White House reporters come up with plan to beat Obama administration’s censorship

The long-suffering White House press corps is taking steps to thwart the Obama administration’s continued attempts to sanitize news coverage on the government’s executive branch.

Press pool journalists currently must submit their work to the White House press office, from which the reports are distributed via email to news organizations throughout the nation.

Last month, reports surfaced of the White House’s efforts to influence the content of the information press pool reporters pass along to their news industry colleagues on a daily basis by demanding changes or threatening to revoke journalists’ access for unflattering reports.

The Washington Post reported at the time:

When Anita Kumar of the McClatchy newspaper chain covered Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” for the press pool last year, she wrote a detailed account of the taped program. Kumar thought her story would be sent to pool recipients hours before the show aired. Instead, White House press staffers objected to the length of her file, saying it violated an agreement with the program’s producers to limit advance publicity. They told Kumar to pare down her account before they would distribute it.

Kumar reluctantly complied, but the request made her uneasy. “The worry is that when you send in a pool report, the White House is reading it and approving it,” she said.

Other journalists tell similar tales about White House objections.

While the majority of the White House’s press nitpicking involves minor details and trivial issues, press pool journalists have warned that the administration’s involvement in editing the news is a slippery slope.

“The independence of the print pool reports is of utmost importance to us,” said Christi Parsons, a Los Angeles Times reporter and the White House Correspondents Association president, last month. “Our expectation is that the White House puts out the pool report and asks questions later.”

For that reason, The Washington Post reports, press pool reporters have collaborated to set a press report distribution system of their own.

Via The Post Wednesday:

A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalist.

(…)But now, some journalists are sharing their White House reporting using Google Groups — the digital service that allows registered users to receive and send information within a closed circle. In an early test of the supplemental system, journalists shared pool information about President Obama’s trip to Chicago this month. The system has been used for “advisories,” such as where the pool is assembling, when another pool report will be issued or whether a correction is in the works.

Currently, about 90 print journalists subscribe to the Google Groups list, compared to about 8,000 who are on the official pool list. Parsons has described the list as a sort of backup that could eventually serve as “a supplementary system for the print poolers so they can send out information directly to other reporters whenever they feel they need to, much as the TV and radio poolers do now.”

Unfortunately, there are obstacles to journalists wresting control of the press pool information distribution from the White House.

Again from The Post:

The key obstacles appear to be not technological but administrative and financial. The WHCA is wary of the cost of taking over all the managerial tasks of the pool system from the White House, which does the job with its own staff at taxpayer expense.

In addition to distributing the pool reports and maintaining an ever-changing list of recipients, the White House press office has several staffers who schedule reporters for pool duty, coordinate security clearances so that they can be in proximity to the president and find substitutes when there are no-shows.

Polling increasingly favors GOP in midterms

With fewer than three weeks until the 2014 midterms, a growing number of polls and election models favor the prospect of a GOP-controlled Senate leading into 2015.

As of Wednesday, The Washington Post’s Election Lab was reporting that the GOP has a 94 percent chance of gaining the six seats it needs to control the Senate.

The Republicans’ high chances of winning the Senate are underscored by the results of a poll released Wednesday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

That poll found that 46 percent of Americans favor a Congress controlled by the GOP, compared to 44 percent who want Democrats to assume legislative control.

The margin in voter support is tighter than the last Congressional midterms. At this point in 2010, Republicans enjoyed a 7-point lead over Democrats.

On the issues, voters in a separate Washington Post/ABC poll reported that new jobs and an end to Washington gridlock are at the top of their voter wish lists, followed closely by the formulation of an appropriate government response to the Islamic State terror threat in the Middle East.

Two-thirds of likely voters believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 60 percent believe that the president and Republican members of Congress are equally incompetent.

Despite preferring Republican control, likely voters assigned the GOP an abysmal 33 percent favorability rating. Democrats’ favorability rating is similarly bad, reaching a 30-year low of 39 percent.

President Barack Obama’s disproval rating, meanwhile, eclipses unhappiness with Congress. Just 40 percent of likely voters believe he is handling his job correctly. Forty-four percent of voters agree with the president’s handling of the economy, 29 percent his handling of immigration and 35 percent his handling of the ISIS threat.

Democrats blaming GOP for Ebola destroyed by numbers, facts

Democrats continue to blame GOP cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lack of a clear strategy to deal with Ebola in the U.S. Unfortunately for the political left, facts add a little static to the sound bite political messaging they’ve embraced for the issue in the run-up to the 2014 midterms.

The Democrats’ accusations stem from a 2011 bill passed by the House that would have cut $60 billion from the federal budget across the board, including millions of dollars in possible cuts in CDC funding. Though it passed in the House in February of that year, the spending bill never made it to the Senate.

At about the same time, President Barack Obama presented his budget plan, which came with its own CDC cuts.

The Wall Street Journal noted at the time:

Funding for a public health emergency preparedness program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was cut by about $72 million below fiscal 2010 levels in the budget proposal. Those funds are used to help state and city public health departments monitor for potential outbreaks and threats, hire and train staff to respond and other activities.

In the end, no agreement was reached and the federal government proceeded through the next year with a number of budgetary continuing resolutions.

Fast-forward to fiscal 2014 and the facts get even more depressing for GOP-caused-Ebola Democrats. In a January 2014 report, the Atlanta Business Journal declared “CDC wins big in budget deal.”

Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will see an 8.2 percent budget increase for fiscal 2014, thanks to a $1.1 trillion spending bill announced by Congress Jan. 13.

This influx of cash will raise the CDC budget to $6.9 billion, which is $567 million more than it received in 2013. This is more than the agency anticipated, because the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for it was just $6.6 billion — a decrease of $270 million from fiscal 2012.

Of the $6.9 billion, $1.3 billion was allocated to protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats, both intentional and naturally occurring. $255 million will go to support bio-defense efforts, and $160 million will be set aside for states to address their most pressing public health needs. The CDC will get $30 million for Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD), which will help identify potential disease outbreaks earlier and more accurately.

Long story short, both parties have offered budget plans in the past which would have — or did — cut CDC funding, but a bipartisan spending agreement (which passed the GOP-controlled House without issue) actually gave the health organization more money that the Democratic budget requested in 2014.

The real political issue is not how much the CDC receives, but how the money is spent.

Small-business owners glum on nation’s economy

Small-business owners remain pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook despite the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the economy is improving. That’s according to a survey of the nation’s movers and shakers out from the National Federation of Independent Businesses this week.

The NFIB survey found that the optimism index for American small-business owners declined 0.8 points in September, bringing it to 95.3. The index currently sits at 5 points below pre-recession optimism averages between 1974 and 2007. Six of the 10 business-related components studied in the survey fell from August to September.

“Small businesses just can’t seem to get out of second gear. In order for the Index to get back to the average, responses to the 10 Index component questions would have to improve 50 percentage points cumulatively. That’s a lot of ‘positive’ responses to makeup to get back to ‘average’ much less reach a level that means a solid recovery,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “A decline in job openings and capital spending plans were primarily responsible for September’s Index decline. Overall, small business owners are still stuck in a rut that has been difficult to escape.”

Even though small business owners’ confidence is lagging, some still report that they currently feel comfortable modestly expanding their firms. To that end, owners hired an average of 0.24 workers per firm last month compared to just 0.02 in August.

Half of the business owners reported that they had tried to hire new employees in the last month, but 42 percent said they found it difficult to find qualified candidates to fill the positions.

The number of business owners reporting sales growth for September dipped 2 points from a month prior, as 14 percent said that weak sales are their top business problem.

The slide in sales growth unsurprisingly coincides with a 5-point drop in the number of small businesses planning to make capital expenditures for business expansion or improvement.

“Overall, spending remains in ‘replacement mode,’” the report states, “not a lot of expansion except in selected markets including Texas and North Dakota.”

White House source says no AG nominee until after midterms

Add picking an attorney general to replace Eric Holder to the list of things President Barack Obama won’t do until after the 2014 midterms, as vulnerable Democrats continue to from the administration’s policies.

Washington media reported Tuesday that a source close to the White House revealed that the Obama administration decided to hold off on naming a replacement at the request of Senate Democrats to keep the nomination process from being an electoral political spectacle.

The White House has repeatedly hinted that it wants to have an AG nominee confirmed during the current lame-duck session of Congress.

“[T]here is a precedent for presidents making important Cabinet nominations and counting on Congress to confirm them promptly, even in the context of a lame-duck session, if necessary,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest recently said, noting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was confirmed during a 2006 lame-duck session and that President George Bush’s attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey, enjoyed a relatively swift confirmation.

But Obama’s decision to hold off nominating a person for the spot could complicate the prospect of a lame-duck confirmation, a reality compounded by the criticisms of Republican lawmakers.

“First it was immigration, and now Senate Democrats have asked the president to delay his announcement for attorney general so they can avoid making clear to the voters of their states where they stand on what could be a controversial choice for attorney general,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Notably, though, Grassley had already called on the president to wait for the new Congress “to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country.”

Army officials worry whether fighting force is large enough for global threats

With the recent release of the Army’s Operating Concept report, which details the forces future global strategy, some are worried that the nation’s largest fighting force may soon be undermanned and ill-equipped to deal with emerging international threats.

Army officials reportedly compiled the report, “Win in a Complex World,” using lessons learned from the U.S.’s more than a decade of military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan and looking ahead to emerging threats from Islamic State extremists as well as instability in North Korea and Eastern Europe.

“The title, Win in a Complex World, emphasizes ready land forces’ importance for protecting our nation and securing our vital interests against determined, elusive, and increasingly capable enemies,” the report states. “While the concept underscores the foundational capabilities the Army needs to prevent wars and shape security environments, it also recognizes that to deter enemies, reassure allies, and influence neutrals the Army must conduct sophisticated expeditionary maneuver and joint combined arms operations.”

The new strategy focuses on creating a smaller, more agile Army whose forces are scalable to operate in a variety of environments.

On Monday, however, top Army Gen. Ray Odierno expressed concerns that the Army’s fighting force will be too small to respond to emerging threats throughout the world due to troop reductions originally approved in 2011.

Those cuts would have left the Army with a force of about 490,000. But a series of budget battles between Congress and the Obama Administration in the years since has forced the Pentagon to consider deeper reductions, which could result in a force as small as 420,000.

Currently at 510,000 members, Army reduction-in-force plans are now being implemented.

“The world is changing in front of us. We have seen Russian aggression in Europe, we have seen ISIS, we have seen increased stability in other places,” Odierno said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “So I now have concern whether even going below 490,000 is the right thing to do or not, because of what I see potentially on the horizon.”

According to Odierno, Army officials could lack significant personnel resources as early as 2016 or 2017. The general is slated to step down from his post next year.

“I swore that I would never send soldiers into a place not properly prepared, trained or equipped,” he said. “I will probably get away with that because I will leave… by the beginning of the next year. But I worry for the next chief.”

Army Secretary John McHugh echoed a similar sentiment during a speech this week at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington. The official lamented that continued budgetary constraints could put the Army in danger of “wasting away,” and he called on lawmakers to put politics aside when it comes to military funding.

“This is a time for predictability, not a time for politics. We must have predictable long term funding to keep America and her allies free from fear, intimidation and tyranny,” he said. “If sequestration returns in fiscal ’16… Another round of indiscriminate cuts will gut the force to the point that we will be unable to meet the president’s defense strategic guidance. We will be at risk of wasting away.”

Lawmakers fret whether U.S. can sustain Obama’s immigration plans

A group of GOP senators is asking the Government Accountability Office to review policies of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border.

In a letter to the GAO the senators question whether the U.S. is prepared to handle another influx of unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants if the Obama administration makes good on some of its immigration promises.

Senators Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) wrote, “The increase in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has strained the capacity of ORR and its grantees to provide them with appropriate accommodations and has raised questions about ORR’s management and oversight of the program. It’s unclear if a strategy has been formulated to deal with the impending surge.”

The lawmakers also have questions about what is happening to the minors who have already been released within the U.S.

“In addition, concerns have been raised about children who are subsequently released to relatives or other sponsors throughout the country, including how sponsors are screened and monitored while they have custody of the children.  The agency is responsible for the well-being of these children, yet there’s question about whether custodians and grantees are adequately being overseen once a child leaves federal custody,” the senators wrote.

The New York Times reports that the number of unaccompanied minors flowing across the southern border from Central America fell to its lowest point in two years in September “with 2,424 youths caught crossing the Southwest border.”

From the report:

The number was down from a peak of 10,622 minors apprehended in June. In all, 68,434 minors without their parents were detained along the border in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. “The worst is over for now,” Mr. Johnson said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. But he warned, “The spike in migration we saw this summer could return.”

Indeed, executive actions being considered by the White House could bring at least an additional 145,000 unaccompanied minors into the nation.

Pentagon goes green

While Islamic State terrorists continue to gain ground in the Middle East, a 20-page report released by the Pentagon on Monday reveals that the nation’s military is taking the threat of climate change seriously in all its “plans, operations, and training.”

According to the document, global warming is a “threat multiplier” which could exacerbate problems like infectious disease and terror facing the nation today.

“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel writes in the “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.”

“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe,” he continues.

According to the report, the Pentagon now has three climate change-related goals which include: identifying how changes in climate could alter how the military operates, making climate change a consideration in all military operations and collaborating on the matter with global partners. Those goals are key, the document says, to adapting to climate change and mitigating its impacts by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be pro-active in addressing them,” Hagel said.

National Institutes of Health blames spending cuts for Ebola, could blame fat lesbians

National Institutes of Health head, Dr. Francis Collins, recently blamed a decade of “stagnant spending” for slowing down research that could have contributed to the development of an Ebola vaccine.

Via The Huffington Post:

 

It’s not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola “were on a slower track than would’ve been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory.”

“We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference,” he said.

Speaking from NIH’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the typically upbeat Collins was somber when discussing efforts to control the Ebola epidemic. His days are now spent almost exclusively on the disease. But even after months of painstaking work, a breakthrough doesn’t seem on the immediate horizon.

Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion — barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.

Collins’ remarks echo Democrats’ attempts to blame GOP budget hawks for the Ebola outbreak, such as in this political ad put out by the progressive Agenda Project:

 

Many Democratic politicians have also used the Ebola scare as an opportunity to call for increases in government spending on health research.

 

Representative Rosa Delauro (D-Conn.), the senior Democrat on the subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services, called for more funding last week during a visit to a firm working on an Ebola vaccine.

“Ebola is a scary virus, but it can be contained in nations that have a strong public health infrastructure. America’s public health system is light years above most other nations’, but we must reverse the deep cuts and neglect the NIH and CDC have suffered over the past four years,” she said. “This neglect vastly diminishes our ability to fight this disease—or any other. We have to be prepared and invest in the public health infrastructure that keeps America safe.”

According to numbers released by DeLauro’s office, funding to the NIH was cut by $1.2 billion in four years, before adjusting for inflation.

“Once accounting for inflation, NIH has lost more than 10% of its purchasing power since 2010,” said a press release she put out. “The CDC program that supports state and local public health professionals working on the front lines has been cut by 16% over the last four years. The federal Hospital Preparedness program has been cut by an astounding 44% over the last four years.”

But as Democrats and health officials continue to politicize Ebola and point fingers at fiscal conservatives, perhaps they should cry over dollars that might have been better spent by the nation’s health research officials.

 

Here are some places they could start:

Do you have more examples of wasteful spending by the nation’s health research officials? Let us know in the comments below.

Cato ‘Economic Freedom’ report ranks U.S. at 12th

The Cato Institute reports a slight global decline in economic freedom throughout the world in its annual “Economic Freedom of the World” report, which measures governments’ respect for personal choice, voluntary exchange, and open markets. The United States, which the report describes as having once been “considered a bastion of economic freedom,” rated 12th in Cato’s index.

Using global economic data from 2012, the most recent year for which complete data sets are available, Cato rates the following 10 nations as the most economically free in the world:

  1.       Hong Kong.
  2.       Singapore.
  3.       New Zealand.
  4.       Switzerland.
  5.       Mauritius.
  6.       United Arab Emirates.
  7.      Canada.
  8.       Australia.
  9.       Jordan.
  10.     a tie between Chile and Finland.

According to Cato’s findings, how democratic a nation is doesn’t necessarily serve as an indicator of how economically free its citizens are.

“Democracy and elections now play a greater role in the shaping of political institutions than at any time in history. In recent years, several countries with little or no democratic foundation have used elections to select political leaders. Iraq, Egypt, Ukraine, and Afghanistan are just a few examples,” the report notes. “Despite the expansion of democracy, there is minimal understanding of its shortcomings and the strength of the case for limitations on the powers of elected political leaders.”

For democratic societies to rate high on the economic freedom scale, elections and majority rule “must be buttressed with constraints on the power of the executive, constitutional protection of individual rights, decentralization of government action, and rule of law.”

Cato’s report has shown a decline in economic freedom in the U.S. since 2000, when the nation ranked 2nd globally. The institute ascribes the decline to “a significant move away from rule of law and toward a highly regulated, politicized, and heavily policed state.”

This year, the U.S. shares the No. 12 spot with the United Kingdom.

Here are how some of the world’s other major economic players ranked:

  • Japan (23rd)
  • Germany (28th)
  • South Korea (33rd)
  • France (58th)
  • Italy (78th)
  • Mexico (91st)
  • Russia (98th)
  • Brazil (103rd)
  • India (110th)
  • China (115th)

Cato’s report also illustrates that economic freedom is more than just a numbers game, noting: “Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per capita GDP of US$39,899 in 2012, compared to US$6,253 for bottom quartile nations. Moreover, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent in the most economically free countries in 2012, US$11,610, was almost double the overall average income in the least free countries. Life expectancy is 79.9 years in the top quartile compared to 63.2 years in the bottom quartile, and political and civil liberties are considerably higher in economically free nations than in unfree nations.”

Cato’s full report:

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Country Data Tables
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Appendix
Acknowledgments

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Voters favor GOP on most top issues ahead of 2014 midterms

A new poll shows that voters favor Republican solutions over those proffered by Democrats in five out six of the issues that Americans rate most important.

According to the poll out from Gallup, voters report that the economy, job availability, competency of federal government, the Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East, equal pay for women and the federal deficit should be lawmakers’ priorities. Those issues come from a list of 13 topics Gallup asked respondents to rate for importance leading in to the 2014 midterms.

Here’s how the issues which scored above 69 percent, the average rating of importance assigned by respondents, stack up in voters’ minds:

  1. the economy (88 percent)
  2. the availability of good jobs (86 percent)
  3. the way the federal government is working (81 percent)
  4. the situation with Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria (78 percent)
  5.  equal pay for women (75 percent) and
  6.  the federal budget deficit (73 percent)

On everything but equal pay for women, Republicans curry favor with voters.

The GOP polled best with likely voters on the budget deficit, leading Democrats by 20 percentage points. Republicans also enjoyed outsized leads on dealing with ISIS (19 percentage points), the economy (11 percentage points), improving federal competency (8 percentage points), and a more measured lead on creating good jobs (1 percentage point).

Democrats, most likely because of their War on Women rhetoric against the GOP, shine in voter minds when it comes to making sure that women get equal pay, with a hefty 38 percentage point lead over Republicans.

The other issues that voters feel left-leaning politicos can tackle more capably than their conservative peers were simultaneously rated as less important to voters overall. For instance, Democrats lead by 20 percentage points on climate change, which was rated as “very important” by respondents only 40 percent of the time.

Gallup notes of the bottom line for the 2014 midterm, “ [A]s the two parties enter the final campaign stretch, the electoral environment increasingly appears to favor the GOP.”

White House says there will be boots on the ground in ISIS fight; they just aren’t there yet

The White House admitted on Thursday that President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is contingent upon having boots on the ground, despite the president’s repeated promises to the contrary.

Back in September, the White House said that Obama’s ISIS strategy would require U.S. troops on the ground in “forward-deployed positions” to support Iraqi forces in non-combat roles.

Fox News reported at the time:

The White House continued to insist Wednesday that a “combat role” has in fact been ruled out, and that U.S. troops will not be engaging the Islamic State on the ground.

Speaking at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, after visiting U.S. Central Command, Obama told troops: “I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”

He vowed that the U.S. forces currently deployed to Iraq to advise Iraqi forces “will not have a combat mission.” Instead, he said, they will continue to support Iraqi forces on the ground, through a combination of U.S. air power, training assistance and other means.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest is now hinting that U.S. troops are going to become more integral to the ISIS strategy than simple support.

“The broader strategy that the president has laid out for combating [ISIS] is focused on degrading the command and control ability of [ISIS], there are a number of command and control targets that have been destroyed by the U.S.-led coalition bombing campaign,” Earnest said, adding that the U.S. is also attacking ISIS funding and logistics targets.

In Syria, the White House contends that there must be ground forces.

“Ultimately, our broader strategy when it comes to Syria is contingent upon a ground force that can take the fight to ISIL in that country,” Earnest said.

A similar message is coming from U.S. allies across the pond, with the former head of the British military, General David Richards, saying this week that boots on the ground are key to defeating ISIS.

“I think you’ve got to make sure that your aerial campaign is accurately delivered, and that probably means some special forces up front,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

The British official said that there is no way an air campaign will succeed on its own.

“Wars aren’t ever going to be won from the air alone. They’re a vital part of success, but don’t expect a guy in an airplane to be able to seize and hold terrain, which ultimately this is… we’ve got to do.”

“I’ve been saying it, others have said it — you know, my good friend General Marty Dempsey, as good as said it the other day.”

Last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told a Senate panel that there is a possibility of U.S. troops on the ground.

“At this point, [Obama’s] stated policy is we will not have U.S. ground forces in direct combat,” Dempsey said. “But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”

Teachers advised to stop describing boys and girls as boys and girls

A document handed out to middle school teachers in Lincoln, Nebraska, informs educators that classrooms are no longer filled with boys and girls, necessitating the use of only gender-neutral language in the learning environment.

The training material, titled “12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness…,” advises educators to avoid using “gendered expressions” in the classroom. For example, by avoiding referring to students as “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentleman” and never dividing students into groups based on gender.

Instead of gendered phrases, the document advises teachers to “say things like ‘calling all readers,’ or ‘hey campers’ or ‘could all the athletes come here.’”

“Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet at the rug,” the document advises.

The classroom advice also encourages teachers avoid using “normal” to define and behaviors.

Here are the full 12 steps:

12step

12step2

The teachers also received an infographic called “The Genderbred Person.”

Genderbread-Person

Lincoln school superintendent Steve Joel says he is happy to have the materials in classrooms.

“We don’t get involved with politics,” he said. “We don’t get involved with gender preferences. We’re educating all kids… and we can’t be judgmental.”

He noted that, so far, they have only been disseminated at one school in his district.

“Now obviously there might be a school where this isn’t a conversation and maybe doesn’t need to be a conversation,” he said. “To Irving’s credit, they have children that represent what the discussion points are and they’re helping their faculty understand, give definition.”

Officials say ISIS, Ebola are coming across southern border

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said this week that Islamic State fighters are already making their way into the U.S. across the nation’s poorly defended southern border. The lawmaker said that at least 10 people with ties to the terror group have been apprehended so far.

“There’s nobody talking about it,” Hunter said during an interview on Fox. “If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border. It’s that simple… They caught them at the border, therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them then you know there’s going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol.”

The House Armed Services Committee member said that his information on ISIS’s would-be infiltrators comes directly from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

The lawmaker described ISIS terrorists’ attempts to enter the U.S. as a military assault.

“ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons. The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming through the southern border — which they already have,” he said.

“They aren’t flying B-1 bombers, bombing American cities,” Hunter added. “But they are going to be bombing American cities coming across from Mexico… All you have to do is ask the border patrol.”

Hunter’s isn’t the first lawmaker claim that terrorists are trying to get into the country over the porous southern border. In September, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) informed Americans that four known terrorists were apprehended at border checkpoints.

Still, the Department of Homeland Security said that Hunter’s claims are untrue.

“The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground,” a DHS spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. “DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.”

The ISIS threat isn’t the only issue that has some Americans discussing border security amid continued widespread concern over a possible Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

Via ValleyCentral.com:

During the 2013 fiscal year, national statistics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website show Border Patrol agents apprehended 112 immigrants from Guinea, 231 from Liberia and 145 immigrants from Sierra Leone, which are the three countries currently experiencing the most cases of Ebola.

But the White House’s Ebola strategy, like its ISIS strategy, is not about containment, as noted by Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday.

During a press conference about the U.S. Ebola patient’s death, he said: “We need airlines to continue to operate in West Africa, and we need borders to remain open. And we need to strengthen the medivac capacity. We need countries to contribute for Ebola treatment centers and we need other African countries with the capacity to send responders to join the effort and we need to make sure the health-care workers who go properly trained, properly equipped, and supported in order to prevent additional infections.”

Even Jimmy Carter is shaking his head over Obama’s foreign policy failures

Since he tried to pin the blame for the Islamic State’s rise on intelligence officials, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures have been front and center in headlines as Americans, government officials and the punditry push back. Now Obama is receiving criticism from a source that makes him appear more inept than ever in handling foreign affairs: former President Jimmy Carter.

In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week, Carter noted the intense criticism some of Obama’s former administration officials have had for the president in recent weeks. Carter also said that it is hard to understand what Obama’s foreign policy vision for the Middle East is, which likely contributes to former administration officials’ dim view of the president’s crisis management.

“It changes from time to time,” Carter said. “I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president.”

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during an interview this week that he believes Obama has “given up.” Panetta is currently in the process of promoting his new book, “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace,” which also contains criticisms of the president.

As an aside, the situation is actually a little worse than Carter said. Foreign Policy magazine recently pointed out that Obama is also likely having a tough time jiving with senior military officers who are currently still serving:

In the last couple of weeks, several prominent commentators have urged Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military to resign in protest of President Obama’s poor leadership of the various wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. If they do not resign, critics argue, the senior officers become complicit in a doomed strategy.

Obama’s disagreements with his senior military advisers and his refusal to take some of their advice are long-standing and likely play in to another of Carter’s criticisms.

Carter said he believes the ISIS situation in Iraq and Syria is complicated, but he also contends that circumstances would be different had Obama acted more quickly. Of course, that would have required him to have acted on the advice of many of his top commanders.

“First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” he said. “Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”

And the former president — like almost everyone outside of Obama and his press handlers — also believes that American boots will be needed on the ground to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“If we keep on working in Iraq and have some ground troops to follow up when we do our bombing, there is a possibility of success,” he said.

“You have to have somebody on the ground to direct our missiles and to be sure you have the right target,” Carter added, speaking about Syria. “Then you have to have somebody to move in and be willing to fight ISIS after the strikes.”

 

Obama is a failed president

The list of people who believe President Barack Obama is calling the right shots from the Oval Office appears to be shrinking daily. He’s losing favor with American voters, former administration officials and even leftist pundits.

A majority of Americans believe the president is a “failure.”

An IBD/TIPP poll out this week finds that a 53 percent of Americans categorize Obama’s tenure in the White House as a “failure,” compared to 41 percent who rate the president a success. Six percent of those polled couldn’t decide.

Among independents, Obama is viewed as a “failure” 58 percent of the time.

Young Americans 18 to 24 are the most likely to say Obama is a successful president at 77 percent. Obama does the poorest among the 25- to 44-year-olds currently battling economic troubles and a bad job situation; they call the president a failure 59 percent of the time.

The poll also finds that voter’s remorse is on the rise.

IBD notes: “…[O]nly 43% say they would vote for Obama if the 2012 election were held today; 49% say they’d vote for Mitt Romney. Only 46% of those from states that Obama carried two years ago say they’d do so again, given another chance.”

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thinks Obama has “given up.”

Panetta, joining MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Tuesday, said that Obama should be tackling the nation’s problems head-on in the remaining years of his presidency. Instead, the former Defense and CIA official said, Obama has given up.

“He approaches things like a law professor in presenting a logic of his position. There is nothing wrong with that. We want to have a president who thinks through the issues. My experience in Washington is that logic alone doesn’t work. Once you lay out a position, you are going to roll up your sleeves and you have to fight to get it done. That is key in Washington. In order for presidents to succeed, they cannot just — when they run into problems, step back and give up.”

“There is a feeling and I have a feeling that the leadership and the president have given up on the big issues facing this country whether it’s immigration or a budget deal or infrastructure funding or trade or energy. there is a sense that you can’t deal with that. This country needs that. They can’t give up.”

The Washington Posts’ Dana Milbank, on Monday, noted that Panetta is one of many Obama “subordinates” currently lashing out at the president in a column titled, “Leon Panetta, other former Obama subordinates show stunning disloyalty.”

“Whatever causes Obama’s difficulty inspiring loyalty,” Milbanks writes, “his failure is delighting conservatives and Republicans.”

Indeed.

Even Piers Morgan wants to know: “What the hell is Obama Doing?…”

Morgan took Obama to task the “terrible imagery” provided to Americans due to the president’s apparent aloofness in a recent exchange with Fox’s Sean Hannity.

Morgan, like other administration critics, pointed to a lack of leadership in a discussion about ISIS.

Here’s a partial transcript of the conversation:

MORGAN: And it’s that lack of decision-making that I think leads to the issues we now face.

HANNITY: You know what frustrates me, Fort Hood is still officially in this country an example of workplace violence. What happened in Oklahoma, you’ve watched — you’ve read this guy’s Facebook page. It’s all about jihad. They won’t say it was an act of terrorism either. ISIS is not Islamic according to the president. And we’re not at war with ISIS even though we’re bombing them.

MORGAN: And this is all just nonsense rhetoric, because ISIS clearly is an Islamic fundamentalist organization. It’s a terror group. And when they start beheading American and British citizens in these gruesome snuff movies that they’re making and releasing them to the world taunting —

HANNITY: Horrible.

MORGAN: — taunting these countries, it’s not good enough to simply say, yes, I’m really upset about this beheading, and then seven minutes later, as Obama did, go to a golf course and be seen goofing around on the first tee. That really hit home to me. Someone did a survey this week. They counted up the number of hours that Obama has been playing golf since he was president. It was about 850 hours if you base it on a five-hour round.

HANNITY: More than the time he spent in his intelligence briefings.

MORGAN: He attended 42 percent of his daily briefings, total hours of that 650 or something. He spent 200 more hours whacking a golf ball than attending his daily briefings. Now, it’s not as simplistic as that. Obviously he would get other briefings. But such terrible imagery to me, and I’ve basically been reasonably supportive of him. What the hell is he doing to groups like ISIS and others intent on causing America and Britain serious harm?

To answer Morgan’s question, Obama spent Tuesday afternoon fundraising for Democrats.

Via USA Today:

After a morning of meetings at the White House, Obama will travel to Democratic Party fundraising events in New York and Connecticut.
Two afternoon events in New York City will benefit the Democratic National Committee.
After those, Obama heads to a private home in Greenwich, Conn., for a fundraiser on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The president, it seems, is a better salesman than he is an executive.

McConnell challenger claims to be a friend of coal; her supporters say she’ll ‘f*ck’ the industry just after election

SCREENSHOT: Grimes in a campaign ad pandering to gun owners.

Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe, whose curriculum vitae includes taking down ACORN and crossing the U.S. border from Mexico dressed as Osama bin Laden to make a point, has released a damning video taking on another target: Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes is currently vying for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky seat with a strategy aimed at painting herself as a moderate Democrat who is a friend to right-leaning voters on guns, coal and other traditionally conservative issues.

Grimes has made a point of lashing out at McConnell, claiming that he’s personally taken big bucks from anti-coal groups in the state.

“What Mitch McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that he and his wife personally took $600,000 from anti-coal groups, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-coal foundation,” proclaims a Grimes campaign ad.

In fact, Grime’s allegation stems from the fact that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, was paid about $685,000 for serving on the board of directors of Wells Fargo bank.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler explains in a fact check wherein he assigns the Grimes campaign four Pinnocchios for the ad:

Wait a second. Well Fargo is a bank. Why does the ad call it an “anti-coal group”? The Grimes campaign justifies this on the grounds that in a 2013 report Wells Fargo said that it had been curtailing its financing of “mountain top removal” (MTR) coal operations.

But Jennifer G. Dunn, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said Wells Fargo adopted this policy in 2006 — five years before Chao joined the board. It was just not formally mentioned in a Wells Fargo external document until 2013, she said.

That she lied about McConnell’s anti-coal sentiments doesn’t have much bearing on whether Grimes is a friend of coal herself, but the public musings of her supporters may offer some insight.

O’Keefe, for a recent Veritas video, placed operatives “undercover in multiple Grimes campaign offices to determine if her opposition to the core principles of her own political party is genuine or an intentional deception.”

The five undercover reporters gathered footage of at least five Kentucky Democratic Party members expressing confidence that Grimes is lying to garner votes in a state that is powered by coal.

Here’s the footage:

In a separate video, Veritas infiltrated a Grimes fundraiser in New York attended by “Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, real estate tycoon Niko Elmaleh and New York Knicks owner James Dolan.”

The best line comes from Grimes benefactor Elmaleh, who said that the candidate will “f*ck” the coal industry after being elected.

Here’s the video and a partial transcript of the Veritas exchange with the donor:

Veritas: So you know that Alison will help us stop coal?

Niko Elmaleh: Come on Dude. What do you think?

Veritas: I think yes, but I haven’t heard it straight up.

Niko Elmaleh: She can’t say it straight up.

Veritas: She supports big coal.

Niko Elmaleh: No. She’s going to f*ck ’em as soon as she gets elected.

Veritas: Really?

Niko Elmaleh: Yeah. Take my word for it. Here. Take my word for it.

Niko Elmaleh: She’s going to have to do what she has to do to get elected and then she’s going to f*ck them.

Niko Elmaleh: Okay trust me. She’s a killer.

By positioning herself as friendly to certain conservative causes, Grimes has run the perfect campaign to outmatch a weak-willed Republican like McConnell. After all, members of his own party are some of his harshest critics. But with Grimes supporters so sure that her claims are disingenuous, right-leaning voters thinking about casting a vote in her direction to teach McConnell a lesson are likely to get burned.

H/T: Project Veritas

 

Already reaching billions of dollars, the price of ISIS fight will increase

President Barack Obama has adamantly — if slightly dishonestly — claimed that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground battling Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. But he never said the U.S.’s latest bout of military adventurism aimed at cleaning up problems created by failed foreign policy would be cheap.

According to numbers compiled by the Pentagon and first reported by The Associated Press, the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 billion in taxpayer money on military operations in Iraq and Syria since June. A sharp spike in the cost of military maneuvers in the region occurred in August after the president authorized airstrikes in the region without congressional consent.

AP’s breakdown of the ISIS war spending shows that the $1.1 billion includes heavy spending on firepower — $62 million alone went to Navy munitions for purchases including 47 Tomahawk missiles fired at the al-Qaida linked Khorasan Group.

There are no hard numbers on the daily cost of the conflict, but the Pentagon estimates that taxpayers are currently funding a $7 million- to $10 million-a-day conflict.

Also, though “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” AP reports:

There are currently more than 1,300 U.S. troops in Iraq, including security personnel, staff at two joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil, and advisory teams that are working with Iraqi brigades and headquarters units.

And judging by the musings of people familiar with the conflict in the Middle East, Americans should likely expect more troops to be deployed to the region in time.

Former Obama administration CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came out of the woodwork this week as he did interviews for his new book and urged the president to “jump in the ring” and fight the nation’s problems head on. That includes ISIS.

“I think [Obama’s] hope was that somehow this thing would all go in the right direction. But the fact was, unless we had that presence there, we would lose the leverage on Maliki to keep them in the right place,” Panetta said of the recent turmoil in the Middle East on the “Today Show.”

The former defense secretary added that the president should have kept as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

“I think we’re looking at a 30-year war history here, in which it’s going to take a long time to be able to go after these elements,” Panetta also said, contending that to defeat ISIS “you need to have some boots on the ground.”

Panetta’s new memoir, titled “Worthy Fights,” came under pre-emptive criticism from the Obama administration, likely for passages like this: “Too often in my view the president relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”

Panetta’s calls for more troop involvement echo the opinions of top Pentagon officials like Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who recently insinuated that further troop involvement could become a reality without clarifying how many would hail from the U.S.

“There has to be a ground component in the campaign,” Dempsey recently said.

“We need 12,000 to 15,000 to reclaim lost territory,” he said.

In other words, Americans should likely prepare for the current conflict in the Middle East to become far more expensive in terms of life, limb and taxpayer money.

‘Hero’ could face felony charges for defending himself, friends in gun-free zone

A Texas man heralded as a hero by the owner of a bar that was held up by armed robbers early Saturday morning could face felony charges because he thwarted the criminals in a gun-free zone with his own concealed weapon.

EJ’s Place owner Jenny O’Donnell told the Houston Chronicle that four armed men entered her business around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and ordered patrons to the floor as they demanded money.

A patron sitting at the bar, however, stopped the robbery when he pulled his own handgun and fired on the suspects. After a brief exchange of gunfire, the unidentified patron had killed two suspects and sent the other two fleeing.

“That man was a hero,” said O’Donnell. “We could have had some bodies.”

The unidentified man, who another customer told KHOU usually waits around until closing time to walk female bartenders to their cars, also left the scene — likely because of a sign on the bar window pointing out that it is a felony to possess a firearm in Texas bars.

Regardless of the law, patrons and residents who live near the bar told local media that they, like the owner, are grateful that the armed Samaritan was there.

“He has his right to protect himself and his family and his friends,” resident Charles Webb told KHOU.

Danielle Russell, who lives near the bar, added, “Being a mom, yeah, I would feel safe knowing that he has a gun and he’s going to protect me in a robbery.”

At the time of this article, authorities had not yet identified the armed patron.

“We’re still trying to determine who he is, and why he left the scene,” said Harris County Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Spurgeon.

According to O’Donnell, there is surveillance footage of the incident.

Authorities are also investigating whether the criminals the bar patron dispatched were involved in other violent crimes in the area.

H/T: Guns.com

Anger at president reaches new high as faith in government falls

New polling data suggest that anger at President Barack Obama and a growing distrust of big government could spell trouble for Democratic lawmakers heading into the 2014 midterm elections.

A new Gallup poll reports that 32 percent of likely voters will head to the polls this fall to send a message of opposition to the president and his Democratic colleagues. Just 20 percent say that they will go to the polls to signal support.

Opposition to the president is at a 16-year high. For comparison, opposition to the commander in chief is 13 points higher than during Bill Clinton’s sex scandal and 2 points higher than George Bush’s final year.

Gallup reports:

A majority of Republican registered voters, 58 percent, say they will be sending a message of opposition to Obama with their vote this fall. In contrast, 38 percent of Democratic voters say they will support the president. Rather than supporting Obama, most Democrats, 53 percent, say they will not be sending a message with their vote.

Democrats are a bit less likely now (38 percent) than in 2010 (45 percent) to say they will be sending a message of support to Obama, while Republican opposition to the president is the same.

Meanwhile, numbers from The Associated Press show that more than half of Americans feel that the government is too incompetent to handle economic and other problems facing the nation.

Just 2 percent of respondents reported that they are “extremely confident” that Washington can fix the economy.

When it comes to protecting Americans from terror threats, people on both sides of the political divide said they are losing faith.

“Democrats tend to express more faith in the government’s ability to protect them than do Republicans,” the AP reported. “Yet even among Democrats, just 27 percent are confident the government can keep them safe from terrorist attacks. Fewer than 1 in 5 say so on each of the other issues, including climate change.”

Officials discuss Ebola, ISIS, the Secret Service on Sunday

Guests on Sunday’s political talk shows covered everything from the Secret Service and the economy to the continuing Islamic State terror threat, but the possibility of a U.S. Ebola outbreak took center stage.

Ebola

Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the case of a man in Texas who tested positive for Ebola, sparking national concern.

“As of now, the man in Dallas [Texas], who’s fighting for his life, is the only patient to develop Ebola in the U.S. We know that there are going to be other concerns and rumors and we’ll track everyone one of those down. We want people to be concerned, but appropriately concerned, about people who have the travel and the symptoms that might suggest they need testing for Ebola, and if they do we’ll get that testing done promptly,” Frieden said.

Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer, meanwhile, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to assure the nation that the Obama administration is doing everything it can to stop Ebola “at its source.”

“We’ve been preparing for this eventuality since the outbreak in West Africa started seven months ago,” Pfeiffer said.

The top administration official also argued that Americans should continue to trust government’s ability to handle Ebola and other crises. Pfeiffer also said that the U.S. is better prepared to handle Ebola cases than any country in the world.

“I do understand that people have a growing skepticism of institutions for a long time including government. But people should know that in every one of those situations you mentioned, where a problem arises we deal with it quickly, we deal with it forcefully to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Anthony Fauci, Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institutes director at the National Institutes of Health, criticized lawmakers who have suggested that the government is underestimating the domestic Ebola threat. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently said that federal officials are putting Americans in danger by underestimating contagion risks; he has also expressed concerns about the safety of U.S. personnel President Obama ordered to West Africa.

“I don’t think that there’s data to tell us that that’s a correct statement, with all due respect,” Fauci said of Paul’s remarks. “We have had experience since 1976 with how Ebola is transmitted. And it is clear that it’s transmitted by direct contact with body fluids, blood, diarrhea, vomit, or what have you.

“And there’s no indication that there is another insidious way that it’s transmitted that we’re missing because of the experience that we’ve had. So, we’ve really gotta go with the evidence base. There’s always hypothesis and surmising about that, but there’s no scientific evidence,” he added.

Secret Service

On “Face the Nation,” Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings (Md.) said that “all Americans” should be concerned about the recent Secret Service security breaches.

“I think it’s very bad. And I think there’s culture that has developed, the culture of complacency — we see it with these security breaches,” he said. “Morale is down. And we’ve had a series of events … that should alarm all Americans. And certainly the question has become: Is this the Secret Service that we all thought it was? And I’m beginning to wonder about that.”

Cummings added that he doesn’t believe the Secret Service’s problems will end with the ouster of former director Julia Pierson.

The lawmaker also refuted the theory that the Secret Service’s recent complacency has anything to do with the president’s race.

“We have information that this goes all the way back to the bush administration, a lot of the problems that we are talking about now. It’s just that they are coming to light. A lot of these things existed before our President Obama,” he said. “And back to the present situation, the President’s people have told me that they feel very comfortable, particularly with [Interim Director Joseph] Clancy that is now come in to take over the secret service. So he feels good about it. Most importantly, the First Lady feels very good about it.”

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that the Secret Service should be subjected to an independent review.

“I think this needs a fresh view like the VA, and an independent review,” Ayotte said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Like Cummings, Ayotte contends that the Secret Service’s problems extend far beyond the agency’s leadership.

“[I]t goes beyond the head of the agency, it goes to the culture of the agency, the command structure and if you look at these incidences there seems to be a training issue,” she said.

ISIS

As U.S. helicopters were deployed to Iraq Sunday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) joined “Face the Nation” to warn Americans that there is a possibility that the U.S. may have to deploy troops to fight ISIS.

“If we need special forces there, if that’s what the generals say, then we need to do it. If we engage in a conflict that we know this is a threat to America, we should make it so one-sided that it gets over very quickly,” McCarthy said. “So, we should have everything on the table to make sure we win this.”

The lawmaker also said that the president was wrong to claim that ISIS’s rise in Iraq and Syria was an intelligence failure.

“This was a lack-of-action failure on the administration. You know, Fallujah and Ramadi fell 10 months ago,” he said. “Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta talks about those actions that the administration knew of this and did not take.

“So our options are more limited today. Maybe we could have handled this differently.”

Economy

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew joined ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the economy is improving.

“I think there’s no question that the economy is moving strongly in the right direction,” Lew said, citing job growth over the past six months.

According to the Treasury official, the economy is gaining an average of 200,000 jobs each month.

Still, Lew said that there is much more to be done to help the nation’s middle class.

“That is a huge swing that is affecting the lives of Americans,” he said.

“But there’s also a lot of memory of where we were in ’08 and ’09.”