Steve King: Obama and Rodeo Clown Should Have a Beer SummitPosted August 16, 2013 at 8:44 am by Madeleine Morgenstern
Rep. Steve King said President Barack Obama should hold a beer summit at the White House with the rodeo clown who donned an “Obama” mask at the Missouri State Fair.
“Mr. President: Invite the rodeo clown 2 the White House 4 a beer summit,” the Iowa Republican tweeted Friday. “Take the temperature down, have a laugh, relax. It’s not about race.”
The unidentified clown has received a permanent ban from the state fair.
There is an online effort afoot for Obama to “pardon” the clown.
(Graphic) Shocking Video Purports to Show Syrian Rebels Executing Child Assad SupportersPosted August 16, 2013 at 8:16 am by Sharona Schwartz
Editor’s note: The following post contains disturbing content and images.
A video posted online purports to show Syrian rebels executing two teenage boys who allegedly were supporters of President Bashar Assad. In the video, the boys are on their knees and blindfolded, while a masked rebel appears to read off of a paper a list of charges against them in Arabic.
The video, which was first featured by Live Leak and then posted by Syrian Perspective on YouTube, made its way to the official Syrian government news agency SANA, which is calling the action a “crime against Syrian children.”
The rebel wearing a black hood over his head and fatigues after reading his statement walks off camera. A crowd is heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”) and then a torrent of bullets smash into the children’s small frames. More than a dozen shots were fired, some seen impacting the wall behind the boys. At least four additional shots ring out after the boys are slumped over and appear to be dead.
The Examiner reports that the execution occurred in northern Syria and was carried out by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“It’s reported the boys were from the Shiite-majority towns of Nubul and Zahra in Aleppo province. The teens were executed after two failed attempts were made for a prisoner exchange between ISIL and pro-Assad supporters,” the Examiner reports.
TheBlaze is unable to verify the authenticity of the video or when it was taken.
“A new crime against the Syrian children came into the open to further stress the criminal nature of the armed extremist terrorist groups that have been using children as human shields and pushing them to take up arms and fight among their ranks,” writes the SANA news agency, which represents the Assad regime.
It’s not the first time Al Qaeda-linked rebels have targeted children. Earlier this summer, Syrian rebels shot dead a 14-year-old boy after they believed he had uttered words insulting to the Muslim prophet Mohammed as TheBlaze reported.
Mohammed Qataa’s mother told The Telegraph in June that her son was shot dead by rebels after he made an innocent joke that had referred to the Muslim prophet Muhammad. She said that the incident began when her son was negotiating with a customer over the price of coffee at the family’s coffee stall in Aleppo. The rebels shot her son while she pleaded for his life.
The video of the apparent killing of the two boys can be seen by clicking on this link (TheBlaze has decided not to post the video outright due to the graphic nature).
Video Captures Teens Hitching Wild Ride on the Back of Semi Going 45 MPHPosted August 16, 2013 at 7:44 am by Liz Klimas
A pair of Boston teens were spotted in a dangerous stunt Thursday as they clung to the back of a semi-truck going down the highway.
KHOU-TV reported witnesses estimating the truck was going about 45 miles per hour as the teens hung on, unbeknown to the truck driver.
Evan Krometis told KLTV he couldn’t believe his eyes at first.
“I looked a little closer and there were two people hanging on the back of it. It seemed a little bit strange so I switched lanes and pulled up a little bit closer and it looks like two teenagers who had hitched a ride somewhere,” Krometis said.
Other drivers, according to Krometis, were moving slower than usual around the truck and even pulled alongside it trying to get the driver’s attention.
“Eventually he knew something was up, I’m sure he didn’t know what,” Krometis told KLTV, noting that although the truck driver never stopped, he did slow down, which is when the teens hopped off.
Watch KLTV’s report:
Here is footage taken from a cellphone of the dangerous ride:
State police told KLTV there were no 911 calls made of the incident.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Pic of the Day: Chinese Zoo Tries to Pass Off This Animal as a LionPosted August 16, 2013 at 7:44 am by Liz Klimas
BEIJING (TheBlaze/AP) — Would you be fooled if you saw this animal in a cage marked for an African lion?
Although it might bear some resemblance with its busy, mane-like coat, the Tibetan mastiff is decidedly not in the big cat family and, it should be pointed out, has more of a woof than roar.
But state media reported that Luohe zoo recently put this breed into the lion’s cage, which was absent an actual lion.
What’s more, Beijing Youth Daily said Friday the zoo also had a dog in the wolf cage, foxes in the leopard enclosure and nutrias in the snake den.
Though the zoo said it wasn’t trying to fool anyone, it issued an apology to the public and closed for “rectification,” reported another newspaper, the Beijing News. It also planned to reorganize its public-private management structure, although the details were still being worked out, the newspaper said.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted zoo manager Liu Suya as denying any attempt at deception, saying the lion had been lent out for breeding and would be back soon. The dog belonged to a friend of a zoo keeper who was on a business trip and needed a place to keep his pet while away, Liu said.
Liu said the leopard had also been lent out for breeding, while the snake and wolf were merely sheltering from the torrid summer heat. The substitute animals had been drafted because an empty cage would have “looked bad,” Liu said.
“If visitors require an explanation, we’d be happy to give it to them,” Liu said.
Calls to the zoo rang unanswered. The facility, with more than 20 animals on display, sits inside the city’s People’s Park and is co-run by the municipal government and a private contractor.
The Beijing Youth Daily said it was informed of the odd situation by a zoo visitor who had been taking her son around the enclosures to teach him the sounds that various animals make.
“He said they were fooling us because the ‘lion’ was actually barking,” the visitor was quoted as saying. “The sign clearly said African lion so I can only think that this was an attempt to fool the visitor.”
Whatever Happened to the Chevy Volt? Just Look at These NumbersPosted August 16, 2013 at 7:26 am by Becket Adams
Remember how much time and energy was spent focusing on Detroit and the auto bailouts during the 2012 presidential election?
More specifically, do you remember all the attention that was paid to the Chevy Volt, the hybrid electric vehicle that was supposed to mark the rebirth of General Motors?
Now think back. Have you heard that much about it recently? No? Neither have we. So we started looking into the issue to figure out what happened.
First, let’s take a look at what appears to be a general decline in interest in the Volt. Here is a chart of Google search trends showing the difference between interest in the Volt and the apparently more popular Toyota Prius (charts 2012 to present day, with the blue line representing the Volt):
And then, of course, there’s the media’s apparent disinterest in the Volt. Just look at the decline in Volt-related headlines from 2011 to today:
- A Google News search for “chevy volt” between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011, turns up roughly 852 results
- A Google News search for “chevy volt” between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2012, still produces about 207 results
- A Google News search for “chevy volt” between Jan. 1, 2013 and July, 2013 brings up only nine results
Perhaps interest has declined because the 2012 presidential election is over, taking with it all the talk of President Barack Obama supposedly saving “Detroit.”
Or maybe interest in the Volt has waned because GM’s public relations department has failed to keep the public excited. It could be that they are doing a poor job of marketing what was supposed to be the next big thing in automotive trends.
But perhaps the Volt has lost the interest of the public and the media because (outside of politics) people just aren’t interested in the car. Perhaps the Volt is simply a failure.
“The Chevy Volt is a dolt. GM had no choice but to produce a product that was heavily influenced by the Obama administration,” nationally recognized auto expert Lauren Fix, who’s appeared on numerous cable programs and is the Weather Channel’s auto expert, told TheBlaze.
“With so many new cars producing better fuel economy at a better price — the Volt has been left behind,” she added.
And when you consider GM’s roll coaster sales and production estimates, the decline in Volt chatter may go much deeper than a PR and marketing failure.
Recall the ups and downs of GM’s annual sales and production estimates:
- GM estimated 25,000 Volts produced in 2011, up from 10,000 originally projected, according to a 2011 Bloomberg report
- The company was then going to aim for 60,000 Volts in 2012, but then someone leaked that the company was looking to produce around 120,000 units
- GM declined to comment on the 120K figure
- GM then announced its intention to produce approximately 45,000 units in 2012
- A Treehugger report based on a now-missing Washington Post article then claimed GM would produce 36,000 Volts in 2013 — but GM itself has “declined to give a target for this year.”
Production estimates only make so much sense out of the context of overall sales. So let’s take a look at Volt sales:
- GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011
- GM sold 23,461 Volts in 2012 (not too shabby!)
- GM has sold approximately 6,300 Volts so far in 2013
“Consumers liked the look of the car but sales were flat,” Fix said. “The plug-in portion put it at a disadvantage to other cars in the class.”
“The bulk of the sales of the Chevy Volt is to municipalities, GE and other Obama-connected companies,” she added.
Also, it’s worth noting the Volt now comes with a $5,000 manufacturer rebate (no doubt to help dealerships clear their lots of the electric hybrid vehicles in order to make room for the new units) as well as a $7,500 tax federal tax credit.
And on top of all of that, it was announced last week that the price of the Volt will be slashed by $5,000.
So between the feds, the rebate, and the price reduction, the $41,000 Volt has now been almost cut in half ($5k rebate plus the $5k price slash plus the $7.5k tax credit).
Many consumers who received a government tax rebate and bought this car probably “won’t buy again,” Fix said.
To be fair, rebates and sales incentives are not uncommon in the auto industry. But the Volt’s heavy incentives — coupled with what appears to be a general decline in public and media interest — seem out of place for a car that was supposed to be the next big thing.
Remember the high hopes people had for the Volt?
The question is whether the car CEO Rick Wagoner calls a “moon shot” can recharge GM overall. GM executives like Wagoner and Chevrolet chief Ed Peper invoked John F. Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon in the 1960s to describe the impact the company feels the Volt’s technology will have on transportation.
“The world is watching … who will lead the reinvention of the automobile,” said Wagoner.
“Yes, it was a ‘moon shot,’ but we landed it,” a GM spokesperson said in 2011 PBS report.
“It’s also been called our industry’s ‘moon shot’ because that’s exactly what it is,” GM spokespersons claimed in 2011.
But even with underperforming sales, there are still a good deal of people who are quite proud of the Volt.
A spokesperson with GM did not immediately return TheBlaze’s request for comment, but we were able to get Adam Yamada-Hanff, founder of Adam’s Auto Advice, provide a little insight on the “pro” side of the issue.
“People at GM would not tell you the Chevy Volt is a failure since they are using the technology and what they learned from the program and incorporating it into other vehicles,” he told TheBlaze. “Even if the Chevy Volt hasn’t made money for GM it is still successful in GM’s eyes.”
He continued, explaining the ups and downs of the aforementioned sales estimates: “All automakers will overstate how many vehicle units they think they will sell. That really is just business.”
As of this writing, the Volt’s future is uncertain.
“It’s hard to say [about the Volt's future] as Bob Lutz, who was the man behind the Chevy Volt, left GM,” Yamada-Hanff told TheBlaze. “I would imagine they want to use the technology on a larger vehicle in the near future.”
Fix was a little more blunt in her final assessment of the issue.
“Government had a huge amount of pressure on GM to turn a new leaf at all costs. The Volt is their Edsel,” she said, referring to what is commonly known as one of the “worst cars of all time.”
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Featured image Getty Images.
Reported List of Churches and Christian Institutions Attacked in Egypt Since Wednesday Will Astonish YouPosted August 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm by Erica Ritz
A wave of devastating violence swept through Egypt Wednesday as the government attempted to disband the supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from their sit-ins. According to the Associated Press, 638 people have now been confirmed killed, and nearly 4,000 are injured.
The fighting is far from limited to the Islamists and the military, however. Since Wednesday’s violence began, there have also been a wave of attacks on churches and Christian institutions.
Amira Mikhail at Nile Revolt compiled a shocking list with the help of Mai El-Sadany, Amir Beshay, “aggregating information that was shared online about attacks on churches and their institutions around Egypt.”
“Please note that this is a work-in-progress and information so far is unverified although most is backed up with tweets and photos,” she wrote. “We are hoping to continue the efforts to verify details. If you have any corrections or updates to church names, photos, or details, please reach out to email@example.com or my twitter.”
Though there may be some changes made to the list, what has been assembled so far is staggering.
List courtesy of Amira Mikhail:
- Father Maximus Church
- St George Church | Burned | Source
- Good Shepherds Monastery | Nuns attacked
- Angel Michael Church | Surrounded
- St George Coptic Orthodox Church | Photo, Photo, Photo, YouTube
- Al-Eslah Church| Burned | Source
- Adventist Church | Pastor and his wife kidnapped | Photo
- St Therese Church | Photo
- Apostles Church | Burning | Source
- Holy Revival Church | Burning | Source
- Qusiya Diocese | MCN
- The Nuns School | Photo
- St George Church | al-Wasta
- St Fatima Basilica | Heliopolis | Attempted Attack
- Virgin Mary’s Church | Hakim Village | Burned | Photo
Fayoum (Five churches)
- St Mary Church | El Nazlah | Gallery
- St Damiana Church | Robbed and burned
- Amir Tawadros (St Theodore) Church | EgyNews (Arabic), Twitter
- Evangelical Church | al-Zorby Village | Looting and destruction
- Church of Joseph | Burned | Source
- Franciscan School | Burned | Source
- Diocese of St Paul | Burned | Source
- Father Antonios
- Atfeeh Bishopric
Minya (Around twelve churches)
- Church of the Virgin Mary and Father Abram | Delga, Deir Mawas | Source
- St Mina Church | Abu Hilal Kebly, Beni Hilal | Source, photo
- Baptist Church | Beni Mazar | Source
- Monastery | Deir Mawas | Ahram (Arabic)
- Delga Church | Attacked (Previously attacked with fire)
- The Jesuit Fathers Church | Abu Hilal district
- St Mark Church | Abu Hilal district
- St Joseph Nunnery | Photo, photo
- Amir Tadros Church | Photo, photo, photo, album, photo, photo
- Evangelical Church | Photo
- Anba Moussa al-Aswad Church | Photo
- Apostles Church | Source
- St Mary’s Church | Attempted Burning
- St George Church |Photo album, photo, photo, video, source, source, video
- St Damiana | Attacked and burned | Source
- Virgin Mary | Attacked and burned | Source
- St Mark Church & Community Center
- Anba Abram Church | Destroyed and burned | Source
- St Saviours Anglican Church | Source
- Franciscan Church and School | Street 23 | Burned |Photo, photo, source/photos, photos
- Holy Shepherd Monastery and Hospital | Photo
- Good Shepherd Church (molotov cocktail thrown)- Relationship with Holy Shepherd Monastery unknown.
- Greek Orthodox Church | Photo, Photo
- House of Father Angelos (Pastor of Church of the Virgin Mary and Father Abram) | Delga, Minya | Burned | CBN News, Ahram (Arabic)
- Properties and Markets of Copts | al-Gomhorreya Street, Assiut
- Seventeen Coptic homes | Delga, Minya | Burned | Source, Source
- YMCA | Minya| Burned | Photo
- Coptic Homes | Qulta Street, Assiut | Attacked
- Offices of the Evangelical Foundation & Oum al-Nour | Minya
- Coptic-owned shops, pharmacy, and hotels | Karnak and Cleopatra Streets, Luxor | Attacked and Looted
- Dahabeya Nile Boat | Minya| Church-owned | Source,Photo, Photo
- Bible Society bookshop | Cairo | Burned | Photo
- Bible Society | Fayoum | Photo
- Bible Society | al-Gomohoreya Street, Assiut | Photo, Photo
- Ezbet el Nekhl | Source, source, source (Arabic)
Click here to read the entire post.
Other Must-Read Stories:
- Graphic: Egyptian Protesters Push Police Van Off a Bridge, Mob Below Attacks Helpless Officers
- Buck Sexton Breaks Down Mackinder’s ‘Geographical Pivot of History’ and How It Relates to the World Today
- ‘A Redrawing of the Map’: Syria’s Assad Delivers Chilling Warning to Europe & the World
- TheBlaze’s Buck Sexton Slams Absolute ‘Counterterrorism Catastrophe’ That You May Not Have Heard About
- Bizarre Video: Al-Qaeda Reportedly Hosts Lighthearted ‘Family Fair’ With Ice Cream & ‘Tug of War’ in Syria
Groom Behind Paralyzed Wife’s Viral Walk Down the Aisle Describes What Was Going Through His Mind During the Touching MomentPosted August 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm by Liz Klimas
It was an especially emotional experience for Jared VanAusdale when he saw his bride walking down the aisle over the weekend on their wedding day. Seven years prior she broke her back in an accident and became paralyzed.
After years of therapy and making it her main focus after becoming engaged, VanAusdale was overwhelmed seeing bride Stevie Beale coming toward him with the aid of a walker adorned with her bouquet.
“I was trying not to bawl like a baby in front of 300 people. Seeing her on the walker, reaching that goal that she swore she was going to hit, is something I will never forget,” VanAusdale told Today.com.
“Seeing everything come together at that moment and seeing all the hard work pay off…Her in the dress and how beautiful she was…Just kind of overwhelming…tried to keep it together as much as possible,” WTVG-TV reported VanAusdale saying.
Watch footage of the emotional moment:
According to WTVG, Beale was in a car accident seven years ago. At just 17 years old, she was paralyzed from the waist down.
For years, Beale traveled from her home in Toledo, Ohio, to the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in Detroit for therapy.
She told WTVG ahead of the wedding that her fiance kept her at it.
“Especially having someone say no you can’t quit. You have to keep going to therapy, you have to walk down the aisle when I want to just lay down and go to sleep for a week and not think about it has helped me keep going,” Beale said.
“My huge stressor is walking down the aisle. I could not care less if the flowers die the day of the wedding or if someone doesn’t show up or if the groomsmen are too drunk to walk down the aisle. I don’t care,” Beale explained.
After making it down the aisle over the weekend, standing for the ceremony with her walker and being carried back down the aisle as VanAusdale’s wife, she was sat back in her chair where she was “able to take a deep breath and enjoy the rest of the day.”
Although the bride’s accomplishment was huge, WTVG reported it would take a medical breakthrough for her to get beyond small steps such as these.
The 2006 crash that injured Beale was a case of road rage, which ended up killing another teen in the car. The drivers of the two respective cars involved in the incident received jail time.
Report: NSA Broke Privacy Rules THOUSANDS of Times Each YearPosted August 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm by Associated Press
Story by the Associated Press, curated by Jason Howerton.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls, the Post said, citing an internal audit and other top-secret documents provided it earlier this summer from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a former systems analyst with the agency.
In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Post cited a 2008 example of the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.
In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.
The NSA audit obtained by the Post dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.
In a statement to the newspaper, the NSA said it attempts to identify problems “at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible and drive the numbers down.”
“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official said in an interview, speaking to the newspaper with White House permission on the condition of anonymity.
‘Is Everybody Blind?’: City Council Meeting Erupts in Applause After Retired Marine Issues Dire Warning About U.S. ‘Building a Domestic Army’ [Updated]Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm by Mike Opelka
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with significant additional information. See below.
A former member of the United States Marine Corps on Monday night voiced his serious concerns about the U.S. “building a domestic Army” during a local city council meeting in Concord, N.H. In his impassioned testimony, the retired Marine said he believes that the recent push for local police forces to bulk up on military-grade equipment is disturbing and represents a very real threat to Americans.
His fears bring to mind something President Barack Obama actually suggested while running for president in July 2008:
“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
That statement from then-Sen. Obama may have been on the mind of one participant at the recent Concord City Council meeting.
This past Monday night, Concord, N.H. held its monthly city council meeting. At the end of the fairly typical gathering, during the public session, citizens were allowed to give testimony (stand and speak to the council and the citizens gathered). One speaker’s comments have started to go viral on the web.
These comments reportedly came from a former colonel in the United States Marines Corps. The still unidentified former military man said he was concerned about the way America’s domestic police forces have started looking more and more like the U.S. military. His statements were in response to the local police chief’s request for the military grade vehicle – a Ballistic Engineered Armed Response Counter Attack Truck. These vehicles are also known as BearCats.
The council was supposed to vote on this request for the BearCat during the meeting.
The speaker claimed to have worked as a military defense coordinator – someone who was training the Iraqi army. You can watch the 3:09 video and read a full transcript below.
A full transcript of what the former Marine said to the crowd reads:
We don’t need this.
I’m a retired… I was a retired Colonel in the Marine Corps.
I saw a sign hanging in the back that said we want “More Mayberry, Less Fallujah.”
I spent a year in Fallujah. You know what, when I first got there, I didn’t have armored Humvees.
I spent…I traveled over 10,000 miles over there. Sometimes you had to deal with and go with what you had. That’s part of the job, for one.
And second thing was… I was a Ministry of Defense Coordinator. Where job was to man, train and equip the Iraqi Army…and I can tell you right now…Somebody had the idea to get rid of the Iraqi Army…When we rebuilt it, we did everything we could to make it as strong as possible. And I’ll tell you right now, Homeland Security would kick their butts in a week.
What’s happening here is we’re building a domestic military because it’s unlawful and unconstitutional to use American troops on American soil. So what we’re doing is building a military.
My best friend, who is a SWAT officer in Nashua (NH), came to Iraq with me to train the Iraqi police, sent me a picture of him in the media, on the streets of Watertown, MASS, wearing the exact same combat gear we had in Iraq, only was a different color.
The way we do things in the military is called “task organization.” You take a command and then you attach units to it in order to accomplish the mission. What’s happening is, Homeland Security is pre-staging gear, equipment. What they’re trying to do is use standardized vehicles, standardized equipment.
I saw a picture in the Boston Globe during the Boston Marathon bombing, where there was a State police officer…actually there were two officers, they both had identical helmets, flak jackets, weapons, everything I wore in Iraq, only it was all blue. The officer on one side had a big patch that said Massachusetts State Police…the other officer next to him…his patch said Boston Police.
What we’re doing here, and let’s not kid about it, we’re building a domestic army and we’re shrinking the military because the government is afraid of it’s own citizens.
The last time more than 10 terrorists were in the same place at the same time was September 11th. And all these vehicles in the world wouldn’t have prevented it or helped anybody.
So I don’t know where we’re gonna use this many vehicles and this many troops. Concord is just one little cog in the wheel. We’re building an army over here and I can’t believe people aren’t seeing it.
Is everybody blind? (crowd erupts in applause – “thank you” is heard from someone close to the camera).
The colonel offered to take questions from the crowd. None were asked. As he left the mic, Martino closed by stating, “My wife always tells my kids — there’s always free cheese in the mousetrap.”
One video posted online claims that a scheduled vote on the purchase of the BearCat truck has been postponed until a meeting on September 9th.
TheBlaze has contacted the municipal offices in Concord and requested a copy of the transcripts in order to identify and contact the mystery Marine. As soon as we receive the transcript, we will update the story with more from the Marine.
Update: Several Blaze readers have reached out to TheBlaze with additional information on this story, including the identity of the retired Marine, Col. Pete Martino. We have reached out to Martino and are still waiting for a reply.
We also heard from Carla Gericke, the President of the Free State Project. She describes her group as, “a peaceful movement to concentrate 20,000 liberty lovers in New Hampshire.” According to Gericke, her group was also cited as a “domestic terror threat” by the Concord city council’s petition for a grant to purchase the $258,000 Leno BearCat vehicle pictured above. You can see the mention of “Free Staters” in Section 1, paragraph B of the application.
The Free Staters were in attendance at the Concord city council meeting. And as you can see from this photo of them approaching the building, they appear to be a well organized, and well heeled group. Not exactly along the lines of the typical OWS crowd.
Carla was one of the 48 people who testified at the city council meeting. She reports to TheBlaze that 44 of the 48 were against the proposed purchase of the BearCat, with only 4 people speaking in favor of the idea.
Note: Any references to “ex-Marine” in this story were swapped out and replaced with retired or former Marine.
H/T – FreeStateProject.org
Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter – @stuntbrain
Obamacare Is Coming, and So Are the Con ArtistsPosted August 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm by Guest Post
[Editor’s note: the following is a cross post by that originally appeared on CNBC.com]:
As the debate rages over who benefits from the Affordable Care Act, one thing is becoming clear: The controversial program is a dream come true for rip-off artists.
Consumer experts warn that the program has created a huge opportunity for swindling people by stealing their money and their sensitive personal information.
“Any time you roll out a big government program like this, confusion is inevitable,” said Lois Greisman, an associate director in the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. “This confusion creates a tremendous opportunity for the fraudster.”
Scammers have been at it for more than a year now, but consumer advocates and security experts warn that the problem will worsen as we get closer to Oct. 1. That’s when the millions of uninsured Americans can use a health insurance exchange, set-up by their state or by the federal government, to shop for coverage.
“I believe the incidents are going to skyrocket as that date approaches,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. “And even people who are smart and savvy could get taken, so we are very concerned about the potential for some serious financial harm.”
The Affordable Care Act created a Health Insurance Marketplace, also referred to as the Health Insurance Exchange. Policies in the exchange have been preapproved by each state’s insurance commissioner.
“There are fake exchanges already up and running on the Internet,” said Monica Lindeen, Montana’s Commissioner of Securities and Insurance. “If you do a search and type in ‘exchange,’ you’ll find all sorts of websites that claim to be in the exchange when they are not.”
These health insurance exchanges don’t open for business until Oct. 1, so no one can sell you insurance through an exchange until then.
Scam artists got an early jump on national health care reform. Since last year, they’ve been calling, faxing and emailing people across the country claiming to be with Medicare, Obamacare or some agency of the federal government.
They often say they need to “verify” some personal information (typically a bank account or Social Security number) to ensure you get the proper benefits. In some cases, fraudsters tell victims they need to buy an insurance card to be eligible for coverage under the new program.
Such calls can be especially intimidating to seniors, said John Breyault, who runs Fraud.org , a project of National Consumers League.
“We’ve heard about cases where the scam artists have threatened people with jail if they don’t purchase the fake insurance cards,” Breyault said.
Americans don’t need a new Medicare card, and no one from the government is calling and asking for personal information or money. Under the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, people who don’t buy insurance could have to pay a penalty, but that provision does not take effect until next year. There is no jail penalty in the law.
A con artist can claim to be anyone, for instance a “navigator” who can help you apply for coverage through an exchange. They gain your trust and then ask for personal information to buy nonexistent policies. Fraud.org reports that some victims have been persuaded to wire money or send funds via prepaid debit card to get their full benefits.
Thousands of legitimate navigators are being trained and certified to guide people through the process of applying for coverage through an exchange. These navigators are prohibited from recommending a particular plan. They will never ask for personal information or for money in any form. The navigator program hasn’t started yet, so no one is making calls.
Don’t get taken
There is only one place to shop for a qualified health plan: HealthCare.gov, the site run by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. You also want to start your search here if you live in one of the places (17 states, District of Columbia, Guam or American Samoa), that set up its own exchange. Customer service representatives are available at 1 (800) 318-2596.
These tips, provided by consumer groups and government, will help you spot a fraud:
- There is no card associated with health care reform.
- There is no new Medicare card, and you do not have to update any personal information.
- The Health Insurance Marketplace (those exchanges) doesn’t open until Oct. 1, so you can’t buy coverage under the Affordable Care Act until then.
- Don’t respond to a cold call of any kind, especially one that asks for personal information or money. And don’t trust caller ID, which can be rigged to make it look as if the call is coming from a government office.
- Don’t let anyone rush you. The rates in the exchange have been preapproved and won’t change during the initial enrollment period, Oct. 1 to March 31. Anyone promising a “special price” or “limited time offer” or who tells you “spots are limited” is lying.
The FTC’s Lois Greisman urges you to file a complaint if you spot a problem, get a suspicious call or fall victim to a health care insurance con artist.
©2013 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. Herb Weisbaum
Former Muslim and Acid Attack Victim Claims Jesus Spoke to Him in a Dream, Forever Changing His LifePosted August 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm by Billy Hallowell
Stories about Muslims who convert to Christianity after encountering Jesus Christ in their dreams may seem far-fetched, but, as TheBlaze has reported in the past, many people claim they have personally experienced this phenomenon. In a recent interview with CBN News, Omar Mulinde, a former Muslim, described one such dream — an experience that inevitably vanquished his hatred for Israel, while also leading him to abandon Islam.
Mulinde told the outlet that Jesus Christ once appeared to him while he slept — and he purportedly came with a profound message. The event, which the convert deems a turning point in his life, quickly led him away from Islam.
“I was in the midst of fire crying, but I saw the people who were with me in this fire were the fellow Muslims we go with in the mosque,” he told CBN. “But as I was crying at the climax of the scene, somebody shining on the right side told me that Islam is leading you to this torture. Repent, be born again, you shall survive.”
At first he ignored the dream, but he claims he experienced it again. After the second time Christ appeared, Mulinde said he went to church and became a Christian, and he subsequently started a church in Uganda and became a pastor.
While Mulinde found the faith he believes God was leading him toward, his journey hasn’t been an easy one.
Leaving his religion led to some major and life-threatening problems, but he knew the risks (it’s not uncommon for converts in certain countries to experience violence — even death — as a result of leaving the Muslim faith). On Christmas Eve in 2011, two Muslims attacked him with acid. The horrific assault ate away at some of his skin, and led to the loss of an eye and ear.
During the attack, he claims his assailants yelled “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” as they permanently maimed him.
“My conversion from Islam and my love and promotion of the love of Israel in my community taught the people on the other side to haunt me and to hunt me for a kill,” he said during his CBN interview.
Today, he’s forced to wear a special mask to aid in his healing, as he undergoes skin grafts and other correctivemeasures. Considering his experience, Mulinde has few favorable words for Islam.
“I am the true picture of what Islam is all about,” he added.
Watch the shocking interview, below:
(H/T: Charisma Magazine)
Things Just Got Real Personal in Feud Between Bill O’Reilly and Al SharptonPosted August 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm by Jason Howerton
Bill O’Reilly took his feud with Al Sharpton to the next level on Thursday, alleging that the so-called civil rights leader came to him and asked for money to benefit his broke Harlem charity a few years ago, a request that O’Reilly was happy to grant. But that hasn’t prevented Sharpton from going on MSNBC and slamming the conservative TV host as anti-poor and even insinuating that he is a racist.
O’Reilly began on Thursday by claiming Sharpton lied about a report he did on food stamp fraud when he took his comments completely out of context. On his show Tuesday, Sharpton accused O’Reilly of attacking the poor after he did a report about a healthy man receiving food stamps so he can surf all day and not have to worry about employment.
“Sharpton, obviously taking my comments totally out of context, not even mentioning Jason the surfer and basically not telling the truth once again,” O’Reilly responded on Thursday.
He then dropped the “crusher” about Sharpton, who he says has been portraying him as a “racist and a brutalizer of the poor.”
“A few years ago, Sharpton told me that his charity in Harlem, N.Y., was out of money and that it could not provide Christmas presents and Christmas dinner to hundreds of poor people in Harlem,” O’Reilly explained. “So I gave Sharpton a $25,000 donation to prove the gifts and food.”
“I never mentioned it, because it wasn’t necessary to mention it. But now it is. To prove exactly what kind of person Sharpton is,” he added.
Watch the segment via Fox News:
Super Creepy: Burglar Leaves Behind an Eerie Surprise Inside X-Men Actress’ HomePosted August 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm by Billy Hallowell
NEW YORK (TheBlaze/AP) — The New York Police Department is investigating a burglary at actress Famke Janssen’s Manhattan penthouse. While that’s scary enough, what the culprit left behind makes the scenario even creepier.
Police say the “X-Men” actress told officers that when she came home Saturday, she found a children’s book that didn’t belong to her near her bed.
“The Lonely Doll” was on a shelf inside her bedroom. It’s about a lonely doll that wants to play with someone and is friended by two teddy bears. A description for the book, which is currently being sold on on Amazon, reads:
Once there was a little doll. Her name was Edith. She lived in a nice house and had everything she needed except someone to play with. She was lonely! Then one morning Edith looked into the garden and there stood two bears! Since it was first published in 1957, The Lonely Doll has established itself as a unique children’s classic. Through innovative photography Dare Wright brings the world of dolls to life and entertains us with much more than just a story. Edith, the star of the show, is a doll from Wright’s childhood, and Wright selected the bear family with the help of her brother. With simple poses and wonderful expressions, the cast of characters is vividly brought to life to tell a story of friendship.
Police say there was no sign of forced entry and the apartment wasn’t in disarray. It wasn’t clear if anything was taken. Even more odd is the fact that Janssen told authorities she’s the only one with access to her penthouse. Authorities say the investigation into the burglary continues.
Janssen plays telepath Jean Grey in the “X-Men” franchise. She played a Bond girl in “GoldenEye.”
Newly Released CIA Documents: Area 51 Is RealPosted August 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm by Jason Howerton
The CIA has finally admitted that Area 51 exists, according to newly released documents — but the mysterious facility is apparently nothing like what you’ve seen in Hollywood movies and on conspiracy theory websites about aliens.
According to the documents, which reportedly include a map of the base’s actual location in the Nevada desert, Area 51 was only a test site for the U.S. government’s U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. Well, that kind of explains where the UFO theories came from.
More from CNN:
Area 51, about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is synonymous in popular culture with government secrecy, and many have theorized that it holds the answer to one of the greatest questions plaguing mankind: Are we really alone in the universe?
But the newly released documents make no mention of alien autopsy rooms or spaceship parking lots.
This information will be disappointing to some, who have come to view the area has been a Mecca of sorts for alien encounters.
For these true believers, the existence of alien spacecraft at Area 51, and the government’s attempts to cover up their trace, is irrefutable and has been since reports of Unidentified Flying Objects — or UFOs — began to emerge from the Nevada desert in the middle part of the 20th century.
Believe it or not, the new Area 51 documents were released by the government in response to a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Jeffery T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives.
Richelson said he requested the information as part of his study of aerial surveillance programs. The documents he recently received were reportedly less redacted than previous versions declassified by the CIA, possibly signaling a willingness by the spy agency to reveal additional information in the future — or at least that’s what he hopes.
Richelson told CNN that the actual location of Area 51 was not really a secret. Seriously, if you do a Google Maps search for “Area 51,” you will get the same location as the one included in the CIA documents.
Still, the official CIA documents probably won’t convince hardcore Area 51 and extraterrestrial fanatics.
Either way, as CNN points out: “At least they still have Roswell, right?”
GOP Rep. Claims Hillary Clinton ‘Screamed’ at Member of Congress During Briefing Two Days After Benghazi – Here’s the Stunning Reason WhyPosted August 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm by Jason Howerton
Speaking at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) claimed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “screamed at a member of Congress” two days after the Benghazi attack for daring to classify the tragedy as terrorism.
The alleged incident occurred during a briefing just two days after four Americans were killed in a fiery assault on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
“Two days after this attack we were in a briefing with Hillary Clinton and she screamed at a member of Congress who’d dare suggest that this was a terrorist attack,” Kinzinger told constituents in Rochelle, Ill., on Wednesday. ”Now we find out that while it was happening they knew it was a terrorist attack. These are answers, we are going to get to the bottom of this.”
Kinzinger went on to call the Obama administration’s handling of the terror attack “inexcusable” and “un-American.” No other members of Congress had confirmed the Illinois Republican’s claims as of Thursday evening; however, we will update this story if his charge is refuted or backed up.
Watch the video below:
Featured image via Getty
(H/T: Fox Nation)
‘Drinking Was Absolutely My Priority in Life’: Veteran Journalist & News Anchor Discusses Her History of Alcoholism With Glenn BeckPosted August 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm by Erica Ritz
TheBlaze’s Laurie Dhue appeared on The Glenn Beck Program Thursday to discuss her history of alcoholism and what she’s learned from the struggle.
“In the next 45 minutes, I think you’re going to be inspired,” Beck said at the introduction of the program. “You may find a little more courage in your own life, some answers in your own life, and you also might find some answers and some courage in your life as a citizen.”
Dhue, who has hosted programs on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, began by saying that while she doesn’t let her past struggles define her, her “twenty years of suffering” have certainly shaped her into who she is today.
“I used to lie in the fetal position on the floor of my office at Fox News Channel an hour before I was going on the air and hosting — that’s how much pain I was in,” she said. “Because even though I had this big job at Fox News and before that MSNBC and CNN, it wasn’t enough for me to give up the bottle. Drinking was absolutely my priority in life, despite the fact that I had a lot to lose. It didn’t matter, because when you’re in the throes of addiction…consequences be damned.”
Even when she was at parties and dinners with “extremely high-profile people” like Rupert Murdoch, Dhue said “it didn’t matter to me.”
That was never more clear than when she met then President George W. Bush “fairly drunk,” a memory she told Beck is one of the most embarrassing she can recall.
People think of alcoholics as people who “wet themselves” and live in the gutter, Dhue and Beck agreed, when in fact they’re “you, me, your dentist, your priest, your pizza delivery guy…”
“High-functioning people that can be really out of control and nobody knows,” Dhue said.
Dhue also described her pivot point as a confluence of events when her blackouts started becoming more frequent, she got in a drunken fight with her father, and made a blackout phone call to the man she was dating at the time.
But most important, she said, was her sister’s pregnancy.
“I sort of woke up one day and thought, I want this unborn baby to have a present aunt. To have a sober aunt. The aunt who makes her flight home to Atlanta to show up at the baptism and the plays and the athletic events,” she said, showing photos of her nephews. “Those little boys are my pride and joy, and they are two major reasons why I stay sober.”
Her first two weeks of detox were “night sweats, horrible cramping, headaches, nauseous at work…” with “the poison was literally draining out of [her] body,” but after the first few months, people started asking her things like, “Did you lose weight? Is your hair blonder? Did you have work done?”
The two also discussed the pressures that can drive a person to alcoholism, particularly for women, in addition to national endeavors like the war on drugs.
For those who were listening who felt like she was describing their story, Dhue urged: “You can do it. You’re not alone. You shouldn’t be fighting this alone.”
Watch two clips from the interview, below:
The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.
Other Must-Read Stories:
- ‘I Was Fairly Drunk When I Met President Bush’: TheBlaze TV’s Laurie Dhue Shares New Depths of Her Alcoholism with Katie Couric
- TheBlaze Announces Exciting New Hire Who You Might Recognize
- Beck Hosts Uproarious ‘Mock Obama Day,’ Complete With a Teleprompter, Little Girl Bicycles and Minnie Mouse Ears
- ‘They Are Liars’: Beck Says These Then-And-Now Obama Videos Prove It
- ‘It’s His Lifelong Passion’: Beck Weighs in on One Significant Detail You May Have Missed in Obama’s Race-Relations Speech
Troubled ‘That ’70s Show’ Actress Dies at 43 While in RehabPosted August 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm by Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “That ’70s Show” actress Lisa Robin Kelly has died at age 43.
Manager Craig Wyckoff says Kelly died Wednesday at a Los Angeles addiction treatment facility she had entered early this week. No official cause of death was disclosed.
Kelly portrayed Laurie Forman, sister of Topher Grace’s lead character Eric, on the Fox series. It concluded in 2006.
Unlike some of her co-stars – Grace, Ashton Kutcher and Laura Prepon – Kelly fell out of the spotlight after appearing on the sitcom until she started making headlines for personal troubles.
She was arrested in November along with husband Robert Joseph Gilliam in connection with a disturbance at their home in Mooresville, N.C.
In June, she was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after her car stalled in Burbank, Calif.
The Disturbing Story About a Dead Dog, a Garage and a Dallas StripperPosted August 15, 2013 at 7:45 pm by Liz Klimas
An employee at a Dallas apartment complex reported a dried blood trail and stench to police, most likely fearing the worse behind the garage door of unit #1526.
But it wasn’t a human body the leasing agent feared could be on the other side of the door — it was the dog of renter Brianna Burkowski.
“Burkowski is known to leave her dog, a mature saint bernard, in the … garage during all hours of the day and night, even when the outside air temperature is approximately 100 degrees,” the La Valencia Apartments employee told police, according to the Dallas Morning News.
When police searched the garage, they found the dog, dead and rotting for several days. The 20-year-old admitted to wrapping dead dog in a blanket and storing it in her garage.
An animal control officer determined the dog died from starvation and lack of water and proper shelter.
Why did Burkowski keep the dog after he died? The affidavit stated it was “too heavy for her to move.”
Burkowski, who was listed as a “stripper” on the police report, according to the Dallas Observer, was taken to jail and faces animal cruelty charges for the malnourished dog. If convicted on these felony charges, she could face up to two years in prison.
‘Million Muslim March’ to Be Held on 9/11 Anniversary – and the Group Behind It Is Just as Radical as You’d ExpectPosted August 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm by Jason Howerton
A radical Muslim political advocacy group has sparked controversy with its plans to hold a “Million Muslim March” on Washington, D.C., on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11. The gathering is intended to condemn the discrimination of Muslims following 9/11 and urge the U.S. government to reveal the “truth” about the attack.
The move has been blasted as “tasteless” given the significance of the date commemorating the worst domestic terror attack in American history.
The group behind the event, the American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC), is led by M.D. Rabbi Alam, a self-proclaimed 9/11 truther who believes that Jews are somehow behind the plot. AMPAC is radical enough that the Huffington Post even labeled it a “fringe group.”
Alam, who has reportedly associated with a radical Islamic cleric, is also a Missouri-based Democratic activist who chairs the National Democratic Party Asian American Caucus, the Washington Free Beacon reports. He ran — unsuccessfully — for Missouri’s secretary of state in 2012.
Protesters in Washington will reportedly denounce “illegal tapping and surveilling of Muslim Americans,” FBI “traps” and “media propaganda making the word terrorist synonymous with Muslim,” event organizer Isa Hodge told US News & World Report last month.
In a press release Hodge also alleged that the U.S. government “either sits idly by and does nothing to protect our freedoms or it exacerbates the problem with its constant war on terrorism in Islamic countries, congressional hearings on Islam in America, and its changes to the [National Defense Authorization Act].”
Further, demonstrators will apparently demand the “truth” about 9/11. Hodge argues that the full record of the 9/11 Commission Report has never been released.
Not even the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in U.S. history, is willing to attend the event due to AMPAC’s radical beliefs about 9/11.
Despite promising to “bring USA together,” the event, unsurprisingly, has had a hard time gaining support. Other than a few truther groups and one Pennsylvania Tea Party organization, the march has been widely rejected, according to HuffPost.
A Facebook page for the so-called “Million Muslim March” showed less than 10 people attending before it was taken down.
You Should Probably Pay Attention to the Investment This George Soros Hedge Fund Recently MadePosted August 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm by Becket Adams
George Soros’s family hedge fund, Soros Fund Management, on Wednesday filed its 13F quarterly report — and it appears the billionaire market speculator has made some interesting bets.
As the filing indicates, Soros biggest position in the second quarter was a “put” on the S&P 500 ETF (exchange traded fund).
A “put” is defined as follows [via Investopedia]: “An option contract giving the owner the right, but not the obligation, to sell a specified amount of an underlying asset at a set price within a specified time.”
And here’s the important part: “The buyer of a put option estimates that the underlying asset will drop below the exercise price before the expiration date.”
Soros in Q2 bought a put on 1,248,643 SPY units (“SPY,” also known as “SPDR” or “spiders,” is an abbreviation for a Standard & Poor’s depositary receipt. “Each share of spider contains one-tenth of the S&P index and trades at roughly one-tenth of the dollar-value level of the S&P 500,” Investopedia explains).
The 13F filing also show that Soros is hot for Apple stocks and not all that interested in Citigroup or Netflix stocks — and he’s definitely not interested in gold.
Business Insider’s Julia Roche notes the infamous Democrat bankroller in Q2 held 26,157 shares of SPDR S&P 500 and call options on 143,600 shares and put options on 7,802,400 shares in the ETF.
Now compare this to the first quarter when Soros held 17,065 shares and puts on 2,618,700 shares of SPDR S&P 500 ETF:
Okay, so what does this matter?
Well, as mentioned in the above, a “put” is is basically a bearish or — as Roche puts it — a “downward” bet.
“It appears that Soros has placed a large bet through S&P 500 puts, basically giving him the right, but not the obligation, to sell them in the future,” she writes.
Translation: If the S&P 500 and/or the exchange traded fund which tracks the S&P tanks, Soros will profit — and he’ll profit big.
However, recall that the “man who broke the bank of England” also purchased a large amount of stock in Apple. So maybe he’s just be hedging.
Lastly, keep in mind Roche’s final thought: “13F filings come 45 days after the end of the quarter. Fund managers only have to disclose their long equity holdings in these 13Fs. We don’t know what he’s shorting.”
In short, Soros’ “put” could be something ingenious or it could be him acting on a hunch.
As Soros himself once said: “Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux, and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.”
Here’s the complete 13F filing:
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Featured image Getty Images.
Photo of Animal-Loving Cop Carrying 75-Pound Dog to Safety Will Touch Your HeartPosted August 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm by Liz Klimas
A police officer in Pennsylvania is being hailed a hero for showing extra compassion for a dog that after being in a car accident had run so far the “skin on the pads of her feet was hanging.”
A photo of South Londonderry Patrolman Nick Ague posted Sunday on Facebook has been liked by more than 6,000 people and shared more than 1,300 times. It shows Ague carrying the 75-pound German shepherd named Mya after she literally could not walk any more.
According to the photo description, Mya was one of two dogs that ran from the vehicle after it crashed near Palmyra in Lebanon County.
While the other dog was caught, Mya kept running, making it all the way to the county line about two miles away.
“The dog was not moving because the skin on the pads of her feet was hanging, presumably because of the distance she ran,” Ague told ABC News. “She ran two miles from the crash on hot asphalt.
“When I realized that’s why she couldn’t walk,” he added, “the only thing I could think to do was pick her up.”
From there, Ague carried Mya 100 to 200 yards back to her owner’s car.
“It wasn’t the first time he’s done something like that to save an animal,” Ague’s wife, Dorthy, told WPMT-TV.
Ague too admits he’s an “animal lover.”
“It’s nice to see the positive response that people are giving. I don’t consider myself a hero…I was just doing what I would want someone to do for my dog,” Ague said, according to WPMT.
The report states that Ague wants to start a K-9 unit at the police department.
Watch WPMT’s report:
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Despite Criticisms of Trips Amid Sequester, Obama Is on Pace to Set Presidential Travel RecordPosted August 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm by Fred Lucas
Criticism of costly presidential trips hasn’t deterred Barack Obama from setting a pace to establish a new White House travel record, even as the sequester continues to impose across-the-board cuts in federal spending.
“If the president travels in his second term at the same pace he did throughout the first, he will have spent 190 days abroad during his time in the Oval Office,” a recent study by the National Taxpayers Union concluded. “That would put him behind only George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as the most-traveled two-term presidents.”
From March 1 — when the sequester began — through the president’s August vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, the president flew to 32 destinations aboard Air Force One, according to the schedule on WhiteHouse.gov.
The five months before the sequester — October 2012 to February 2013 — Obama traveled to 46 locations. However, 31 of those trips were before the Nov. 6 presidential election, a time when “candidate” Obama routinely stumped in as many as four cities in one day.
So after adjusting for election-related trips, Obama didn’t change the amount of travel during the five months of sequester so far, and even picked up the pace in one month. In the months before the sequester kicked in, he had five post-election trips in November 2012, three in December 2012, one in January and six in February. During the months of the sequester, Obama took 10 flights aboard Air Force One during June, the most of any month. He took four trips in the months of March, April and August and five trips in the months of May and July.
The sequester travel includes trips abroad through the Middle East, Central America, Europe and Africa.
“With four trips abroad over 18 days through the first six months of 2013, Obama is on pace to set the record for the most travel in a fifth year in office,” the study by the National Taxpayers Union said. “If that precedent continues, he will be among the most-traveled U.S. chief executives in history by the time he leaves office.”
The 32 trips Obama took since the sequester began compares to 41 destinations, including Europe and Central America, that the president visited in the same period of 2011 (the last year before his election-related travel began).
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, traveled to 24 destinations aboard Air Force One from March 1 through Aug. 12, 2005, the first year of his second term. He took three foreign visits, one in April to the Vatican for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, another in May visiting Eastern Europe to mark the anniversary of the 1945 Yalta accords, then for the G8 meeting in Scotland in July.
Flying Air Force One Costs $179,750 per Hour
With an estimated operational cost of $179,750 per hour, according to a Congressional Research Service report from May 2012, the overall cost for the flights alone from March 1 to Aug. 10 would have been $28.7 million. That does not include other aspects of presidential travel such as security, cargo planes accompanying Air Force One and lodging.
Meanwhile, critics of costly presidential travel point out that the sequester imposed 3 percent across-the-board federal spending cuts that prompted furloughs of government workers, canceled White House tours, and even complaints of lack of air conditioning.
Before taking vacation, Obama spoke numerous times about doing away with sequestration blaming Republicans in Congress. He said at a speech in Chattanooga, Tenn., “Instead of reducing our deficits with a scalpel to get rid of programs we don’t need but keep vital investments that we do – you know, this same group has kept in place this meat cleaver called the sequester that is just slashing all kinds of important investments in education and research and our military.” The flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Chattanooga and back cost taxpayers $449,375, based on the CRS estimated cost per hour.
During the sequester, according to the White House schedule, Obama took four extended travels abroad: A four day trip through the Middle East where he visited Israel and Jordan in March; a three-day trip through Mexico and Costa Rica to discuss Central America trade issues in May; and to the United Kingdom for the G8 meeting followed by a one-day stop Germany in mid-June before a swing through African countries in late June and early July.
Transparency is a longstanding problem for presidential travel, regardless of administration said Michael Tasselmyer, a policy analyst for the National Taxpayers Union, who authored the study in June on presidential travel.
“We recognize that it’s part of the job to travel to various parts of the world and various parts of the country,” Tasselmyer told TheBlaze. “However, one of our main findings we ran into is looking into how little data is available to the public. We would like to see more transparency.”
He noted that the actual cost of Air Force One – just one aspect of travel – is the only identified cost.
“Anytime there is a cargo plane following the plane designated as Air Force One carrying the president, that adds just one more layer for the public to go through,” Tasselmyer said.
The Congressional Research Service report from last year also addressed this point.
“When the president travels abroad, several passenger and cargo aircraft accompany Air Force One,” the CRS report says. “When the vice president or first lady make such a trip, a single cargo aircraft accompanies either of them. On domestic trips, a cargo aircraft and a backup aircraft normally accompany only Air Force One. If the president is accompanied by more than 75 assistants and subordinates, including Secret Service staff, an additional passenger aircraft also makes the trip. Sometimes, an additional aircraft accompanies Air Force One to be available to take the President to a second city whose airport cannot accommodate a 747. Finally, in preparation for a trip, whether domestic or foreign, an advance party may make several trips to the destination or destinations that will be visited in order to assure that everything goes as planned.”
The White House did not respond to inquiries from TheBlaze, though a spokesman did say they “will let you know if we have anything on this for you.”
Estimating Travel Costs
“Air Force One is the designation given to whatever plane the president is using at the time,” said the Congressional Research Service report from May 2012. “Information provided by the U.S. Air Force in 2012 shows that the cost per hour for the president’s 747 (which is designated ‘VC-25′) is $179,750.”
Based on that, the total cost of all the air travel aboard Air Force One alone since March 1 was $28,773,012.25.
TheBlaze analysis of Obama’s travel calculated flight hour estimates based on the time-distance calculator from the website FlightManager.com.
For example, a flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Chicago O’Hare International Airport – a flight Obama took on March 15 to give a speech on energy policy and again on May 29 for a Democratic party fundraiser—is one hour and 25 minutes, which would cost $254,526 one way. A two-hour flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Miami on March 29 to give a speech about infrastructure was $359,500.
The president’s trip to Tel Aviv, Israel on March 19 was 11 hours and 20 minutes, which based on government numbers would be just over $2 million. On June 18, the president took a six-hour, 35-minute ride on Air Force One from Washington to Belfast for the G8 meeting, which would cost $1.18 million based on the CRS estimate. The first leg of his African tour, from Andrews Air Force Base to Dakar, Senegal was seven hours and 40 minutes, which would be $1.37 million. After the final leg of the African tour, the 15 hour 10 minute return flight from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Washington would have come at a cost of $2.72 million, based on the CRS cost per hour estimate.
Some of the cost for travel was reimbursed to the U.S. Treasury, based on rules regarding official and unofficial travel adopted in 1982 under the Reagan administration. Unofficial travel is generally for political events, while official travel is anything regarding the president’s official duties. The CRS report goes on to say that, “Vacation trips, for example, fall under the official travel category.”
Being a non-election year, only seven of the 32 destinations Obama flew to were directly related to politics. Obama spoke at Democratic Party fundraising events on April 4 in San Francisco, April 24 in Dallas, May 29 in Chicago, June 6 in San Jose, Calif., June 7 in Los Angeles and June 12 in Miami. Before traveling to Miami on June 12, he stumped for Massachusetts Senate candidate Edward Markey in Boston for the state’s special election.
“When travel is for political purposes, the president, vice president, and first lady, any assistants accompanying them, are required to reimburse the government the comparable airfare they would have paid had they traveled by commercial airline,” the Congressional Research Service report says. “Certain staff accompanying the, however, such as Secret Service agents, are always considered to be on official travel and all their travel costs are paid by the government.”
The bulk of the travel – exceeding international trips and political stump speeches – were to promote his policies, such as his recent middle class jobs tour through Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arizona and California.
However, a recent Fox News poll found the public wants fewer traveling speeches.
Asked, “What do you think is the best way for President Obama to go about solving the nation’s problems?” only 24 percent of respondents picked “By traveling the country and making speeches about his policies to voters,” while 63 percent chose the option, “By locking himself in a room with Republicans and working out solutions.”
Interestingly, the same poll showed the public was divided 48 percent to 48 percent on the question, “Do you feel President Obama has been working hard enough to deserve taking a summer vacation for a week in August, or not?” The public gave a decisive 82 percent “No” when asked the same thing about Congress.
Obama’s Little-Known Plan to Bypass Congress and Impose a New Fee on All Cellphone UsersPosted August 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm by Becket Adams
A little-known White House proposal announced earlier this year could see a new federal fee imposed on all cellphone users — and without the approval of Congress.
The program, known as ConnectEd, aims to increase high-speed Internet access in schools, providing students with digital notebooks and teachers with the ability to customize lessons “like never before,” the Utah Standard-Examiner puts it.
The program is expected to cost billions of dollars and the White House hopes to fund it by increasing fees on mobile users.
The program is expected to cost somewhere between $4 and $6 billion, the Standard-Examiner reports, adding that the plan should cost cellphone users roughly $12 in fees over three years.
One of the program’s chief selling points is that President Barack Obama wouldn’t have to seek Congress’ approval. The plan would require the approval of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent government agency filled with Obama-appointed officials.
There are five seats on the commissions: two are Democrats, one is Republican, and there are two vacancies awaiting Obama appointments.
The White House and its supporters are thrilled with the proposal.
“It’s got a lot of the characteristics of big-vision policy that you really don’t get through legislation anymore,” said Rob Nabors, White House deputy chief of staff.
“We are here to do big things — and we can do this without Congress,” the president reportedly told staff in a meeting.
Naturally, Republicans are opposed to the idea of the White House imposing a federal fee (i.e. a tax) on the American people without their representatives first signing off on it.
“Most consumers would balk at higher costs, higher phone bills, and I sure hope that this is not part of the equation that ultimately comes out,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “If they pursue that course, there’s going to be pushback, absolutely.”
Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican former FCC commissioner, chimed in: “Using the FCC as a way to get around Congress to spend money that Congress doesn’t have the political will to spend — I think that’s very scary.”
“Constitutionally, it’s Congress that decides how federal funds should be spent,” he added.
National Review Online’s Charles C. W. Cooke is a little more blunt in his criticism of the little-known proposal:
This is pretty simple: federal taxation falls not “mostly,” not “preferably,” not “traditionally,” not “hopefully,” but solely under Congress’s jurisidiction.
This does not change if Congress is marked by “stagnation and dysfunction and an inability to act.”
If this “fee” is imposed without having gone through Congress, Americans will be subjected to taxation that has not been approved by their representatives.
That the president is putting pressure on the FCC because he can’t get what he wants through Congress is wholly inappropriate, and it cannot be simultaneously written off as a minor change by an independent body and lauded by “White House senior advisers” as “one of the biggest potential achievements of Obama’s second term.”
He is simply not allowed to address that issue without Congress. That the president and his allies are evidently sitting around the White House trying to work out how they can get around the constitutional system of the United States should be worrying to each and every one of us. The only thing more worrying is that it is apparently not.
And despite the possible legal and Constitutional dilemmas created by ConnectEd, it doesn’t appear that the president will cool to the idea any time soon.
“How do we make sure Americans have the chance to earn the best skills and education possible?” the president said before a crowd of students and teachers on June 6. “At a moment when the rest of the world is trying to out-educate us, we’ve got to make sure that our young people – all you guys – have every tool that you need to go as far as your talents and your dreams and your ambitions and your hard work will take you.”
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Legal Battle Over Former High School Cheerleader’s Lesbian Relationship Takes Another TurnPosted August 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm by Billy Hallowell
There are new details surrounding potential legal ramifications for Kaitlyn Hunt, the recent high school graduate who is in hot water over a lesbian relationship she carried on with a minor. Hunt, who turned 19 on Wednesday, was given a new plea deal in the dramatic case surrounding her sexual encounters with a 14-year-old girl.
The Florida state attorney’s office offered a softer option, one that would free the teen from a possible 15-year prison sentence if she’s convicted of sex with a minor during her coming trial this fall. Rather than being placed behind bars, Hunt would — pending she takes the deal — be given three years probation and an 11 p.m. curfew.
Additionally, she would need to complete 150 hours of community service over this time period, doing a minimum of 10 hours per month. Most notably, Hunt would need to stay away from the victim.
In exchange for agreeing to these demands, among others, all charges would be wiped from Hunt’s record following the completion of the three-year period. She would also not be given a felony conviction, nor would she be forced to register as a sex offender. Previously, Hunt was given a deal that included two years of house arrest; this has been dropped from the new option prosecutors are giving her.
WPEC-TV reported that the deal is on the table with no expiration date, which gives the young woman some time to consider her options. While no date has been set, Hunt is expected in court on Sept. 26 to begin exploring beginning dates for the impending trial.
Over the past four months, Hunt’s supporters, led by her parents, have argued that she has been unfairly targeted because she is gay. They launched a “Stop the Hate, Free Kate” campaign, and more than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for the charges against her to be dropped. But opponents argue that the charges waged against the teen strictly stem from the fact that she had sexual interactions with an underage woman.
TheBlaze extensively covered the debate surrounding the controversial relationship. Hunt, who graduated high school this year, was arrested in February after a relationship she had with a younger female student at her school came to light.
Initially, there was confusion surrounding the ages of the two women when their sexual contact began. An arrest affidavit claimed that the relationship started in Nov. 2012 when Kaitlyn was 18 and the unnamed minor was 14.
Earlier this year, though, Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, wrote the following in a Facebook post: “The two girls began dating while Kaitlyn was 17 but her girlfriend’s parents blamed Kailtyn for their daughter’s homosexuality. They waited until after Kaitlyn turned 18 and went to the police to have charges brought against her.”
In interviews with detectives, the younger girl said that the two performed sexual acts on one another both at the school and at Kaitlyn’s home in Sebastian, Fla., up until January 2013. Authorities apparently recorded a phone call between the two during which Kaitlyn said she loved the girl.
But Laurie and Jim Smith, the underage girl’s parents, broke their silence a few days after the media frenzy began back in May in an attempt to debunk what they claim was incorrect information about their stance on the relationship and their handling of the legal drama.
In an interview with WPEC-TV, Laurie said that she and her husband both repeatedly told Hunt that the relationship wasn’t right and, by their account, the older teen refused to listen. The “Free Kate” mantra, the Smiths maintain, hasn’t been an accurate one thus far.
“It’s not the way it was. It was quite different,” she said. “We had actually told Miss Hunt that this was wrong.”
The high schooler was allegedly warned twice.
“Another adult, a mother, came to me and said ‘Ms. Smith you need to know this…we told Miss Hunt to leave your daughter alone. But they are in a relationship, and she’s 18.’ Eighteen? My daughter is only 14,” she said.
When their daughter, whose name is withheld, because she’s a minor, began acting out, as many teens do, she ran away. Jim called the shock “the worst thing” that he has ever experienced. Assuming that she wouldn’t have willingly fled, the parents initially assumed that someone took her — but that wasn’t the case.
After being told to stay away from their daughter, Kate purportedly picked up the 14-year-old. Because the relationship apparently didn’t stop, despite the aforementioned warnings, the Smiths said they had no choice but to turn to the law.
As far as the issue of homosexuality goes, Laurie and Jim seemed perplexed in their WPEC-TV interview. While they have been painted as anti-gay in media and slapped with allegations that they blame Hunt for their daughter’s sexuality, the embattled parents said that this isn’t how they feel about the issue.
“They made me seem as if I’m a monster,” Laurie said of bloggers’ attacks, noting that she and her husband have turned to the media to get their story out. “That’s why I’m talking to you…The stories that people are saying…I love my daughter and I am willing to do whatever to protect her.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Eye-Popping Stats: ‘Duck Dynasty’ Premiere Becomes ‘No. 1 Nonfiction Series Telecast in Cable History’Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm by Jonathon M. Seidl
These numbers are likely to give you a quack attack.
If anyone ever doubted the power of wholesome television and family values, the stats for A&E’s hit show “Duck Dynasty” and its season four premiere will completely shatter the arguments of the detractors.
According to numbers sent to TheBlaze by the network, the show’s hour-long, Wednesday-night episode became the “number one nonfiction series telecast in cable history,” garnering 11.8 million viewers.
But the eye-popping numbers don’t end there. A&E notes that the episode also “set a cable record for a nonfiction series telecast among adults 25-54 with 6.3 million viewers in the demo.” For those familiar with cable ratings, that demo is considered the most important one.
There’s still more, though.
It was also watched by “6.3 million adults 18-49 and 3.0 million adults 18-34″ and the “series had more total activity across all major social media platforms than any other telecast on cable or broadcast for the night.”
As if that wasn’t enough: “The season four premiere … grew by 37% in total viewers, 29% in adults 25-54 and 26% in adults 18-49 versus the record-setting season three premiere,” the release says.
Get the picture? In other words, the show is a major hit, and you can bet the hyperbole that “everyone was watching it” on Wednesday night actually has a lot of truth to it.
“Thanks to its authentic and engaging characters ‘Duck Dynasty’ has become more than just a reality show, it is a cultural phenomenon,” said David McKillop, General Manager and Executive Vice President of A&E. “We would like to thank the Robertsons for their incredible partnership. We are all Happy, Happy, Happy.”
“Duck Dynasty” airs every Wednesday on A&E at 10pm ET.
Other must-read stories:
- ‘Duck Dynasty’ Brother Reveals Why He Was Kicked Out of a New York City Hotel This Week
- Is ‘Duck Dynasty’ Losing One of Its Big Stars?
- ‘Duck Dynasty’ Family Announces New Project You’ll Probably Want to Buy
- Rumor Check: Did ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Phil Robertson Really Say A&E Asked Family to Tone Down Prayer and Guns? (We Talked to Them)
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