Shooting Hoops In The Hermit Kingdom

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a VICE media employee, three Harlem Globe trotters and Dennis Rodman—no, this isn’t the beginning of a “walk into a bar” joke—got together Thursday to tape a made-for-TV basketball exhibition in the Hermit Kingdom for an upcoming HBO show.

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According to the Associated Press, Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew put on the exhibition between two teams, each featuring two Americans playing with North Koreans. The game ended in a questionable 110-110 tie.

At one point, Rodman told Kim, “You have a friend for life.”

At a time when tensions over nuclear weapons remain high between North Korea and the U.S., VICE media founder Shane Smith said he hoped the stunt would break the ice between the two.

”We knew that he’s [Kim’s] a big lover of basketball, especially the Bulls, and it was our intention going in that we would have a good-will mission of something that’s fun,” Smith said. ”A lot of times, things just are serious and everybody’s so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings.”

Do you think this kind of privatized diplomacy is helpful?

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PHOTOS FROM VICE

Woodward: White House Email Was Threatening

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Veteran journalist Bob Woodward, half of The Washington Post’s famous Watergate team, says he received a threatening email from a senior White House aide.

In his “Behind the Curtain” column, Woodward, a prolific political author, said Gene Sperling, economic adviser to President Obama, messaged him that he would “regret” questioning the administration’s version on how the forced federal spending cuts known as sequestration came about.

The $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts go into effect over the next few months if an agreement is not reached by Friday.

Woodward said in his 2012 best-selling book “The Price of Politics” that the idea for the sequester began in the White House, something the president denied and that the White House later acknowledged.

“They’re not happy at all,” Woodward said Wednesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.”

Woodward and Sperling have known each other for decades, beginning when Sperling was an economic adviser in the Clinton administration.

Politico obtained emails exchanged between the men Feb. 22-23 in which Sperling apologized for “raising my voice in our conversation today.”

He said the two just did “not see eye to eye here.”

“But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus [president of the United States] asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea of that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues…”

Woodward messaged back, “Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should be more given the importance.”

Benedict Officially Resigns As Pope

VATICAN CITY, (UPI) — Benedict XVI officially resigned as pope Thursday evening, leaving the Roman Catholic Church without a pontiff for the time being.

The moment was marked at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, where the former pope is now living and plans to reside for the next couple of months. Swiss Guards formally closed the doors to the papal apartment, signalling that they no longer guard the person of Benedict.

Vatican police will now guard the former pope, who remained behind closed doors. Benedict was just a couple of weeks short of serving eight years after succeeding the late John Paul II. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign.

A Vatican official explained in Italian outside the lakeside summer residence that the closing represented the end of Benedict’s papacy.

The Chair of St. Peter is now empty — or “sede vacante” in Latin.

Earlier in the day, Benedict left the Vatican for the last time as pope, traveling by motorcade to a helipad at the train station.

To the sound of bells, the retiring pope was flown by a white Italian air force helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, with its 35 acres of grounds.

The helicopter landed at the summer residence at dusk, also to the sound of bells.

In his final day as pope, Benedict XVI told the cardinals charged with electing his successor he will be praying for them during the conclave.

The 85-year-old pontiff met with the cardinals, greeting them each individually as they kissed his ring before a golden throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, The New York Times reported.

“I will be close to you in prayer,” he told them, referring to the conclave to select a new pope, expected to begin much earlier than its original date in mid-March.

Benedict said he would behave with “unconditional reverence and obedience” toward his successor. Both will be residing in the Vatican, but Benedict will be away from the papal apartment in a restored convent on the Vatican grounds, officials said.

After he steps down, Benedict will be referred to as pope emeritus or Roman pontiff emeritus. The German-born pope will continue to be addressed as “Your Holiness” following his retirement.

Illinois Man Ordered To Write Lynching Essay

CHICAGO, (UPI) — An Illinois man who put a noose around the neck of an African-American teenager has been ordered to write an essay about lynching, officials say.

Matthew Hermann, 20, had pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor battery on Joshua Merritt in December 2011, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

At the time of his plea, Hermann also agreed to participate in a “peacemaking circle” with the victim, his family, clergy and school counselors.

In handing down the sentence usually reserved for juvenile proceedings, Judge James Linn also sentenced Hermann to two years’ probation.

Prosecutors said Hermann and two juvenile friends put a noose around the neck of the then-17-year-old Merritt and hurled racial epithets at him because of his friendship with one of the boy’s female cousins. Merritt ran outside but was followed by one of the boys, who held a knife against his throat.

One of the boys pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to two years’ probation. The third teenager is due in court next week.

After the hearing, Hermann said there had not been a racial motive in the attack, adding he still sees Merritt occasionally at the community college where they both attend class.

Liberal Gun Advice: Lie Down And Die, Or Shoot Blindly Through Doors

Protestors took to cities throughout the Nation Wednesday to denounce “Stand Your Ground” laws as they marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. One woman in Atlanta made remarks that stood out as particularly disturbing to 2nd Amendment advocates in an interview with CBS.

Against a backdrop of anti-gun and pro-Trayvon signs, one protestor — who was wearing a President Barack Obama hat — said she’d rather be murdered than defend herself against an attack.

“Self-defense is not an option. It is not an option,” she said.

“But what if someone’s trying to kill you?” asked CBS Atlanta’s Christopher King.

“They’ll just have to kill me, Christopher,” she responded.
 
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The woman’s willingness to be killed rather than use a gun in self-defense is nearly as disturbing as “Shotgun” Joe Biden’s latest self-defense advice in an interview with Field and Stream magazine.

“Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door,” Biden said.
 
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Chicago Kindergartners May Learn Sex Ed

CHICAGO, (UPI) — Chicago Public Schools is considering a proposal that would begin teaching sex education in kindergarten, the district said.

The district’s proposal follows “national sexuality education standards” and also would address sexual orientation and bullying for the first time, FoxNews.com reported Thursday.

Under the proposal, students in kindergarten through third grade would learn about appropriate and inappropriate touching and feelings, the district said. In the fourth grade, students would learn about puberty and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

From fifth grade and beyond, instruction would include discussions on reproduction, contraception, and the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the district said.

“It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships,” Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Melissa Diebold, a parent, told MyFoxChicago.com. “I don’t think its age appropriate. They have no concept of anything like that at that stage in life.”

Parents can elect not to have their children participate, the district said.

If approved, the program would be implemented by 2016.

Gold Coin Auction Brings $3.5 Million

CARSON CITY, Nev., (UPI) — Recluse Walter Samaszko Jr.’s gold coins, found after his death, brought in more than $3.5 million in a Carson City, Nev., auction.

About half the collection, found neatly organized and labeled after the death of Samaszko, 69, in June, was offered in the Tuesday auction, the Carson City Appeal said Wednesday, noting his wealth was never suspected until a crew sent to clean out his home discovered the trove of coins.

A total of 9,644 coins were auctioned at the Carson Courthouse, the majority of the lots obtained by Carson City coin dealer Allen Rowe.

Howard Herz said he has appraised other collections after an owner’s death, but never one this large.

“It’s a very well-managed investment in gold,” he said.

The rest of the coins will be auctioned or sold at a later date, the newspaper said.

No Jail For Drunk Driver Going 142 MPH

NAPIERVILLE, Ill., (UPI) — A Shorewood, Ill., man was sentenced to court supervision and community service for crashing his car while driving drunk at 142 mph.

Dean Suominen, 37, avoided jail time by pleading guilty Monday to drunken driving and reckless driving charges in the Jan. 10, 2012 accident in Napierville, Ill., the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

Suominen’s car disintegrated around him after it struck a curb, rolled over and struck a billboard, although he received only minor injuries, authorities said.

Tests after the crash indicated his blood alcohol level was .20, more than twice the .08 legal limit, Napierville prosecutor Michael DeSanto said, and police said a data recorder in the car clocked his speed at 142 miles per hour immediately before the accident.

Tooth Fairy Poll Shows Recovering Economy

OAK BROOK, Ill., (UPI) — An Illinois Tooth Fairy poll spokesman said the increased amount given children for lost baby teeth augurs good news for the U.S. economy.

The Original Tooth Fairy poll revealed the average Tooth Fairy gift went up from $2.10 in 2011 to $2.42 in 2012, a 15.2 percent gain, Delta Dental in Oak Brook, Ill., reported.

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll showed trends in Tooth Fairy gifts has tracked the Standard & Poor’s 500 index in nine of the last 10 years. In 2012, the TF’s gain of 15.2 percent was similar to the S&P gain of 13.4 percent.

“As the leaders of the dental benefits industry, we look at all kinds of economic indicators. I’m happy to say that the Tooth Fairy delivered encouraging news about the country’s economic recovery in 2012,” said Delta Dental Plans Association’s spokesman, Bill Hupp.

The survey, which contacted more than 1.200 parents nationwide, indicated the Tooth Fairy rewarded first-time tooth losers even more generously, leaving an average of $3.49.

In 98 percent of the homes the Tooth Fairy visited, cash was left for consolation for the first loss. The remaining 2 percent got toys, candy, gum or other gifts.

Lincoln Statue Destined For Gettysburg

GETTYSBURG, Pa., (UPI) — The artist who created a statue of Abraham Lincoln to be erected in Gettysburg, Pa., said he will return annually for the statue’s maintenance.

Salt Lake City artist Stanley Watts, who since 2008 has sought a Gettysburg site able to accept the extreme weight of the 7-foot-6-inch-tall statue, will also provide the crane for the statue’s installation in April at the library in downtown Gettysburg, the Hanover Evening Sun reported Tuesday.

“It will be a very attractive gift to the borough and should be a compelling driver for tourists to visit downtown,” said Rob Lesher, the executive director of the Adams County Library System.

After years of unsuccessful attempts to install the statue at the library and other sites, such as the American Civil War Museum, the Lincoln Train Station, Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, the library now owns the statue, the Evening Star reported.

“It’s a very sizable monument,” said Lesher, who said the pedestal alone weighs 3 tons. “We had to make sure that it was safe for the building and the community.”

Polls: Americans Narrowly Oppose Sequester

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Two polls indicate Americans are leaning slightly toward the idea that the sequestration budget cuts would be a bad thing and Congress should act to avoid them.

One poll, issued Wednesday by Gallup in Princeton, N.J., said 45 percent of those surveyed would rather the $85 billion in sequester cuts agreed to by Congress and the White House in 2011 not go into effect Friday as scheduled. Thirty-seven percent said they favor letting the cuts happen and 19 percent said they had no opinion.

The other poll, conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, revealed a narrower divide, with 50 percent against sequestration happening and 46 percent leaning the other way.

The cuts represent between 2 percent and 3 percent of the government’s annual $3.5 trillion budget and big-ticket programs such as Social Security and Medicare benefits are exempt.

The Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans said they were following the news about the budget cuts closely.

Gallup also said President Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans all fall short of majority approval for their handling of the sequestration issue, with the president at 45 percent, Democrats at 37 percent and Republicans at 25 percent.

In the WSJ/NBC poll, 46 percent agreed allowing the spending cuts to take effect may not be perfect, but the country needs to take dramatic action to cut the burgeoning federal deficit, now at $16.6 trillion and growing about $1 trillion a year.

If they could swap in a new plan, a slight plurality of 39 percent said they’d prefer even deeper cuts, while a similar plurality of 37 percent said they’d want a plan with fewer cuts.

At the same time, 51 percent of those polled said the budget negotiations between Obama and congressional Republicans made them feel less confident the economy was getting better, while 16 percent said it made them feel more confident.

Both of these figures are the same as when this question was first asked in last month’s WSJ/NBC poll.

About 29 percent said they thought the budget negotiations made no difference to the economy and 4 percent said they weren’t sure. Last month, 31 percent said they thought the talks made no difference and 2 percent said they weren’t sure.

Nearly six in 10 — 59 percent — said they thought the country was on the wrong track, the highest number since last summer. About one-third — 32 percent — said it was headed in the right direction. Six percent said they had mixed feelings and 3 percent said they weren’t sure.

The WSJ/NBC poll indicated significant support for Obama’s legislative agenda, including calls for stricter gun controls and plans to overhaul U.S. immigration laws and raise the minimum wage.

Overall, 50 percent approved Obama’s job performance, 45 percent disapproved and 5 percent said they weren’t sure. This is down from January’s 52 percent approval, 44 percent disapproval and 4 percent not sure.

By a more than 2-to-1 margin, poll participants said Obama was doing more than Republicans to unify the country in a bipartisan way.

About 48 percent said they saw this of Obama, compared with 22 percent who said they saw this of Republicans and 37 percent who said the same of the Democratic Party.

The survey found 29 percent of those polled said they agreed with what Republicans are proposing in Congress. This compared with 40 percent who said they agreed with the Democrats’ plans and 45 percent who agreed with Obama’s proposals.

About 57 percent said they disagreed with what congressional Republicans are proposing, the highest level in Journal polling dating from 1995. The portion that said they disagreed with what congressional Democrats and Obama are proposing was 46 percent.

The newspaper and TV network’s nationwide poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Thursday through Sunday by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. Its margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.

The Gallup poll was conducted of 1,017 adults Monday and Tuesday, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

New Jersey Legalizes Internet Gambling

TRENTON, N.J., (UPI) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Tuesday allowing state gambling houses to offer betting on online slot machines and table games.

The New Jersey Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approved Internet gaming legislation Tuesday, and Christie immediately sign it into law, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

The Republican governor initially vetoed the legislation on Feb. 7, seeking revisions to ensure proper regulation. All the changes were incorporated into the final bill, the newspaper noted.

“This is the ultimate form of convenience gambling. Atlantic City will pick up some of what’s being done illegally now. The resort will be able to renew some relationships (with customers) who have drifted away,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly.

New Jersey law specifies Atlantic City has exclusivity on gambling, which is why servers for online gaming will be housed at the 12 casinos in the city, Burzichelli added.

Let Sequestration Happen, DOJ’s Inside Joke, Going Postal, Regulation Nation And Socialism Sucks: Thursday Morning News Roundup 2-28-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Even though Congress and the President continue to scream that the sky is falling, 37 percent of Americans think the sequestration cuts should be made.
  • Here’s a good joke to get your day started: The Department of Justice is patting itself on the back for the government’s “significant improvements” in administering the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Ha, ha, ha.
  • Be careful next time you go to the post office; Federal employees say that morale is low.
  • Viva la socialism… or not so much. It seems that 10 months into his mandate, socialist French President Francois Hollande is the least popular French president in more than three decades.
  • Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo passed some of the strictest gun control laws in the Nation. Now, he’s making exemptions to the laws for Hollywood elite shooting films and television shows in his State.
  • President and founder of Subway Fred Deluca described some of the challenges payroll tax increases and Obamacare have presented small-business franchisee owners Wednesday on CNBC. He said there are so many regulations now that he would be unable to open the restaurant chain he built in the 1960s.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Jefferson Recommends An ‘Interdiction Of All Useless Expenses’

As the overhyped sequester approaches, the President and Congress are discussing (in public if not with each other) ways to avoid it by reducing government spending and/or raising taxes. During these discussions, they should all keep in mind the words of Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette:

[A] rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive.

Such a mindset would be a welcome change from the past 100 years’ worth of ever-growing and unbridled spending that have brought the country to default.

How Jimmy Carter Ruined America Twice

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Until Barack Obama came along, Jimmy Carter held the title “Worst President in U.S. History.” Now, Carter may have taken the title back. You would have thought he’d be satisfied with almost destroying the U.S. economy and almost breaking the spirit of our country once. But, no! Thirty-three years later, Carter is now instrumental in helping Obama finish the job he started.

As President from 1976 to 1980, Carter came close to wrecking our economy and our entire country. An ultra-liberal, politically correct do-gooder, just like Obama, Carter announced his Presidency would be dedicated to “compassion” and human rights. And, just as had happened during Obama’s tenure, the leftist gobbly-gook “feel-good philosophy” led to disaster.

The Carter nightmare included four years of crippling high unemployment, stagflation of 13.5 percent, unimaginable 21.5 percent interest rates, record gas prices, shortages and gas lines, a doubling of the deficit from $27 billion to almost $60 billion, U.S. embassy personnel in Iran held hostage, an unsuccessful hostage rescue attempt, the embarrassing decline of our military, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. America almost did not survive Carter.

Along came a true patriot and American hero, Ronald Reagan, who turned Carter’s malaise and misery and the worst economy since the Great Depression into the greatest economic turnaround and expansion in world history. Reagan showed the world that America was indeed the “shining beacon on the hill.” Reagan made us great again and, by doing so, exposed Carter as an incompetent, ultra-liberal laughingstock. To make matters worse for Carter’s legacy, the U.S. hostages in Iran were released on Reagan’s Inauguration Day. Carter never forgave Reagan or America for leaving his reputation in tatters.

Carter wandered the wilderness for the past 33 years, growing more angry and bitter with each passing year. He took out his anger by embarrassing the United States and meddling in foreign affairs. He spent the past 33 years denouncing Israel, praising nations that supported Muslim terrorists, defying the U.S. travel ban to Cuba and praising tyrants like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito and North Korean despot Kim Il Sung. He oversaw election fraud and corruption in Venezuela and Haiti and declared everything fair and square. The man has spent 33 bitter, disgraceful years venting his hatred for America.

Now, Carter has finally gotten his revenge. Angry at America’s success since Reagan, including those 40 million new jobs created since the early 1980s, Carter might be the man most responsible for Obama’s re-election, allowing him to continue the destruction Carter began all those years ago in 1976.

How did Carter help re-elect Obama? Mitt Romney was poised to do to Obama exactly what Reagan did to Carter. A brilliant businessman and turnaround specialist, Romney was the perfect man to again save America. He would have turned around this Obamageddon economy in two years with low taxes, reduced spending and smaller government — exactly how Reagan saved us from Carter. But along came that secret tape where Romney discussed “the 47 percent” of Americans who want government to give them checks and will vote for the politician who keeps the checks coming. The release of that tape was the beginning of the end for Romney. His reputation, likeability ratings and Presidential campaign never recovered.

Well guess who released that damaging tape? It was Carter’s grandson, Democratic operative Jimmy Carter IV, getting sweet revenge for Grandpa.

Carter’s grandson said: “I’ve been hearing all my life people making fun of my grandfather, or saying that he was a bad president, or things like that, and I’ve just gotten used to it. And it’s nice to be able to hit back.”

Upon seeing the tape of Romney’s remarks, the former President said in an email to his grandson: “James: This is extraordinary. Congratulations! Papa.”

It may not have been the only reason Romney lost, but it certainly did more damage to his campaign than anything Obama said in months of campaigning. And so, with the help of Carter’s grandson, history was changed. Instead of a modern-day Reagan, we got stuck with a second, disastrous term of a modern-day Carter. If Carter had been re-elected back in 1980, there very likely would never have been 40 million new jobs over the next 25 years. America’s military and economy probably never would have recovered, and we’d have a lower standard of living and gasoline prices of $8 per gallon — just like in the European socialist countries both Carter and Obama want America to emulate.

But thanks to Carter’s grandson, it’s Groundhog Day. Carter gets a do-over. We’re about to see what would have happened if we’d never elected Reagan and had given Carter a chance to finish the job of destroying America. We’re about to see if Obama can finish the job of destroying the U.S. economy in a second term — all in the name of tax and spend, compassion, fairness, social justice, and human rights.

Once Obama is done using Carter’s ultra-left policies to gain retribution and redistribution, I can imagine only that America will be a shell of its former self. America’s military will decline, the U.S. economy will continue in misery and malaise, inflation will return to unimaginable heights, debt will continue to rise, and gas lines and rationing will once again be part of our lives. America will be anything but exceptional.

Congratulations, Carter. It took 33 years and your grandson’s help, but you’ve finally gotten your revenge on the American people and American exceptionalism.

Sadly, just like a second term of Carter, I can promise you, this will not end well.

I’m Wayne Allyn Root for PersonalLiberty.com. See you next week. Same time, same place. That’s when I’ll present to you the solution, the perfect model to save America and the U.S. economy. Carter and Obama won’t like it. But it is proven to work. See you next week. God bless America.

Border Patrol Effectiveness Not Measured By Amount Of Border Patrolled

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano is fond of claiming that U.S. border security is “better than ever.”  However, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that details how DHS quantifies how well the borders are guarded tells a different story.

The GAO reports shows that only 44 percent of the 2,000 miles that make up the southwest border are actively watched by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB).

“At the end of fiscal year 2010, DHS reported achieving varying levels of operational control of 873 (44 percent) of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles,” Rebecca Gambler, the GAO’s director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on the Border in a written testimony.

According to the testimony, because of the low levels of “operational control” over vast segments of the U.S. border at the end of fiscal year 2010, DHS simply stopped using the amount of border space it was actively patrolling as a measure of the effectiveness of Border Patrol programs that fall under its authority.

Instead, DHS counts the number of illegal border crossers it catches and uses the number as an “interim” measure of Border Patrol effectiveness. That process, according to GAO officials, hinders Congressional oversight and shields DHS from accountability for ineffective border protection practices it may have in place.

“In fiscal year 2011, citing a need to establish new goals and measures that reflect a more quantitative methodology and an evolving vision for border control, DHS transitioned to using the number of apprehensions on the southwest border as an interim goal and measure,” Gambler testified. “As GAO previously testified, this interim measure, which reports on program activity levels and not program results, limits DHS and congressional oversight and accountability.”

Congress provided Border Patrol with a massive increase in resources in 2004 and has invested about $4.4 billion in southwest border technology and infrastructure since 2006. Some of the money was used to nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents — from about 9,500 to 18,500. Gambler contends that these expansions in funding were provided under the assumption that they would be primarily to increase directly the amount of border space over which the DHS has “operational control.” But because the agency no longer measures its effectiveness in terms of how much border it actively patrols, there is no way of measuring a return on investment.

“Further, studies commissioned by CBP have documented that the number of apprehensions bears little relationship to effectiveness because agency officials do not compare these numbers with the amount of cross-border illegal activity,” Gambler testified.

One explanation for the DHS move to drop actual patrolling of the border from the list it uses to measure Border Patrol’s effectiveness could be that the agency is focusing more resources on creating checkpoints within the U.S. border.

In the years following the funding increases, American travelers in border States have been met more and more often by Constitutionally questionable Border Patrol checkpoints — sometimes up to 100 miles from the border.

Oakland Neighborhoods Tire Of Police; Turn Vigilante

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

That DIY maxim is apparently fueling some Oakland, Calif., civilians’ community-minded vigilantism. A CBS San Francisco report Tuesday featured a number of residents living in San Francisco’s less-affluent inland neighbor, all of whom revealed crime has become so commonplace that they’ve written off the cops and instead begun patrolling the streets and posting “wanted” signs for bad guys.

The majority of the ongoing lawlessness involved property crimes, and the report didn’t mention whether residents are packing guns. Some of the residents said they had been robbed at gunpoint or had witnessed armed robberies firsthand. Violence is definitely a problem in Oakland, and residents have little faith in the city’s police department to respond.

That lack of faith in law enforcement has been earned through many years of abuses, lawsuits, leadership changes and even a judge’s consent order either to reform the department or face a Federal takeover. It also doesn’t help that nearly all of the city’s police officers don’t even live there.

In neighborhoods that can afford it, residents have already begun pooling their funds to hire private security forces that patrol defined areas. The city’s police force, decimated by layoffs and scandalous resignations, simply doesn’t have sufficient manpower. The Oakmore neighborhood, home to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, may soon deploy one such company.

But private security services aren’t comprised of sworn officers, and they can only disrupt crime as they see it happening. Thankfully, they’re not permitted by law to perform general searches or to detain suspects on a warrant. They aren’t connected to the criminal justice system except in the handing over of suspects they’ve been able to detain under the same legal authority any citizen has to make an arrest.

Oakland’s residents are used to vigilantism of many kinds in recent history, both within the police department and from the community. That activity has typically been marginal, thuggish or just plain corrupt.

Time will tell if Oakland’s neighborhoods can successfully arm themselves against armed criminals.

The Sequester Follies

I knew the so-called “sequester” house of cards would ultimately collapse. As Wayne Allyn Root pointed out in Sequestration Ponzi Scheme and as and Bob Livingston pointed out in When Cuts Aren’t Really Cuts, the sequester was never more than a pittance, an empty symbolic gesture by the Washington political elite made solely for the purpose of calming the low-information masses who quiver with fear until their masters pat their heads. President Barack Obama and his accomplices thought it up, only to deny their own folly and instead use their corporate media flacks to cast Obama as an innocent bystander to the Machiavellian machinations of the GOP. Fortunately for Obama, the GOP leadership has grown so jelly-spined that playing them for suckers is easier than convincing the Democrat masses that Obama’s latest course-reversal is just the President’s “evolving.”

But Obama and his cronies overplayed their hand this time around. Even casual observers recognized Obama’s poorly disguised duplicity, and the average citizens upon whom Obama’s economic cannonballs always land were too focused on basic survival amid the wreckage of Obama’s failed policies to care much about another liberal scam. And that may well be why Obama himself knocked over the shaky sequester construct.

During a speech at the Newport News, Va., naval shipyard (where they build what Obama equated with “horses and bayonets” during his final Presidential debate with Mitt Romney), Obama whined: “These cuts are wrong. They’re not smart. They’re not fair. They’re a self-inflicted wound that doesn’t have to happen.”

Just to ensure we’re all on the same page: The President of the United States, in an effort to further demonize his perceived enemies, attacked them for compromising on an idea he formulated but in which he evidently never believed, all while standing in an industrial center dedicated to building things he considers antiquated and unnecessary.

Presented with a similar knot of logical self-entanglements, I do believe the kids these days would respond simply: “Facepalm.” Nuff said.

Big Pharma Courts Med School Students

A new study explains why so many doctors adhere stringently to the Big Pharma-approved “treat the symptoms” school of medical thought. Even while they are still medical school students and residents, future healthcare providers are already commonly given meals, gifts and industry-sponsored educational materials by pharmaceutical sales representatives.

The study, conducted by students at Harvard Medical School in cooperation with the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, questioned 2,000 medical students and residents representing every medical school in the United States about encounters with Big Pharma sales representatives.

“In medical school and residency, as trainees are learning the fundamentals of their profession, there is a need to ensure the education they receive is as unbiased as possible,” said Aaron Kesselheim, an internist and health policy researcher at Brigham. “However, it is well known that promotional information and gifts from pharmaceutical companies can encourage non-evidence-based prescribing.  Though many institutions have tried to insulate trainees from these effects, trainees’ exposure to industry promotion is still quite high.”

The researchers asked the students about the frequency of their interaction with pharmaceutical representatives, the types of gifts pharmaceutical representatives gave them and whether they thought these interactions affected their learning.

One-third of the students in their first year of medical school reported receiving pharmaceutical industry-sponsored gifts, and more than half of fourth year students did. A majority of students reported that pharmaceutical representatives had helped them educationally, even though a majority of students also acknowledged the interactions opened them up to bias and should be limited.

“Medical schools and academic medical centers need to continue to work on separating students from industry promotion at this highly impressionable time in their professional development,” said Harvard Medical School student Kirsten Austad. “As an alternative, medical schools should provide students with more education about how to interpret clinical trials and ways to approach evidence-based prescribing so trainees can learn to critically evaluate industry promotion when they become practicing physicians.”

The study is published in The Journal of Internal Medicine.

Should Paramedics Carry Guns Deep In The Heart Of Texas?

Paramedics who act as first responders to emergency calls can tell some pretty incredible stories about the violence they’ve seen.

Gunshot wounds, stabbings, domestic beatings — there are times when those events are still in progress when paramedics arrive. There are times when paramedics and EMTs beat police to a scene by several minutes. There are times when they know only what their dispatchers have been able to glean, over the phone, about the security of an unfamiliar location and the intent of its occupants.

Those times make for some crazy stories. But there are a few emergency responders who aren’t around to share them anymore, because they were shot dead while on a call, doing a job fraught with nearly as many dangers as firefighting and police work.

In rural Texas, paramedics could soon be allowed to carry firearms for on-the-job protection, if a bill introduced this year by Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) succeeds before the State Legislature. The bill would also allow firefighters and “other individuals,” both paid and volunteer, to carry weapons if they’re engaged in an emergency response operation.

CBS 11 News in Dallas/Fort Worth heard both opposition and support for the idea Tuesday from people in the local Emergency Response business.

Whether residents support arming emergency responders is another matter.

On one hand, first responders certainly face exposure to agitated, excited and dangerous people more frequently than does the general population.

On the other, arming paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and “other individuals” would undoubtedly alter the fundamental public perception of what it means to be an emergency responder and could inadvertently lend medical and fire personnel the aura of enforcers. Citizens may balk at the idea that special legislation can extend gun-carrying protections to a new category of uniformed public service workers at a time when the general population’s 2nd Amendment rights are under fire.

Given the right cocktail of bad circumstances, it might even force well-intentioned emergency workers to make choices about whether to use their firearms in “shoot first” scenarios. And in America’s tort-drunk legal environment, that could be disastrous for the private companies and public agencies that employ them.

The Texas bill isn’t sweeping in its ambitions; it’s aimed only at emergency workers in counties of 50,000 or fewer people. It wouldn’t affect densely populated areas — where violent crime is typically more frequent – and, therefore, won’t “protect” many of the very paramedics and firefighters likely to face self-defense situations.

But the bill does raise the question of whether arming public servants engaged in non-defense and non-enforcement work exceeds the 2nd Amendment powers afforded regular civilians.

Hagel Sworn In, Ready For Challenges

Chuck Hagel was sworn in Wednesday as the defense secretary after overcoming strong opposition from hawkish Republicans due to past statements about U.S. relations with Israel and Iran. The Administration of Barack Obama eulogized the “bipartisan” confirmation, though only four GOP Senators supported Hagel in a 58-41 Senate vote Tuesday.

From a White House statement:

With the bipartisan confirmation of Chuck Hagel as our next Secretary of Defense, we will have the defense secretary our nation needs and the leader our troops deserve.  From the moment he volunteered for military service in Vietnam, Chuck has devoted his life to keeping America secure and our armed forces strong.  An American patriot who fought and bled for our country, he understands our sacred obligations to our service members, military families and veterans.

Though Hagel endured a contentious confirmation process, his biggest tasks are before him: $46 billion in automatic Pentagon reductions are slated to go into effect Friday, the troop drawdown in Afghanistan continues and the possibility of conflict with Iran looms.

Hagel said he was prepared to meet the challenges in an address to Pentagon employees Wednesday.

“As difficult as our jobs are with the budget and sequestration — I don’t need to dwell on all the good news there — that’s a reality. We need to figure this out. You are doing that. You have been doing that. We need to deal with this reality,” he said. “We’ve got ahead of us a lot of challenges. They are going to define much of who we are, not this institution only, but our country, what kind of a world our children are going to inherit. I mean, that’s the big challenge that we have. That’s the bigger picture of the objective for all of us. Yes, it’s difficult.”

Senator Rand Paul, who has been an outspoken critic of the Hagel nomination, surprised some conservatives with his “aye” vote on Tuesday but had already offered an explanation of why he was among the few GOP members to ultimately support the confirmation.

“I voted for John Kerry and I agree with nothing he represents,” he told a group at the New York Meeting, a monthly conservative gathering, “but I voted for him because I thought there was a level of at least basic human decency and honesty that exists there … and that the president has the prerogative to determine political appointees.”

He continued: “I would never vote for him in an election so I saw it a little bit differently. I see Hagel and Brennan and [Treasury nominee Jack] Lew kind of the same way. I don’t agree with much of their policies with any of them … They’re going to be Obama appointees … On Hagel, there’s criticisms both on the conservative right, and there’s also criticism on the libertarian right.”