

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Reuters is reporting that Islamic State is training pilots to fly captured MIG 21 fighters in Syria.

IS overran the huge Syrian airbase in Taqba last August. The base contained more than 100 MIG 21′s along with a few MIG 29′s. MIG 21s are 1970′s-era aircraft and no match for the US air force, although they may eventually prove a challenge for the Syrians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that IS is using Iraqis who were in the Iraqi air force during the Saddam Hussein regime to train the pilots.

Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.

The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.

U.S-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.

“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” Abdulrahman said.

“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70 km (45 miles) south of the Turkish border.

Witnesses reported the flights were at a low altitude and only lasted five to 10 minutes before landing, the Observatory said. It was not possible to reach the Syrian government for comment and state media did not mention the report.

It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.

The short duration flights could very well be a deliberate tactic to avoid detection by our satellites, although our AWAC coverage in the area should be able to see them. US Central Command is saying this is the first they’ve heard of the flights, which could be misdirection as they plan an attack on the base where the pilots are being trained.

As long as we have a couple of hundred planes in the region, any IS air force will not present a threat to us or our coalition partners. And it remains to be seen whether they could realistically challenge the Syrian air force. Knowing how to fly a plane is one thing. Becoming an effective combat pilot is quite another.

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We Are All Preppers Now

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Earlier this week, the UN issued a statement on the Ebola crisis that should set off alarms in every household in America.

In his briefing, Mr. Banbury told the 15-nation UN Security Council that he is “deeply worried” that the steps implemented by the international community were “not nearly enough” to halt the advance of the fatal disease.

“Ebola got a head start on us,” he said.

“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race. We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Mr. Banbury told the council on Tuesday via video link from the operation’s headquarters in Ghana.

Mr. Banbury recalled the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that, within 60 days of October 1, 70 per cent of all those infected must be in the hospital and 70 per cent of the victims safely buried, to arrest the outbreak.

“This is what we are fighting for now; we are fighting to prevent unavoidable deaths. We are fighting for people who are alive and healthy today, but will become infected and die if we do not put in place the necessary emergency response.”

In its most recent situation report on the disease, WHO, which is leading the wider UN response, reported 8,376 cases and 4,024 deaths from Ebola based on information provided by the Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The agency notes that the upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and also in Liberia. By contrast, the situation in Guinea appears to be more stable but a pattern of transmission is still of very grave concern.

“With every day that passes, the number of sick people increases,” Mr. Banbury added.

“Time is our biggest enemy. We must use every minute of every day to our advantage and that is what UNMEER is doing.”

In particular, Mr. Banbury called for an increase in the number of diagnostic laboratories, transport support and funding to help with operation logistics which would help aid the UN response to a crisis so vast in scope and magnitude.

Moreover, with the number of infected growing exponentially each day, he cautioned that UNMEER could expect new caseloads of approximately 10,000 people per week by December 1, meaning that 7,000 beds for treatment were needed.

The good news is that we know what has to be done to stop the virus in its tracks. The bad news is that we’re not even close to catching up because the international response to the crisis has been pathetic.

More than a million cases of Ebola by the end of January? Each passing day makes that scenario more likely and the spread of the disease worldwide a near certainty. Individual countries like the U.S. may initially be able to contain the outbreak, but what of our neighbors to the south?

Jonathan Last gives us “Six Reasons to Panic”:

And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?

Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”

Taking center stage for the foreseeable future will be a much-maligned group of citizens who call themselves “preppers.” They are portrayed as wild-eyed paranoids, or religious nuts, hiding in a cabin in the woods waiting for the Second Coming, or a race war, or an alien invasion.

In truth, they are normal citizens who have decided to take prudent, reasonable, logical precautions in case of natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Or, in the case of Ebola, a pandemic that threatens the breakdown of civil society. That scenario is still very remote. But six months ago, the chances of such a breakdown were zero. What will the chances be six months from now?

For preppers, who find their ranks growing by the week as the Ebola crisis spreads, the bottom line is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

From the Daily Beast:

The website is run by Joe Alton, a retired OB-GYN and fellow at the American College of Surgeons, and his wife, Amy, a nurse. They’re the authors of The Survival Medicine Handbook, a guide for post-apocalyptic wellness.

On Thursday morning, Joe flew from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Texas—home to America’s three Ebola cases—to talk prepping on Glenn Beck’s television show. On his way there, he said he was more careful than usual, wiping down the plane’s seat armrests with bleach wipes for the first time ever, and scrubbing his hands with strong sanitizer half a dozen times.

There are some fanatics in what Alton calls the “preparedness community,” but when it comes to Ebola, he’s tempered, saying it’s unlikely the virus will hit communities in the U.S. much more widely.

[...]

But the benefit of a slow-moving virus like Ebola, Joe Alton says, is there will be a warning, just like a hurricane, and time to get ready. At home, the Altons have been outfitting a designated “sick room,” for the possibility of a family member coming down with something, most likely influenza, but perhaps Ebola. He chose a corner spare room with good ventilation, and put aside a spare set of sheets and silverware, just in case.

“There’s no harm for everyone in the general public to prepare for disaster,” he says. “We should plan that room out and designate which it’s going to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean if I visited your house it would look like an intensive-care unit.”

Right now, the ratio of preppers to regular Americans is dramatic: Joe cites 3 percent as the accepted number. A few months of Ebola fear could give the community a bump. “We’re not going to see millions of people in audition calls for [National Geographic Channel show] Doomsday Preppers, but I’m hoping 3 percent one day gets to 4 percent,” he says.

“As long as we’re prepared and have plan of action, we’re going to keep it together even if everything else falls apart.”

We’ve already seen signs of panic with only three cases in the U.S. What happens if there are several hundred infected people? With a combination of lack of faith in government pronouncements about the disease and scare mongers who will use the crisis to advance their own interests and agendas, it won’t take much to panic the entire nation.

Can you really prepare for that? It’s always a good idea to have extra food, batteries, potable water, and even weapons and ammunition. But we are creatures of civilization and without power, running water, and other accoutrements of civil society, few of us will have truly prepared to come face to face with civilization’s end.

Nevertheless, basic preparedness is a must. And if you haven’t thought about it before, it’s time to take the blinders off. Remote though the worst case scenario might be, your chances of survival are a lot better even with a little advance planning than if you didn’t plan at all.

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One Last Hurrah for Texas Voter ID

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

Overnight the Supreme Court refused to reverse the stay imposed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and thus allowed voter ID to be required in the midterm election in Texas.  This is procedural delay based on the idea that election rules shouldn’t change at the last second.

So voter ID gets one last hurrah in Texas.

But election integrity advocates shouldn’t celebrate too much.  Texas Voter ID is doomed.  After this next election, it is prohibited from being used.

Nor should much faith be placed in any appeal.  The plaintiffs won on two separate theories under the Voting Rights Act, and both are fatal to the law.  First, the court ruled that Texas voter ID was enacted with a discriminatory intent.  That finding alone dooms the law. And here’s the bad news: the chances of that finding being overturned are next to zero.  Proving discriminatory intent isn’t easy, but the court said the plaintiffs did it.  That’s a fact-based determination and will not be overturned unless it is clearly erroneous.  Appeals courts are deferential to lower courts on fact findings.  Why?  Because lower courts conduct the trial.  Lower courts see the witnesses, even if they sweat and squirm.  Appeals judges sitting in New Orleans can’t size up the witnesses like the lower court judge in Corpus Christi.

Second, Texas also lost on the results prong under the Voting Rights Act.  The plaintiffs pushed an outlandish theory for sure, and one that might get overturned on appeal.  They pressed the novel idea that any statistical disparity of the impact of voter ID dooms the law.  If blacks have ID less often than whites, game over.  The problem is that the courts have so far rejected that idea.  You can be sure the Supreme Court will also.

But so what?  The intent finding stands and that means that the Texas law likely gets one last hurrah in two weeks.

What’s the solution?  For Texas to pass a new ID law lickety split.  A new law can be in place within a few days of the Texas legislature convening in January.   Pass something identical to the law approved in South Carolina or Georgia, and it’s lights out for the foes of election integrity.

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Flip-Flop: Obama’s Anti-Travel-Ban Wall Cracks

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Endangered Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) was against a West Africa travel ban earlier this week. Hagan agreed with President Obama and most Democrats at the time, in rejecting calls for a temporary travel ban to halt the spread of Ebola, which has now infected at least two Americans.

“The CDC and the World Health Organization is certainly giving us great guidance, but we’ve got to make sure the implementation is perfect,” said the first-term senator. Hagan also declined to endorse the policy of temporarily banning passengers from entering the U.S. if they’re traveling from West African countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak.

“That’s not going to help solve this problem,” said Hagan of the proposed ban. “That’s not going to contain the epidemic that we see happening in Africa.”

Hagan changed her tune today. The senator released an about-face statement this afternoon.

Greensboro, NC – U.S. Senator Kay Hagan issued the following statement about the ongoing Ebola crisis:

“I have said for weeks that travel restrictions should be one part of a broad strategy to prevent Ebola from spreading in the U.S. and fighting it in Africa. I am calling on the Administration to temporarily ban the travel of non-U.S. citizens from the affected countries in West Africa. Although stopping the spread of this virus overseas will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community, a temporary travel ban is a prudent step the President can take to protect the American people, and I believe he should do so immediately.”

Her challenger, Republican Thom Tillis, already called for a temporary travel ban more than two weeks ago.

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College Football Success in Mississippi Naturally Prompts HuffPo to Write About Race

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Painfully unoriginal.

It is beyond serious argument that the current success of this state’s football teams is directly attributable to the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement, which the vast majority of white Mississippians fiercely opposed. The same point applies to the other teams in the Southeastern Conference, which have won seven of the last eight national championships. (The other was won by Florida State, another formerly segregated university.) Can anyone imagine that happening if the teams were still all-white?

It is high time for people in this state and across the region to give thanks to the Civil Rights Movement for the changes it achieved–in realms far more important than football–to which the state and region’s majority population was only brought kicking and screaming.

First, it is high time for white male liberal media types to stop presuming to tell black people in Mississippi and the rest of America what they should, and should not, be thankful for.

This is progressive “whitesplaining” at its worst. A truly momentous occasion (for sports fans, anyway) that is a cause for celebration for the people in one state is seen as an opportunity for posturing by a lily white academic.

We’re all aware of the history of race in America, and specifically the American South, and the fact that sports at the professional, collegiate and high school levels were slow to integrate. It is taught in schools, they make movies about it and, while utterly shameful, it’s not exactly a family secret that’s kept locked in the attic.

What Professor Special Snowflake is doing here is using a dull knife (and wit) to reopen a wound that already has enough scar tissue to still be a painful reminder in daily life.

The sports fans of Mississippi deserve to celebrate progress without progressives wagging fingers and saying, “Oh yeah well but you used to suck!”

The supposedly forward-thinking progressives in this country are determined to make sure we never truly move beyond the racial politics of early 1960s America because it is the cornerstone of their philosophy of perpetual “The Republicans are going to take you back to (insert appropriate year)!” fear mongering.

Let the people of Mississippi celebrate.

Let sports be sports and stop killing the much-needed escapism of it with your political regurgitation.

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Perry Backs Ebola Travel Ban from ‘Countries That Have Been Hit Hardest’

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Stressing that “air travel is, in fact, how this disease crosses borders and it’s certainly how it got to Texas in the first place,” Gov. Rick Perry today backed a travel ban to combat Ebola.

“Based on recent and ongoing developments, I believe it is the right policy to ban air travel from countries that have been hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak,” Perry said at a news conference today. “Certainly there should be an exception for aid workers so that they continue their important work fighting this disease.”

Perry had previously shied away from calls for a travel ban, including from the state’s senators.

In his conversation yesterday with President Obama, the governor said he asked to “fast-track CDC acknowledgement of the next-level facilities that are better prepared to deal with diseases like Ebola.”

“This will let people know that there will be a place to go if they get sick in Texas. Over the past two days, two additional positive tests, both involving caregivers to Mr. Duncan, reminded us just how dangerous this virus truly is. Both women are currently being treated at other facilities around the country and they each have certainly our thoughts and our prayers, as do their family,” Perry said.

“It’s indefensible that one of Mr. Duncan’s nurses was allowed to fly from Ohio to Dallas after she said that she had a low grade fever,” he said, adding that the state’s health department has been asked to monitor 79 Texans who were on the flight with Amber Vinson.

“The eight individuals that were in closest proximity to her, within three feet, are under active monitoring with two temperature checks a day, including once face-to- face with our health care workers,” the governor added. “The others are being monitored by phone.”

“Considering this was the first time that Ebola has been diagnosed on American shores, it’s perhaps understandable that mistakes were made, but it’s also unacceptable.”

Perry stressed that “Ebola is a dangerous, persistent foe but the threat to the general public remains negligible.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said yesterday that Obama’s coordinated national response to Ebola should include ”temporary restrictions on travel from impacted West African nations.”

In an op-ed this week in the Texas Tribune, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote, “Banning flights from the afflicted countries is a prudent, common-sense step until the epidemic is brought under control.”

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So…ISIS Now Flying 3 Captured Fighter Jets

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Long-term campaign getting longer?

Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.

The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.

These days it would seem that there is quite a bit that various United States government officials aren’t aware of and it is probably safer for the public to err on the side of, “OMG, do you people know ANYTHING?!?”

Obviously, three fighter planes with some hastily trained pilots does not an air force make, but ISIS doesn’t exactly seem to be reeling at this point.

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10-Year-Old Girl Seeks to Become Gun-Rights ‘Inspiration’

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Good for her.

Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter who is out to prove something: Children with guns don’t always mean disaster.

“I want to be an inspiration to other kids and be a leader,” said the girl. “Kids and guns don’t always mean bad things happen.”

Shyanne competes alongside junior shooters, who are participants younger than 18, and even adults. Last year, she beat out adult women to place second in the Women’s Division of the New Jersey Ruger Rimfire Challenge.

On October 31, she will square off against 200 of the top women shooters at the Brownell’s Lady 3-Gun Pro-Am Challenge in Covington, Georgia. Shyanne is the youngest competitive shooter registered at the female-only event, according to the match director. The top shooter has a chance to win $5,000, as well as items from a prize table of guns, ammo and more.

The Franklinville, New Jersey, girl, who now has more than 20 sponsors, started learning gun safety when she was 5. After she could recite the rules and had grasped what guns can do, around age 6, her father started taking her to a gun range. Dan Roberts is a certified firearms instructor and a single dad. He has custody of Shyanne and her younger brother.

What the media bubble anti-gun nuts don’t understand is that the safe use of firearms is a fact of life in a lot of American homes from a very young age. I got my first rifle when I was six and grew up around people who all owned guns and knew how to handle them properly. When I first started going on the road, I found it very strange to meet people who not only didn’t own a gun, but had never fired a weapon. The experience that Brad Pitt recently described is a very normal American one.

Shyanne Roberts has some unique talent but her early involvement with shooting is a classic American family story that is all but ignored by the relentless anti-gun lobbyists and media types. Comprehensive gun legislation hasn’t been failing because of Republican obstruction, it’s failing because it is un-American and very unpopular with the citizens who are unwilling to see their rights gutted by an out-of-touch political ruling class.

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Fed Chair Yellen Becomes Big Education Shill in Speech

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Pimping the Party line.

Yellen said recent decades have been marked by “significant income
and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.” This hurts social and economic mobility, she added.

Yellen added there are four “building blocks” to increase opportunity for those with smaller incomes and fewer assets.

“Two of those are so significant that you might call them ‘cornerstones’ of opportunity,
and you will not be surprised to hear that both are largely related to education,” she said. “The first of these cornerstones I would describe more fully as ‘resources available to children in
their most formative years.’ The second is higher education that students and their
families can afford.”

Yellen sounds more like a Bill de Blasio aide here than one of the more powerful unelected people in America. It’s the typical progressive tripe about spending on education at an early age and “FREEEEEEE COLLEGE!” OK, she didn’t actually say free college, but as we saw with the Occupy morons, that’s how it is most often interpreted by the participation trophy types.

One of the more demonstrably false notions repeated by progressives is that we don’t spend enough on education. If you woke Barack Obama up from a deep slumber he’d mutter, “Education spending…” before being fully conscious. It is their go-to for almost everything. As those of us who paid attention in school way back when even less money was being spent on it know, we the taxpayers spend plenty on education. It is just wasted by the thoroughly awful people at the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their minions. Big Government and Big Labor have done nothing to education in America other than find new ways to make sure an ever-decreasing amount of each taxpayer dollar gets to students.

Then they want more to do less.

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FBI Director Comey Concerned about Losing Access to Citizens’ Digital Data

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Liz Sheld

FBI Director James Comey gave a speech at the Brookings Institute yesterday to make a case against companies that allow customers to encrypt their digital data. The speech came following moves by both Apple and Google to encrypt users’ data on their electronic devices, essentially locking out law enforcement agencies along with identity thieves and criminals from a treasure trove of personal information.

Comey explained that such a lockout allows criminals to “go dark” and prevents law enforcement officials from accessing information and evidence against predators, terrorists or criminals.  “With Going Dark, those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us…missing out on violent criminals who target our communities…missing out on a terrorist cell using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack.”

But civil rights advocates have a different take on the matter. “Whether the FBI calls it a front door or a backdoor, any effort by the FBI to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “We hope that others in the tech industry follow their lead and realize that customers put a high value on privacy, security and free speech.”

In a statement to Ars Technica, Google explained: “People previously used safes and combination locks to keep their information secure—now they use encryption. It’s why we have worked hard to provide this added security for our users.”

Comey closed his speech by suggesting the conflict between liberty and security just needs a “regulatory or legislative fix to create a level playing field.” However, it doesn’t look like too many on the Hill are eager to jump on board.

“I’d be surprised if more than a handful of members would support the idea of backdooring Americans’ personal property,” Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and vocal privacy advocate, said.

“And a House Democratic aide said that staffers have been in touch with the FBI on the issue but that Congress is unlikely to force technology companies to build backdoors into their networks and devices anytime soon.”

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Dan Rather’s Revenge and the Battle for Free Speech

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Scott Swett

NEW YORK – Robert Redford will play Dan Rather in a film about the former CBS anchor’s disputed report about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service.

The film, titled Truth, will be adapted from the memoir Truth And Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power by former CBS producer Mary Mapes, said the production company, Mythology Entertainment. Cate Blanchett is signed on to play Mapes.

But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true. – Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1603

If you followed the 2004 presidential campaign, you probably recall the “disputed” 60 Minutes report claiming that George W. Bush shirked his duties and failed to follow orders as a young Texas Air National Guard officer. The segment was discredited when the “military memos” on which it was based were exposed online as forgeries. CBS News received a well-deserved black eye, and long-time anchor Dan Rather, producer Mary Mapes and several others lost their jobs.

There is no need to review the technical evidence about the memos, except to note that 1970s-era typewriters lacked word processing features such as superscripts, kerning (adjusting the spaces between letters to improve readability), proportional spacing and mathematically centered titles. A detailed account of the scandal, which became famous as “RatherGate,” can be found here.

To many, the debunking of the 60 Minutes segment For the Record was a brilliantly effective exercise in free speech that prevented a slanted hit piece from influencing a national election. But to Mapes and Rather, it was a profound injustice that should never be allowed to happen again.

Background

The online takedown of For the Record a decade ago was a watershed moment for the Internet, showing that ordinary citizens could effectively fact-check and counter old media political narratives. This failed to please “gatekeepers” such as former CBS News executive Jonathan Klein, who harrumphed that “you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of check and balances [at 60 Minutes] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.” But the evidence pointed the other way: all the professional media outlets, with their vaunted fact-checkers, vetting processes and layers of editorial review, overlooked the glaring problems with the documents. Most tried for nearly two weeks to defend the politically useful story.

For the Record did not reveal how CBS News had obtained the memos, which were attributed to Bush’s former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. The source turned out to be one Bill Burkett, a former Texas Army National Guard officer with a history of mental problems who had made previous false claims about Bush’s military service. Burkett later told investigators that Mary Mapes put him in touch with senior Kerry officials so he could “provide the campaign with strategic advice on countering the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” Mapes herself kept in contact with top Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart as she worked on the segment, though she later claimed the topic was never discussed. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the Kerry campaign was ready to launch a multi-million dollar national TV ad campaign targeting Bush’s National Guard service (“Operation Fortunate Son”) right after For the Record was televised.

Patterns of behavior

It is impossible to know how many bogus news stories have been broadcast over the years. For the Record wasn’t Dan Rather’s first rodeo. In his 1988 CBS News documentary The Wall Within, Rather interviewed six “combat veterans” who claimed to have committed gruesome crimes in Vietnam, and now, traumatized, were living in the woods in Washington State.

Researcher B.G. Burkett (no relation to Bill Burkett) used Freedom of Information requests to discover that five of the men had never served in combat. The sixth, a former ammunition handler, was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who had spent months in military prisons. Dan Rather enthusiastically reported his impossible story of murdering, skinning, and stacking the corpses of dozens of Vietnamese men, women and children. B.G. Burkett would later write the landmark book Stolen Valor to help debunk the media-inspired wave of phony Vietnam atrocity stories. The book noted that Dan Rather, who claimed to have been a two-tour Marine, had actually failed the physical requirements and been discharged after just four months.

Portraying Vietnam veterans as psychologically devastated war criminals unable to function in society was a standard leftist propaganda theme for decades. John Kerry’s central role in creating this “poisonous image” was the primary reason he was considered unfit to serve as commander-in-chief by most of his fellow Swift Boat veterans. However, it took Hollywood to fully inject the Left’s slanderous narrative into the culture. In his book Vietnam at the Movies, Michael Lee Lanning analyzed how films such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Hearts and Minds presented American soldiers as “brutal killers who routinely commit atrocities and pursue genocide.”

Free speech online

In an era largely defined by electronic communications, it is easy to forget that the Internet and its social media derivatives, all less than a generation old, represent the greatest advance in the ability of ordinary people to obtain and disseminate information since the printing press. Totalitarians of all kinds inevitably want to control, manipulate, or shut these channels down.

Worldwide, Internet censorship is becoming the rule rather than the exception. A 2013 study by Freedom House found that “an increasing number of countries are passing new laws that criminalize certain types of political, religious or social speech….” A sharp rise was noted in the use of paid government commentators “to manipulate online discussions by trying to smear the reputations of government opponents, spread propaganda, and defend government policies….” The U.S., while categorized as “free,” was docked 12 out of 40 points in the “violation of user’s rights” category (online protections, restrictions, surveillance, repercussions for online activity, and limits on privacy), and scored just 83 of 100 points overall, down from 88 in 2012.

President Obama supported and recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision of which (Section 1021) allows American citizens to be arrested and detained indefinitely by the military, even if their actions were protected by the First Amendment.

The U.S. State Department joined with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the United Nations to pass “Resolution 16/18 to Combat Intolerance based on Religion or Belief,” which advances the OIC’s goal of criminalizing free speech on topics related to Islam.

Muslim Brotherhood agents have been invited to help develop America’s national security policies, with the result that many federal agencies disallow any mention of Islamic terrorism. Our military has become so fearful of offending Muslims that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihadi mass-murderer, received plum assignments, glowing reviews and promotions from the Army, despite being both professionally incompetent and an obvious security threat.

Further guidance on the limits of speech comes from Mr. Obama, who informed the UN General Assembly in 2012, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

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Forbes: Small Business Owners Should Be Single-Issue Voters

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Interesting take.

Say what you will about the Tea Party, it has not only given voice to those who hold dear conservative values, but to paraphrase Mr. Newton, it has engendered an equal and opposite reaction from those who inhabit the left side of the political spectrum. Ironically, this vociferous differentiation has placed greater import on the new electoral power brokers, independent voters.

Nothing bad happens when Americans get fired up about the political process, regardless of whether they spin to the left or the right, or mark time in the middle. Feeling pressure to take a political position typically manifests in becoming a more knowledgeable voter. If America is to ever solve its many challenges, those solutions will be demanded by an informed electorate who hire representatives to serve them, rather than anoint a self-serving political class.

Something good would happen if small business stakeholders were as politically organized and influential as other single-issue groups, like unions. If small business were a country, Wikipedia would describe Small Business USA like this: Population: 125 million (owners, employees and dependents). Economy: Largest on the planet. Contribution to society: Significant. Organized political influence for its own interests: Negligible.

What’s wrong with this picture?

With so much to contribute, Small Business America has many reasons to catch the tide of electoral fervor and become more involved in the political process.

Most of my immediate family are and were small business owners (different kinds, there is no “family business), and I know from that experience that they tend to be more conservative. The small business owners they do business with tend to be the same.

The point here about the SBA having political influence that is inversely proportional to its economic clout is important and one that isn’t talked about much. If ever a time existed to address it, it’s now. So many of the progressive left boondoggles that have been passed and are being fought for place and undue burden on small businesses. Boeing can absorb the ever-escalating costs of the PPACA without blinking an eye because it will have an easier time of spreading around how it passes those costs on. Joe’s Construction, however, will not.

The $15 an hour minimum wage is something that is championed by people who, by and large, have never run a business in their lives and think most money can be “POOFED” into existence by governmental mandate. This is another progressive favorite that disproportionately affects small biz owners.

Large industries (health care, insurance, etc.) and Big Labor all have powerful political lobbies. The Small Business Association has a seat at the table but it’s WAY at the end where almost no one can hear it and the good stuff is gone by the time the serving dishes are passed down there.

It would be good for the country if:

a) The SBA upped its political clout and,

b) One of the two major parties (hint, hint) gave them something to vote for again.

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State Dept. Inspector General Finds ‘Appearance of Undue Influence and Favoritism’ in Internal Probes

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Office of the Inspector General at the State Department released a report revealing “an appearance of undue influence and favoritism by Department management” in three out of eight internal investigations reviewed.

“The appearance of undue influence and favoritism is problematic because it risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders,” the OIG report said.

“In May 2011, [Bureau of Diplomatic Security] was alerted to suspicions by the security staff at a U.S. embassy that the U.S. Ambassador solicited a prostitute in a public park near the embassy. DS assigned an agent from its internal investigations unit to conduct a preliminary inquiry. However, 2 days later, the agent was directed to stop further inquiry because of a decision by senior Department officials to treat the matter as a ‘management issue.’ The Ambassador was recalled to Washington and, in June 2011, met with the Under Secretary of State for Management and the then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State. At the meeting, the Ambassador denied the allegations and was then permitted to return to post. The Department took no further action affecting the Ambassador.”

The OIG found that not enough evidence was collected to confirm or refute the allegation of misconduct, including no interview of the ambassador by DS.

The second case “concerned a DS Regional Security Officer (RSO) posted overseas, who, in 2011, allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment.”

“At the time the investigation began, the RSO already had a long history of similar misconduct allegations dating back 10 years at seven other posts where he worked,” and the OIG found that “notwithstanding the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, the Department never attempted to remove the RSO from Department work environments where the RSO could potentially harm other employees.”

The third case “involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,” a nominee whose name was then withdrawn.

“OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS had delayed for 4 months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “unusual role played by State Department top management handling these internal investigations of potential criminal acts is disturbing” and he’s “pleased” that new Inspector General Steve Linick “took it upon himself to reexamine this issue.”

“Today’s report demonstrates why having a permanent Inspector General is critical to overseeing government operations. Unfortunately, the State Department lacked this accountability during the first five years of this Administration. With no top cop on the beat for nearly 2,000 days, I’m not surprised that management went off the rails in this case,” Royce said.

“Luckily that’s not the case today. I’m proud of the role that the Committee played – on a bipartisan basis – to get a permanent Inspector General in place to oversee the State Department’s operations.”

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Obama’s New Ebola Czar Was Deeply Involved in Solyndra Scandal

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Bridget Johnson reported earlier that President Obama has appointed Ron Klain to become Ebola czar.

Klain’s career is not in medicine, epidemiology, or any field related to disease control or prevention.

Klain is a laywer, a K Street lobbyist, and a career Democrat party operative. Klain is not a doctor. He is a Democrat loyalist.

Not only was he involved in Al Gore’s 2000 election recount as Bridget reported, Klain was involved in the Obama administration’s Solyndra debacle.

In January 2012, ABC News reported that Klain, then Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, was right in the middle of the administration’s poor and controversial handling of Solyndra’s bankruptcy.

Senior White House officials knew in late October 2010 that government-backed Solyndra was planning to lay off nearly 20 percent of its workforce just prior to the congressional elections the next month, recently released e-mails show.

E-mails released by the White House last week showed that Heather Zichal, an energy aide to President Barack Obama, relayed the news about the Fremont-based solar firm’s planned layoffs to top White House officials, including Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Ron Klain.

Later in the same story…

Obama visited Solyndra in May 2010, as e-mails showed his top advisers, including Jarrett and Klain, knew about Solyndra’s precarious financial condition. During his visit, Obama hailed Solyndra, telling factory workers, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.”

In another story, ABC details Klain’s role:

On May 24, 2010 — two days before the president’s visit — California businessman Steve Westley emailed senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, referencing the audit and saying the visit might “haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy, etc.”

Jarrett reached out to Ron Klain, then the chief of staff to Vice President Biden, saying that “we clearly need to make sure that they are stable and solid.”

Klain contacted Energy Department officials and then wrote back to Jarrett, saying “Sounds like there are some risk factors here – but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit. It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

“I’m comfortable if you’re comfortable,” Jarrett wrote back.

Responded Klain: “The reality is that if POTUS visited 10 such places over the next 10 months, probably a few would be belly-up by election day 2012 – but that to me is the reality of saying that we want to help promote cutting edge, new economy industries.”

By October, Summers, Klain, and director of the Office of Energy and Climate Policy Carol Browner wrote a six-page memorandum to the President about the loan guarantee program, detailing the fights between the Department of Energy and OMB and giving the president four options to deal with the program, one of which would have terminated it altogether, seeking congressional approval to move the funds into a Department of Energy grant program.

The Washington Post reports that Klain “dismissed auditor’s concerns about Solyndra’s solvency” in 2010, “reasoning that all innovative companies come with risk.” In Solyndra’s case, the risk was borne by the US taxpayer in the form of government-backed loans.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in August 2011, just over a year after Klain dismissed concerns about its viability, and failed to warn President Obama about its financial condition.

More: Obama on Ebola: ‘I don’t have a philosophical objection, necessarily, to a travel ban.’

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Obama on Ebola: ‘I don’t have a philosophical objection, necessarily, to a travel ban.’

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

President Obama has begun to explain why he is making sure that the United States does not impose a travel ban on people coming from the three Ebola-stricken countries to here.

Those countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A Liberian man flew to the United States in September, bringing Ebola with him. He infected two nurses, and as many as 1,000 people are now being sought or monitored for having contact either with him or with the two nurses.

In a White House photo-op, Obama explained “I don’t have a philosophical objection, necessarily, to a travel ban if that is the thing that is gonna keep the American people safe.”

Obama claimed that in all discussions that he has had with experts in the field, those experts have told him that if there is a travel ban, some people might slip across borders to travel from another, non-Ebola country. Because that possibility even exists, there should be no travel ban at all.

Watch his remarks here.

Obama did not name any of the experts who he claims have told him of this scenario — a scenario that has become increasingly unlikely after several African countries closed their borders with the Ebola-stricken countries.

The president’s use of “necessarily” to qualify his thoughts indicates that he does have a philosophical objection to a travel ban. His default position will be to keep travel open to roughly 150 people per day coming to the United States from West Africa, unless circumstances force his hand. Today the president gave the first hint that that could happen.

Africa itself is less hesitant about imposing travel bans, closing borders and making other moves to keep Ebola from spreading. Morocco hosts the Africa Cup of Nations international soccer tournament in January. That country is now reportedly lobbying to get the tournament delayed until the Ebola outbreak is over. Some reports say that Morocco has already withdrawn from hosting. The Sierra Leone team no longer plays any qualifying games in its home country.

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Kerry Compares ‘Radical Exploitation of Religion’ in Caliphate to Thirty Years’ War

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry told a belated Eid al-Adha celebration at the State Department yesterday — postponed because of his travel — that if he went back to college today he would “at least minor, if not major, in comparative religion.”

“I have found in my journeys through the world over these 29-plus years as a senator and now in the year and a half, year and three-quarters I’ve been Secretary of State, there is no place in the world where in one way or the other it isn’t affecting an outlook,” Kerry said.

“And even in places where people are nonbelievers or people have a different philosophy rather than one of the major religions of the world, there are themes and currents that run through every life philosophy, every single approach, whether it’s Native Americanism or Confucianism or – you can find that there’s been this passage through history from the scriptures – from the Qu’ran, from the Torah, from the Bible – that all come together, and even from other places, where they’ve been incorporated and inculcated through the sermons and preachings and teachings of religious leaders,” he added. “And we know this today.”

Kerry called the global situation “a very complex time, and there are many currents that are loose out there that have brought us to this moment.”

“The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions. There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for or is doing to people,” he said.

“And so we all have a larger mission here. And obviously, history is filled with that. I mean, you go back to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe and other periods of time, Protestants, Catholics, others who have fought. It’s not new to us. Tragically, it’s more prominent because media is more available today, the messaging is there, everybody is more aware on an instantaneous basis of what is happening. And of course it’s exploited by people who engage in this.”

Kerry lobbied for a two-state solution in the Middle East and reflected “deeply on how we will deal not just with the manifestation of the symptom, which is what the violence and the extremism is, but with the underlying causes which go to this question of governance and corruption and a whole issue of how you meet the needs of people.”

“And that’s where our partnership has to be not just for peace but for prosperity, shared prosperity, where everybody has an ability to be able to find a job, get the education, be able to reach the brass ring, and it is not just reserved for a privileged few,” he continued.

“And finally, we have to build a partnership for sustainability of the planet itself, and that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food.”

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Obama to Appoint Gore Recount Lawyer, Former VP Chief of Staff as Ebola Czar

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After huddling with a handful of advisers Thursday afternoon, President Obama told reporters he cold be open to the idea of an Ebola czar.

On Friday morning, CNN reported that Obama would name lobbyist and former Vice President Al Gore’s and VP Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain to the position.

The Democratic Party operative has worked as a lawyer since leaving the White House in 2011. He led the legal team fighting for Gore in the 2000 recount and was portrayed by Kevin Spacey in HBO’s Recount.

A day after pulling together his cabinet to talk Ebola, Obama met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

“The President’s advisors detailed for him the status of the investigation into how the Dallas healthcare workers were exposed to the virus and updated him on the contact tracing process, which allows health officials to identify and, as necessary, monitor all individuals who may have come into contact with the patients following their exposure,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “They also discussed the steps the President ordered to enhance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to respond rapidly, safely, and effectively upon the diagnosis of an Ebola case domestically.”

Obama told reporters that he had spoken with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, “who is on top of it,” regarding the trip of nurse Amber Vinson to the state while she was symptomatic.

“We don’t know yet exactly what happened,” he said of how the healthcare workers contracted Ebola from Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, mirroring the CDC’s head-scratching at how the protective system failed.

Obama also spoke with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and said Perry had “legitimate concerns in terms of making sure that the federal government is surging the kinds of resources that they need in order to handle any eventuality there, to make sure that folks not just at Texas Presbyterian, but potentially at other health care facilities, have the training and the equipment that they need.”

The president addressed the idea of a travel ban “because I know it’s been a topic consistently in the news.”

“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban, if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe,” he said. “The problem is, in all the discussions I’ve had thus far, with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting, that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa.”

“…If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we’ve put in place now, history shows that there’s a likelihood of increased avoidance. People do not readily disclose their information. They may engage in something called ‘broken travel,’ essentially breaking up their trips so they can hide the fact that they have been to one of these countries where there’s a disease in place. And as a result, we may end up getting less information about who has the disease. They’re less likely to get treated properly, screened properly, quarantined properly, and as a consequence, we could end up having more cases rather than less.”

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Vice President Biden’s Son Booted from the Navy: Cocaine

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, has been kicked out of the US Navy Reserve.

The son of Vice President Joe Biden says he is “embarrassed” after being discharged from the Navy Reserve earlier this year — reportedly after testing positive for cocaine.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Thursday that Hunter Biden’s short-lived military career ended because he failed a drug test after reporting to his unit in 2013. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Navy discharged him in February of this year.

Biden said in a statement to Fox News that he respects the Navy’s decision but did not specify why he was discharged.

“It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge,” he said. “I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”

The 44-year-old was given a commission as an ensign in the Navy Reserve in 2013. He was kicked out earlier this year, yet the story is just now getting into the media. Was it covered up?

Drug use seems to run in Joe Biden’s family, though the media have never made as much of that as they attempted to make of everything that the Bush daughters did or didn’t do.

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Expanding Threat: CDC Says Infected Nurse May Have Had Symptoms on Flight From Dallas to Cleveland

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Officials at the Centers for Disease Control now say that Amber Vinson, the nurse who contracted the Ebola virus in a Dallas hospital, may have exhibited symptoms earlier than originally reported.

During a press conference in Summit County on Thursday, Dr. Chris Braden with the CDC said, “We can’t rule out that she might have had the start of her illness on Friday.” He said the CDC received new information today that gives them reason to include Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland on Friday, October 10, in their investigation.

“This new information now is saying that we need to go back now to the flight that she took on Friday the 10th and include them in our investigation,” Braden told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “We’re talking with many people who may have been around her and talking with her when we can,” he said, adding that Vinson is “not very well” at this time so investigators need to be judicious in questioning her.

Braden said it is difficult to identify exactly when her symptoms began because they were not typical for the Ebola virus. “She didn’t have a fever — even when she presented for evaluation and was diagnosed — that reaches the cut-off,” he said. “That makes it a little bit hard to go back and say, ‘Well, if she had some comments that she was feeling funny, does that count?’” He said it is difficult to make such judgements when gathering information about public health decisions. CDC Director Thomas Frieden told Congress on Thursday that his agency gave Vinson permission to fly because her temperature did not reach the cut-off.

“We’re always getting more information and learning, which is why you may see a change in the context that we’ve identified,” Braden said.

He also said that passengers on the flight from Dallas to Cleveland will now be “included in the investigation.”

During press conferences in Cleveland and Akron on Wednesday, officials gave conflicting dates for when Vinson arrived in Cleveland. The Cleveland Department of Public Health said she flew on Wednesday, the 8th. Other officials said she flew into Cleveland on Friday, the 10th. Dr. Margo Erme from the Summit County Public Health Department said they were not sure about the timeline. “We have gotten conflicting dates too, so we are actually looking at getting the manifest from the airline to actually confirm that because we have actually heard both.”

In addition to the quarantine of Vinson’s stepfather’s home, the Ebola “scare” has caused a variety of  closings and disruptions in the area. Several Cleveland-area school were closed this week for cleaning after a teacher and a student reported they were on the flight with Vinson from Cleveland to Dallas. Two village halls also closed for the same reason. Several area hospitals put nurses who were on the Frontier Airline flight on paid leave as a precaution and Sherwin-Williams announced that three employees who work at the headquarters in Cleveland will be working from home until it can be determined that they are not infected with the Ebola virus.

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Kerry Meets Iran Counterpart; Nuke Deal Hung Up on ‘Sort of Everything’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A senior State Department official in Vienna told reporters that, after hours of talks on Wednesday, the hangup keeping Iran and the P5+1 from arriving at a nuclear deal remains “sort of everything.”

“We know where we are headed. We know what we each want the objective to be and we’re trying to narrow those gaps. But we have to do so in a way that ensures that all of the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down,” the official said on background, adding there are “possible” solutions on the horizon in regard to the Arak heavy water reactor and “many elements” to be dealt with including uranium enrichment at Natanz and Fordow.

“And then we want to make sure we shut down the covert path, and that is largely done through very specific and very meaningful and concrete verification and monitoring mechanisms. And each one of these pathways has layers and layers of detail, and you have to understand every one of those layers to know whether what you think you’ve gotten really works.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, met late into the evening “about whether Iran is willing to take verifiable actions to show the world that their program is indeed exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Iran also met separately with EU representatives. The State Department official said Iran “thinks it’s important to meet with the United States from time to time because not only do we hold a number of the sanctions that are of greatest interest to them, but we – they are also very interested in our views on what needs to be accomplished.”

The official compared the negotiations to “an amoeba that sort of moves in and out until all of the pieces lock into place.”

“We’ve been chipping away at some of the issues. Everyone has put ideas on the table to see if we can move the ball forward. We have and continue to make some progress, but there is still a substantial amount of work to be done.”

Kerry said this week that he doesn’t know if the administration will extend the deadline — yet again — for  an agreement by Nov. 24.

He quipped at a press availability in Paris on Tuesday that he’s “glad that all the pundits and speculators are doubting whether or not” a nuclear deal with Iran “can be reached” by the target date.

The official today said they’re keeping an eye on Nov. 24 because “if you take the pressure off yourself, then you never have to make hard decisions.”

“And deadlines help people to make hard decisions, and there are hard decisions to be made here. And we must. So we are all keeping the pressure on ourselves, and that includes Iran,” the official continued.

“In terms of mood, in a professional way, we all know each other pretty well now. You can tell when the deputy foreign minister jokes. He reads the transcripts of these backgrounders, and when he can joke, ‘Why don’t you just hand over the last one? You’re going to say the same thing,’ it’s reached a level of we know each other well enough to make jokes.”

The State Department official acknowledged that joking around with the Iranians “will not get an agreement done.”

Zarif said today that “experts” from Iran and the P5+1 “will discuss issues related to their differences in the negotiation within the next one or two weeks.”

“There are outstanding differences, but it doesn’t mean that these differences cannot be resolved,” Zarif told reporters, according to Fars News Agency. ”…Everyone believes that this issue can be settled since, actually, Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful program and a reality on the ground.”

The State Department official wouldn’t put a number on how far along they are in negotiations.

“You can’t put a percentage on it, because even if you thought you were 75 percent of the way or even 98 percent of the way there, that last two percent may be the most important 2 percent there is, may be the glue that puts it all together. So can’t put a percentage on it.”

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Earnest: Travel Ban Would ‘Drive Those Individuals’ Possibly Carrying Ebola ‘Underground’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told a House panel today that they “will consider any options to better protect Americans,” but White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that a travel ban is “not something that we’re considering.”

The White House’s reluctance to entertain the idea comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are getting louder, asking why even interim measures such as blocking non-essential travel or blocking travel for non-citizens can’t be considered.

“Currently, when individuals do travel from West Africa to the United States, they are screened prior to departure in West Africa. They are screened again once they enter this country. And they are subjected to heightened screening if they have traveled in these three west African countries in the last three weeks or so,” Earnest told reporters today.

“That is an indication that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the American public. That is our core priority. And that is why the president has directed that these heightened screening measures be put in place at the airports where 94 percent of travelers from western Africa arrive in this country.”

Earnest argued that putting into place a travel or visa ban “would provide a direct incentive for individuals seeking to travel to the United States to go underground and to seek to evade this screening and to not be candid about their travel history in order to enter the country.”

“And that means it would be much harder for us to keep tabs on these individuals and make sure that they get the screening that’s needed to protect them and to protect, more importantly, the American public,” he continued. “So we want to keep those lines of — of transportation open so that those individuals who seek to enter this country — and again, it’s a relatively small number, about 150 a day that enter this country. We want to make sure that those individuals are subjected to the heightened screening measures that the president put in place a week or two ago.”

He also stressed the administration refrain that it’s “important for us to keep this line of transportation open because commercial transportation is critical to ensuring that supplies and equipment can get to the region.”

“I know nothing about the commercial airline industry. But ostensibly, you’re not going to fly a bunch of planes to West Africa and then fly them out of there while they’re empty,” Earnest said. “So as a practical matter, you know, putting in place that travel ban would make it harder for the international community to respond to this incident and to mobilize the personnel and equipment that’s necessary to stop this outbreak at the source.”

The press secretary also denied a report from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who said that Frieden told him one of the reasons behind the reluctance to enact a travel ban is the desire to not harm the economies of the “fledgling democracies” in West Africa.

“It’s not. The reason that the travel ban in the view of this administration is not appropriate right now is because it’s not in the best interest of the safety of the American public. Again, people who are traveling from those three countries to the United States right now are subjected to intensive screening both on the ground in those three countries, but also upon arrival here in the United States of America,” Earnest said.

“If we were to put in place a travel ban, it essentially would drive those individuals underground. And it would make it easier for them to evade detection. They wouldn’t be screened at the airport before they left. And it would be harder to ensure that they were being screened when they arrived in this country.”

When asked how it would drive people underground, Earnest replied, “I don’t mean literally underground.”

“I mean that they would be below the radar of the transportation system, that they would now have an incentive to be less than candid about their travel history. If knowing that they could not travel to the United States by saying that they’d been in Liberia, individuals are much less likely, if they’re planning to travel to the United States, to disclose the fact that they’ve been in Liberia,” he said.

“What people need to have the facts about is the facts that there are screening measures that are in place to ensure that individuals who are traveling from West Africa don’t currently exhibit symptoms of Ebola when they try to enter the country. That’s much harder for us to do if we put in place a travel ban, because people will attempt to circumvent that ban and it will make it harder for us to ensure they get the screening we believe is necessary.”

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Muhammad and Islam’s Sex Slaves

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Raymond Ibrahim

Once again, Islamic State Muslims are pointing to Islam in order to justify what the civilized world counts as atrocities.

According to an October 13 report in the Telegraph,

Islamic State jihadists have given detailed theological reasons justifying why they have taken thousands of women from the Iraqi Yazidi minority and sold them into sex slavery.

A new article in the Islamic State English-language online magazine Dabiq not only admits the practice but justifies it according to the theological rulings of early Islam.

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharia amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated,” the article says.

As for “theological reasons” for sex slavery “according to the Sharia,” these are legion—from male Muslim clerics, to female Muslim activists.   Generally they need do no more than cite the clear words of Koran 4:3, which permit Muslims to copulate with female captives of war, or ma malakat aymanukum, “what”—not whom—“your right hands possess.”

The article continues:

But most of it [Islamic State “article” or fatwa] is devoted to theological justifications for Islamic State behaviour, citing early clerics and the practices of the Prophet Mohammed and his Companions during the early years of Islamic expansion.

Indeed, while many are now aware of the Koran’s and by extension Sharia’s justification for slaves, sexual or otherwise, fewer are willing to embrace the fact that the prophet of Islam himself kept and copulated with concubines conquered during the jihad.

One little-known story is especially eye-opening:

During Muhammad’s jihad on the Jews of Khaybar, he took for himself from among the spoils of war one young woman, a teenager, Safiya bint Huyay, after hearing of her beauty.  (Earlier the prophet had bestowed her on another Muslim jihadi, but when rumor of her beauty reached him, the prophet reneged and took her for himself.)

Muhammad “married” Safiya hours after he had her husband, Kinana, tortured to death in order to reveal hidden treasure.  And before this, the prophet’s jihadis slaughtered Safiya’s father and brothers.

While Islamic apologists have long tried to justify this account—often by saying that Muhammad gave her the honor of “marriage” as opposed to being a concubine and that she opted to convert to Islam—they habitually fail to cite what Islamic sources record, namely Baladhuri’s ninth century Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (“Book of Conquests”).

According to this narrative, after the death of Muhammad, Safiya confessed that “Of all men, I hated the prophet the most—for he killed my husband, my brother, and my father,” before “marrying” (or, less euphemistically, raping) her… Keep reading

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Nurses Union Asks Obama to Order Hospitals to Use Adequate Protective Measures

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A nurses union is trying to collect petition signatures urging President Obama to use his executive authority to mandate Ebola-protection standards among all healthcare employers.

National Nurses United said Obama’s action would be “the only way to adequately confront Ebola crisis” by mandating ”uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers, and the public.”

They’re asking for:

– Optimal personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center

– Full-body hazmat suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F1670 standard for blood penetration, the ASTM F1671 standard for viral penetration, and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50 — or a higher standard as appropriate.

– There shall be at least two direct care registered nurses caring for each Ebola patient with additional RNs assigned as needed based on the direct care RN’s professional judgment with no additional patient care assignments.

– There will be continuous interactive training with the RNs who are exposed to patients. There will also be continuous updated training and education for all RNs that is responsive to the changing nature of disease. This would entail continuous interactive training and expertise from facilities where state of the art disease containment is occurring.

– If the Employer has a program with standards that exceed those used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the higher standard shall be used. The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health care workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons.

America, the union argued, “should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.”

“Nothing short of your mandate, that optimal safety standards apply, will be acceptable to the nurses of this nation.”

Two nurses who treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas have fallen ill with the Ebola virus.

Briana Aguirre, a registered nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, told the Today show that “we never talked about Ebola and we probably should have.”

“They gave us an optional seminar to go to. Just informational, not hands on. It wasn’t even suggested we go … We were never told what to look for,” she said.

Aguirre said the “chaotic” scene after Duncan was admitted included the patient initially being placed in an area with “up to seven other patients.”

“I’ll be honest, I threw a fit. I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of their protective gear that left gaps uncovered. “In the second week of an Ebola crisis at my hospital, the only gear they were offering us at that time, and up until that time, is gear that is allowing our necks to be uncovered?”

The California Nurses Association got a hand from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today:

 

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Again: Another Democrat Refuses to Admit Voting for Obama

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Welcome to consequences, Natalie Tennant.

The West Virginia Democrat is running for Senate in West Virginia. Thanks to Obama, that’s a red state now.

Tennant was indirectly asked today if she voted for Obama.

And she refused to answer clearly. “I voted for the Democrat Party,” Tennant allowed, before launching into a long criticism of Obama’s EPA policies, to create some distance between herself, her own party, and him.

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Is the White House Behind the CDC’s Travel Ban Stubbornness? Frieden Won’t Say.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

In his Washington Times column today, Joseph Curl writes that President Barack Obama could have kept Ebola out of the United States with a few simple words: “No one from West Africa gets into the country.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Had there been a travel ban from West Africa’s Ebola zone to the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan could not have flown here by way of Brussels. Two American nurses would not now have Ebola, straining Texas Presbyterian to the point that they have had to be flown across the country to two of the nation’s four Ebola-ready hospitals.

But the Obama administration has not imposed a travel ban from West Africa’s Ebola zone to the United States.

During today’s Ebola hearing in Congress, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) quizzed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden about that.

Dr. Frieden insisted that if we ban travel from the three Ebola-stricken countries, exposed people can just slip into nearby countries and fly from there, and we will be unable to monitor them here.

That’s highly debatable. Several African countries have closed their borders with the Ebola-stricken countries, and they have credited better border security with helping block the spread of Ebola. The borders are porous, true, but the CDC’s argument is now that because we cannot stop all air passenger travel from all of Africa, we cannot stop any of it from the Ebola hot zone.

Upton said, “I looked at the legal language, does the president, does he have the legal authority to impose a travel ban because of health reasons including Ebola, is that not correct?”

Frieden whiffed, “I — I don’t have legal expertise to answer the question.”

As the head of the CDC, Frieden surely knows that presidents do have such authority.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) asked Frieden about the White House’s involvement.

“Have y’all had any conversations within the White House about a travel ban and whether or not the president has the authority? Because many of us have said the president does have the authority to do it today,” Scalise said.

Frieden did not answer, saying instead that CDC “would consider” a ban.

Scalise asked again: “Have you considered that? Have you ruled it out? Have you had conversations with the White House about a travel ban? That’s a yes or no question. Have you had conversations with the White House about a travel ban?”

Friedan against refused to answer directly: “We’ve discussed many aspects.”

Scalise asked again if Frieden has discussed a travel ban with the White House: “I can’t speak for the White House.”

Scalise tried several more times, to ascertain if the White House is discussing the lack of a travel ban with the CDC.

Frieden repeatedly refused to answer.

Watch the exchange here.

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Putin To Attempt Damage Control With Western Leaders In Milan Meeting

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

“Who,me?”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is mounting a diplomatic blitz on the sidelines of a summit of European and Asian leaders in a bid to escape Russia’s worst crisis with the West since the Cold War.

Putin on Friday will discuss Ukraine over breakfast with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and key European leaders on the sidelines of the 10th ASEM summit in Milan. He may also meet privately with Poroshenko.

The West has imposed a series of economic sanctions against Russia since its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March and its support for a pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

One wonders how much Bad Vlad will be crossing his fingers behind his back while making assurances to Merkel, et al. He marches to his own drummer, and that drummer is usually preceded by a bullet or two.

In a dangerous world ridden with crisis fatigue, it would be comforting to find that sanctions alone are working in this case.

If not, we’ll always have something new to panic about tomorrow.

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Senator Doc: Obama Needs to Withdraw Nomination of Young Activist for Surgeon General

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

One of the physicians serving in the Senate called on President Obama to withdraw his 37-year-old nominee for surgeon general, an appointment that has stalled amid opposition in the upper chamber.

Vivek Murthy, a Harvard Medical School instructor who founded Doctors for Obama (which changed its name to Doctors for America), was nominated in November 2013.

Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak has been acting surgeon general since Regina Benjamin’s resignation in July 2013.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) put a hold on Murthy’s nomination in February, noting “the majority of Dr. Murthy’s non-clinical experience is in political advocacy.”

“Historically, the Surgeon General of the United States has been a position with the purpose of educating Americans so that they may lead healthier lives, rather than advancing a political agenda,” Paul wrote at the time to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to use that position to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) was among Democrats telling the White House he would “very likely vote no” on Murthy, and the nomination hasn’t come to the floor.

Reid could bring Murthy up for a vote after midterm elections, though, and argue that the nomination needs to be pushed through quickly because of the health crisis.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today urged Obama to pull the nomination, arguing that now more than ever American needs an experienced surgeon general.

“Americans are justifiably worried about the spread of Ebola and concerned that it could reach their families. In the middle of growing uncertainty, President Obama and his team need to do everything possible to give the American people more confidence that their government is working effectively to prevent any more people from contracting this deadly virus,” Barrasso said in a statement.

“Now more than ever, our nation needs to have an experienced and effective Surgeon General to help coordinate the government’s Ebola strategy.”

The senator, who as an orthopedic surgeon was president of the Wyoming Medical Society, noted that “it has been clear for almost a year that the president’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is not the right person for this consequential job.”

“His nomination has stalled in the Senate for months because members from both sides of the aisle are concerned that Dr. Murthy is primarily known for his advocacy for gun control and his fundraising capabilities on behalf of the president. These ‘qualifications’ will not solve the wide range of public health problems currently facing Americans,” he said.

“It is now time for President Obama to immediately withdraw Dr. Murthy’s nomination and promptly nominate an experienced professional who can help prevent the spread of Ebola and tackle other serious health challenges. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who has substantial experience in managing complex crises and delivering patient care.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling on Obama to bring in a former surgeon general to held coordinate the Ebola response.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today joined Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) call for an Ebola czar.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Nelson said. “This person should be at least temporarily based in a White House war room with direct authority from the president – someone like former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who has the requisite medical background and who served in that position under former president George W. Bush.”

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Kiwi Pumpkin Seeds Can’t Cross Border, But Ebola Can

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

President Obama continues to refuse to impose a travel ban on those seeking to enter the United States who came from Ebola-ravaged countries.  Yet when I attempted to enter the United States from New Zealand, I was prohibited from bringing packaged seeds from the delicious Queensland Blue pumpkin.  In fact, all totally harmless vegetable seeds from foreign countries are prohibited and, as in my case, confiscated at the border.

When I attempted to enter the country with pre-packaged Queensland Blue seeds in 2003, the delicious squash was common in Australia and New Zealand, but seeds were not widely available in the United States.  At Los Angeles, I was forced to surrender the seeds to an agriculture inspector at customs.

Queensland Blue seeds are harmless, and the vegetable is is commonly eaten across Australia and New Zealand.

The same can’t be said about Ebola, and only people who were in West Africa could bring it into the United States, which is precisely what happened.  I called for a travel ban two weeks ago on The Kelly File.

Among those supporting a travel ban are Sen. Ted Cruz, Speaker John Boehner, and the American people, overwhelmingly, as Katie Pavlich notes.

CAN come in (L), CAN'T come in (R)

CAN come in (L), Queeny Blue (R) CAN’T come in.

Contrary to reports, the CDC has less power to block the border than does President Obama personally.  Federal law gives the president personally (not the CDC) the power to bar entry into the United States to all people who have been in West Africa in the last 30 days.  I detailed this power here.  News reports which place that power with the CDC are giving President Obama a pass.  President Obama can issue an executive proclamation without any involvement from the CDC or other bureaucratic agencies.

If we are to believe the administration’s excuses for not doing so, health care workers can still be given special permission to enter West Africa on military flights.

Yet we are treated to the latest round of untrustworthy excuses from the CDC today in Hill testimony.  Among the latest excuse why banning travel is a bad idea is that the American government wouldn’t be able to monitor and track people who might have Ebola.  Tell that to the American people when the people that President Obama allowed into the country infect Americans in increasing numbers.

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Fan-Gate: Chris Wallace Says that Charlie Crist Demands a Fan When He Appears on Fox (Updated: Rule-Breaker!)

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

During last night’s Florida gubernatorial debate, there was a mini-debate over a fan.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) did not get an allowance in the rules for having a fan behind his podium, but he snuck a fan onto the stage anyway. It was positioned just in front of and between his feet, angled nearly straight up.

crist-fan

Current Gov. Rick Scott (R) made a big deal out of the fan, and even delayed the debate to protest the fact that Crist had snuck it onto the stage.

Scott initially looked like a buffoon for making an issue of the fan, but Fox’s Chris Wallace told Brian Kilmeade today that this is not the first time that Charlie Crist’s insistence of having a fan close-by has come up.

Wallace told Kilmeade, “We’ve had Charlie Crist on Fox News Sunday, and he demanded a fan when he was [on].”

Kilmeade laughed, “He did?”

“Absolutely,” Wallace replied. “The man clearly sweats a lot, and he needs to have a fan to keep him cool.

Wallace added, “I don’t know whether he really needs it or whether he psychologically needs it, but he does need it.”

Maybe it’s not sweat. Maybe Crist has some other need to blow air past himself to points away from other peoples’ noses. And maybe Scott delayed the debate to bring whatever drives Crist to demand fans everywhere out into the open.

Is Fan-Gate somehow connected to Charlie Crist’s tangerine complexion?

I really have no idea. I just know that when Lex Luthor debates Orange Benedict Arnold and sneaking fans around is the issue, no one really wins.

Well, other than late-night comics. They’re gonna love this.

Update: Debate organizers say that Crist broke the rules with his fan sneaking. Why was he so desperate to have a fan, yet not have the rules specify that he could have one? Hm.

A source with deep knowledge of Florida politics tells me that Crist insists on having fans around him because he sweats. A lot. A whole lot. Buckets, one supposes.

Being both orange and sweaty doesn’t make for a good TV image.

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Are Michelle Obama’s Skimpy School Lunches Going to Make Kids Dumb?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

First Lady Michelle Obama is not a dietitian by profession, she is a lawyer. She also studied sociology.

Here is a photo of one of Michelle Obama’s FDA-mandated school lunches. It’s from Oklahoma.

Chickasha-lunch

The school superintendent is not impressed.

Chickasha superintendent David Cash agrees the skimpy lunches need to be addressed.

“You’ve got in some cases little kids that their only two meals are breakfast and lunch at school and they’re getting you know a grand total of 1100 calories. That’s not enough,” Cash says.

The new lunch complies with lunch regulations championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and implemented by the USDA.

Mrs. Obama’s school lunches have come under massive criticism for being tasteless, for lacking a real variety of foods that kids will actually eat, and for being too small, as above. Schools are still struggling to adapt to the FDA-enforced, Obama-approved school lunches. Many schools around the country have opted to dump the First Lady’s lunches.

In addition to being too small, too boring, and filling up trash cans without filling up kids’ bellies, there may be another problem with these lunches.

They’re mostly raw.

Cooked food enables humans to have bigger and smarter brains, according to this 2007 article in Scientific American.

Richard Wrangham has tasted chimp food, and he doesn’t like it. “The typical fruit is very unpleasant,” the Harvard University biological anthropologist says of the hard, strangely shaped fruits endemic to the chimp diet, some of which look like cherries, others like cocktail sausages. “Fibrous, quite bitter. Not a tremendous amount of sugar. Some make your stomach heave.” After a few tastings in western Uganda, where he works part of the year on his 20-year-old project studying wild chimpanzees, Wrangham came to the conclusion that no human could survive long on such a diet. Besides the unpalatable taste, our weak jaws, tiny teeth and small guts would never be able to chomp and process enough calories from the fruits to support our large bodies.

Then, one cool fall evening in 1997, while gazing into his fireplace in Cambridge, Mass., and contemplating a completely different question—“What stimulated human evolution?”—he remembered the chimp food. “I realized what a ridiculously large difference cooking would make,” Wrangham says. Cooking could have made the fibrous fruits, along with the tubers and tough, raw meat that chimps also eat, much more easily digestible, he thought—they could be consumed quickly and digested with less energy. This innovation could have enabled our chimp­like ancestors’ gut size to shrink over evolutionary time; the energy that would have gone to support a larger gut might have instead sparked the evolution of our bigger-brained, larger-bodied, humanlike forebears.

Dr. Wrangham worked with Dr. Jane Goodall when she proved that primates other than humans are capable of making and using tools. He is no rookie or crank. He has been studying his cooked food theory for 10 years now. Many in other fields dismiss his idea, but he has pulled together considerable support for it.

What would it take to convert a chimpanzeelike ancestor into a human?” Fire to cook food, he reasoned, which led to bigger bodies and brains.

And that is exactly what he found in Homo erectus, our ancestor that first appeared 1.6 million to 1.9 million years ago. H. erectus’s brain was 50 percent larger than that of its predecessor, H. habilis, and it experienced the biggest drop in tooth size in human evolution. “There’s no other time that satisfies expectations that we would have for changes in the body that would be accompanied by cooking,” Wrangham says.

The problem with his idea: proof is slim that any human could control fire that far back.

As they say in science when they’re being honest and fair, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It just means that there is a gap in what has been verified.

So far, Wrangham has found that no current human group anywhere eats all of their food raw. Everyone cooks, across all human cultures. Modern humans need a lot of high-quality calories to support our high-functioning brains. We need cooked food to get those high-quality calories. Raw meat as seen in the Obama lunch above therefore doesn’t help much, according to Wrangham’s research (Wrangham has been working on this idea longer than Obama has been First Lady). Cooking saves energy that humans would otherwise have to spend chewing more food for longer periods — because “Heat alters the physical structure of proteins and starches, thereby making enzymatic breakdown easier.”

It’s not a slam dunk. There remains little evidence that our ancestors controlled fire far enough back to fit his theory. There are other dietary questions yet to be answered.

Whatever is the case, pretty much no one but Michelle Obama likes her school lunches — and she doesn’t even have to eat them.

Food for thought…

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Liberals Risk Losing Their Own Video Contest, So They Change the Rules

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

A week ago we reported that conservative group American Commitment was poised to win a video contest organized by leftwing groups MoveOn.org and MAYDAY.US.

At that point, American Commitment’s video was well ahead of all of the competition.

As of now, it has earned roughly 15 times the votes of its nearest competition.

MoveOn.org and MAYDAY.US apparently don’t like losing their own contest to a conservative video that skewers one of the left’s big money men, Tom Steyer.

Suddenly, the contest rules have changed!

American Commitment released a statement on the trickery.

The contest rules previously stated: “Contest ends at 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, October 16, 2014.  The sooner you post your video, the more time you’ll have to get votes.”

The contest rules have now been altered to say: “Contest submissions ends [sic] at 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, October 16, 2014.  The sooner you post your video, the more time you’ll have to get votes.  The 24-hour voting period begins on Thurdsday [sic] at 5pm ET, and ends on Friday at 5pm ET, October 17th, 2014”

That’s a major change in the voting period for the video contest. It negates all of the votes that the videos racked up since the contest actually began.

“MoveOn.org and MAYDAY.us have unfairly changed the rules in the middle of the game in a desperate attempt to stop our video from winning the competition,” said Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment in a statement emailed to the Tatler.  “Our entry about America’s number one fatcat campaign contributor, Tom Steyer—shines a spotlight on him and on the role hypocritical liberal billionaire contributors play in stoking feigned outrage about conservative donors.  Americans have overwhelmingly supported our ad with their votes, and MoveOn.org and MAYDAY.us should respect the democratic process by letting these votes stand—and then put some of their own big money behind airing the ad on TV.”

Here is American Commitment’s video entry, which has pulled in 15 times the votes of any of its competitors — before MoveOn.org moved to change the rules.

This episode is just a small window through which we can see the contempt that many on the left actually have for fair voting, and even for rules that they establish that later become inconvenient to them.

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Jindal Unloads on Obama, Calls Ebola Crisis ‘Latest Nightmare’ Caused by President’s ‘Incompetence’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who used to run the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals and served at HHS in the Bush administration (and who may be eyeing a 2016 run),  just unleashed on President Obama on Twitter:

 

 

 

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Ebola Nurse Pham to be Transferred to Maryland

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The United States has just four Ebola-equipped hospitals. One of those is in Bethesda, Maryland, and Nina Pham is being transferred to there from Texas Presbyterian today.

DALLAS — Nina Pham will be transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to a hospital in Bethesda, Md., family members confirmed Thursday morning.

A 26-year-old nurse, Pham was the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil.

Family confirmed they didn’t request the move. Sources say the decision was made due to staffing issues at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The family says they’re OK with the move.

Pham will surely get the best care there. She has been given a blood transfusion from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly and is reported to be doing well. She has even Skyped with family from the Dallas hospital.

The staff issues that WFFA’s story mentions but doesn’t detail are very serious.

Ebola puts a heavy burden on hospitals. It takes about 20 full-time and fully trained and fully protected ICU staff to care for just one Ebola patient. Texas Presbyterian reportedly had to ship several ICU patients to other area hospitals while it cared for Thomas Duncan, because of the staffing issues that Ebola creates and for the safety of those other patients. If Texas Presbyterian doesn’t send Pham and Vinson to other, Ebola-ready hospitals, its ICU is effectively shut down. And Pham and Vinson would not get the best care that is available.

Three of the four Ebola-ready hospitals currently have Ebola patients, or will once Pham arrives in Maryland. She will be there, Vinson is now at the one in Georgia, and NBC photographer Ashoka Mukpo is at the one in Nebraska. That just leaves the one in Missoula, Montana without an Ebola patient.

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