This Emerging Trend in Medicine Threatens to Drive up Costs to PatientsPosted July 26, 2013 at 9:40 am by Guest Post
[Editor’s note: the following is a cross post by Dan Mangan that originally appeared on CNBC.com]:
The doctor might be the same, but her bill’s going to be higher.
A strong trend of hospitals buying up physicians practices as well as hospital mergers is threatening to also drive up costs to patients — at least in the short term.
A key factor in that consolidation trend is doctors now are willing to work for someone else to get rid of the hassle of paperwork, fighting with insurance companies, increased overhead costs, and other duties that keep them away from patients.
“What you hear over and over again is: ‘I just want to practice medicine,’ ” said Shane Jackson, president of physicians staffing service LocumTenens.com.
Jackson and others said the trend toward doctors working for hospitals is being fueled by middle-age and older doctors who like the idea of spending less time on non-medicine-related work, and younger doctors who “place a lot of value on work-life balance.”
And all age groups are increasingly inclined to opt for a guaranteed salary from a hospital instead of fluctuating year-to-year profits from a private practice.
Research by LocumTenens’ parent Jackson Healthcare found that the number of solo practitioners among doctors fell from 21 percent to 15 percent from 2012 until this year, while the number of hospital-employed doctors jumped from 20 percent to 26 percent.
“Doctors are asking us, ‘Come run my practice, because we can’t do it anymore,’” said Alan Miller, CEO of giant hospital chain operator Universal Health Services. “And now we’ve been investing in doctor’s practices. We didn’t do much of that before. This is not a great moneymaking business, but it could be.”
Sean Benson, vice president of innovation at Wolters Kluwer Health, said his company is “seeing that as a major trend … physicians either selling out their practices, or looking into the possibility of being acquired by a provider organization.”
In a new report, Wolters Kluwer Health found that 34 percent of doctors said that over the next three to five years they would be “exploring different business models,” which could include “mergers [or] becoming part of a hospital system.”
The report was based on a survey by Ipsos in April of 300 physicians practicing in primary care, family medicine and internal medicine.
Threat to falling costs?
Benson said that doctors’ growing inclination to consider selling their practices or merging with hospitals has gotten stronger at the same time that hospitals have become more aggressive at seeking such deals to expand business.
“It’s cheaper to build that way,” said Benson. But it’s not necessarily cheaper for patients.
In June, PwC’s Health Research Institute projected a “historic slowdown” in the growth of health-care spending in 2014, saying medical inflation was likely to rise just 6.5 percent over 2013′s costs.
However, PwC cited two inflationary trends swimming against that current: the increasing costs of specialty drugs, and what was termed “industry consolidation.”
“Over half of hospitals plan to acquire physicians practices in 2014,” PwC noted. “Studies suggest that consolidation in concentrated markets can drive prices up as much as 20 percent.”
The New York Times, in its July 16 headline announcing the merger of Mount Sinai Medical Center and Continuum Health Partners, warned that the creation of New York’s largest private hospital system was “raising the specter of costlier care.”
In Massachusetts—where its ongoing seven-year-old experiment with health-insurance reform foreshadowed Obamacare—regulatory changes have lead to almost one-third of acute care hospitals being involved in mergers, acquisitions or partnerships since 2007, and another 20 percent being currently involved in discussions to do so, according to PwC.
Massachusetts’ experience with consolidation—which leaves just 9 percent of its hospitals entirely independent—raised “doubt about the long-term viability of stand-alone community hospitals in the U.S.,” PwC said.
Dr. Napoleon Knight, a medical director at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ill., said his hospital’s 2010 merger with the large Carle Physician Group was driven by the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act was coming, as were other regulatory changes that could affect health-care reimbursement rates and encourage “economies of scale.”
“We saw the landscape of health care changing,” said Knight, whose hospital last fall also merged with another health-care system in Hoopeston, Ill.
Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC Health Research Institute, said, “We do expect there to be some efficiencies that come out of consolidation” that could ultimately result in lower costs to patients.
“It’s less clear how long it will take to deliver those efficiencies,” Connolly said. “It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.”
And it might not happen soon enough for many patients as merger and acquisition activity continues apace.
“This trend is here, it’s here to stay,” said Dr. Peter Angood, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives.
“It’s going to take another, I would say, three to five years, before we’re really seeing the return on investments,” said Angood, referring to both the hospital’s outlays and ability to achieve cost savings.
“As health-care systems continue to look for ways to integrate physicians into their delivery models, there will be upfront costs incurred, and it should not be expected that the return on investment will be immediate.”
ACPE in a recent poll of doctors found that 32 percent of them said that health-care costs “go up” when “a group or practice is bought by a hospital or health-care system.” Just 5 percent said costs go down.
Besides upfront costs and the lag time in realizing cost savings from a deal, there are other factors at play, namely traditional reimbursement practices. Hospitals are able to charge Medicare a higher rate for some services that take place in a hospital setting compared with the rates doctors are able to charge in their independent practices.
That means the same procedure performed in an independent doctor’s office on Wednesday might be charged to Medicare at a lower rate than for the same procedure in the same office after a hospital buys that doctors’ practice Thursday.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, when it released a report to Congress on the government health insurance program in June, noted that, “Medicare pays 141 percent more for one type of echocardiogram when done in a hospital outpatient department than when it is done in a freestanding physician’s office.”
“If Medicare pays a higher rate for a service in one setting over another, program spending increases and beneficiaries pay more in cost sharing without a corresponding increase in quality of care.”
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©2013 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. Dan Mangan.
Rep. Steve King Doubles Down on Controversial Immigration Comments: Critics Just ‘Worried About Losing Their Agenda’Posted July 26, 2013 at 9:31 am by Madeleine Morgenstern
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Thursday that those denouncing his recent comments about illegal immigrants aren’t actually offended but are “worried about losing their agenda.”
King told TheBlaze TV’s “Wilkow!” that fellow Republicans coming forward to castigate him for saying that for every valedictorian “DREAMer,” there’s “another 100 out there” hauling drugs across the border are just attacking the messenger.
“I would’ve found Republicans that agree with me on the issue that disagree with me on the statement,” King said on TheBlaze TV. “I’m only finding some Republicans that are for DREAM Act amnesty.”
King made the initial comments to Newsmax last week, but they didn’t garner widespread attention until they were read aloud during a House panel Tuesday.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian,” King said in the interview, “There’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are among the members of King’s party who have come forward to criticize him.
“Valedictorians, I have sympathy for them, we all do. But you only get one valedictorian per school, per year. And they aren’t all DREAMers, a lot of them are American kids that were born here, raised here or naturalized here,” King said Thursday. “But I spend a lot of time down at the border and you have dozens and scores of people hauling drugs across our border every night and that number accumulates.”
He continued, “So the question is, is it 100? Is it 100 drug smugglers for every valedictorian DREAMer? Or is the number above or below? Nobody’s challenging that, nobody’s saying ‘he’s wrong it’s 50′ or ‘he underestimated that.’”
King said it “does no good” to seek out a specific number of people eligible for legal status under an immigration bill.
“It does no good to argue there are valedictorians we feel sorry for,” he said. “Yes we do. But if you legalize the valedictorians you’ve got to get the one that’s second and third in their class as well, and once you do that, there’s no place to draw the line.”
The full episode of “Wilkow!”, 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.
Don’t Think Your Car Can Be Hacked? Watch This Terrifying VideoPosted July 26, 2013 at 9:17 am by Jonathon M. Seidl
If you’re at all the slightest bit skeptical of the emerging capability of hackers to take control of your electronic devices, then don’t watch this video. Why? Because you may never drive your car again after you see how a couple of government-funded tech guys were able to hack into, and take control of, one reporter’s vehicle — while he was driving it.
The experiment was the product of Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, who wanted to see just how vulnerable cars are to hacking by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two researchers who received an $80,000 grant from the Pentagon’s research wing, DARPA, to study such vulnerabilities. The scary answer — shown in a video report — to how vulnerable is “very.”
Take for example that Miller, while plugged into the car’s computer system in the back seat — could do things like change how much fuel the car appears to have, alter the speedometer reading, actually turn the steering wheel, honk the horn, and even mess with the brakes:
Greenberg describes the capabilities of the hackers this way [emphasis added]:
As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that they’ve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the Escape and the Toyota Prius (both the 2010 model) to demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius’ brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers. Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius’ steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision.
“It’s quite terrifying when you don’t have brakes, right?” Miller jokes at one point. He then proceeds to turn them off, sending the car into the weeds.
“That’s the attack that crashed me into my garage,” Valasek admits.
“When you lose faith that a car will do what you tell it to do, it really changes your whole view of how the thing works,” Miller tells Greenberg. Here’s the video:
Miller is a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter and Valasek is the 31-year-old director of security intelligence at IOActive, a consulting firm in Seattle. The duo plans on releasing their findings at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas, August 1-4.
And don’t think that just because the duo hacked the controls while physically in the car that you should feel safe. Prior research has shown wireless access is as easy as using a car’s CD player [emphasis added]:
But Miller and Valasek’s work assumed physical access to the cars’ computers for a reason: Gaining wireless access to a car’s network is old news. A team of researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, experimenting on a sedan from an unnamed company in 2010, found that they could wirelessly penetrate the same critical systems Miller and Valasek targeted using the car’s OnStar-like cellular connection, Bluetooth bugs, a rogue Android app that synched with the car’s network from the driver’s smartphone or even a malicious audio file on a CD in the car’s stereo system.
“Academics have shown you can get remote code execution,” Valasek, told Greenberg. “We showed you can do a lot of crazy things once you’re inside.”
Forbes sums up just what that consists of in a graphic:
The capability comes at a time when some are theorizing the car-accident death of journalist Michael Hastings is suspicious. Hastings is the former Rolling Stone reporter who died in a fiery car wreck this summer after apparently sending an email that he was working on a big story. He is also the journalist whose reporting led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
To be clear, neither Forbes nor the researchers insinuated their work could explain the crash. But many will certainly find it interesting.
“Imagine you’re driving down a highway at 80 ,” Valasek tells Greenberg in his report. “You’re going into the car next to you or into oncoming traffic. That’s going to be bad times.”
Read the fascinating report from Forbes.
BBQ Restaurant Responds to Claims It ‘Evicted’ Christian Church From Rented Space Over Homosexuality SermonsPosted July 26, 2013 at 8:55 am by Billy Hallowell
On Thursday, we told you about The Gallery Church’s plight. The New York City-based house of worship is claiming it was booted out of a local restaurant following public outcry over sermons about same-sex attraction. The establishment in question, Hill Country Barbecue, a popular Manhattan eatery, has since responded to TheBlaze’s inquiry for more information about its side of the story.
Sarah Abell of the public relations firm Baltz & Company Inc. returned a message we left for Marc Glosserman, founder and CEO of Hill Country Hospitality and the owner of the restaurant. In an e-mailed statement, she claimed that some media outlets have not properly reported about the situation between The Gallery Church and Hill Country.
“We are disappointed that the news of Hill Country’s arrangement with the Gallery Church has been inaccurately reported and would like the opportunity to share below the official statement clarifying the situation with you,” she said, going on to express gratitude, despite the situation, to Pastor Freddy Wyatt, the preacher who leads the house of worship.
From there, Abell provided prepared comments from Glosserman — statements that explain how the relationship initially formed between the two parties, while also detailing where it went wrong. In March, the CEO claims that the church approached Hill Country Barbecue in search of a venue to host weekly services. The company agreed to “an initial trial arrangement,” he contends. But the arrangement didn’t go as planned.
“Our intention was to provide the Church with a place to congregate, which we thought we could do without implying a religious affiliation between our two organizations,” Glosserman continued. “Over the following weeks, based on unanticipated community response, it became clear to us that this would not be possible.”
This explanation seems consistent with the church’s general claims, although it is unclear if the problems resulted strictly from the pastor’s sermon series on same-sex attraction. Previously, Wyatt made this specific claim, noting that the series spawned an outcry that led to the church’s removal from the space.
“This particular sermon series struck a nerve in the neighborhood. There was an enormous amount of backlash,” Pastor Freddy Wyatt previously told conservative commentator Todd Starnes. “We don’t know specifically what that was. The restaurant said if it had only been a couple of phone calls it would have been one thing — but it was more than that.”
Glosserman also explained that Hill Country, upon receiving the unanticipated response, decided to deliberate and give consideration to its options. Rather than continue to allow the Gallery Church to use the space, the company no longer wished to renew the arrangement that had been forged. So, Glosserman gave Wyatt and his congregation two months to find a new location.
The business owner concluded by noting that the restaurant continues to serve and support the community and that a positive relationship is still enjoyed with the Gallery Church. This, of course, is reflective of Wyatt’s own pledge to continue dining at the eatery.
“We are thankful to Pastor Freddy T. Wyatt of Gallery Church for his compassion and understanding,” the statement concludes.
For the church’s side of the story, read our original report. It is unclear which news outlets published stories about the incident that were “inaccurately reported,” but, based on this statement, Wyatt’s general claims do not seem to be rebutted.
That said, there seems to be some angst over the word “eviction.” In a separate statement released by Wyatt, the pastor said that this term has not been used by the church to describe what unfolded. Media outlets, though, have used the word, more generally, to describe Hill Country’s decision. This may be the “inaccurate” reporting that is alleged in the restaurant’s release.
Semantics aside, the debate surrounding the decision is an interesting one. The restaurant, despite disagreement over its choice, has the right to rent to whomever it chooses.
Photo Credit: ShutterStock.com
See the Green Paint Splattered on the Lincoln Memorial During Apparent Vandalism AttackPosted July 26, 2013 at 7:54 am by Jonathon M. Seidl
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Park Police in Washington say the Lincoln Memorial has been temporarily closed after someone splattered a splash of green paint on the statue.
Police say the apparent vandalism was discovered around 1:30 a.m. Friday on the statue, the pedestal and the floor. No words, letters or symbols were visible in the paint.
Capt. Steven Booker says the paint spill “appears intentional based off of the splatter.” He says police are reviewing security camera footage to try to identify possible suspects.
Police say the memorial will be closed until the National Park Service maintenance crew can clean up the paint, which is expected to happen later Friday.
The memorial, one of the most popular sites on the National Mall, was dedicated in 1922 to the nation’s 16th president.
‘Everyone Was Covered in Blood’: Mormon Missionary From Utah Describes Surviving ‘Gruesome’ Spanish Train CrashPosted July 26, 2013 at 7:46 am by Billy Hallowell
SALT LAKE CITY (TheBlaze/AP) — Seconds before the Spanish train he was aboard lifted off the tracks “like a roller coaster,” Mormon missionary Stephen Ward said he glanced up from the journal he was writing and noticed a backpack tumble from a rack. Moments later, he blacked out as the train smashed into a concrete wall at high speed.
He awoke to a scene that seemed like a nightmare.
“Everyone was covered in blood, there was smoke coming up off the train,” said Ward, 18, of Bountiful, Utah. “There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming. There were plenty of dead bodies. It was quite gruesome, to be honest.”
Ward said an information screen for passengers showed that the train was traveling 194 kph (121 mph) moments before the crash. He said that speed was nearly double the speed they had been cruising at since leaving Madrid earlier that afternoon.
Some media reports claim that one of the individuals operating the train, Francisco José Garzón Amo, allegedly bragged on Facebook in the past about going over the speed limit. Some sources claim that he even posted pictures of speedometers last year to prove the rapid speed at which he was driving.
The train was traveling fast when it derailed Wednesday and killed dozens, but officials haven’t yet confirmed how fast.
KUTV-TV has more:
Rafael Catala, a senior transport official in Spain’s Development Ministry, said it appeared to be going much faster than the track’s speed limit of 80 kph (50 mph). An Associated Press analysis of security camera video of the crash indicated the train hit the bend at the crash site going twice the speed limit or more.
Ward’s face was caked in blood, his leg bruised and his neck injured. But he survived a horrific crash that killed 80 people — his latest brush with death.
Four years earlier, Ward was diagnosed with a rare cancer known as Burkitt’s lymphoma and nearly died while undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
“From a religious standpoint, I’d like to say that God has something in store for me and that there’s a reason I’m still here,” Stephen Ward said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from La Coruna, Spain. “I count myself very lucky and very blessed to have been able to survive so many things.”
Ward said he suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck but has been discharged from the hospital. He expects to stay in Spain to complete his two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he started six weeks ago.
He was one of at least five Americans hurt Wednesday when the train hurtled off the rails and smashed into a security wall. One American died, the U.S. State Department said. The American victim was identified by the Diocese of Arlington as Ana Maria Cordoba, an administrative employee from northern Virginia.
On Wednesday, Ward was supposed to board an earlier train from Madrid to El Ferrol, a coastal city in northwest Spain where he was sent to begin proselyting. But he accidentally bought a ticket for the wrong day and instead went on a later train that ended up crashing as it rounded a bend about 60 miles north of Santiago de Compostela.
When he awoke from the crash, somebody was helping him walk out of his train car and crawl out of a ditch where the train car came to rest. He thought he was dreaming for 30 seconds until he felt his blood-drenched face and noticed the scene around him.
Emergency responders arrived within minutes and led him to a grassy area away from the wreckage where he laid for three hours before being taken by ambulance to a hospital.
Ward’s parents didn’t know he was on the train. They knew only that he was scheduled to leave Wednesday from Madrid, where had spent the first six weeks at a training center learning Spanish and how to be a missionary. When Raymond Ward, 45, saw news of the crash on his cellphone, he figured it had nothing to do with his son.
But an hour later, a Mormon church official in Spain called Raymond Ward and told him his son was on the train – and survived.
A picture of the 6-foot-6 Stephen Ward appeared in a Spanish newspaper, blood running down his face, his father said. Stephen Ward also gave an interview from his hospital bed to The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London recounting the harrowing experience.
“He looks terrible, but he’s alive so that’s good,” Raymond Ward said. “When we talked with him he was in good spirits.”
Stephen Ward is no stranger to hospitals, having spent countless hours fighting to survive cancer when he was younger. He’s been healthy since then, and is a gregarious, happy young man who plays piano and excelled in school, his dad said. He left for his mission after one year at Brigham Young University, where he is studying chemical engineering.
“Not many people come that close to death twice before age 20,” Raymond Ward said. “I’m just grateful that he’s alive and that’s he my son.”
The teens mother, Beverely, added in an interview with KUTV-TV, “It could have been him [that was killed]. Grateful that it’s not, but yet your heart goes out to these families.”
Investigation Reveals Something Odd About that Southwest Jet Crash in New YorkPosted July 26, 2013 at 7:40 am by Jonathon M. Seidl
NEW YORK (AP) — A Southwest Airlines jet that made a hard landing at LaGuardia Airport touched down on its front nose wheel before the sturdier main landing gear in back touched down, federal investigators said Thursday.
The nose-pointed-down landing described by investigators violated the airline’s normal procedures, Southwest said.
Flight 345 from Nashville, Tenn., skidded off the runway Monday and came to rest on its nose after the front landing gear crumpled. About 150 people were aboard the Boeing 737, and 16 passengers suffered minor injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary information about the accident late Thursday. It said the finding was based on video and other evidence.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss would not say whether pilot error contributed to the hard landing or if the nose gear should have been able to withstand the impact.
“That’s something we’re going to look at during the investigation,” Weiss said.
Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said the “landing scenario that the NTSB described is not in accordance with our operating procedures.” She provided no further details.
About 4 seconds before touchdown, the plane’s pitch was about 2 degrees nose-up, the NTSB revealed. When the plane touched the runway, it was pitched down about 3 degrees, it said.
Pilots are trained to land on the main landing gear, which are much sturdier than the nose wheel, and then gently ease the nose of the plane down until the nose wheel is on the runway.
Denny Kelly, a retired airline pilot and now a consultant and private accident investigator in Dallas, said that if the Southwest plane was pointing nose-down 3 degrees when it touched the runway, “That’s a problem.”
“If you are pitched down at all, you will land on the nose wheel. At touchdown, the nose should be pointed up at 3 to 5 degrees,” Kelly said.
The NTSB had said Wednesday that the landing gear “collapsed rearward and upward into the fuselage, damaging the electronics bay that houses avionics.”
It posted a photo showing the jet’s electronics bay penetrated by the landing gear with only the right axle still attached.
Investigators recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders on Tuesday. They’ll be analyzed by the NTSB.
Report: Feds Demand Major Internet Companies Turn Over User PasswordsPosted July 26, 2013 at 7:20 am by Jonathon M. Seidl
The federal government has demanded that major internet companies turn over users’ stored passwords, two sources told the respected tech website CNet.
So what exactly does this “escalation” — as CNet calls it — mean?
“If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user,” the report says. “Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.”
But it doesn’t end there. The government is not only requesting the passwords, but its also asking for algorithms and even security questions:
Some of the government orders demand not only a user’s password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts.
According to the report’s sources, the government has requested password information on numerous occasions. Still, both sources said the companies fight them.
“We push back,” one said.
“There’s a lot of ‘over my dead body,’” said another.
Most of the big internet companies — Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo — declined to comment or give any specific information regarding the allegations, but Yahoo did say, “”If we receive a request from law enforcement for a user’s password, we deny such requests on the grounds that they would allow overly broad access to our users’ private information. If we are required to provide information, we do so only in the strictest interpretation of what is required by law.”
Still, CNet does offer some hope for those who may be concerned about this new era of government surveillance: it’s not guaranteed that if the government gets a stored or encrypted password that they can crack it.
“Even if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user’s original password is hardly guaranteed,” the report says. “The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password.”
There is some advice, though, buried deep in the report. Although the author doesn’t expressly say it, he does note that longer passwords that contain odd characters are much harder to crack — even with an algorithm:
One popular algorithm, used by Twitter and LinkedIn, is called bcrypt. A 2009 paper (PDF) by computer scientist Colin Percival estimated that it would cost a mere $4 to crack, in an average of one year, an 8-character bcrypt password composed only of letters. To do it in an average of one day, the hardware cost would jump to approximately $1,500.
But if a password of the same length included numbers, asterisks, punctuation marks, and other special characters, the cost-per-year leaps to $130,000. Increasing the length to any 10 characters, Percival estimated in 2009, brings the estimated cracking cost to a staggering $1.2 billion.
It almost makes you want to go back and read TheBlaze’s report on five ways to thwart the government from spying on you.
Read CNet’s full report for more.
Obama Salutes Muslim Americans, Hosts Ramadan Dinner at the White HousePosted July 26, 2013 at 7:00 am by Billy Hallowell
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
Beliefnet has more about the important Islamic month:
Ramadan is well known as the famous month-long fast of Islam. But Ramadan is actually also the proper name of a specific month in the Islamic calendar. Just as September is the name of the ninth month of the Western calendar, so Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
And yes, the calendar month of Ramadan is the month during which Muslims fast, from sunrise until sunset, every single day throughout the entire month. This is not considered optional, but is regarded as a compulsory religious duty (it is one of the so-called “Five Pillars of Islam,” each of which is incumbent upon all Muslims to abide by). [...]
What’s so special about the month of Ramadan? Well, it’s regarded by Muslims as the holiest month in the entire Islamic calendar. It was during the month of Ramadan that Muhammad first began to receive the divine revelations that would then continue for the remaining 23 years of his life, and which would subsequently be compiled by his followers as the holy Quran (or Koran), which Muslims revere as the actual, literal Word of God.
During the event, Obama said Ramadan is “a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate one’s devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it’s also a time for family and friends to come together.”
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.
Obama said Americans and people in the Middle East also have a common goal for economic opportunity and entrepreneurship.
“We work a little harder, we aim a little higher and we keep striving to create more opportunity for our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Of course this isn’t just the American dream, it’s the aspiration of people around the world. It’s the basic, human desire for progress, to find dignity that comes from work to give our children something better.”
He said these yearnings for economic freedom and opportunity, just as much as political freedom, “are at the root of so much of the change we’ve seen around the world in the past few years, including in North Africa and in the Middle East.”
Watch his speech, below:
Obama was joined by members of his administration, elected officials, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic corps as he hosted his fifth iftar in the State Dining Room.
This event reflected previous Ramadan celebrations Obama has held. Similarly, former President George W. Bush held events commemorating the Muslim holy month during his two terms in office.
Booze, ‘Exotic Dancers,’ and Attempted Homicide: Here’s One Graduation Party That Spiraled Out of ControlPosted July 26, 2013 at 6:43 am by Becket Adams
Graduation parties are usually mild affairs involving close family members and congratulatory cake.
But for one party in McKeesport, Pa., things were anything but mild.
Police are saying a chaotic party that ended in gunshots on Tuesday likely spun out of control when alcohol and “exotic dancers” were introduced into the mix.
“Two-hundred to 300 young people, fueled – police say – by alcohol and exotic dancers, spilled out of a Renzie Park pavilion Tuesday before midnight in no mood to go home,” CBS Pittsburgh reports.
Police say the adults who organized the party are now under investigation.
“They’re all screaming and acting crazy,” said park security custodian Jack O’Neil. “They’re peeling out of here speeding, going 60 miles an hour.”
At first, there was only one McKeesport officer on the scene. He quickly called for backup to help him deal with the unruly crowd.
When reinforcements arrived, police say shots were fired into one of the cars.
“I’m walking down, I hear like 12 shots take place, and the car went crashing down through the senior citizen’s gate,” said O’Neil.
Responding officers soon set up a perimeter and swept the area, finding a handgun:
“They later discovered 21-year-old Brandon Murphy hiding some bushes. They’ve charged him with attempted homicide, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault,” the CBS report notes.
“A short time later, a young man showed up at UPMC McKeesport Hospital with gunshot wounds to the stomach and hands. He was flow by STAT Medivac helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, but his wounds are not life-threatening,” the report adds.
Chief Bryan Washowitz adds that police found alcohol and what he characterized as “suggestive female dancers” performing on the stage.
“The chief tells KDKA’s Andy Sheehan that the organizers of the party are now under investigation and face potential charges of corrupting the morals of minors,” the report adds.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
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SEC Tells Employees Their Personal Data Was ‘Inadvertently’ Transferred to Another Unnamed Gov’t AgencyPosted July 26, 2013 at 12:45 am by Liz Klimas
On July 8, a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission was sent to some of its current and former employees stating that personal data was accidentally transferred to another unnamed government agency. This incident has some citing it as an example of the problem with the government having its hands on all your data.
Names, birth dates and social security numbers of current and former SEC employees, was transferred “inadvertently and unknowingly,” according to the letter obtained by The Hill, on a former employee’s thumb drive as he was moving jobs to another agency. SEC was not made aware of this exchange of information until 10 months later.
“We deeply regret this occurrence and apologize for any inconvenience this incident may cause,” Bayer wrote in the letter, according to The Hill, which confirmed with SEC the letter’s contents applying to employees working there before October 2009. “Please be assured that the SEC is committed to protecting the information with which we are entrusted.”
Lucky — if you would call if that — for those involved, this data breach remained within the systems of the federal government, but to Hester Peirce, a former staff attorney for the SEC who was informed by the letter her data might have been compromised, it highlights the problems the government has handling some sensitive information.
“What if he’d gone to the private sector? What if he’d dropped that thumb drive somewhere, with mine, and I’m assuming quite a few other people’s, personal information?” Peirce asked, according to The Hill.
In an op-ed for The Hill, Pierce, now a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, detailed her thoughts further, calling it an “ironic twist” that she received this letter informing her of the breach the same day it was revealed the IRS had accidentally published “tens of thousands of social security numbers. It was also the same day, she noted, that Steven Antonakes, the acting deputy director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was telling Congress it “makes every effort to safeguard and protect the information that it does obtain.”
In writing about the SEC data breach, Peirce called it “commendable” that the former SEC employee had been hoping to use already developed templates in his future work for the government and that his mistake was “understandable.”
“But that is exactly the problem,” Peirce continued. “The government can earnestly promise that it will protect your data, but—staffed as it is with humans, some of whom are diligent but careless and others of whom are ill-intentioned—it cannot honor that promise.”
With this in mind, Peirce takes the opportunity to discuss why she finds “CFPB’s data collection efforts [...] troubling.”
CFPB, according to Antonakes’ testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services on July 9, is creating a National Mortgage Database that it believes “will help to fill the information gap with loan-level data of a random and representative sample of mortgages.”
Antonakes stated that the database would not include personally identifying information and that “agencies will implement safeguards against potential re-identification of individual borrowers.”
But Peirce disputes that personally identifiable information could be obtained through CFPB:
The fact is, the CFPB does have some personally identifiable data and—using a little bit of elbow grease or the computer wizardry of its Generation Y workforce—can probably tie a named consumer to the allegedly unidentifiable data it has. This task will be made easier if, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests, the CFPB is executing a plan to require banks to catalogue the consumer data they provide to the bureau according to individual identifiers.
But no worries, as the CFPB told Congress, it “stores and protects personally identifiable information, along with other confidential information and data, according to information security requirements that comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations.”
What’s more, Peirce explained to TheBlaze in a phone interview that it wouldn’t be too hard for CFPB to tie together such information to track some purchases being made.
“They don’t need that kind of data that they’re getting” to analyze what they want to,” Peirce told TheBlaze. The ability of a government agency to be able to track purchases, Peirce said, she found “troubling.”
Of course, CFPB protects sensitive information according to the law. Peirce points out that the SEC does too — and look at this recent, accidental leak. And let’s not forget all the times the hacktivist collective Anonymous has infiltrated government systems.
“The government, like any other human organization, will inevitably be subject to data breaches,” Peirce wrote. “That is why we ought to be awfully sure that regulators really need data before we start handing it over to them.”
She did concede to TheBlaze that she understood some agencies, depending on their mission, are tasked specifically with collecting data.
“But that doesn’t mean they should be given it with an open hand,” she said, noting again that Congress needs to adequately put checks on what data — and how much — is given to whom.
Chris Christie: ‘This Strain of Libertarianism That’s Going Through Both Parties…Is a Very Dangerous Thought’Posted July 25, 2013 at 11:45 pm by Jason Howerton
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday took a big swing at libertarian-leaning lawmakers in both parties, calling the ideology, when applied to national security, “a very dangerous thought.” His comments come just one day after the House narrowly rejected a sweeping amendment to defund the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.
Addressing the bipartisan coalition that joined together to nearly push the so-called Amash amendment through, Christie told lawmakers who harbor libertarian views on the issue to explain their position to the victims of 9/11, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reports. He also included Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his critique.
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.
The governor proceeded to use an emotional argument to make his case, inviting “any one of them that’s engaged in this” apparently dangerous “strain of libertarianism” to come to New Jersey and “sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation.”
“I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in,” Christie added.
What about the raging debate regarding the balancing of privacy and national security? Some of that debate is “esoteric,” according to Christie.
He had kind words to say about the national security strategies of both President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
“Do we have amnesia?” the New Jersey Republican asked. “Because I don’t. And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”
Christie made the comments while attending the Republican Governors Association’s summer meeting in Aspen, Colo.
(H/T: Washington Post)
From ‘Wrath of God’ to ‘Nubian Queen’: This Fed Judge Probably Had a Weirder Day Than YouPosted July 25, 2013 at 11:15 pm by Becket Adams
A piece of advice: Don’t threaten — or even appear to threaten — federal judges. That will almost never end well.
A Chicago man apologized to a federal judge Wednesday after he was accused of doing exactly that.
This flap began when Judge Sharon Johnson-Coleman said she would not modify conditions of preacher Herman Jackson’s bail on tax fraud charges.
He told her she would be visited by the “wrath of God.”
“She reiterated that [she could not modify his bail terms] and demanded an apology,” CBS Chicago reports.
Jackson referred to Judge Johnson-Coleman as a “Nubian queen” in his apology and vowed to “step in the path of anyone who would try to do her harm.”
He clarified that when he told she would be visited by “God’s wrath,” he meant God would speak with her.
“I can’t say if I expected to leave or if I didn’t expect to leave. All that I know is I was gonna’ come in here on principle and if the God I serve saw fit, he was gonna’ let me walk out,” said Jackson.
“Judge Coleman said whether the marshals service presses charges is its decision, not hers,” CBS Chicago notes.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Bill O’Reilly Delivers Another Fiery, Race-Themed ‘Talking Points’ Segment (Al Sharpton Is Not Going to Be Happy)Posted July 25, 2013 at 10:51 pm by Jason Howerton
Fresh off his Monday “Talking Points Memo” that sparked a heated debate about race and the problems harming the black community, Bill O’Reilly teed off again Thursday, slamming the “civil rights industry” for not addressing the core reasons why many blacks are not succeeding in the “market place.” Due to that fact, young blacks continue to be “at risk” and are faced with “enormous obstacles to overcome.”
However, O’Reilly started his “Talking Points Memo” with a scathing critique of rapper Lil Wayne and one of his “piece of garbage” songs in which he brags that he beats “that p***y up like Emmett Till.” Till was savagely murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 for flirting with a white girl in 1955.
The Till family was outraged by the disgusting lyrics – and rightfully so. Mountain Dew was also unhappy about the offensive song and pulled a multimillion dollar endorsement deal with the rapper.
It wasn’t long before none other than Al Sharpton and his group, National Action Network, intervened in the dispute between Mountain Dew, Lil Wayne and the Till family, O’Reilly explained.
“National Action Network doesn’t want the end result to be the penalization of artists – Although they clearly need to be corrected…” Sharpton said in a May 8 statement.
Then O’Reilly delivered the “shocker”: The parent company of Lil Wayne’s Cash Money Content, “which markets vile stuff that hurts children,” is a partner in distributing Sharpton’s upcoming book. It would later be revealed that it wasn’t until after his intervention that his publisher penned the distribution deal with the rapper’s parent company.
“That’s right, Al Sharpton is in business with people who put out entertainment harmful to children,” O’Reilly said.
Though Sharpton’s spokesperson claims he didn’t pen the deal with Cash Money Content, O’Reilly called the excuse “bogus” because as an author he knows every author gets a say in who he or she does business with.
“The civil rights industry is not addressing the core reason why many African-Americans are not succeeding in the market place,” he added. “Because of that, young blacks continue to be at risk and have enormous obstacles to overcome.”
O’Reilly was later joined by Paul Porter, a former executive at Black Entertainment Television and current Parents Television Council advisory board member.
Reacting to the TV host’s scathing rebuke of Sharpton and Lil Wayne, Porter said he was “spot on” and “got it right.”
Porter agreed that the loudest voices within the “civil rights industry” tend to ignore artists like Lil Wayne, while a “silent majority” remains outraged.
He went on to say that Sharpton got involved in the Mountain Dew, Lil Wayne dispute because it was “good press” and he figured he could do something to smooth out the relationship. “There’s also money exchanged,” he added.
A little more than a month after intervening in the dispute, Porter explained, Sharpton got the distribution deal from Lil Wayne’s parent company. O’Reilly was sure to get that much “on the record.”
A Thrifty Exotic Dancer, Bags Full of $1 Million in Cash, and a Drug-Sniffing Dog Named Debo Star in One of the Wildest Court Cases You’ll Ever EncounterPosted July 25, 2013 at 10:15 pm by Dave Urbanski
It had all the makings of a wild Hollywood caper flick: A New Jersey couple flies to L.A., then drives a rented Mercedes SUV back east and explores America along the way.
The vehicle is stopped for traveling nearly 100 m.p.h. on Interstate 80 near North Platte, Nebraska.
The cops find more than $1 million in cash in the cargo area, mostly $100 bills stuffed into large plastic bags (along with dryer sheets) in $10,000 bundles.
Debo, a narcotics-sniffing dog, smells something rotten on the Benjamins. Drug money, perhaps?
The cash, the couple insists, belongs to an exotic dancer from Southern California—an apparently very thrifty and conscientious exotic dancer—who later testifies that she claimed her earnings on tax returns and stored the cash in a safe deposit box and gave it all to the couple from the traffic stop for delivery to New Jersey in order to purchase a nightclub they’d own together there.
The cops, of course, confiscate the cash, make arrests, and the whole thing goes to court.
How does the story end? You might be surprised.
The couple, Rajesh and Marina Dheri of Montville, N.J., are friends with the exotic dancer, Tara Mishra, 33, who wanted to get out of the stripping trade in favor of owning half of the nightclub (the Dheris would own the other half, ABC News reports).
Mishra, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., began tucking away her earnings when she started dancing at age 18, according to an opinion that U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon wrote last week, ABC News says.
Mishra filed a claim to get her money back, but the government argued she had no standing to object to the seizure because she wasn’t in the car during the March 2012 traffic stop, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.
Mishra’s lawyer, Roger Diamond of Santa Monica, Calif., predictably said the cash confiscation “amounted to highway robbery.”
More from the Journal-Star:
The U.S. Attorney’s office argued the large amount of money, that it was bundled with hair ties and dryer sheets and the fact that the Dehris lied about having it in their vehicle all gave rise to a substantial connection to drug trafficking.
At trial, Tasha Mishra, then seven months pregnant, and her husband said she’d claimed the earnings on tax returns and provided details about an agreement they had to buy part of a bar known as 46 Lounge.
She said she put drier sheets in the bags because the money smelled like an ash tray when she got it out of the safe deposit boxes.
In the end the judge said Mishra’s story was credible and that even the canine narcotics discovery had little value since the government offered no statistical support to back it up, the Journal-Star said.
“For all the court knows, there is a 90 percent chance that all money is drug tainted,” the judge said, adding that the government “left too many unanswered questions and had a general failure of proof in this case.”
So…Bataillon ruled that Mishra is entitled to all her money back—$1,074,900—plus interest since the day it was confiscated. She hasn’t received it yet, but the government has 60 days from the July 18 ruling to appeal, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Nebraska.
Technical point #1: Nebraska State Patrol policy is to destroy the cash in these cases and instead write a cashier’s check, the Journal-Star reports.
Technical point #2: Mishra is due to give birth within a month and “could really use that money,” Diamond said.
TheBlaze left a message for the owner of 46 Lounge to see if the deal with Mishra and Dehris was still on, but the call was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Shock Video: Business Owner’s Surveillance Cameras Seem to Catch Undercover Police Agent Planting the Crack That Landed Him in JailPosted July 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm by Jason Howerton
Unbelievable video captured by a New York business owner’s surveillance cameras appear to show an undercover police informant (not a police officer) planting and photographing crack cocaine, which ultimately led to the man’s arrest.
Scotia and Schenectady County Police reportedly became suspicious of Donald Andrews, Jr., who owns a smoke shop on Mohawk Avenue in Scotia, N.Y., and decided to send the undercover informant to gather some information. He was sent to Andrews’ place of business twice, according to WNYT-TV.
It was during the informant’s second trip to the smoke shop that he was caught on camera planting and photographing what appears to be cocaine.
In WNYT-TV’s video report, Andrews’s lawyer can be heard narrating the shocking surveillance video.
“He comes in, places the crack on the counter. Crack, which under federal sentencing guidelines, would get him 4 years in jail. Under New York State law would get him 2 to 7 years in jail,” attorney Kevin Luibrand says in the video.
Members of the Schenectady chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference expressed shock, letting out gasps of disbelief as they watched what looks like the framing of a business owner.
“Neither the Schenectady County Sheriff nor the Scotia Police Chief were available to be interviewed about the apparent planting of evidence,” WNYT-TV reports.
Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino reportedly told the station via phone that proper procedures were not followed. However, he placed the blame on the undercover informant, who is on the run.
Andrews was arrested and later released when he produced the incriminating video evidence, recorded on his seven-camera surveillance system.
He is in the process of filing a wrongful arrest lawsuit.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated for clarity.
Photos of Aaron Hernandez Before and After Murder Could Spell Bad News for Former NFL StarPosted July 25, 2013 at 9:15 pm by Jason Howerton
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is holding what authorities have said is a gun in several surveillance photos that were released Thursday and had been recorded hours before – and minutes after – his friend was shot to death.
The photos, taken from Hernandez’s home surveillance system, are in more than 100 pages of court records released by Attleboro District Court. Prosecutors have previously described the photos in court and in affidavits, but this is the public’s first look at images showing Hernandez holding a gun both before and after the killing.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston semi-professional football player whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home. He was shot five times.
Four pictures show Hernandez in his basement holding a gun shortly after Lloyd was killed, an affidavit released Thursday says. The surveillance was cut off within minutes.
Two other photos show what authorities say is Hernandez in his living room, a few hours before Lloyd’s killing, also holding what they say is a gun.
Authorities believe Lloyd was killed with a .45 caliber Glock, which they have said hasn’t been recovered. Prosecutors have said previously that a gun Hernandez is seen holding in the home surveillance appears to be a Glock.
Authorities recovered an ammunition clip for .45 caliber bullets in Hernandez’s Hummer as well as ammunition of the same caliber inside a condo he rented in Franklin, Mass.
The previously sealed documents were released after several media organizations, including The Associated Press, filed motions seeking access and Judge Daniel O’Shea agreed Wednesday that they are public records.
Defense attorneys have objected to the unsealing of the records, saying it is “systematically undermining” Hernandez’s right to a fair trial.
Also Wednesday, O’Shea sided with prosecutors who asked to delay a probable cause hearing for Hernandez to give them more time to present evidence in the murder case to a grand jury. That hearing was rescheduled for Aug. 22.
Hernandez will continue to be held without bail until then.
Prosecutors say Hernandez orchestrated Lloyd’s killing because he was upset at him for talking to people Hernandez had problems with at a nightclub a few days earlier.
They say Hernandez and two associates, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, drove with Lloyd to the North Attleborough industrial park. Authorities have not said who fired the shots, but documents filed in Florida portray the former Patriot as the triggerman. According to the records, Ortiz told police that Wallace said Hernandez fired the shots.
The Patriots released Hernandez within hours of his arrest.
Speaking at length Thursday for the first time since Hernandez’s arrest, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the team has had a “challenging offseason” and that it must work hard to “re-establish what we’re all about.”
The University of Florida, where Hernandez played in college, also said it is removing all references to him in and around the stadium in Gainesville. The University Athletic Association said in a statement it “didn’t feel it was appropriate to celebrate” the former Gator.
Glenn Beck’s Emotional Monologue on the Horrific Story He Says Is Being Swept Under the Rug Because It Doesn’t Further an ‘Agenda’Posted July 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm by Erica Ritz
Glenn Beck confronted society’s morality on his television program Thursday evening, shocked and disgusted at the events of recent weeks.
He primarily focused on the horrific report of a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly gang raped by up to ten men in Austin, TX, before being sexually assaulted by another man after being dropped off with “nowhere to go.” Doctors said their findings were consistent with the allegations.
“Where is the outrage? Where’s Al Sharpton?” Beck said, pausing briefly with emotion. “Where’s Barack Obama? Shouldn’t the president give a speech saying something like, ‘This girl could have been my daughter, after all my daughter is just turning 14?’ …How about speeches on the dangers of letting illegals live in the shadows? How about the speeches of let’s just be good to each other? Where are the marches?”
President Barack Obama spoke several times about 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot by George Zimmerman in what a jury recently ruled was self defense. The president said Martin could’ve been his son, or even could’ve been him 35 years ago. The issue aroused sustained national fury over the death of the 17-year-old.
But Beck said the 13-year-old girl should expect no such support.
“See, nobody really actually cares about people anymore,” Beck said. “It’s really only about politics. It’s not about Trayvon Martin. They had to make him look like a little 13-year-old-boy…Why? Because it would help them get elected, or re-elected, or get them to cause trouble or get more trouble. But see this little 13-year-old-girl, you don’t have to doctor a picture of her…she is 13.”
He continued: “We are witnessing a society that is completely detached, and we are detached because we have an agenda. Why didn’t we tell the story of the 13-year-old-girl? Because of an agenda. The second rapist was black, the others were illegal immigrants, so we don’t tell that story. That’s not a good story, that doesn’t help us with our agenda…”
“Does anything even matter anymore? Does the truth matter? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? I don’t even recognize us anymore,” Beck said with disgust.
Watch Beck’s entire monologue, 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.
Incredible New Details on the Badly Wounded Hero Who Fought Alongside Fallen SEALs in BenghaziPosted July 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm by Jason Howerton
New details have emerged about the badly wounded Diplomatic Security agent who nearly lost his life trying to save his fellow Americans during the Benghazi terror attack on Sept. 11, 2012. David Ubben, who is appropriately being hailed as a true American hero, is reportedly still recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed medical center in Washington, D.C., according to Fox News.
Ubben has reportedly undergone several surgeries at Walter Reed to save his right leg, which was severely injured in Benghazi.
However, the most incredible aspect of the story lies in the man’s heroic actions on the night of the attack as he risked his life in an attempt to save the lives of Americans. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the deadly siege.
Ubben reportedly helped recover Smith’s body after fearlessly going back into the burning U.S. compound in Benghazi several times to search for survivors. He believed Smith was already dead from smoke inhalation when he found the body, according to Fox News, the first news outlet to establish contact with the Diplomatic Security agent.
Citing unnamed sources, Fox reports that “during the second wave of the attack, Ubben was on the roof of the CIA annex — along with former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty — defending the compound. It was a harrowing scene as dozens of militants attempted to swarm the barriers.”
At some point, three mortar rounds hit the compound. One of the rounds fell short, but the next two were on target. Tragically, both Woods and Doherty were killed in the assault and the mortar tore apart Ubben’s leg.
Both of Smith’s parents, Pat and Ray, remain highly critical of the Obama administration over its handling of the attack, both before and after.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) claims the State Department has gotten in the way of him meeting and talking with Ubben at Walter Reed. He says he had a meeting schedule but then was “denied.”
“America needs to thank these people for the horrific things they went through…I think if we heard from the survivors including Ubben — as they walked into that room — there’s wouldn’t be a dry eye in the place because this is what America is all about,” Chaffetz said. “These are our heroes. We need to hear from them.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) echoed Chaffetz, saying America “needs answers” on the Benghazi attack.
But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denies stonewalling members of Congress. She said the department doesn’t “prevent anyone from telling their story.”
Video: Students Asked, ‘Should 4th Trimester Abortions Be Legal?’ (You Won’t Believe How Many Signed The Petition)Posted July 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm by Mike Opelka
The ongoing abortion debate has fueled a new video from MRC.org’s intrepid Dan Joseph. Using the pseudonym “Carlos Danger,” Mr. Joseph took his camera to the campus of George Mason University in Washington DC and asked random students if they would sign a petition to legalize abortion in the 4th trimester (or AFTER the baby was born).
You might think that college students, a group that typically lives their lives based on a trimester calendar system, might figure out that this was a bogus petition or that “aborting” a 4th trimester baby would mean murdering a child after it had been born. But many of them were fooled by the question.
It should also be noted that, as with all petitions, some people will just sign anything to appease the petitioner. Joseph also asked people to sign the petition in a very humorous, yet also deceptive, way by misrepresenting himself as an abortion supporter. But it’s still a really fun video to watch.
TheBlaze also contacted Dan Joseph for more details about the video. We wanted to know:
- How many people actually signed the petition? – 14
- Did anyone catch on to the fact that a typical pregnancy is only three trimesters. – 3
Watch “Mr. Danger” in action here:
Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter – @stuntbrain
Weiner’s Sext Partner Speaks Out: ‘I Am Proof’ He Had Not ‘Learned From His Mistakes’Posted July 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm by Jason Howerton
The woman at the center of the latest Anthony Weiner sexting scandal says the disgraced former congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate told her that he loved her and misled New York voters about turning over a new leaf.
She said she is “proof” Weiner failed to learn from his past mistakes.
Sydney Leathers, a 23-year-old progressive activist from Indiana, sat down for an exclusive interview with Inside Edition’s Jim Moret, which will air on CBS on Thursday and Friday. She says she also told Weiner she loved him and claims he came to her when making his decision to run for mayor.
Leathers said she was “shocked’ that Weiner could make the same mistakes “all over again.”
“He was making these campaign promises that he’d totally changed, that he was a better man now and had learned from his mistakes, and I am proof that that is not true,” Leathers added.
She also accused Weiner of “absolutely” trying to mislead New York voters about his behavior and pressuring her to erase all the evidence of their conversations.
“I felt manipulated,” Leathers told Inside Edition. “Obviously I felt like he’s saying one thing to me, another thing to his wife, saying another thing on the campaign trail. I don’t know who the real Anthony Weiner is I guess.”
Watch a portion of the interview via CNN:
‘It’s Saturday Night…Put Some A**es in Jail’: Ex-Cop Alleges He Was Fired for Speaking Out Against Chief’s Ticketing Quotas, Plans LawsuitPosted July 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm by Dave Urbanski
A former police officer—reportedly fired because he refused to comply with his new chief’s quotas for issuing tickets and making arrests—is speaking out.
“When I first heard about the quotas I was appalled,” former Auburn, Ala. officer Justin Hanners tells Reason, adding that he and other cops on the force were ordered to hassle, ticket, or arrest specific numbers of residents per shift. “I got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not be a bully.”
Hanners says morale was high when he joined the force in 2006, but it flagged four years later when Tommy Dawson became police chief and instituted the quota system, which was enforced down the chain of command.
Hanners dropped dime about the quotas and was later fired, he says, for refusing to comply and keep his mouth shut.
He says each officer was required to make 100 monthly “contacts” (i.e., writing tickets, making arrests, conducting field interviews, and issuing warnings), which equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a town of 50,000 residents.
“If you didn’t get the number of tickets, if you didn’t get the 100 contacts, you would get mandatory overtime, you’d get written up,” Hanners told Reason. “But…the officer who wrote the most tickets and the one that came in second were given gift cards for steak dinners and things like that.”
Hanners quota assertions are corroborated by audio recordings he made of his superior, Sergeant Trey Neal, outlining the new system:
“Officers will have 100 contacts per month, minimum,” Neal says on an audio clip. “Forty of those may be warnings for traffic. The other 60 will be divided between traffic citations, non-traffic citations, field interviews and custodial arrests. Do not be the one that does not get 100.”
“It’s Saturday night. Let’s go out there and make some contacts, put some asses in jail. Write some tickets and all that neat fun stuff we signed up to do when we signed up to do this job.”
Hanners insists the quotas are revenue driven. “They’re telling us they don’t want these little fix-it tickets,” he said. ‘They want meat tickets. Something with a fine. They’ll look over your traffic log and if you’ve got a bunch of low-fine or no-fine tickets, they’ll tell you to switch and do more speeding, more red lights.”
One story Hanners shares with Reason captures the issue in a striking way.
He and his partner once approached a pedestrian who appeared slightly intoxicated, and after Hanners made his “contact,” he was satisfied the man could move on without further questioning.
Hanners’ supervising officer, who witnessed the encounter, was not satisfied.
He told Hanners to arrest the man “for your stats”; Hanners refused, saying “he doesn’t need to go to jail.”
Hanners’ partner, scared to lose his job, made the arrest.
Hanners filed a grievance in 2012. He was fired shortly after.
A father of two, Hanners is still unemployed and looking to sue the department.
The police chief in question, Tommy Dawson, retired in May 2013 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Auburn police department declined requests to be interviewed, Reason said.
Here’s the video report from Reason:
NJ Senate Candidate: ‘Pretty Good Evidence’ That ‘Millions’ Have Died Because of Global WarmingPosted July 25, 2013 at 6:30 pm by Erica Ritz
U.S. Senate candidate Rush Holt of New Jersey recently claimed that “millions will die” if we don’t implement a carbon tax to combat climate change. On Wednesday, he doubled down on the bold assertion by saying that history backs him up.
“I think it’s no exaggeration at all to say that millions will die,” Holt told the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board. “And in fact there’s pretty good evidence that millions already have died because of climate change.”
Holt’s predictions drew wider attention after he made a 15-second campaign ad, saying only: “I’m Rush Holt, and I’m an energy scientist. On climate change, either we take real action, or millions will die. The answer is a carbon tax, and I’m going to fight for it. We can do this.”
He cites a graph with a jagged red line moving steadily upward, credited to Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
Holt also made the “millions will die” claim in a longer video, adding: “We can no longer allow Republicans do deny obvious truths. Our climate is changing. The consequences are lethal. Humans are responsible…”
You can watch the complete video, below:
Republican Steve Lonegan, one of the other contestants in the Senate race, called Holt’s video “silly hysteria,” adding that man-made global warming is “highly questionable.”
He also said that while man-made global warming is still up for debate, the economic impacts are more easily predicted.
“I do know this: The kind of carbon tax Holt is promoting will destroy jobs, and according to the National Association of Manufacturers would destroy 34,000 jobs in New jersey alone,” he said.
Many commenters have also pointed out that the heart of Holt’s argument seems to be something along the lines of, pay more taxes or someone you know or love might die.
But Holt remains firm: “It’s not hysteria. It’s documented…If you talk to the World Health Organization and International Health Groups, they’ll tell you because of diseases – it’s not just from storm damage, it’s other aspects of climate change affecting our oceans.”
Running to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Holt is also outspoken about issues like universal health care and taxing Wall Street.
Other Must-Read Stories:
- You Will Never Guess the Latest Global Warming Villain: Earthworms
- MSNBC Host Gives Wild Global Warming Speech: ‘You Are Either on the Side of Your Fellow Citizens…Or the Side of the Storms’
- See the Stunning Photos: Cities Across the World Go Dark for ‘Earth Hour’
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Unknown Stomach Bug Sickens Hundreds in Several StatesPosted July 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm by Liz Klimas
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — Federal health authorities say more than 285 people in seven states have now been sickened with an unidentified stomach bug.
The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cyclospora infections, which are often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh produce in the past. It causes diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms.
What investigators are not sure of is the source of the infection — how it is being spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the infection has been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut and New Jersey. Most of the illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July. The CDC says it isn’t clear whether the cases are all linked.
The illness is spread when people ingest foods or water contaminated with the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. The agency said it isn’t clear whether the cases are all linked. The CDC reported that no common events, like a social gatherings, have been identified in the cases of the illness under investigation.
Watch this report about the illness:
Report: Al Jazeera Reporter Involved in Violent Confrontation With D.C. Police at Pro-Israel ConferencePosted July 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm by Jason Howerton
An alleged Al Jazeera reporter got into a violent altercation with police after he and another reporter were thrown out of a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C., for secretly videotaping at the event, the Washington Free Beacon reports, citing eyewitnesses as sources.
The reporters apparently claimed they were with Al Jazeera, a media outlet that CUFI allegedly denied press credentials due to what it considers to be anti-Israel bias.
The reporters, identified as Matthew Cassel, a photojournalist with Al Jazeera English, and Micah Garen, cofounder of Four Corners Media, were reportedly tossed out of the Christians United for Israel’s 2013 Washington Summit when it was discovered that they were secretly filming events closed to the press. Glenn Beck delivered the keynote address and donated $100,000 to CUFI at the conference on Tuesday.
“Cassel left the conference with no issue. However, Garen argued with officers outside of the convention center after they confiscated his video equipment, sources said,” according to the Free Beacon.
The Free Beacon also provides an eyewitness account:
“As I approached the convention center, walking south on 9th street, I saw what at first I thought was someone having a psychotic episode,” said one conference attendee who witnessed the incident.
“There were four D.C. police officers trying to restrain and subdue a man who was violently trying to break free,” the attendee said. “I thought the cops were going to taze him—they certainly would have been justified.”
“At one point he broke partially free and lunged at a blue trash can but was dragged off of it,” the source continued. “Eventually the police restrained him and escorted him away. I don’t know why he thought he was going to win in a fight against four cops. It never works out that way.”
A CUFI spokesman would not comment and a Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson had no additional details.
When asked by police to hand over his recording equipment for filming where signs prohibiting video recording were clearly visible, Garen allegedly tossed his video memory card in the trash, according to the Beacon’s source inside CUFI. When cops attempted to recover it from the trash, Garen reportedly “lunged” towards the garbage can and a “violent skirmish with multiple officers” ensued.
A source who allegedly viewed the video on the memory card told the Free Beacon that the reporter secretly recorded CUFI members and even Israeli military personnel talking and walking to various events. Further, the individual who was recording the video apparently was hiding the camera under a jacket as he recorded a private CUFI strategy meeting that was being held.
To read the Free Beacon’s full report, click here.
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