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Spooked by Spike in Cyber Extortion, Businesses are Stockpiling Bitcoin for Payoffs

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Paying ransom just invites the next attack.

Tim Johnson reports: U.S. corporations that have long resisted bending to the demands of computer hackers who take their networks hostage are increasingly stockpiling bitcoin, the digital currency, so that they can quickly meet ransom demands rather than lose valuable corporate data.

The companies are responding to cybersecurity experts who recently have changed their advice on how to deal with the growing problem of extortionists taking control of the computers.

“It’s a moral dilemma. If you pay, you are helping the bad guys,” said Paula Long, chief executive of DataGravity, a Nashua, New Hampshire, company that helps clients secure corporate data. But, she added, “You can’t go to the moral high ground and put your company at risk.”

“A lot of companies are doing that as part of their incident response planning,” said Chris Pogue, chief information security officer at Nuix, a company that provides information management technologies. “They are setting up bitcoin wallets.”

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Pogue said he believed thousands of U.S. companies had prepared strategies for dealing with hacker extortion demands, and numerous law firms have stepped in to facilitate negotiations with hackers, many of whom operate from the other side of the globe.

Symantec, a Mountain View, California, company that makes security and storage software, estimates that ransom demands to companies average between $10,000 and $75,000 for hackers to provide keys to decrypt frozen networks. Individuals whose computers get hit pay as little as $100 to $300 to unlock their encrypted files.

Companies that analyze cyber threats say the use of ransomware has exploded, and payments have soared. Recorded Future, a Somerville, Massachusetts, threat intelligence firm, says ransom payments skyrocketed 4,000 percent last year, reaching $1 billion. Another firm, Kaspersky Lab, estimates that a new business is attacked with ransomware every 40 seconds.

“If you’re hit by ransomware today, you have only two options: You either pay the criminals or you lose your data,” said Raj Samani, chief technical officer at Intel Security for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We underestimated the scale of the issue.”

Hackers often send out email with tainted hyperlinks to broad targets, say, an entire company. All it takes is one computer user in a company to click on the infected link to allow hackers to get a foothold in the broader network, leading to hostile encryption.

“At least one employee will click on anything,” said Robert Gibbons, chief technology officer at Datto, a Connecticut company that offers digital disaster recovery services. Read the rest of this entry »

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LOCKDOWN in DELAWARE: Prison Guards Held Hostage at Smyrna Prison

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All Delaware prisons went on lockdown Wednesday morning due to an ’emergency situation’ unfolding at Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, according to the state Department of Correction. 

Department of Correction Response Teams and the Delaware State Police responded to a hostage situation Wednesday morning at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, according to Jayme Gravell, a spokeswoman.

All Delaware prisons went on lockdown because of the situation.

Dozens of police vehicles, as well as ambulances, continued to pour into the entrance to Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. Helicopters were also circling over the prison and the nearby areas.

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Rep. William Carson, a member of the House Corrections Committee, said he had been told it was an “apparent hostage situation.”

“The inmates have taken over a building,” he said.

Carson said details were still scarce and said he had no more information.

DOC released no other details. Gravell said it is protocol to lock down all state prisons when an emergency occurs at one of them.

Staff were on scene trying to gather details and handle the situation, Gravell said. Area firefighters were called to the scene, she said, but the particulars of what prompted the call were not immediately available.

While few details have been released, officials will surely review what procedures were in place that created this situation just as they did when inmate Scott A. Miller abducted and raped a prison counselor on July 12, 2004. Read the rest of this entry »


Senate Ethics Committee Dismisses Allegations of Falsified Congressional Obamacare Enrollments 

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Official response to @GovWaste ethics complaint about Senate calling itself a small business to dodge Obamacare.

(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Ethics Committee has cavalierly dismissed a June 25, 2015 complaint from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) and nine other signatories alleging that senators or Senate employees committed fraud and broke federal laws when they submitted applications to the Washington, D.C. Small Business Exchange, claiming status as a “small business.”  As a result, rather than being subjected to the Obamacare healthcare exchange as individuals, senators and their staff were able to buy insurance and qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidies as employer and employees.  The September 21, 2016 response from the committee stated that the allegations had been “carefully evaluated” and “that there had been no violation of Senate Rules.”  The committee made clear that it would not reconsider its decision or take any further action.

“The Senate and Senate offices are plainly not small businesses.  The falsified documents were a blatant attempt by senators to shield themselves from the harmful effects of Obamacare.  This committee’s arbitrary and capricious decision is another sad example of why taxpayers have such contempt for their elected officials.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare, required members of Congress and their staff to enroll in individual plans through the new healthcare exchanges.  As open enrollment approached in 2014, members and staff realized that by enrolling as individuals, they would no longer receive generous taxpayer-funded contributions to help pay their insurance premiums as they had for decades under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  They would instead only qualify for subsidies if their household income was less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, just like tens of millions of other Americans who had to purchase insurance in the individual market.

To get around this problem, senators from both sides of the aisle worked with the White House and the Office of Personnel Management to convince the agency to issue special guidance permitting them and their staff to enroll in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which was also created under Obamacare.  The applications that were submitted to the D.C. Small Business Exchange farcically claimed that the Senate and/or each Senate office is a small business with fewer than 50 employees.  The employer was identified as “Twenty Congress,” and the statements were sworn to be true. Read the rest of this entry »


Seattle-Area Erotic Espresso Stand Torched by Man on Bicycle, Police Search for Arsonist

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LACEY — Police are asking for the public’s help in finding an arsonist that allegedly smashed an espresso stand window, threw an incendiary device and lit the stand on fire.

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/fire-set-lacey-espresso-stand/nm4pM/

Around 4 a.m. July 22, an arson occurred at the Bongiorno Brew Espresso stand in the 4900 block of Lacey Boulevard, Lacey police said. According to cops, the suspect rode up to the stand on his bicycle, shattered a window and lit a prepared incendiary device.

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The suspect then tossed the device inside and took off, police said….(read more)

Q13 FOX News


BREAKING: Boston Bomber Apologizes, Admits Guilt for Deadly 2013 Attack

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Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday apologized for the deadly 2013 attack at a hearing at which he was to be formally sentenced to death.

“I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage,” Tsarnaev, 21, told a federal court.

“I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage…In case there is any doubt, I am guilty of this attack, along with my brother.”

It was the first time that the ethnic Chechen, who did not speak in his own defense during his trial, had addressed the court.

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“In case there is any doubt, I am guilty of this attack, along with my brother,” Tsarnaev said, standing at the defense table. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING : Man Pulls Knife Outside of Boston Federal Court where Marathon Bomber is Being Sentenced to Death

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 reports: Police arrested a man who drove an SUV past the barricades of a Boston court before removing what appeared to be a large knife or cleaver from under his rear license plate.

A Metro photographer at the scene said police wrangled the bearded man to the ground before arresting him. No one was hurt. The incident happened around 12:50 p.m. outside of the Moakley Federal Court entrance.

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, is currently inside the court facing victims of the 2013 terror attack. The court has a high media presence today due to the formal sentencing. Read the rest of this entry »


CNN Poll: George Hitler McChimp Bush More Popular than Divine Saint Barack Obama?

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John Nolte writes: A CNN poll released Wednesday shows that George W. Bush is not only more popular than President Obama, a majority of Americans now view the former president in a positive light. A full 52% see Bush favorably, compared to just 43% who do not. Only 49% of Americans have a favorable opinion of obama-and-bush428Obama. The same number, 49%, do not.

“Today Obama is upside down a full 7 points, with just 45% approving of his job and a clear majority of 52% disapproving.”

Obama’s job approval numbers also took a serious dive in the CNN poll. Just last month, the president sat at a 48% approval rating, with just 47% disapproving. Not great, but he was at least above water. Today Obama is upside down a full 7 points, with just 45% approving of his job and a clear majority of 52% disapproving.

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“Since last month, Obama’s numbers have worsened considerably on the specific issues of ISIS, immigration, and surveillance.”

That’s an 8 point drop.

On the specifics of his job, other than race relations, Obama is upside down, sometimes by huge margins, in every category: economy 46-53;  ISIS 32-63;  race relations 50-47;  Climate Change 41-49;  illegal immigration 36-60;   government surveillance 29-67;  health care 44-54; foreign affairs 43-55;  terrorism 45-51.

Since last month, Obama’s numbers have worsened considerably on the specific issues of ISIS, immigration, and surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] MIT: 7 Finger Robot

Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. Learn more…


BREAKING: Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty in Murder of Odin Lloyd: First Degree Murder

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FALL RIVER, Mass. — A Massachusetts jury of seven women and five men found Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, guilty of murder in the first degree to conclude a nine-week trial in Bristol County Superior Court.

He will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Hernandez, 25, was on trial for murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper from Boston. He was also found guilty of unlawful firearm possession and unlawful ammunition possession after prosecutors presented a case based on circumstantial evidence due to a lack of eyewitnesses or a murder weapon.

Hernandez’s mother, Terri Hernandez, and his fiancee openly wept while the verdict was read. Hernandez was emotionless.

In closing arguments last Tuesday, Hernandez’s attorney, James Sultan, acknowledged for the first time that Hernandez was at the murder scene, but only as a witness, insinuating that one of Hernandez’s alleged accomplices – Ernest Wallace or Carlos Ortiz – shot Lloyd while high on phencyclidine, better known as PCP. Ortiz and Wallace both face murder charges, and are expected to be tried later this year…(read more)

NY Daily News


A Connecticut Man Died While Shoveling Snow: These Responders Finished the Job in His Memory

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When a group of first responders could not save a man who died while shoveling snow from his roof members of the Manchester Fire/Rescue/EMS and city’s police department decided to finish the job for him.

“They felt going back and finishing the job would at least have a positive outcome for the family. They just wanted to do something for the family so when they got home they wouldn’t have to worry about the integrity of the house.”

— Fire Chief David Billings

“Quite often a situation like this leaves first responders frustrated and feeling somewhat helpless,” Fire Chief David Billings told the Daily News. “They felt going back and finishing the job would at least have a positive outcome for the family. They just wanted to do something for the family so when they got home they wouldn’t have to worry about the integrity of the house.”

Like many people in New England living through this winter of historic snowfall, Miroslaw was on his roof Tuesday trying to remove it from his roof to protect his Manchester home, Billings said. Read the rest of this entry »


Rare JFK Vacation Photos To Go Up For Auction

HYANNIS PORT, MA  - JUNE 1953:  Senator John F. Kennedy and fiance Jacqueline Bouvier go sailing while on vacation at the Kennedy compound in June 1953 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. (Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images)

HYANNIS PORT, MA – JUNE 1953: Senator John F. Kennedy and fiance Jacqueline Bouvier go sailing while on vacation at the Kennedy compound in June 1953 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. (Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images)

TIME

Rare photographs of John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline on vacation in Cape Cod will be put up for auction later this month.

The pictures were taken in August 1961 and depict the then First Couple in rare moments of candor — the former president casually enjoying a meal at Listerine heiress Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon’s beach house, Jackie smoking a cigarette and JFK going for a swim in the bay.

The photos are the latest in a series of JFK memorabilia to go under the hammer, with negatives from the couple’s wedding ceremony selling for $34,000 in October 2014.

“They’re amazing pictures,” Jackie Style author Pamela Keogh told People. “These were the masters of the universe in their downtime, sitting on beach chairs, smoking and eating clam chowder.”

See two of the images here.

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Elizabeth Scalia: Twilight of the Vaginas

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 writes: Here we go…Women’s College Cancels ‘Vagina Monologues’ Because It Excludes Women Without Vaginas

Yet I am a woman with a vagina, and this becomes an area of my concern when people start saying that I shouldn’t reference or acknowledge that—that it’s in fact bad and intolerant so 20th century to even speak about it. The fact that some trans women don’t have vaginas doesn’t negate the fact that the vast majority of women do. And now, in the name of feminism, “female-validating talk about vaginas is now forbidden,” as one anonymous writer on a Mount Holyoke messageboard put it. “That’s so misogynistic under the guise of ‘progress.’”

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Well, in my book, it kind of is progress. For the past 20 years or so, women have been gushing over their vaginas and waving their vaginas around as though they were unique to humanity; they’ve been oh-so-daring and counter-cultural, really putting it to the man by shoving their vaginas in everyone’s faces, taking their vaginas out for spa days, carrying them around in public conversations as though they were a trendy pet (or as Eve Ensler might have said, “my vagina is an chihuahua that growls at strangers and runs to the door to greet my gender-unstipulated friends! I dress my chihuahau-vagina up like Princess Leia for Halloween! I put tiny poppin’ fresh cinnamon rolls on each side of my labia…).

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Vaginas have not only become a big business, for the matriarchy the vagina and its attendant parts have served as totems for feminism, and since ladies are good at crafts, you need only slip a few words into a search engine to find vagina earrings, vagina megaphones (echo…echo…); vagina soaps; knitted vaginas that cover tissue boxes, crocheted catnip vagina toys for their…kittykats.

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And then finally — finally! — a woman brought vagina-crafting to its zenith — or its nadir — and started knitting out of her vagina, over the course of a full 28 days, to insure the inclusion of every bit of her vaginal goodness. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Bedard: Northeast Loses 40% of House Seats as People Flee High-Tax States

The Northeast, once the nation’s political engine that produced presidents, House speakers and Senate giants including the late Edward M. Kennedy, is losing clout in Washington as citizens flee the high-tax region, according to experts worried about the trend.

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“This result is one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in American history. This migration is shifting the power center of America right before our very eyes.”

The Census Bureau reports that population growth has shifted to the South and the result is that the 11 states that make up the Northeast are being bled dry of representation in Washington.

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“The movement isn’t random or even about weather or resources. Economic freedom is the magnet and states ignore this force at their own peril.”

Critics blame rising taxes in states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut for limiting population growth in the Northeast to just 15 percent from 1983 to 2013, while the rest of the nation grew more than 41 percent. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] ‘Wish to God You Protected the White House Like You’re Protecting Your Reputation Here Today’

“I don’t think the Secret Service is taking their duty to protect the American president and his family at the White House very seriously. That’s exactly my point.”

From The Corner:

Representative Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) could scarcely contain his scorn for Secret Service director Julia Pierson’s evasive testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday, saying “I wish to God you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation here today.”

“I wish you spent that time and that effort to protect the American president, and his family, like I’m hearing people covering for the lapses of the Secret Service on these several occasions. I really do.”

The Massachusetts lawmaker upbraided Pierson for her agency’s inability to stop one man, armed only with a knife, from jumping a fence and penetrating deep into the White House earlier this month. And he found her repeated justifications for the breach inexcusable.

“I have very low confidence in the Secret Service under your leadership,” he added. “I have to say that.”

“I’ve listened to your testimony very deliberately here this morning,” he said, Read the rest of this entry »


W. James Antle III: ‘Thank God John Kerry Wasn’t President Of The United States’

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 “The man of peace from Massachusetts intercepted with his own hands the reasonable cease-fire that was within reach, and pushed both the Palestinians and Israelis toward an escalation that most of them did not want.”

— Ari Shavit, Haaretz

For The Daily CallerW. James Antle III writes: Addressing the cool kids at Rolling Stone during his ill-fated presidential campaign, John Kerry attempted to explain his vote for the Iraq War.

“I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country,” Kerry said. Then after taking a swipe at a Democratic presidential candidate who disrupted his coronation by actually opposing the war, he added, “Did I expect George Bush to f–k it up as badly as he did? I don’t think anybody did.”

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Fast forward more than a decade. John Kerry is now secretary of state. And things are certainly f–ked up, perhaps more than anybody expected.

[Also see – EXCLUSIVE: Transcript of Kerry’s Phone Call to Netanyahu Complaining About Insults]

Kerry’s attempts at Middle East diplomacy have been almost universally panned, even by left-wing Israeli newspapers like Haaretz. “Kerry isn’t anti-Israeli; on the contrary, he’s a true friend to Israel,” states one of the more charitable Israeli accounts of Kerry’s Gaza maneuvers. “But his conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events.”

There are less charitable takes on Kerry’s peacemaking abilities. The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharof  described “an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, duringDevouring-Freedom which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality.”

[Check out W. James Antle’s book “Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped at Amazon.com]

Ari Shavit, the author of the Haaretz piece, concluded, “The man of peace from Massachusetts intercepted with his own hands the reasonable cease-fire that was within reach, and pushed both the Palestinians and Israelis toward an escalation that most of them did not want.”

An Associated Press diplomatic correspondent tweeted,

Kerry has finally beaten Bush: he has proved that he is a uniter, not a divider. Read the rest of this entry »


Elizabeth Warren: ‘Socialist? Why Do People Think I’m a Socialist?’

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For The Daily CallerRobbie Soave writes: Just days after proposing a massive bailout of indebted students that would subsidize their college loans and forgive some of their financial obligations, far-left Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she has no idea why people think she is a socialist.

“…an effort to punish taxpayers for college students’ bad choices.”

Her bill, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, would lower the amount of money that students are obligated to repay to the federal government. If enacted, the bill would deprive the federal government of billions of dollars in interest payments owed to its shareholders: the American taxpayers.

 [RELATED: Liz Warren Wants Feds to Subsidize Student Loans]

It is Warren’s belief that students — who voluntarily signed up for the loans and agreed to pay them back at certain interest rates — should be let off the hook. Read the rest of this entry »


DOJ Complains That A Warrant To Search A Mobile Phone Makes It More Difficult To Catch Criminals

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For TechdirtTim Cushing writes: The US government has entered its reply brief in the US vs. Wurie case and its argument in favor of warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones contains some truly terrible suppositions. Here’s a brief recap of the situation in this case:

In 2007, the police arrested a Massachusetts man who appeared to be selling crack cocaine from his car. The cops seized his cellphone and noticed that it was receiving calls from “My House.” They opened the phone to determine the number for “My House.” That led them to the man’s home, where the police found drugs, cash and guns. 

The defendant was convicted, but on appeal he argued that accessing the information on his cellphone without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Earlier this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the man’s argument, ruling that the police should have gotten a warrant before accessing any information on the man’s phone.

As was noted by Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy, a lot has changed since 2007. The phone the police searched seven years ago was a grey flip phone with limited capabilities. Unfortunately, the Court is using this case to set precedent for a nation full of smartphones, which contain considerably more data and are roughly the equivalent of a person’s home computer, rather than the address book the government refers to in its arguments.  Read the rest of this entry »


In Stunning Blow to Photo Hobbyists, Mass. Lawmakers Vote to Ban Upskirt Photos

Advocacy Group for Amateur Photographers Respond to Ruling

macguffin-EVP“We’re very disappointed in the ruling. Our organization will continue work to protect our rights, and educate the public, to ultimately end the stigma associated with amateur upskirt photography. We respect and admire women. We believe our harmless activity has a rightful place in society.”

— Dave MacGuffin,  President of P.A.N.T.I.E.S. (Photographers Advocating Tasteful Images of Exposed Skirts)

The measure, which sailed through the House and Senate, awaits Gov. Deval Patrick‘s likely signature.

Renegade paparazzi could be jailed more than two years and fined $5,000 if the victim is 18 or older, but the penalties would jump to five years behind bars or a $10,000 fine for anyone under age.

The unusually swift action followed the Supreme Judicial Court‘s ruling Wednesday that a Boston subway rider who took cellphone photos up women’s skirts didn’t violate the state’s “Peeping Tom” law.

Jonathan Grant, Vice President of P.A.N.T.I.E.S.

Tom Grant, Vice President of P.A.N.T.I.E.S.

“We think the term ‘Peeping Tom’ is unfair, and judgmental. It discriminates against  guys who enjoy peeking at women, which is perfectly natural. It’s a legitimate hobby. Men who take clandestine snapshots of girls are often misunderstood. It’s an example of the kind of  bullying that’s far too common, in place like Boston. It’s also totally unfair to guys named Tom.”

— Tom Grant, Vice President of P.A.N.T.I.E.S.

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“We think guys like Dave, and Tom, are really creepy. We think they should be in jail. This ruling will hopefully protect women from disgusting guys who take upskirt pictures of girls on subways.”

–Some girls who ride the subway

The judges said that although the law protected someone’s privacy in dressing rooms and bathrooms while naked or partially clothed, it did not protect people in public.

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo said his chamber acted “to bring Massachusetts laws up-to-date with technology and the predatory practice of ‘upskirting.’ We must make sure that the law protects women from these kind of frightening and degrading acts.”

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Developing…


Massachusetts Democrat Expelled from State House after Conviction for Assaulting a Woman

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Katherine Connell  reports:  Yesterday the Massachusetts state house voted, 146–5, to expel Representative Carlos Henriquez, a Democrat who was convicted in January of assaulting a woman.

expel7n-3-webThough Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Governor Deval Patrick had called on Henriquez to resign following his conviction, the New England branch of the NAACP, an organization of which Henriquez is a member, was not inclined to pass judgment, and sent an open letter to members of the house urging them to vote against or abstain from voting on the measure.

“The House of Representatives must respect the Massachusetts judicial process and let Representative Henriquez’s case before the Appeals Court proceed, without jumping to judgment before the appellate decision is rendered,” NAACP New England president Juan Cofield wrote in the February 6 letter. “Secondly, while NEAC respects the jury’s decision, there is currently no rule for expulsion that applies to misdemeanor convictions.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Yes, There Will Be A Doctor Shortage

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Greg Scandlen writes: A few days ago Scott Gottleib and Zeke Emmanuel co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times pooh-poohing the concern about physician shortages.

So certain are they that conventional wisdom is wrong that the piece is headlined, “No, There Won’t be a Doctor Shortage.”  Right, and “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan – period.” Somehow such bold assertions have lost a bit of their luster over the past few months.

Now, they acknowledge that an aging population and the prospect of 30 million newly insured people may make it seem like there might be a problem, and the Association of American Medical Colleges says their members aren’t able to train enough physicians to fill the need, but what do they know about physician supply? Gottleib and Emmanuel know better.

As Exhibit One, they look at Massachusetts. They write:

Take Massachusetts, where Obamacare-style reforms were implemented beginning in 2006, adding nearly 400,000 people to the insurance rolls. Appointment wait times for family physicians, internists, pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, and even specialists like cardiologists, have bounced around since but have not appreciably increased overall, according to a Massachusetts Medical Society survey.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obamacare: ‘if the law actually goes down this time there will be a lot of fingerprints on the murder weapon’

The Three Burials of Obamacare

Douthat_New-articleInline writes: The first time Obamacare seemed finished, doomed, doornail-dead, the voters of Massachusetts played the would-be executioner. In January 2010, they sent a pickup-driving Republican to the Senate to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, apparently depriving the health care bill of its crucial 60th vote and sending Democrats scrambling for a Plan B.

[See also: The Next 90 Days: the Obama Administration will Declare Victory and then Abandon Most of Obamacare]

Except that Plan B turned out to be Plan A, thanks to the maneuverings of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the surprising stiffness of Democratic spines — and a bill that seemed undone by voter backlash went staggering across the legislative finish line instead.

The second time Obamacare seemed headed for an early grave, it was the conservative justices on the Supreme Court who were was going to see it off, by following through on their oral-argument inclinations and finding the individual mandate unconstitutional. Read the rest of this entry »


Father Fed Knows Best

"Trust Us"

Government force and fraud is for our own good.

The government thinks you’re stupid, or at least ignorant.

Jonah Goldberg writes:  This isn’t just an indictment of the current government or an indictment of government itself. It’s simply a statement of fact. At its core, the government exists to do certain things that people aren’t equipped to do on their own. The list of those things has gotten longer and longer over the years. In 1776, the federal government’s portfolio could have easily fit in a file folder: maintain an army and navy, a few federal courts, the post office, the patent office, and maybe a dozen or two other pretty obvious things.

Now, the file folder of things the federal government does is much bigger. To paraphrase Dr. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, let’s imagine that the federal government in 1776 was the size of this Twinkie (take my word for it, I’m holding a normal-sized Twinkie). Today that Twinkie would be 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds. Or, if that illustration doesn’t work for you, consider this: The number of civilians (i.e., not counting the military) who work for the executive branch alone is today nearly equal to the entire population of the United States in 1776. The Federal Register, the federal government’s fun-filled journal of new rules, regulations, and the like, was about 2,600 pages in 1936 (a year after it was created). Today it’s over 80,000 pages.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obama and Ted Cruz, political twins separated at birth

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Oemie Emery writes: President Obama and Sen. Ted Cruz have some things in common, including stunning ascents to political stardom, exotic and mixed ethnic backgrounds that give additional resonance, complex starts in life that give rise to birther/conspiracy theories, and reputations for brilliance that do not seem to translate well into dealing with political everyday life.

Their judgment is bad, their experience slight, and their egos enormous. They are cult figures with frenzied admirers, which compounds the problem. They are full of themselves and firmly believe they can do the impossible Read the rest of this entry »


10 Insanely Overpaid Nonprofit Executives

overpaidfxNonprofits take your donations and give them to a good cause, right? To be fair, most do, while paying their employees competitive but modest salaries. But a handful of nonprofits pay their top executives shockingly high salaries that could make their for-profit corporate counterparts jealous.

PHOTO GALLERY: The 10 Highest-Paid Nonprofit Execs Read the rest of this entry »


America the Trivial

The Kardashians and Anthony Weiner are deemed more worthy of attention than what affects the security and prosperity of our nation. 

President Obama hits the greens in Martha’s Vineyard on August 18.

Victor Davis Hanson

Two quite different 21st-century Americas are emerging. The nation is not so much divided by “wars” between the rich and poor, men and women, or white and non-white. Instead, there is the world of reality versus that of triviality.

In the vast plains of the Dakotas and the American West, thousands of men and women of all classes and colors are fracking oil and gas to create new energy for millions of homeowners and commuters — while giving America a second chance at strategic energy independence.

Yet the beneficiaries mostly ignore these elemental efforts. They instead prefer to fixate on the alleged sexual creepiness of big-city political mediocrities like Bob Filner and Anthony Weiner.

As we sleep, 7,000 miles away there are still thousands of American soldiers of all races, ages, classes, and genders in godforsaken conditions fighting the Taliban to allow millions in Afghanistan the chance for an alternative to medieval theocracy and to deter terrorists.

Meanwhile, back home, the nation is focused not on such existential struggles but is transfixed by racial melodramas.

Was Oprah victimized by racial insensitivity in a Swiss boutique when inquiring about purchasing a $38,000 crocodile purse? Were ten black American Idolcontestants really victims of “cruel and inhumane” treatment because their arrest records were brought up on the show? Should a rodeo clown — whose stock in trade is humor — be sent to “sensitivity training” for wearing an Obama mask?

At the end of two years of near-record drought in California, the fate of hundreds of thousands of acres of irrigated farmlands, which feed millions of Americans and earn billions of dollars in critical foreign exchange, hinges on a snow-filled winter in the Sierra Nevada. You might never know of that razor’s edge from the state legislature. Rather than discussing new dams and canals, it debated whether transgendered youth in public schools could use the bathrooms of their choice and whether residents should need a permit to buy ammunition.

The historic role of government is changing before our eyes. President Obama is making the argument that the executive branch by presidential fiat can pick and choose which laws should and should not be faithfully executed — whether Obamacare, immigration amnesties, or No Child Left Behind statutes.

The fate of the entire concept of voluntary tax compliance is currently endangered by the politicization of the Internal Revenue Service. Whether the government can monitor the communications of either reporters or average citizens depends on getting to the bottom of the National Security Agency and Justice Department/Associated Press scandals.

Instead, the media seem more interested in whether Obama is playing golf on Martha’s Vineyard. Read the rest of this entry »


First dog Bo is airlifted to Obama holiday home

When President Barack Obama goes on holiday to the seaside things can get complicated.

Bo, the US First Family’s waterdog, gets off the Marine helicopter at Martha’s Vineyard Photo: EPA

Rooms have to be found for dozens of Secret Service agents, someone has to carry a selection of presidential basketballs, and of course the family dog needs his own state-of-the-art aircraft.

Arriving in the idyllic coastal retreat of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Mr Obama left behind him in Washington DC high profile debates over the budget, government surveillance and his health care reforms. Instead, he will spend the next eight days playing golf, going to the beach, and buying books from the Bunch of Grapes bookstore.

In the air he swapped his suit and tie for khakis and a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves, while Mrs Obama wore a yellow-and-white summer dress.

Bo, the president’s Portuguese Water Dog, arrived separately on one of two MV-22 Ospreys, a hybrid aircraft which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.

It was the first time the Ospreys have been taken on holiday by a US president.

Read the rest of this entry »


Travelgate: Holders Extravagant Flight Expenses Revealed; $100k to Marthas Vineyard

Attorney General Eric Holder has been caught spending more than $4 million of taxpayer cash on extravagant travel over the past four years, according to documents uncovered by watchdog group Judicial Watch.

In total, Holder accrued $4,263,704.01 in travel expenses between March 27, 2009, and August 24, 2012, including $697,525.20 in personal travel expenses paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Holder took a total of 213 trips out of Washington, D.C., in that timeframe, including 31 personal trips for which he used taxpayer money to pay for at least part of the trip.

Some of the personal trips he used taxpayer money for include two trips to Martha’s Vineyard with a flight-only cost of $95,184.50 and eight trips to Farmingdale, New York, with a flight-only cost of $118,553.71. On Sept. 9, 2010, he took a taxpayer-subsidized one-day “jaunt,” as Judicial Watch described it, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, with a flight-only cost of $7,408.

Holder’s first taxpayer-subsidized trip was to attend a “US/Mexico Arms Trafficking Strategy Meeting” in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Judicial Watch notes that while taxpayers paid for that trip for Holder, the documents say that the “government cost” for it is “unavailable.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Andrew Branca Participates On NPR Zimmerman Panel

Andrew Branca, author of the book The Law Of Self Defense, has been covering the Zimmerman trail for Legal Insurrection. Recently, he was asked to participate in a panel discussion on gun rights and the Zimmerman case.

via Ace of Spades HQ.


Column: Why are elections so scary?

The fact that the presidential vote matters so much is a sign not of national health but of dysfunction

By Jonah Goldberg

The seemingly eternal contest between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ends today (though the battle of the recounts might be just beginning). And, whichever way you want the election to go, only the masochists and the political consultants are sorry it’s coming to an end.

It’s funny. There’s a disconnect between the way we talk about democracy and the way we actually feel about it. We’re told elections are a glorious thing. Anyone feel glorious?

We’re constantly informed that high voter turnout is a good thing because, well, it is! But what if the reason more people are engaged in the process is that they’re terrified by what the other guy might do? Obama has invested heavily in scaring the stuffing out of his Democratic base, in the hope that fear rather than idealism will get the job done.

As the challenger, Romney has relied on scare tactics less. Some would argue this has been mostly out of necessity. Romney needs Obama supporters to switch their loyalties, and demonizing the president turns off such voters. Also, Romney has Obama’s actual record to work with, making hypothetical scare tactics less necessary. Even so, Romney has hardly gone out of his way to distance himself from, say, Donald Trump and others eager to turn Obama into some sort of Manchurian candidate.

It should surprise no one who’s read this column for the past eight years that I hope Romney defeats Obama decisively when the votes are tallied. But the truth is that from a conservative perspective, a Romney victory would simply be making the best of a bad situation.

The mere fact that presidential elections matter this much is not a sign of national health but of national dysfunction. The more the federal government gets involved in every aspect of our lives — for good or ill — the more people will feel that their livelihoods, lifestyles, even their actual lives are at stake in a presidential election. If the federal government didn’t have so much leverage over your life, politicians wouldn’t be able to scare you into the voting booths.

For instance, beneath the partisan distortions and hyperbole, Obama’s “war on women” rhetoric is the idea that the federal government should be the guarantor of “reproductive freedom” — a malleable term that includes everything from the right to abortion on demand to subsidized birth control pills. Whatever the merits of that argument, the simple fact is that a government that has the power to give you everything you want has the power to take it away, as well.

That’s one reason Supreme Court appointments have become such ridiculous spectacles. The justices have acquired powers historically belonging to democratically elected politicians, in the executive and legislative branches. With so much at stake, and with so little accountability once confirmed, it’s no wonder the confirmation process has become an inside-the-beltway version of a presidential campaign. Given the power of the Supreme Court, it’s only rational to fight hammer and tongs over every appointment.

President George W. Bush adopted a number of policies liberals once decried as dangerous expansions of the imperial presidency. With a few exceptions, few complain about those powers now that Obama is the president. The rule seems to be runaway executive power is good, so long as my guy is in power.

That’s a dangerous principle. “Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong,” then-California Sen. Alan Cranston conceded at the height of the Watergate hearings in 1973.

In his brilliant new book, I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, Charles Kesler argues that it was Woodrow Wilson who introduced the idea that American presidents must have a “vision” for where they should take the country.

In other words, everyone’s life and lifestyle somehow needed to conform to the priorities of a politician in Washington. The 19th century notion that presidents should be “statesmen” who guarded the Constitution gave way to the 20th century fetish for “leaders” who mold the public to their vision.

Unfortunately, since Wilson, this has become something of a bipartisan idea. Republicans are just as likely to talk about the “vision thing” as Democrats. As a conservative, I certainly prefer the Republican vision to the Democratic. Republicans, for instance, rarely vow to “fundamentally transform America.”

But the libertarian in me aches for a time when the president’s vision was irrelevant and national elections just didn’t matter that much.

Jonah Goldberg is editor at large of National Review Online and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is also a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

via USA TODAY Column


Revenge? For What?

By Jonah Goldberg

If you watch the clip itself, it’s not clear at all what Obama’s supporters are supposed to want revenge for. Obama mentions Romney’s name in the context of his run for the Senate in Massachusetts — back when Romney was quite the moderate — and the audience starts to boo. Obama says “no, no. Don’t boo. Vote. Vote. Voting is the best revenge.” Revenge for what? Him running for the Senate? Revenge for Romney daring to challenge Obama? I understand Obama is bitter. That’s been obvious for a while. But it’s just a weird and narcissistic assumption that his supporters want “revenge” too. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, though. Which makes the whole thing even creepier.

Meanwhile, here’s Romney’s response:

via National Review Online.