Tag Archive: current-events


Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

The Fix

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South

By Amber Phillips December 30 at 10:20 AM

Kentucky Democrats have a problem. They just lost the governor’s mansion last month and now there’s a very real chance that their control of the state House is slipping away. That’s significant not just in Kentucky but nationally too; if Democrats lose control of the Kentucky state House, they will control a total of zero legislative chamber in the entire south.

The latest bad news for Kentucky Democrats came this week when Democratic state Rep. Jim Gooch switched parties, the second Democrat to turn Republican since the GOP’s gains in November. Gooch follows his colleague, Rep. Denny Butler as party switchers; two Democratic state representatives have resigned to accept appointments from Kentucky’s new Republican governor, Matt Bevin.

That means when the state legislature convenes in January, there will be 50 Democrats and 46 Republicans in the House — with four vacancies to fill in special elections that could well go to Republicans.

In short, Kentucky is no longer Democrats’ last stronghold of electoral hope in the south. It’s now better described as one of the last states to realign with America’s decades-old north-south political reality: Republicans rule down South; Democrats up North.

The signs this was coming have been around for a while now, notes University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier. Even though Bill Clinton won the state twice, Mitt Romney won the state in the 2012 presidential election, and GOP candidates triumphed in the 2014 Senate election and the 2015 governor races — often by wide margins. Kentucky’s balance of power finally shifted in November’s statewide elections. Statewide offices, which until November were mostly held by Democrats, are now mostly held by Republicans. The GOP wave was led by Bevin, a businessman whose outside appeal and flare has been likened to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, came from behind to become only the second Republican to lead the state in four decades.

Kentucky’s House is now the lone holdout in a state that you could argue is no longer a holdout from the post- Civil Rights era political realignment. And it didn’t take long after November to watch Democrats’ control of the

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

House start to crumble as well.
“We used to be more of an outlier,” Farrier said. “Now we’re more normal.”

Inevitable realignment or not, there’s probably some blame for Democrats to go around. Farrier says she thinks all this should be a wake up call for the Democratic Party, which has struggled to bridge the urban-rural divide in heavily rural states like Kentucky and hasn’t really found a way to reach across the cultural divides that
separate former Southern Democrats with today’s Northern ones.

“What has the Democratic Party done for poor, conservative Evangelical white people?” Farrier said. “And the answer is not much. On God, guns and gays, poor, white Evangelical conservatives would say the Democratic Party walked away from them, and not the other way around.”

Democrats’ fading grip on Kentucky politics may be unique, but it probably didn’t help that Democrats are having trouble holding onto state offices across the country.

During President Obama’s tenure, Republicans clinched more and more control of statehouse and governor’s mansions to the point where The Fix’s Chris Cillizza writes they “an absolute stranglehold” on governor’s seats (64 percent).

After the November 2014 midterms, Republicans have control of an all-time high 68 of 98 state chambers.

Republicans say their dominance at the state level is a result of hard work. They’ve invested heavily in state legislative races this past decade as part of a strategy to control state chambers that will take on congressional redistricting in 2020. It certainly worked for them in 2010.

As a result of much of this, America is increasingly divided into two different countries that rarely touch each other, politically or geographically.

Yet another factor in Democrats’ struggles in the south: Obama’s unpopularity outside those East Coast Democratic enclaves. A Kentucky Democrat is no Massachusetts Democrat, and Obama isn’t particularly liked in some Kentucky Democratic circles.

In announcing his switch to the Republican Party, Rep. Gooch cited the president’s “radical agenda” on

Democrats are now in real danger of becoming extinct in the South – The Washington Post 12/31/15, 9:35 AM

environmental regulations and gun control as reason to leave.
The president is arguably in line with the rest of the Democratic Party on these issues, but for more conservative

Kentucky Democrats, it may have been a step too far.
“There is this hatred of the president,” Farrier said. “It is very real, and it’s hard to imagine that it will be easily

recoverable.”
One thing’s for certain: Democratic control of Kentucky won’t be easily recoverable, at least not until the next

major political realignment.

Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.

What the Constitution Really Says About Race and Slavery

David Azerrad / December 28, 2015

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the 13th Amendment officially was ratified, and with it, slavery finally was abolished in America. The New York World hailed it as “one of the most important reforms ever accomplished by voluntary human agency.”

The newspaper said the amendment “takes out of politics, and consigns to history, an institution incongruous to our political system, inconsistent with justice and repugnant to the humane sentiments fostered by Christian civilization.”

With the passage of the 13th Amendment—which states that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”—the central contradiction at the heart of the Founding was resolved.

Eighty-nine years after the Declaration of Independence had proclaimed all men to be free and equal, race-based chattel slavery would be no more in the United States.

While all today recognize this momentous accomplishment, many remain confused about the status of slavery under the original Constitution. Textbooks and history books routinely dismiss the Constitution as racist and pro-slavery. The New York Times, among others, continues to casually assert that the Constitution affirmed African-Americans to be worth only three-fifths of a human being.

Ironically, many Americans who are resolutely opposed to racism unwittingly agree with Chief Justice Roger Taney’s claim in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that the Founders’ Constitution regarded blacks as “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” In this view, the worst Supreme Court case decision in American history was actually correctly decided.

Such arguments have unsettling implications for the health of our republic. They teach citizens to despise their founding charter and to be ashamed of their country’s origins. They make the Constitution an object of contempt rather than reverence. And they foster alienation and resentment among African-American citizens by excluding them from our Constitution.

The received wisdom in this case is wrong. If we turn to the actual text of the Constitution and the debates that gave rise to it, a different picture emerges. The case for a racist, pro-slavery Constitution collapses under closer scrutiny.

Race and the Constitution

The argument that the Constitution is racist suffers from one fatal flaw: the concept of race does not exist in the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution—or in the Declaration of Independence, for that matter—are human beings classified according to race, skin color, or ethnicity (nor, one should add, sex, religion, or any other of the left’s favored groupings). Our founding principles are colorblind (although our history, regrettably, has not been).

The Constitution speaks of people, citizens, persons, other persons (a euphemism for slaves) and Indians not taxed (in which case, it is their tax-exempt status, and not their skin color, that matters). The first references to “race” and “color” occur in the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of the right to vote, ratified in 1870.

A newly freed African American group of men and a few children posing by a canal against the ruins of Richmond, Va. Photo made after Richmond was taken by Union troops on April 3, 1865. (Photo: Everett Collection/Newscom)
A newly freed group of black men and a few children pose by a canal against the ruins of Richmond, Va., after Union troops took the city on April 3, 1865. (Photo: Everett Collection/Newscom)

The infamous three-fifths clause, which more nonsense has been written than any other clause, does not declare that a black person is worth 60 percent of a white person. It says that for purposes of determining the number of representatives for each state in the House (and direct taxes), the government would count only three-fifths of the slaves, and not all of them, as the Southern states, who wanted to gain more seats, had insisted. The 60,000 or so free blacks in the North and the South were counted on par with whites.

Contrary to a popular misconception, the Constitution also does not say that only white males who owned property could vote. The Constitution defers to the states to determine who shall be eligible to vote (Article I, Section 2, Clause 1). It is a little known fact of American history that black citizens were voting in perhaps as many as 10 states at the time of the founding (the precise number is unclear, but only Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia explicitly restricted suffrage to whites).

Slavery and the Constitution

Not only does the Constitution not mention blacks or whites, but it also doesn’t mention slaves or slavery. Throughout the document, slaves are referred to as persons to underscore their humanity. As James Madison remarked during the constitutional convention, it was “wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”

The Constitution refers to slaves using three different formulations: “other persons” (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3), “such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit” (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1), and a “person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof” (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3).

Although these circumlocutions may not have done much to improve the lot of slaves, they are important, as they denied constitutional legitimacy to the institution of slavery. The practice remained legal, but slaveholders could not invoke the supreme law of the land to defend its legitimacy. These formulations make clear that slavery is a state institution that is tolerated—but not sanctioned—by the national government and the Constitution.

Reading the original Constitution, a visitor from a foreign land would simply have no way of knowing that race-based slavery existed in America. As Abraham Lincoln would later explain:

Thus, the thing is hid away, in the Constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death.

One could go even further and argue, as Frederick Douglass did in the lead-up to the Civil War, that none of the clauses of the Constitution should be interpreted as applying to slaves. The “language of the law must be construed strictly in favor of justice and liberty,” he argued.

Because the Constitution does not explicitly recognize slavery and does not therefore admit that slaves were property, all the protections it affords to persons could be applied to slaves. “Anyone of these provisions in the hands of abolition statesmen, and backed up by a right moral sentiment, would put an end to slavery in America,” Douglass concluded.

Those who want to see what a racist and pro-slavery Constitution would look like should turn to the Confederate Constitution of 1861. Though it largely mimics the Constitution, it is replete with references to “the institution of negro slavery,” “negroes of the African race,” and “negro slaves.” It specifically forbids the Confederate Congress from passing any “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves.”

One can readily imagine any number of clauses that could have been added to our Constitution to enshrine slavery. The manumission of slaves could have been prohibited. A national right to bring one’s slaves to any state could have been recognized. Congress could have been barred from interfering in any way with the transatlantic slave trade.

It is true that the Constitution of 1787 failed to abolish slavery. The constitutional convention was convened not to free the slaves, but to amend the Articles of Confederation. The slave-holding states would have never consented to a new Constitution that struck a blow at their peculiar institution. The Constitution did, however, empower Congress to prevent its spread and set it on a course of extinction, while leaving the states free to abolish it within their own territory at any time.

Regrettably, early Congresses did not pursue a consistent anti-slavery policy. This, however, is not an indictment of the Constitution itself. As Frederick Douglass explained: “A chart is one thing, the course of a vessel is another. The Constitution may be right, the government wrong.”

Congress and the Slave Trade

In his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson called the African slave trade an “execrable commerce” and an affront “against human nature itself.” Because of a concession to slave-holding interests, the Constitution stipulates that it may not be abolished “prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight” (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1).

(Photo: Everett Collection/Newscom)
Before the Civil War, Frederick Douglass said that nothing in the Constitution should be interpreted as applying to slaves. The “language of the law must be construed strictly in favor of justice and liberty,” he argued. (Photo: Everett Collection/Newscom)

In the meantime, Congress could discourage the importation of slaves from abroad by imposing a duty “not exceeding 10 dollars on each person” (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1). Although early Congresses considered such measures, they were never enacted.

Early Congresses did, however, regulate the transatlantic slave trade, pursuant to their power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). In 1794, 1800, and 1803, statutes were passed that severely restricted American participation in it. No American shipyard could be used to build ships that would engage in the slave trade, nor could any ship sailing from an American port traffic in slaves abroad. Americans were also prohibited from investing in the slave trade.

Finally, on the very first day on which it was constitutionally permissible to do so—Jan. 1, 1808—the slave trade was abolished by law.

The law, which President Thomas Jefferson signed, stipulated stiff penalties for any American convicted of participating in the slave trade: up to $10,000 in fines and five to 10 years in prison. In 1823, a new law was passed that punished slave-trading with death.

Congress and the Expansion of Slavery

Banning the importation of slaves would not by itself put an end to slavery in the United States. Slavery would grow naturally even if no new slaves were brought into the country.

Although Congress could not prevent this, it could prevent slavery from spreading geographically to the territories from which new states would eventually be created.

Congress has the power “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States” (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2), to forbid the migration of slaves into the new territories (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1), and to stipulate conditions for statehood (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2).

Regrettably, early Congresses did not prevent the spread of slavery. Between 1798 and 1822, Congress enacted 10 territorial acts. Only half excluded slavery.

As a result, seven slaveholding states and five free states were admitted into the union. The seeds of what Abraham Lincoln would later call the crisis of the house divided were sown.

Slavery in the Existing States

As for the existing slaveholding states that had ratified the Constitution, what could Congress do to restrict the growth of slavery within their borders? Here Congress had more limited options. After 1808, “the migration” of slaves across state lines could have been prohibited (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1). This was never done.

In principle, slavery could have been taxed out of existence. However, the requirement that direct taxes be apportioned among the states made it impossible to exclusively target slaveholders. A capitation or head tax, for example, even though it would have been more costly for Southerners, would also impose a heavy burden on Northerners.

While one could perhaps have circumvented the apportionment requirement by calling for an indirect tax on slaves—as Sen. Charles Sumner, R-Mass., would later do during the Civil War—such arguments were not made in the early republic.

There was one clause in the original Constitution that required cooperation with slaveholders and protected the institution of slavery. Slaves who escaped to freedom were to “be delivered up” to their masters (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3). The motion to include a fugitive slave clause at the constitutional convention passed unanimously and without debate. This would seem to indicate that all knew it would be futile to try to oppose such a measure.

The debate instead focused on the wording. Whereas the original draft had referred to a “person legally held to service or labor in one state,” the final version instead refers to a “person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof.” This change, Madison explains in his notes, was to comply “with the wish of some who thought the term legal equivocal,” as it gave the impression “that slavery was legal in a moral view,” rather than merely permissible under the law.

This remark by Madison captures the Constitution’s stance vis-à-vis slavery: permissible, but not moral. Legal, but not legitimate.

In no way can the Constitution be said to be pro-slavery. The principles of natural right undergirding it are resolutely anti-slavery. Its language conveys disapproval of slavery. And it contains within it several provisions that could have been and were at times used to prevent the spread of slavery.

This may not make it an anti-slavery Constitution. But even before the 13th Amendment, it was a Constitution that, if placed in the right hands, could be made to serve the cause of freedom.

 

THE UNBELIEVABLE STATEMENTS BY PUPLIC OFFICIALS
By Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
December 28, 2015
NewsWithViews.com

In this century, it seems that the number of unbelievable things said by high profile people has increased. First, after American forces quickly sped from Kuwait to Baghdad in the 2003 Iraq war, President George W. Bush said “Mission Accomplished.” I could not believe he did not realize that is what Saddam Hussein wanted us to do, because only then would we change from battle formation to smaller patrols more easily hit by RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and IEDs (improvised explosive devices). A few years later, I could not believe Congress passed Obamacare after Democratis House leader Nancy Pelosi said members of Congress should pass the legislation before seeing all that was in it!

During the current political campaign when Dr. Ben arson was rising in the polls, he spoke at radical Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s convention and said “Al Sharpton and I have the same goal, just different ideas on how to get there,” and in Dr. Carson’s book AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL on page 102 he said it is “the moral low road” to “deport many individuals (illegal aliens) who are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their families.” Csarly Fiorina, who also temporarily rose in the polls, had touted President Obama’s “Race to the Top” education program, and last August said “I’ve been very clear I don’t support deportation (of illegal aliens).” Conservative talk show gurus Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and others have extolled the virtues of Sen. Ted Cruz, even though he has spoken positively about his Council on Foreign Relations member wife, Heidi, in her globalist book BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN UNION.

The unbelievable statements of President Obama are too numerous to mention here, but the morning of the recent ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino, he declared: “ISIL is not going to pose an existential threat to us….Our homeland has never been more protected….” How could he say that shortly after the Russian airline was brought down by an ISIS improvised explosive device only perhaps the size of a soda can on board the plane? Can he guarantee that ISIS-inspired sleeper cells (like the couple in San Bernardino) cannot put soda cans filled with C-4 or other explosives on drones and from far away fly them into large crowds of people, perhaps during cities’ New Year’s Eve celebrations (e.g., at New York City’s Times Square)?

Perhaps the most egregious examples of unbelievable statements come from (Queen) Hillary Clinton herself. Remember when she claimed she was running from sniper fire when landing in Bosnia in 1996? This turned out to be completely false. Also remember when she repeatedly publicly said the Benghazi attack were spontaneously caused by an anti-Muslim video, even though she was privately telling others it was a previously planned terrorist attack. Well, her latest unbelievable claim is that ISIS is using a video of Donald Trump, saying he would temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States, as a recruitment tool. The problem is that when the media questioned the veracity of her claim, she could not produce any such video. Think about it. Hillary and her political twin President Obama have been claiming that Islam is a religion of peace, and that jihad is simply an individual’s pursuit of spiritual betterment. They claim ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, even though they refer to ISIS as ISIL, the first letter of which stands for “Islamic.” They say ISIL is simply a group of thugs who are misrepresenting Islam.

All right, let’s see how this works. We are supposed to believe brutal ISIS members have recruited new members by bribing or threatening them or their families, perhaps saying something like “Join us or we will behead your mother and rape your sisters.” We are then supposed to believe that these peaceful prospective recruits reject these threats regardless of what ISIL does to their mothers and sisters, but then decide to join the ISIL thugs just because Donald Trump said he temporarily wants to halt Muslim immigration to the United States! Really?

But Trump does not get a pass on unbelievable statements either. One has to be careful when making blanket statements such as he wants to ban “all” Muslim immigrants. That would even include banning a one-year-old Muslim child from joining his grandparents in the United States after his Shiite parents were killed by ISIL Sunnis in Syria.
And religious leaders are not immune from making unbelievable remarks as well. According to a NATIONAL REPORT article posted about 6 months ago, Pope Francis in an hour-long speech told Vatican guests that the Koran, and the spiritual teachings therein, are just as valid as THE HOLY BIBLE. He also told them: “We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths.” He has even kissed the Koran, just as Pope John Paul II did, even though in Islamic teaching, Jesus is secondary to Mohamed!
Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.

Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or edited twenty books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs USA Today and CBS’s Nightwatch.

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Heidi Cruz wants to build a North American Community – what does that mean, exactly?
Posted on August 21, 2015 by austrogirl
ted cruz
Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz, with his Spanish name, Canadian birth and US citizenship, would actually be a natural candidate to be the First President of the North American Union! (n/t The Next News Network)

In today’s video preview of tomorrow’s show, I refer to a document, Building a North American Community, written by a Council on Foreign Relations task force which included Heidi Cruz (i.e., Mrs. Ted Cruz), who expressly agreed with the recommendations in the report. What are those recommendations? Here’s a sampling, but I highly recommend you read the whole text (it’s large print and only 32 pages of actual report, the rest you can skip):

To lay the groundwork for the freer flow of people within North America with the ultimate goal of full mobility of labor and goods across Canada, Mexico and the United States. To facilitate this, rules and regulations on labor and the environment among other things should conform across the “trinational” region. “[T]he three countries should make a concerted effort to encourage regulatory convergence…including harmonization at the highest prevailing standard…and unilateral adoption of another country’s rules.”
“Make a North American standard the default approach to new regulation….The new trinational mechanism also should be charged with identifying joint means of ensuring consistent enforcement of new rules as they are developed.”
Increase information and intelligence-sharing at the local and national levels in both law enforcement and military organizations.
Conduct annual training exercise to develop interoperability among and between law enforcement agencies and militaries of the US, Canada & Mexico.
Create a North American Border Pass with biometric identifiers.
Establish a North American energy and emissions regime that could offer tradable voucher systems for emissions trading.
Creation of a North American Advisory Council with a complementary private body “that would meet regularly or annually to buttress North American relationships, along the lines of the Bilderberg or Wehrkunde conferences, organized to support transaltantic relations.”
Creation of a North American Inter-Parliamentary Group that will include US Congress along with Canadian and Mexican Parliamentary representation, who play key roles in policy toward each other. The newly created North American Advisory Council (likened to the Bilderberg Group) “could provide an agenda and support for these meetings.”
L

SOCIETYNEWS
Why Franklin Graham Is Leaving the GOP
Kelsey Harkness

Angry at Republicans for failing to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015, Franklin Graham announces he’s cutting ties with the GOP. (Photo: EPA/Nell Redmond/Newscom)
Less than one week after Congress passed a massive year-end spending bill that failed to strip Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer dollars, evangelist Franklin Graham announced he is leaving the Republican Party.

“Shame on the Republicans and the Democrats for passing such a wasteful spending bill last week,” Graham wrote Monday on Facebook. “And to top it off, funding Planned Parenthood!”

Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said Republicans’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood is an “example” of why he is declaring himself an independent.

“This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself independent,” Graham wrote. “I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America.”

In declaring his separation from the Republican party, Graham referenced a string of undercover videos that came out this year showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies. Graham compared the actions in those videos—which some claim were highly manipulated—to Nazi concentration camps.

“Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps!” he said.

The undercover videos, produced by the Center for Medical Progress, sparked calls by conservatives to defund Planned Parenthood of the more than $528 million it receives in taxpayer dollars. The majority of that money comes from federal reimbursements it receives through Medicaid contracts.

Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing, calling the videos “heavily edited” and “secretly recorded.”

Conservatives made stripping Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer dollars a top priority this congressional year yet failed to include any defund provisions in the year-end spending bill.

>>> Read More: How Your Senators Voted on the Government Spending Bill

Democrats praised the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending as a “good compromise,” highlighting the more than 150 conservative policy riders that they were able to “nix” from the final agreement.

“In addition to nixing more than 150 GOP riders, the final agreement will secure major progressive policy successes,” wrote Adam Jentleson, Minority Leader Harry Reid’s deputy chief of staff, on Twitter.

After the spending bill passed, Planned Parenthood touted in a press release that the budget deal included “no new harmful policy riders on women’s health.”

At the end of his post declaring his separation from the Republican party, Graham called on Christians “across the country to pray about running for office where they can have an impact.”

Read Graham’s full Facebook post here:

‘If an abortion [provider] is complaining, the easiest thing to do is get the pro-life people to shut up,’ Matt Bowman, a lawyer defending carolers, says.

Refugees Grateful For Chance To See Europe While Being Bounced From Country To Country
September 8, 2015

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY—Saying they never dreamed they’d have the opportunity to do so much traveling and sightseeing, tens of thousands of refugees across Europe confirmed Tuesday that they were grateful for the chance to take in so many of the continent’s natural and historical treasures while being bounced from country to country. “I thought the Serbian countryside was so beautiful when we were marching through it, but, wow, Budapest is truly breathtaking—it’s a real architectural gem—and hopefully once our papers expire in 48 hours we’ll be off to somewhere new!” said Syrian refugee Majd Ahsan, who added that his European trip got off to a great start on the island of Lesbos in Greece, where he said he was really able to soak in the Mediterranean landscape by spending his every waking and sleeping moment outdoors. “We actually got to spend a couple extra days in Athens while the Macedonian borders were closed, which was a real treat—there’s just so much rich history right there! At this point, who knows which country we’ll see tomorrow or the next day. Germany? France? Ooh, maybe we’ll go to Prague, get turned away at a processing center, and be sent to Poland! I hear it’s really lovely.” Ahsan added that he was just sad that two of his four children and both of his brothers were no longer around to enjoy the tour of Europe with him.

OUR ANNUAL YEAR
Year In Review
BEST OF 2015

Chicago Introduces New Citywide Gun-Sharing Stations
January 19, 2015

Chicago’s new QuikShot gun-share system is modeled on a similar program successfully introduced overseas in Caracas, Venezuela.
CHICAGO—Touting the program’s convenience and affordability, Chicago officials unveiled Monday the city’s new gun-sharing service, “QuikShot,” which allows individuals to check out a loaded firearm for short periods of time.

The municipal initiative, through which users can rent semiautomatic pistols, shotguns, rifles, and submachine guns at more than 250 self-service kiosks, has reportedly been designed to make firepower easily available to residents and tourists alike nearly everywhere within the city limits.

“QuikShot lets anyone with a credit card walk up to one of our street-side firearm stations, select a gun, and head out into the Windy City fully armed in just a few seconds,” program director Arvind Reynolds told reporters, noting that borrowers can either rent their weapon for increments of 30 minutes or withdraw it for a full 24 hours if they plan on using it throughout the day. “With QuikShot, you and your friends can each take a Beretta up to Wrigley Field, or you can head to an outdoor concert in Millennium Park with a concealed 9mm revolver, or you can simply take in the great view of the Magnificent Mile from the roof deck of the Hancock tower through a scoped sniper rifle. The possibilities are truly endless with QuikShot.”

“And if the guns at one station are all checked out, users only have to walk a block or two to the next one in order to find a loaded firearm,” he added. “So whether you’ve been planning an outing for a while or simply decided to head out in the spur of the moment, QuikShot has you covered.”

According to sources, after paying a small registration fee, QuikShot users may rent a firearm as often as they wish in neighborhoods ranging from Edgewater in the north, to the downtown Loop business district, to Hyde Park on the South Side, allowing them to brandish and discharge one or more rounds wherever they choose to in the city. Additionally, due to higher demand, Chicago officials said that multiple QuikShot kiosks would be opened around highly trafficked destinations, such as Navy Pier, the Art Institute, the Water Tower Place shopping center, and the Chicago Lakefront running and cycling paths.

Because the firearms are expected to see heavy use, Reynolds confirmed that repair crews would regularly monitor the city’s reholstering docks in order to clean and reload the weapons, as well as to replace guns that have jammed or misfired during operation, ensuring that borrowers aren’t inconvenienced by their gun malfunctioning at a crucial moment.

“It’s a great addition to the city—nothing beats being able to run out of my apartment and have a gun in my hands whenever I want.”
Users, however, are reportedly expected to provide their own protective Kevlar body armor, with program administrators adding that the city of Chicago is not liable for any injuries incurred due to use of its rentals.

“It’s a great addition to the city—nothing beats being able to run out of my apartment and have a gun in my hands whenever I want,” said Lincoln Park resident Keith Madsen, 32, noting that a QuikShot membership is much more economical than purchasing and maintaining his own extended magazine AR-15 assault rifle. “Even if I’m not necessarily planning on firing a gun on any given day, it’s always nice to know that I have the option if something comes up.”

Sources confirmed that the city is planning to expand the service in the months ahead by purchasing more guns, with the goal of increasing its publicly available arsenal to more than 65,000 weapons in anticipation of the hot summer months, when QuikShot usage is expected to reach its peak.

“QuikShot is so easy that I’m actually shooting a handgun way more often than I normally would,” said local resident Danny Taylor, who participated in a pilot trial of the program, as he deposited an empty .357 Magnum with the QuikShot logo imprinted on its grip at a Rogers Park reholstering station. “Whether I’m going to a house party or just to the liquor store, it’s nice to know that I can grab a piece, use it for as long as I want, and then drop it off without a lot of fuss.”

“In fact, I’m thinking about checking out one tomorrow morning before I head into the office,” he continued.

Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MATT APUZZOJULY 23, 2015
Photo

Hillary Rodham Clinton at an event in West Columbia, S.C., on Thursday. Her email use while secretary of state has been an issue in the early part of her presidential run. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.

It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.

But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.

Hillary Rodham Clinton visiting Greenville Technical College in South Carolina on Thursday.Hillary Clinton Emails Said to Contain Classified DataJULY 24, 2015
Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington in January 2009, before she took office. In emails, aides asked if they could share her address with members of the Obama administration.New Trove of Hillary Clinton’s Emails Highlights Workaday Tasks at the State DepartmentJUNE 30, 2015
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the State Department in Washington on Sept. 12, 2012, discussing the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on BenghaziMAY 21, 2015
Who Is Running for President?JAN. 30, 2015
The initial revelation has been an issue in the early stages of her presidential campaign.
Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to new accusations involving the private email account she used when she was secretary of state. By Reuters on Publish Date July 24, 2015. Photo by Michael Appleton for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said. A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released a statement on Twitter on Friday morning. “Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted,” it read.

At issue are thousands of pages of State Department emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account. Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient, but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.

She faced sharp criticism after her use of the account became public, and subsequently said she would ask the State Department to release her emails.

The department is now reviewing some 55,000 pages of emails. A first batch of 3,000 pages was made public on June 30.

In the course of the email review, State Department officials determined that some information in the messages should be retroactively classified. In the 3,000 pages that were released, for example, portions of two dozen emails were redacted because they were upgraded to “classified status.” But none of those were marked as classified at the time Mrs. Clinton handled them.

In a second memo to Mr. Kennedy, sent on July 17, the inspectors general said that at least one email made public by the State Department contained classified information. The inspectors general did not identify the email or reveal its substance.

The memos were provided to The New York Times by a senior government official.

The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations.

In March, Mrs. Clinton insisted that she was careful in her handling of information on her private account. “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” she said. “There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”

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In May, the F.B.I. asked the State Department to classify a section of Mrs. Clinton’s emails that related to suspects who may have been arrested in connection with the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The information was not classified at the time Mrs. Clinton received it.

The revelations about how Mrs. Clinton handled her email have been an embarrassment for the State Department, which has been repeatedly criticized over its handling of documents related to Mrs. Clinton and her advisers.
On Monday, a federal judge sharply questioned State Department lawyers at a hearing in Washington about why they had not responded to Freedom of Information Act requests from The Associated Press, some of which were four years old.

“I want to find out what’s been going on over there — I should say, what’s not been going on over there,” said Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court, according to a transcript obtained by Politico. The judge said that “for reasons known only to itself,” the State Department “has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding.”

Two days later, lawmakers on the Republican-led House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks said they planned to summon Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff to Capitol Hill to answer questions about why the department has not produced documents that the panel subpoenaed. That hearing is set for next Wednesday.

“The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents,” said the chairman of the House committee, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina.

Mr. Gowdy said that while the committee has used an array of measures to try to get the State Department to hand over documents, the results have been the same. “Our committee is not in possession of all documents needed to do the work assigned to us,” he said.

The State Department has sought to delay the hearing, citing continuing efforts to brief members of Congress on the details of the nuclear accord with Iran. It is not clear why the State Department has struggled with the classification issues and document production. Republicans have said the department is trying to use those processes to protect Mrs. Clinton.
State Department officials say they simply do not have the resources or infrastructure to properly comply with all the requests. Since March, requests for documents have significantly increased.

Some State Department officials said they believe that many senior officials did not initially take the House committee seriously, which slowed document production and created an appearance of stonewalling.

State Department officials also said that Mr. Kerry is concerned about the toll the criticism has had on the department and has urged his deputies to comply with the requests quickly.

Correction: July 25, 2015
An article and a headline in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state misstated the nature of the request, using information from senior government officials. It addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton. An article about the latest developments is on Page A1.

Meet the 38 Companies That Donate to Planned Parenthood
Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / July 21, 2015

ExxonMobil, along with 38 other companies, donates directly to Planned Parenthood. The group is under fire after two videos were released showing top Planned Parenthood executives allegedly discussing the sale of aborted fetal body parts. (Photo: Sebastien Pirlet//Reuters/Newscom)
In the wake of two videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal body parts, Republicans in Congress are working to ensure that Planned Parenthood is stripped of its federal funding.

However, it’s not only the government that fills Planned Parenthood’s coffers. According to 2nd Vote, a website and app that tracks the flow of money from consumers to political causes, more than 25 percent of Planned Parenthood’s $1.3-billion annual revenue comes from private donations, which includes corporate contributions.

>>> UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Pulls Names of Corporate Donors After Coca-Cola, Ford and Xerox Object

2nd Vote researched the corporations and organizations to find which supported Planned Parenthood and found that more than three dozen donated to the group. Some companies donated directly, while others matched employee gifts.

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Thirty-nine corporations and organizations directly contribute to the group.

Planned Parenthood has come under heavy fire following the release of videos from the Center for Medical Progress.

The first video, released last week, showed Planned Parenthood senior executive Dr. Deborah Nucatola meeting with actors portraying buyers from a “human biologics company.” The “buyers” discussed the sale of fetal body parts with Nucatola over lunch.

In the second video, released today, Dr. Mary Gatter, president of Planned Parenthood’s medical directors council, is seen negotiating the price of aborted fetal body parts.

Here are the 38 companies that have directly funded Planned Parenthood.

Adobe
American Cancer Society
American Express
AT&T
Avon
Bank of America
Bath & Body Works
Ben & Jerry’s
Clorox
Converse
Deutsche Bank
Dockers
Energizer
Expedia
ExxonMobil
Fannie Mae
Groupon
Intuit
Johnson & Johnson
La Senza
Levi Strauss
Liberty Mutual
Macy’s
March of Dimes
Microsoft
Morgan Stanley
Nike
Oracle
PepsiCo
Pfizer
Progressive
Starbucks
Susan G. Komen
Tostitos
Unilever
United Way
Verizon
Wells Fargo
This story originally listed 41 companies; following publication, three contacted The Daily Signal to say Planned Parenthood’s list was inaccurate. Click here for our latest coverage.

Xerox says it was was erroneously listed on Planned Parenthood’s website as having been a donor. “We have communicated with Planned Parenthood. They have removed Xerox from this list of companies that match gifts to the organization. It was not correct,” a Xerox representative told The Daily Signal.

A Ford Motor Co. representative contacted The Daily Signal claiming they had been erroneously listed on Planned Parenthood’s website, and have contacted Planned Parenthood to be removed.

Coca-Cola also asked Planned Parenthood to remove it from the website. “The Coca-Cola Company does not contribute to Planned Parenthood,” a representative told The Daily Signal. “We do not match employee contributions to Planned Parenthood.”

Teen truckers spark worry as Congress considers lower age limit
Posted on July 24, 2015 by Tribune News Service Views: 648

WASHINGTON (TNS) — Drivers as young as 18 years old could be allowed to drive 80,000-pound trucks between states if Congress goes along with a proposal backed by the U.S. trucking industry that safety advocates say would be a disaster.

The plan, part of highway legislation that’s before the Senate, would greatly increase the number of teenagers behind the wheel of big rigs.

“We should be considering how to limit teen truck drivers rather than expanding them into such a dangerous program,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Many states permit 18-year-olds to drive the big trucks, but federal law prohibits them from operating across borders. In those states, younger truck drivers are four to six times as likely as 21-year-olds to be involved in fatal crashes, Gillan said.

The trucking industry says there is a shortage of drivers and sees the measure as a way to expand the pool of eligible operators. By 2017, there could be more than 250,000 unfilled trucker jobs, according to a forecast by FTR, an industry research firm.

Reducing the driving age would give companies like Knight Transportation Inc., Swift Transportation Co., YRC Worldwide Inc., FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. more applicants, lowering recruiting costs, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lee Klaskow said.

Shippers could get lower rates as contract costs have gone up 3 percent to 5 percent this year, he said. That rise “is driven by truckers looking to pass on the cost of attracting and retaining drivers,” Klaskow said.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts say they are trying to get the provision removed from the six-year highway bill when it is debated by the full Senate. The Commerce Committee approved it July 15.

The idea has been kicking around for years. In 2002, the Bush administration looked at graduated licensing that would create classifications for younger truckers with certain restrictions.

At the time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that there was “unequivocal scientific evidence of a markedly elevated crash risk among people younger than 21 who drive large trucks” and no basis for believing that graduated licensing would reduce that danger.

The Senate bill would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to create a six-year pilot program allowing 18-year-olds to drive commercial vehicles, including buses, across state lines.

Since 48 states already allow younger commercial drivers to drive within state boundaries it makes sense to allow the practice nationally, American Trucking Associations spokesman Sean McNally said. The legislation is narrowly tailored to permit states to enter agreements with each other under the program supervised by the FMCSA, he said.

Commercial drivers are already subject to more stringent licensing than those who drive passenger cars, McNally said. The program would give people just out of high school, a demographic with a high unemployment rate, an opportunity in an industry that needs drivers.

“Like many industries, we have a looming issue with baby boomer retirements,” McNally said. “This could be a way to address that.”

Graduated licensing has worked well for passenger-car drivers, and it’s a common-sense way for truckers to get more responsibility as they get more experience, according to the ATA. States would be free to put restrictions on the younger truckers, such as limiting the types of cargo carried, or keeping to specific routes or times of day, the group said in a letter to senators July 21.

“Right now a young adult could drive a truck from El Paso, Texas, to Dallas — a distance of more than 600 miles — but couldn’t cross the street to deliver that same load from Texarkana, Texas to Texarkana, Arkansas,” Bill Graves, the Arlington, Virginia-based trade group’s president and chief executive officer, said in the letter.

Those arguments don’t convince Gillan of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington-based group. If 48 states permit 18-year-olds for intrastate commerce, maybe that’s the problem the Senate should be looking at, she said, because the statistics show those drivers to be more dangerous.

“Look at the figures,” Gillan said. “Now we’re saying let’s take a really bad idea and expand it? Who else other than the trucking industry could get by with that logic?”

–Jeff Plungis
Bloomberg News

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