Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Democratic Losses Could Be on the Horizon

Bevin, shown during his unsucessful Senate race in 2014, is far more popular in Kentucky than inside the Beltway. (CQ Roll Call File Photo by Tom Williams)For Democrats anxious to turn the page from a terrible 2014 cycle, the news might get worse before it gets better.
Last fall, Democrats lost control of the Senate and fell further into the minority in the House, but pinned much of the blame on low turnout in the midterm elections. Party strategists were more than ready to look ahead to 2016, when the presidential race should boost turnout among Democratic constituencies. But at least one race this fall could dampen some of the Democratic enthusiasm heading into next year.
Democrats should have the advantage in Kentucky’s race for governor in November, since term-limited Gov. Steven L. Beshear is popular and Democrats have held the governorship for all but four of the last 43 years. The party has rallied behind Jack Conway, the telegenic state attorney general with two statewide victories under his belt, while Republicans have a divided party. Matt Bevin won a competitive GOP primary but is despised by some Republicans for challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell last year. And Republicans just installed a new state party chairman, fewer than four months before Election Day.
For all of those reasons, it was widely assumed that Democrats had the upper hand in the race. But there is some evidence that Democrats are at risk of losing in Kentucky, including a public poll which showed Bevin with a slight advantage.
According to a June 18-21 automated survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, Bevin had a 40 percent to 38 percent edge over Conway in a two-way general election matchup. What might have been more surprising was the candidates’ favorable numbers. Bevin had a 31 percent favorable/28 percent unfavorable rating compared to 31 percent favorable/34 percent unfavorable rating for Conway.
Because of Bevin’s challenge to McConnell, the Republican’s reputation appears to be worse inside the Beltway than it is in Kentucky.
“Bevin is a better candidate than people are giving him credit for,” cautioned one Democratic operative who has done extensive work in Kentucky.
And while Beshear is popular, President Barack Obama’s numbers continue to be terrible in Kentucky. He had a 33 percent job approval/60 percent disapproval in the PPP survey.
Democrats are hoping voters continue to bifurcate state races from federal races, but this race will test that tradition. Multiple party strategists also believe that Bevin is currently benefiting from two years of television ads, while Conway hasn’t been on TV since his re-election race four years ago. Bevin made it through this year’s primary largely unscathed while two of his opponents attacked each other.
Now, both parties are up with television ads, but the race should get even more attention on Aug. 1 at Fancy Farm, when candidates, operatives and reporters gather for the state’s annual political picnic.
Democrats are confident that Conway’s standing will improve after the party educates voters, specifically for not disclosing his personal tax returns and being delinquent on some business taxes. But even though Bevin isn’t an establishment favorite, the Republican Governors Association is on television with an ad pairing Conway with Obama.

POLITICS Two-Month Gap in Hillary Clinton’s Emails Reportedly Coincides with Escalating Violence in Libya

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has been tapped to chair a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya (AP)
A two-month gap in Hillary Clinton’s released private emails coincide with the escalating violence in Libya, as well as the hiring of close aide Huma Abedin, reports say.
Although the former Secretary of  State released around 2,000 emails from her private account, there are no emails between Clinton and her staff between May and June 2012. During that time, violence escalated in Libya, including a June attack on the Benghazi consulate prior to the fatal September 11 attack.
Abedin, Clinton’s top aide, was also hired during that time period — at both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.
Speaking to the Daily Beast, a State Department official said that only emails related to the security of the Benghazi consulate or U.S. diplomats in Libya were released to the House committee that is still investigating the attacks on Benghazi. According to Fox News, if that’s true, than neither the Democratic frontrunner nor her staff communicated by email during that period — during which there were three attacks on international outposts in Benghazi, including one on the consulate. 
On May 22, an International Red Cross office was struck by rocket-propelled grenades.
“The attack on the International Red Cross was another attack that also involved us and threats to the compound there in Benghazi,” Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, a senior State Department security chief in Libya, testified before the House Oversight Committee in October 2012.
Another attack, on June 6, prompted the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to warn of the “fluid security situation in Libya,” after an improvised explosive devise detonated outside of the consulate. It was then that Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed a few months later in the September attack, told his superiors that “Islamic extremism appears to be on the rise in eastern Libya,” according to Fox News.
Five days later, two bodyguards were injured after a convoy carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya was hit with rocket-propelled grenades.
During that time, Abedin was allowed to work both as a staff member for Clinton in the State Department and serve in a private role in Clinton and her husband’s foundation. In 2013, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the records of how she was able to obtain her special employment status.
The Daily Beast reported that last week a federal judge gave State Department a final deadline of one week to fulfill the news organization’s request. Just before midnight on Tuesday, narrowly making the deadline, lawyer’s for the department submitted a declaration that identified almost 70 pages of “potentially responsive” documents.
According to the Daily Beast, this is the first time the State Department has acknowledged its two-year dispute with the Associated Press.

Federal Judge Threatens To Hold IRS Commissioner, DOJ Lawyers in Contempt of Court over Lerner

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan today threatened to hold the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and newly recovered emails of Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.

During the a status hearing today, Sullivan warned that the failure to follow his order was serious and the IRS and Justice Department’s excuses for not following his July 1 order were “indefensible, ridiculous, and absurd.”  He asked the IRS’ Justice Department lawyer Geoffrey Klimas, “Why didn’t the IRS comply” with his court order and “why shouldn’t the Court hold the Commissioner of the IRS in contempt.”  Judge Sullivan referenced his contempt findings against Justice Department prosecutors in the prosecution of late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and reminded the Justice Department attorney he had the ability to detain him for contempt.  Warning he would tolerate no further disregard of his orders, Judge Sullivan said, “I will haul into court the IRS Commissioner to hold him personally into contempt.”

After the hearing, Judge Sullivan issued the following “minute order”:
At the July 29, 2015 status hearing, the Government agreed that the Court’s July 1, 2015 oral order from the bench was clear and enforceable.  Nonetheless, the Government reasoned it inappropriate to file a motion for reconsideration until a written order was issued.  As expressed at the hearing, the Government’s reasoning is nonsensical.  Officers of the Court who fail to comply with Court orders will be held in contempt.  Also, in the event of non-compliance with future Court orders, the Commissioner of the IRS and others shall be directed to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt of Court.  The Court’s July 1, 2015 ruling from the bench stands: (1) the Government shall produce relevant documents every Monday; (2) the Government’s document production shall be accompanied by a status report that indicates (a) whether TIGTA has turned over any new documents to the IRS, (b) if so, the number of documents, and (c) a timeframe for the IRSs production of those documents. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on July 29, 2015.
At a July 1, 2015, status conference, Sullivan ordered the IRS to begin producing, every week, the nearly 1,800 newly recovered Lerner emails responsive to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  Despite the court order, the IRS did not produce any Lerner emails until July 15.  The IRS also failed to provide Judicial Watch a status report of the Lerner email production issues, as also ordered by Sullivan.  Last week, Judge Sullivan ordered sua sponte the parties to appear for a status hearing today after Judicial Watch raised concerns about the IRS’ failure to comply with his orders to release the newly discovered Lerner emails and status updates on its production of previously “missing” documents.

The developments come in Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit seeking documents about the Obama IRS’ targeting and harassment of Tea Party and conservative opponents of President Obama (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)).  Judicial Watch’s litigation forced the IRS first to admit that Lerner’s emails were supposedly missing and, then, that the emails were on IRS’ back-up systems.
Yesterday, Judicial Watch released the first batch believed to be newly recovered emails of Lerner. The new documents show that Lerner and other top officials in the IRS, including soon-to-be Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, closely monitored and approved the controversial handling of tax-exempt applications by Tea Party organizations.  The documents also show that at least one group received an inquiry from the IRS in order to buy time and keep the organization from contacting Congress.

“In a dramatic court hearing today, Judge Sullivan made it clear he would personally hold accountable the IRS Commissioner Koskinen and Justice Department attorneys for any further contempt of his court orders in Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “The missing and-then-not missing Lois Lerner saga is a stark example of the Obama administration’s contempt for a federal court and the rule of law.  That Obama administration officials would risk jail rather than disclose these Lerner documents shows that the IRS scandal has just gotten a whole lot worse.”


Poll: Trump Soars Past Jeb, Rubio in Florida


Image: Poll: Trump Soars Past Jeb, Rubio in Florida

Donald Trump would beat both former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio by wide margins if the Republican primary were held today in Florida, according to a new survey.

Twenty-six percent of 1,902 Republicans surveyed for The St. Petersburg Times said they would vote for Trump, vs. 20 percent for Bush and 10 percent for Rubio, based on results released Wednesday.

The Sunshine State Republicans were asked to choose among eight candidates. The survey was conducted July 18-28 and has a margin of error of 2 percent.

Twelve percent would vote for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, while 16 percent said they were undecided or would vote for a candidate not named in the poll.

Here is how the remaining candidates fared:

  • Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, 5 percent.
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 4 percent each.
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 3 percent.

Trump continues to lead in national polls among GOP candidates — and Wednesday's survey shows the developer on top for the first time in Florida this year.

The St. Petersburg Times poll also comes as the first Republican debate nears Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

Trump told CNN Tuesday that he would not prepare for the contest with a debate coach.

"I am what I am," he told Don Lemon in an interview. He cited the 2012 debates between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

"Romney had a debate coach, and Obama had a debate coach," Trump said. "I thought Obama was terrible, but Romney got worse and worse every time there was a debate. By the time they had third debate, he was catastrophic.

"I have to be myself," Trump added. "If it is not good enough, that's OK."

[COMMENTARY] Startling 'secret clauses' with US/Iran deal

Andrew HarnikAs the White House campaign to persuade Congress about the wisdom of its Iran nuclear deal moves into its second week, important components of the complex agreement are emerging that will be shrouded from the public and in some cases from the U.S. government itself.
Kerry: Agreement on Iran issue only alternative to forceThe existence of these secret clauses and interpretations could undermine the public's trust in the Barack Obama administration's presentations about the nuclear pact. Already Republicans and other critics of the deal have seized on the side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency as a weakness in the deal closed last week in Vienna.
The controversy began on Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry told House lawmakers behind closed doors that he neither possessed nor had read a copy of two secret side deals between the IAEA and Iran, according to Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who was inside the session. Congress hasn't seen those side agreements either.
"Kerry told me directly that he has not read the secret side deals," Pompeo told us in an interview. "He told us the State Department does not have possession of these documents."
In other cases, secret understandings were provided to legislators. Congress on Monday was given a set of non-public interpretations of the Iran deal, according to House and Senate staffers who have seen the documents. These were part of 18 documents the White House provided to Congress as required under legislation passed this spring that gives Congress 60 days to review the Iran deal.
Of the 18 documents, six are classified or confidential, the staffers told us. These include secret letters of understanding between the U.S. and France, Germany and the U.K. that spell out some of the more ambiguous parts of the agreement, and classified explanations of the Iran deal's provisions that commit other countries to provide Iran with research and development assistance on its nuclear program. There is also a draft of the U.S. statement to be made public on the day the Iran agreement formally goes into effect.
Those are the secret understandings Congress and the administration have put on paper. But in the case of the side agreements with the IAEA, Congress and the executive branch may not have all the facts. In Wednesday's closed session, Kerry sparred with Pompeo, who last weekend traveled with Republican Senator Tom Cotton to Vienna last weekend to meet with IAEA officials. Those agency representatives told the lawmakers the that two secret side deals covered how the IAEA would be able to inspect the Parchin military complex and how the IAEA and Iran would resolve concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.
The briefing for lawmakers was classified, but the Kerry- Pompeo exchange was not. Pompeo pressed Kerry on the details of the side agreements between the IAEA and Iran. Kerry acknowledged he didn't know all of the specifics.

A statement distributed by the State Department on Wednesday disputed the characterization that the agreements between Iran and the IAEA were "secret." Instead, it described them as "technical arrangements" and said U.S. experts were "comfortable with the contents," which the State Department would brief to Congress if asked.
"It is standard practice for the IAEA and member states to treat bilateral documents as 'safeguards confidential,' " the State Department statement said. "This is a principal the United States has championed throughout the IAEA's existence to protect both proprietary and proliferation sensitive information. We must be able to ensure that information given to the IAEA does not leak out and become a how to guide for producing nuclear materials that can be used in nuclear weapons, and that countries know their patented or proprietary information won't be stolen because they are released in IAEA documents."
But while these agreements may be standard operating procedure in the case of other IAEA nuclear inspections, with Iran it's potentially more serious. On Thursday, during an open session before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator James Risch said his understanding was that one of the IAEA-Iran side agreements would allow Iran to take its own environmental samples at Parchin. Speaking around the specifics, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chairman of the committee, compared this arrangement to the NFL allowing athletes suspected of taking steroids to mail in their own urine samples.
Kerry and others have told Congress that the agreement about Parchin and the understandings about IAEA inspections in general are largely technical and do not weaken a strong agreement. Needless to say, Pompeo disagrees. "Kerry gave no indications they are seeking these documents and there is no indication he is the least bit worried he doesn't have access to this. The Ayatollah knows what's in the deal but we don't," he told us, referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
For the Obama administration, not having copies of the side agreements between Iran and the IAEA is convenient. The law requires it to give Congress all the documents it possesses and only those documents. If the side agreements are outside the reach of Kerry, they are outside the reach of Congress and the American people.
On the other hand, that fact undermines Obama's argument that the overall deal can be verified and is transparent. Already Iranian leaders have publicly spoken about the Iran deal in terms vastly different from their American counterparts. The existence of secret understandings of that deal will only exacerbate this tension over time.
Eli Lake is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about politics and foreign affairs.
Josh Rogin is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about national security and foreign affairs.

Nets Covered Cecil the Lion More in 1 Day Than Abortion Videos in 2 Weeks

America’s anchors have spoken: the shooting of one lion vastly outweighs the trafficking of baby parts by a taxpayer-funded abortion giant. 

In other words, the broadcast news shows spent more time in one day on Cecil the Lion than they did on the Planned Parenthood videos in two weeks. 

The three broadcast networks, ABC, NBC and CBS censored the third video released Tuesday by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) exposing Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting aborted baby parts -- censored it at Planned Parenthood’s urging. But the news shows did find more than 14 minutes for a more important story: the “outrage” over the shooting of Cecil, a famed African lion, by an American dentist. 

Tuesday, the networks spent 5 minutes, 44 seconds during their evening news shows on Cecil -- and that’s not even counting the teasers. Wednesday morning, ABC, NBC and CBS lamented over the lion for 8 minutes, 17 seconds. But they couldn’t do the same for a story of babies “picked” apart by tweezers. - 

On July 29, Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer highlighted the “very disturbing story” with “international outrage” before turning to ABC correspondent David Wright for the full story on the lion-shooting by an American, now, according to Wright, “pretty much the most hated man on the internet.” 

“There are no words,” Spencer added at the end of the segment. Again, we’re talking about a lion. For CBS’ This Morning, co-anchor Gayle King commented, “The more you hear about it, the more upsetting it is.” For the shooting of a lion, yes. For the weekly videos exposing the trafficking of baby parts, no. (According to the media, that is.). “I heard somebody in South Africa describe it

,” King added. “It would be like in this country, if somebody shot Lassie, and then said, ‘We didn’t know that was Lassie.’”


Time for the GOP to Crap or Get Off the Pot

grady
 Anyone who has known me for longer than about 30 minutes knows that I am a Boston Red Sox fan. After the collapse in the 1986 World Series, that experience was, for about 15 years, an unmitigated experience of misery and the addition of reasons for Red Sox fans to nurse their massive inferiority complex with respect to the New York Yankees. However, beginning in the late 90s, Sox ownership began once again to make an earnest effort to field a winning team, and Sox fans were once again treated to meaningful baseball in September – even if we still inevitably finished behind the Yankees and then were (usually) eliminated by them in the playoffs.

2003 was the first year Sox fans had reasons to believe that things might be different. Position for position, it was the first year since the mid-80s that the Sox had fielded a team that stacked up more or less equally with the Hated Yankees. During this season, the Sox were managed by an affable fellow named Grady Little. Grady was well liked (maybe even loved) by his players, who credited him with creating a loose atmosphere in the clubhouse and making Boston a place where good players wanted to play. During the two years Grady managed the team, the Sox won a nearly unprecedented (in recent history) 188 games.
That year, of course, the Sox and the Hated Yankees met in the American League Championship Series, an epic affair that came down to a decisive Game 7 with Pedro Martinez on the mound for the Sox. The Sox had a 2-run lead going into the 7th inning, but a truly epic series of strategic blunders by Grady Little (I won’t recount them here) frittered the lead away and the Yankees once again emerged victorious. It is one of the few times in modern history that a manager has decisively cost his team an important game.
In the offseason, the “smart set” sports commentators opined that it would be crazy for the Sox to fire Grady Little even after his ignominious performance in the most significant game in recent Sox history. They wrote, quite reasonably, that Grady had brought the Sox to heights unheard of since the heady days of 1986 and that ownership should just show patience and expect the fans to be thankful that the margin between the Sox and Yankees was smaller than it had been in recent memory.
Thankfully, Sox ownership ignored all this eminently sensible advice and Grady was not invited for a return for the 2004 season. By doing so, a clear message was sent to applicants for the job of Sox manager: there comes a point, and the point is now, that giving it the old college try and coming in a close second is not enough. After having spent millions of dollars and countless effort building a team that had the promise and ability to beat the Yankees, they expected this team to actually, you know, beat the Yankees. The rest, of course, is history, as the last 11 years have arguably been the most successful in Sox history (the disastrous current season notwithstanding), including a victory in 2004 over the Hated Yankees in the ALCS and their first World Series title in decades.
So, this little baseball historical aside, let’s talk politics for a minute.
Every two years, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, I bring myself to take a couple hours off of work, brave traffic going in the wrong direction, stand in long lines, and vote. With the exception of a single vote cast for Marion Berry (the pro-life former Democrat Congressman from Arkansas, not the crack smoking former mayor of DC) back in 2002 or so, I have voted every single time for every Republican on the ticket.
Like most Republican voters, I’ve had mounting frustrations with failed promises on the part of the GOP since the much ballyhooed Gingrich revolution in 1994. However, my pragmatism has always gotten the better of my frustration and I have always reasoned with myself that, however feckless and impotent the Republicans were, they were better than the Democrats. At least the Republicans did not have legalized infanticide up until the date of delivery enshrined in their party platform, I always reasoned with myself.

Massachusetts Schools Ranked Tops in Nation

Massachusetts Schools Ranked Tops in Nation
If you’re sending your kids to public school this year, what kind of education are they getting? That’s the question one study set to answer as back-to-school season gears up.
And the results are music to the ears of Massachusetts parents.
WalletHub recently broke down the best and worst public school systems in the country, using its own formula to come up with a ranking for each state. The site ranks Massachusetts tops in the nation — second in “school system quality,” and first in school safety.
The study used public data available for 13 metrics, including student-teacher ratios, dropout rates and test scores. It also came up with a safety ranking based on bullying incidents, incarceration rates and a school safety survey.
While not in the top 5 in student-to-teacher ratio, SAT scores or lowest dropout rate, Massachusetts ranked highest in the nation in both reading and math scores, accounting for the commonwealth’s high overall ranking.
In addition to Massachusetts, WalletHub’s top five included Colorado, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
The five worst: Louisiana, Arizona, Nevada, District of Columbia and Alaska.
Massachusetts had the safest schools, with Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kentucky and Hawaii rounding out the top five. D.C. was the least safe, followed by Indiana, California, South Dakota and Colorado.
For the full results, check out the full study, which includes a breakdown of each category, here.
Via: Westford Patch
Continue Reading....

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

All the way with LBJ and Obama


Count on it: When it comes to foreign policy, two-term presidents -- and even most one-term presidents -- will change course along the way. Since 1933, only two have not: Lyndon Johnson, who rode the Vietnam War all the way down, and Barack Obama. That's not a good sign.

Consider the record. When Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House in 1933, he began by torpedoing the World Economic Conference and accepting neutrality legislation. But over the 1930s, he moved from isolationism to leading the United States into the Second World War.

At first, Harry Truman drew down U.S. military strength rapidly after 1945, especially in Europe. But as the Cold War began to take shape, he reversed course and brought the U.S. into NATO.

Dwight Eisenhower moved from rejecting summits with Soviet leaders and opposing Western intervention in the Middle East, to holding summits and intervening himself. Jimmy Carter couldn't accept the Soviet Union was a problem, until it invaded Afghanistan.

Ronald Reagan confronted the Evil Empire, but after 1983, decided the time was right to negotiate with it. George W. Bush entered office saying that the U.S. military should be doing less in the world, but 9/11 changed many minds, including his.

The only real exception to the rule is Johnson, who hated the Vietnam War, but who got us into it and was never willing to get us out. True, the changes don't happen for the same reason. Sometimes, presidents are wrong and recognize it, like Carter.

Other times, presidents, like John F. Kennedy, deliberately reverse the policies of their predecessor, only to find out after a few years that the previous guy wasn't entirely wrong. At times, as with 9/11, the world changes, and the president changes as a result.

And sometimes, as with Reagan, their initial policies work, which allows them to move on to a new part of their strategy. But in most cases, change isn't a sign of failure. It's a sign of success, of adaptation, or at least of learning.

Nor is it a sign that presidents are giving up on their goals or their core beliefs. With the exception of genuinely clueless presidents like Carter, most changes are about means, not ends.

That's because it's not reasonable to expect presidents to change who they are. If they were so easily changed, they wouldn't have become president. But it is reasonable to expect them to look at how they're doing, at the world around them, and adjust accordingly.

Obama stands out because he is the same man we first elected in 2008 -- which is fair enough -- with the same foreign policy. Unlike almost all of his predecessors, he's not changed significantly. Unfortunately, that's a lot less reasonable.

Yes, there have been tactical adjustments. Obama talks less about the United Nations now than he did in 2009. But the first thing he did when he came into office was to reach out to Iran; over six years later, we're still riding that train.

Obama wanted to "reset" relations with Russia. He still hankers after the same thing, as evidenced by his comments about Vladimir Putin after the Iran deal. He wanted to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and reach out to adversarial regimes like Cuba's diplomatically, so that he could focus more on domestic policy. No change there, either.


I don't agree with these policies. But what is remarkable to me is the consistency with which Obama has pursued them. Obama has a perfect right to have his values. But precedent suggests that presidents who don't adapt how they apply their values are regarded by history as failures.

 - Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in Anglo-American Relations in The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in Newsday

N.C. lawmakers join forces to find money for veterans

Charlotte, N.C., members of Congress Alma Adams and Robert Pittenger have teamed up in an effort to help veterans.
The pair plan to introduce legislation Wednesday to get additional federal funding for a Mecklenburg County program that works to help members of the military transition to civilian life.
The county approached the two about expanding the program, based on a model developed by Syracuse University, that currently connects 29 local agencies and non-profit groups in the Charlotte region in a network connecting veterans to the myriad of available social, health and wellness services.
Adams, a Democrat, and Pittenger, a Republican, seek to use existing Veterans Affairs funding for a grant to develop the regional technology network. The bill would direct the Veterans Benefits Administration to use existing money to develop such a grant, though Adams and Pittenger didn’t specify how much money would be needed.
“It’s kind of piecemeal now,” Adams said in an interview. “They go to one place and then to another place. You know how you go to one place and people say ‘let me refer you to another.’”
There are nearly 800,000 veterans in North Carolina, including 37,000 veterans in Adam’s 12th Congressional District and more than 41,000 veterans in Pittenger’s 9th Congressional District.
YOU HAVE VARIOUS PROGRAMS THAT ARE SCATTERED OUT AND THE RIGHT HAND DOESN’T KNOW WHAT LEFT HAND IS DOING. WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE THIS FRONT AND CENTER AND VETERANS KNOW THE ENORMOUS SYSTEMS THAT ARE THERE ON THEIR BEHALF.Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.
It’s unclear what chances the legislation has of passing. The legislation currently has two additional sponsor, Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who represents the Syracuse area.
The Veterans Benefits Administration has $79 billion in available funds to provide benefit assistance for veterans and their families, said Jamie Bowers, Pittenger’s spokesman. The legislation, he said, would allow communities like Mecklenburg County or Syracuse to apply for a specific grant to help pay for the support system. The grant program would not be an earmark, he said.
The community would determine the amount of its specific request, Bowers said. And it would be up to Veterans Affairs to decide whether to approve the grant and which discretionary funds to use, he said.




Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article29389699.html#storylink=cpy




Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article29389699.html#storylink=cpy

ALABAMA: Former AEA leaders say organization is being ‘occupied’ by national teachers’ union

Former AEA leader and Alabama Democratic Party leader Joe ReedMONTGOMERY, Ala. — Former Alabama Education Association (AEA) leaders are lashing out at the teachers’ union’s current trusteeship under its parent organization, the National Education Association (NEA), saying in a letter that the AEA is being “occupied” by the NEA.
The letter, dated July 2nd, is signed by former AEA leaders Joe Reed and Nancy Worley—who are both currently leaders within the Alabama Democratic Party—as well as four former AEA presidents.
“This letter comes to express our deep concern over the current ‘Takeover’ of the Alabama

Education Association (AEA) by the National Education Association (NEA) in the name of Trusteeship,” they wrote. “Under the facts and circumstances of the current ‘Takeover,’ there are no grounds for NEA to occupy AEA.”

“Don’t force us to fight an organization we love, respect and support,” the authors continued. “This is an ‘internal family issue,’ but the House is severely Divided. We all know that a House Divided cannot stand. It is going to take many years to repair the damage already done.”
That damage is a tumultuous change in leadership after longtime power broker and boss Paul Hubbert retired, then passed away, coupled with drastic changes in the state legislature—where Hubbert wielded unprecedented power—the AEA’s 2014 was disastrous.
Even after spending approximately $20 million during the primary and general elections, the AEA’s PAC, A-VOTE, failed to win a single seat for the candidates it supported. According to their most recent 990 form, the AEA spent $8.5 million more than it took in during Fiscal Year 2014.
“Finally,” the letter concludes, “NEA is occupying our organization illegally and without justification. NEA should call the Special Trustee home because if the NEA continues to trespass, the AEA, the strong organization we built over the past 45 years, will be DEAD! We do not concede that the NEA Trusteeship is legal and we are determined to take our association back!”
Both Reed and Worley told the Montgomery Advertiser they had not received a reply from the NEA.
Reed highlighted his particular concern that the NEA’s Trustee would dissolve the AEA’s 46-year-old merger with the predominately black Alabama State Teachers’ Association.
“There are certain things that are there and ought to stay there, for instance, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “The merger agreement we have has got to stay.”
AEA president Sheila Hocutt Remington said in a statement Tuesday that the letter was “inaccurate” and “designed to divert attention from the positive direction AEA is taking to support educators and Alabama schools.”
“AEA is successful because it has been a member-driven association for more than 150 years,” she said. “While some people will always be uncomfortable with change and will cling to vestiges of the past, AEA and its membership is focused on what matters most – preparing students for a new school year that will begin throughout Alabama next week.”
While the AEA and the Alabama Democratic party were virtually synonymous for years, the NEA often tacks even further left than its Alabama affiliate.

Via: YellowhammerContinue Reading....

50 Years of Dysfunction: The Failures of Medicare and Medicaid

Fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating the nation’s two largest federal health entitlements, Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicare was created as a social insurance program for seniors and those with disabilities. It is financed primarily by payroll taxes collected during a recipients working life, and secondarily by personal and business income taxes.
Medicaid was designed as a welfare program to provide health care services to vulnerable low income groups. Medicaid is jointly financed by federal and state governments.
>>> On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute are hosting an event with leading experts to reflect on the past 50 years and look ahead to the next. Details here.
Unfortunately at the age of 50, both Medicare and Medicaid continue to suffer from problems inherent to their structure and organization.
For example both programs:
  • Limit choice
  • Are overly bureaucratic and slow to change
  • Suffer from crucial gaps in coverage and inefficient pricing
  • Are plagued with losses through waste, fraud and abuse
Medicare is the largest purchaser of health care in the nation, covering roughly 55 million persons.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates Medicare’s total annual cost at $615 billion in 2015 and it is scheduled to exceed $1 trillion by 2023.
In other words, over the next 75 years American seniors are expecting tens of trillions of dollars of Medicare benefits that are not paid for. Today, working taxpayers, mostly through business and personal income taxes, fund an estimated 86 percent of the program’s annual cost.
For Medicaid, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary estimates that Medicaid’s total (federal and state combined) spending is expected to reach $529 billion in 2015, with 68.9 million enrollees.
Fifty years later, in their July 22, 2015 memo to Senate Budget Committee staff Medicare’s Office of the Actuary reports that Medicare’s debt – the program’s long-term unfunded liability- ranges from $27.9 to $36.8 trillion.
Whether it’s the lower or higher debt number, this year’s estimates are worse than last year’s by more than a $1 trillion.
For Medicaid, cost and enrollment is expected to continue to grow, in particular due to the expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act.
By 2023, total Medicaid spending is projected to climb to $835 billion and enrollment will near 80 million.
The President’s answer is to cut Medicare payments to medical professionals and institutions.
Under Obamacare, the Medicare Trustees warn,
“By 2040, approximately half of hospitals, 70 percent of skilled nursing facilities and 90 percent of home health agencies would have negative total facility margins, ” adding that this creates the “possibility of access and quality of care issues for Medicare beneficiaries.”
For Medicaid, access and quality of care is already a top concern.
recent CDC study found that only 68.9 percent of physicians would accept new Medicaid patients.
For the next 50 years, Congress could initiate transformative changes through a defined contribution ( “premium support”) financing in both programs, giving patients direct control over the flow of health care dollars and compelling health plans and providers to compete for patients’ dollars on a level playing field.
Intense competition among health plans and providers would stimulate innovation in benefit design and care delivery, improve patient outcomes and enhance patient satisfaction, and save serious money for both seniors and taxpayers alike.

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