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Matt Vespa - Despite Amending The Bill, Montana Democrats Still Oppose Pro-Second Amendment Referendum
Posted: 4/1/2015 6:30:00 PM EST

Any ardent supporter of the Second Amendment will surely like what’s being considered for a referendum in Montana. If a resident feels his, or her, right to bear arms has been burdened, this individual can file a lawsuit against the state. Here’s the Gun Owners Access to Justice Act:

Section 2. Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 3], the following definitions apply:

(1) "Burden" means to directly or indirectly constrain, inhibit, curtail, or deny a person's right to bear arms or to compel any action contrary to a person's right to bear arms. It includes but is not limited to withholding benefits, excluding the person from governmental programs, and assessing criminal, civil, or administrative penalties.

(2) "Compelling state interest" means a governmental interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening a person's right to bear arms.

(3) "Person" means an individual, association, partnership, corporation, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity.

(4) "Right to bear arms" means the right defined by Article II, section 12, of the Montana constitution.

(5) "State" means the state of Montana or any political subdivision or local government, municipality, or instrumentality of the state as well as any person acting under color of state law.

Section 3. Right to bear arms protected. (1) The state may not burden a person's right to bear arms unless it proves that burdening the person's right to bear arms furthers a compelling state interest and is the least restrictive means to further that interest.

(2) A person whose right to bear arms has been burdened, or is likely to be burdened, in violation of subsection (1) may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense ONLY AGAINST THE STATE in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or one of its political subdivisions is a party to the proceeding. The person asserting the claim or defense may obtain appropriate relief, including but not limited to injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and compensatory damages.

The last part was amended on March 20 so that only government actions could result in a lawsuit under the law, exempting private enterprise, according to Watchdog Arena. Some companies, like NorthWestern Energy, lobbied for the bill to be changed because they felt it could impact their weapons free work environment:

NorthWestern Energy, a publicly regulated firm and Montana’s largest electric and gas utility company, oppose the bill on the grounds that it would make it difficult for them to keep their workplaces free of weapons, according to a Fox News report. Montana Shooting Sports Association President Gary Marbut, in the other corner, has been an outspoken proponent of the bill, among several gun bills facing the 2015 Legislature, and questions NorthWestern’s motives.

“NorthWestern is opposing a bill that has nothing to do with their corporate mission delivering electricity to its customers,” Marbut told Fox. Marbut claimed NorthWestern’s lobbying efforts seem to be in conflict with the ratepayers they supply, most of whom are gun owners and hunters.

On March 13, NorthWestern chief lobbyist John Fitzpatrick, joined in opposition by a Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control group, testified in front of the Judiciary Committee that the bill would not prevent lawsuits against the utility or schools that forbid guns.

NorthWestern later explained on their website that to the utility’s knowledge “Michael Bloomberg does not have financial interest in the company.” They also stated that all lobbying expenses are borne by their shareholders, not ratepayers, according to Fox.

If HB 598 passes the House, it will advance to the Senate, and appear on the 2016 Election day ballot if it receives legislative approval.

Democrats remain opposed to this bill and the slew of pro-gun bills facing the Legislature. They claim that the state’s gun laws are already strong and that they haven’t heard any complaints, so no change is needed.

Indeed, Montana does have solid laws that protect Second Amendment freedoms, with more bills expanding gun rights heading to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. One of them expands carry rights. Right now, Montana is a peculiar state that requires a permit to carry a concealed handgun, but only within the city limits. Outside those limits, a permit is not required, making the state almost quasi-constitutional carry.

Christine Rousselle - Elizabeth Warren Insists She's Not Running For President
Posted: 4/1/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Sorry, people who were hoping Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would run as the Hillary Clinton alternative in 2016. In an interview on the Today show she made it clear: she is not running and enjoys her current position as a member of the Senate.

No. I'm not running and I'm not going to run. I'm in Washington. I have this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter.

Well there you have it.

Warren had been urged by progressives to run for president, especially in light of Clinton's various controversies. Warren, comparatively, has much less baggage than Sec. Clinton.

No Democrats have declared their intention to run in 2016.

Daniel Doherty - BREAKING: Lois Lerner Escapes Criminal Contempt Charges
Posted: 4/1/2015 4:25:00 PM EST

Lois Lerner, the disgraced ex-IRS official whose evident disdain for conservatives is now a matter of public record, will not be hit with criminal contempt charges for allegedly stonewalling Congress, despite House Republicans’ best efforts. Politico reports:

The Justice Department will not seek criminal contempt charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner, the central figure in a scandal that erupted over whether the tax agency improperly targeted conservative political groups.

Ronald Machen, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a seven-page letter this week that he would not bring a criminal case to a grand jury over Lerner’s refusal to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March 2014. The House approved a criminal contempt resolution against Lerner in May 2014, and Machen’s office has been reviewing the issue since then.

Lerner and other IRS officials, however, are still under investigation by the FBI for the tea party targeting matter — which is a separate probe entirely.

In other words, she’s not off the hook yet – although she's avoided a major legal headache for now.

I'll leave you with this: the clip of Lerner's appearance in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been the source of so much controversy:

Matt Vespa - Sen. Menendez Formally Charged With Corruption
Posted: 4/1/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

This day was coming. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been formally charged with corruption relating to dealings and interventions he made on behalf of one of his donors. The embattled Democrat vows to fight the indictment, and definitely ruled out resigning. 

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told reporters in March (via WaPo):

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on public corruption charges by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., according to the Associated Press.

After a more than two-year investigation, Menendez faces charges for what prosecutors believe were improper efforts by Menendez to help Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based doctor who was also a contributor to Menendez’s campaigns and his longtime friend. Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf in a dispute with the federal regulators over Medicare charges and in a bid by Melgen to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez, would be only the second U.S. senator to face a federal corruption indictment in the last 20 years. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and suggested that any gifts he received from Melgen were part of a close, personal friendship that dates back to the early 1990s.

Federal prosecutors are also expected to unveil charges against Melgen connected to the gifts-for-favors allegations.

The Post noted that this case could last months, even years–and that Menendez's legal team tried desperately to convince Attorney General Eric Holder's top deputies not to file the charges. Menendez is the second U.S. Senator to be charged with corruption in two decades.  

UPDATE: Via National Journal: Menendez will step down as the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee.  He hopes this move will be a temporary.

UPDATE: Via FBI press release: Menendez has been indicted on 14 charges ranging from bribery to making false statements

Menendez, 61, of Union City, New Jersey, and Melgen, 61, of West Palm Beach, Florida, were indicted in the District of New Jersey for one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, eight counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud. Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.

According to allegations in the indictment, between January 2006 and January 2013, Menendez accepted close to $1 million worth of lavish gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions of dollars to Melgen and to support the visa applications of several of Melgen’s girlfriends.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that, among other gifts, Menendez accepted flights on Melgen’s private jet, a first-class commercial flight and a flight on a chartered jet; numerous vacations at Melgen’s Caribbean villa in the Dominican Republic and at a hotel room in Paris; and $40,000 in contributions to his legal defense fund and over $750,000 in campaign contributions. Menendez never disclosed any of the reportable gifts that he received from Melgen on his financial disclosure forms.

According to allegations in the indictment, during this same time period, Menendez allegedly engaged in three efforts to use his Senate office and staff to advocate on behalf of Melgen’s personal and financial interests. First, Menendez allegedly pressured executive agencies in connection with a conflict between Melgen and the government of the Dominican Republic relating to a disputed contract that Melgen purchased to provide exclusive screening of containers coming through Dominican ports. Second, Menendez allegedly advocated on behalf of Melgen in connection with a Medicare billing dispute worth approximately $8.9 million to Melgen. Third, Menendez allegedly took active steps to support the tourist and student visa applications of three of Melgen’s girlfriends, as well as the visa application of the younger sister of one of Melgen’s girlfriends. Throughout these efforts, Menendez allegedly engaged in advocacy for Melgen all the way up to the highest levels of the U.S. government, including meeting with a U.S. cabinet secretary, contacting a U.S. Ambassador, meeting with the heads of executive agencies and other senior executive officials and soliciting other U.S. Senators, all in order to assist Melgen’s personal and pecuniary interests.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Leah Barkoukis - IRS Offers Tax Deduction for Abortions But Not Stillborn Babies
Posted: 4/1/2015 3:33:00 PM EST

Tax Day is quickly approaching and those looking to figure out which of their medical expenses are deductible might be surprised to see abortion at the top of the list of items that can be included in one's medical expense deduction. 

That’s right, according to the IRS, “you can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for a legal abortion.” In other words, killing your child earns you a tax break.

Even more disconcerting, however, is that the medical expenses parents incur for a stillborn child cannot be deducted. So death of a child by natural causes cannot be exempted, while the active killing of an unborn child can be deducted.

Got it.

H/T: LifeNews

Guy Benson - MSNBC 'Debate' on Indiana Law: 'Cut His Mic Off!'
Posted: 4/1/2015 3:00:00 PM EST

The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson (with whom I happen to disagree on same-sex marriage) appeared on Ed Schultz's MSNBC program (cough) last night to discuss Indiana's religious freedom law, and the resulting conversation culminated with the host instructing producers to silence Anderson's microphone. End of Discussion:


Schultz advances one false or misleading narrative after another, then loses his composure when Anderson (or "Mr. Ryan," as Schultz calls him at one point) replies with rapid-fire factual corrections. Schultz interrupts Anderson's first answer almost immediately to contest the statement that Indiana's law is effectively the same as other RFRAs, including the federal law, which have been on the books for many years.  They are, in fact, virtually identical, with two relatively minor exceptions: First, the Hoosier State's law specifies that businesses are free to use RFRA claims to defend themselves from administrative sanctions and lawsuits, and second, it allows RFRA defenses to be mounted within private legal disputes that do not directly involve the government.  Anderson calmly explains that Indiana's legislative text reflects both the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby precedent, as well as the obvious reality that organizations like the New York Times and MSNBC can exercise First Amendment rights despite being corporations.  On the second small distinction, which Schultz didn't raise, four US circuit courts and the Obama DOJ have affirmed that RFRA protections can apply in cases involving private entities.  Defeated on the first point, Schultz moves on:  "If a gay couple walks into a restaurant, and I own it," he bellows, "you're telling me in Indiana, if I own that restaurant, that I can tell them to get the hell out of here? And you don't think that's discrimination?  That's the position of the right wing, correct?"  Incorrect.  Anderson challenges Schultz to point out any Indiana business that is denying services as a matter of course to gays and lesbians.  Schultz doesn't respond, perhaps because it isn't happening.  This form of discrimination wouldn't suddenly be "allowed" to happen under the new law anyway; it simply affords targets of government penalties or lawsuits the recourse of citing RFRA in their own self-defense...with no guarantee of success in court, mind you.  Here's another point, raised earlier in the week by Gabriel Malor:

Indiana does not have a public accommodation law that protects against anti-gay discrimination, meaning there’s no state law in Indiana preventing anti-gay discrimination in businesses even before the state RFRA was enacted. Notably, despite the lack of such a law, nobody can point to any Indiana businesses that were discriminating against gays.

Under Schultz's scenario, yes, a restaurant owner technically could tell a gay couple to "get the hell out," based on Indiana law as it's existed long before RFRA was even on the radar screen.  The new law doesn't change or impact that reality.  But just as importantly, despite business owners having the "right" to deny blanket services to gays for many years, Indiana businesses aren't doing so.  The Left has whipped up a self-righteous moral panic over a hypothetical situation that (a) is irrelevant to RFRA, and (b) has been proven to be unfounded by years of free, un-bigoted commerce in the state.  As far as gay rights and RFRA are concerned (most RFRA legal relief has absolutely nothing to do with gay issues), the most likely application at stake involves whether small businesses run by religious people can use RFRA as a defense against legal action stemming from their decision to decline providing their talents and services at same-sex weddings specifically.  This is a remarkably slender battleground.  Such modest carve-outs are a reasonable and fair accommodation in a free society.  A majority of Americans now support same-sex civil marriage, but a strong majority also believe that Orthodox Jewish florists, Muslim caterers and Christian photographers shouldn't be coerced into participating in those weddings if they'd prefer not to, on conscience grounds.  A tolerant, diverse society should permit such modest allowances -- just as it should allow, say, an LGBT activist photographer to decline a job at an aggressively anti-gay rights organization's annual convention.  Neither values-based choice should risk potentially business-destroying lawsuits.  Let's try authentic coexistence, rather than racing around trying to pummel each other into submission. RFRAs offer the possibility for that sort of cultural breathing room. 

Under the laws' balancing tests, people and businesses invoking RFRA defenses would first have to demonstrate that their religious exercise had been "substantially burdened."  It seems reasonable to conclude that serving gays at a lunch counter or hotel would not meet that threshold, whereas forced involvement in an actual wedding event could (or should).  Then the aggressor would need to show that superseding the defendant's religious liberties both serves a compelling interest, and is being meted out through the least restrictive means possible.  These are healthy, welcome protections and standards.  And once again, they do not guarantee that the defendants will prevail in the end.  There is no "open license to discriminate" here; RFRAs merely ensure that targeted parties have an opportunity to invoke this defense.  These facts are a far cry from the ignorant, indignant hyperventilation we've seen from many quarters over Indiana's new law.  I'll leave you with the outrage du jour, wherein a local news station literally went door to door in a small town trying to smoke out a business that might discriminate against gay customers.  They found...a pizzeria owner, who said she'd object to catering a gay wedding, thus unleashing an unhinged bullying firestorm of preposterous and frightening proportions:


The father in the clip understandably raised hackles by stating his opinion that people "choose" homosexuality, but the key sentence comes at the very end of the report: "The O'Connell family tells me that if a gay couple, or a couple belonging to another religion, stepped into their restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service. They only say they would just not cater their wedding."  Is this the sort of "hatred" over which these people (who did not seek the spotlight, by the way) ought to be abused and boycotted? Is this the sort of country we want to live in?

Matt Vespa - Ex-Clinton Aide Had Secret Intelligence Network, Raises Questions If Hillary Used This 'Undisclosed Back Channel’
Posted: 4/1/2015 2:45:00 PM EST

ProPublica and Gawker have joined forces to investigate whether then-Secretary of State Secretary Hillary Clinton might have received intelligence from a secret network allegedly headed by Sidney Blumenthal.  Blumenthal was a former aide to President Bill Clinton and longtime ally. With the help of a CIA agent, he reportedly sent sensitive information to Hillary Clinton's private email account while she was Secretary of State. These emails have been turned over (both publications noted that Clinton's spokesperson assisted in this story), and there is no indication if she read or responded to them. We also don’t know who funded this secretive network, but it raises questions about the former secretary of state possibly using an “undisclosed back channel” for intelligence relating to Libya and other foreign affairs, according to ProPublica. The emails were posted on the Internet in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar [emphasis mine]:

Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.

Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.

It’s unclear who tasked Blumenthal, known for his fierce loyalty to the Clintons, with preparing detailed intelligence briefs. It’s also not known who was paying him, or where the operation got its money. The memos were marked “confidential” and relied in many cases on “sensitive” sources in the Libyan opposition and Western intelligence and security services. Other reports focused on Egypt, Germany, and Turkey.

Indeed, though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005. Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC. He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield. DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”

In one exchange in March 2013, Blumenthal emailed Drumheller, “Thanks. Can you send Libya report.” Drumheller replied, “Here it is, pls do not share it with Cody. I don’t want moin speculating on sources. It is on the Maghreb and Libya.” Cody is Cody Shearer, a longtime Clinton family operative—his brother was an ambassador under Bill Clinton and his now-deceased sister was married to Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott—who was in close contact with Blumenthal. While it’s not entirely clear from the documents, “Moin” may refer to the nickname of Mohamed Mansour El Kikhia, a member of the Kikhia family, a prominent Libyan clan with ties to the Libyan National Transition Council. (An email address in Blumenthal’s address book, which was also leaked, was associated with his Facebook page.)

There’s no indication in Blumenthal’s emails whether Clinton read or replied to them before she left State on February 1, 2013, but he was clearly part of a select group with knowledge of the private clintonemail.com address, which was unknown to the public until Gawker published it this year.

You can read the Libya emails here.  It also appears Blumenthal’s reported network worked closely with the Libyan opposition at the time, even tossing the idea of putting operatives on the ground through a private contractor:

On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a “sensitive source” saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.

Blumenthal followed up the next day with an email titled “Re: More Magariaf private reax.” It said Libyan security officials believed an Islamist radical group called the Ansa al Sharia brigade had prepared the attack a month in advance and “took advantage of the cover” provided by the demonstrations against the video.

An October 25, 2012 memo says that Magariaf and the Libyan army chief of staff agree that the “situation in the country is becoming increasingly dangerous and unmanageable” and “far worse” than Western leaders realize.

Blumenthal’s email warnings, of course, followed a year of Libyan hawkishness on the part of Clinton. In February of 2011, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that "it is time for Gaddafi to go.” The next month, after having described Russian reluctance over military intervention as “despicable,” Clinton met with rebel leaders in Paris and drummed up support for a no-fly zone while in Cairo. On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted to back Libyan rebels against Gaddafi.

It’s this buildup, which Clinton still proudly recalled in her 2014 memoir, that Blumenthal appears to join in on 2011. In addition to the intel memos, his emails also disclose that he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition, and even plotted to insert operatives on the ground using a private contractor.

A May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.” Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria.

“Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. “It is going to be around $60,000, coverting r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”

Gawker and ProPublica allege that “the general” is David L. Grange, who ran special operations from the Pentagon until 1999. He went on to found Osprey Global Solutions, which is a government contracting/consulting firm that specializes in intelligence, arms sales, and security training. Through documents posted by Lazar, Gawker and ProPublica, noted that a memo cited that Osprey would work with the National Transition Council–the governing authority in post-Qaddafi Libya–to “assist in the resumption of access to its assets and operations in country” and train Libyan forces in intelligence, weaponry, and ‘rule-of-land warfare.’”

Everyone involved, including the agencies investigating the hack, are refusing comment. Both publications reported that Drumheller’s business partner admitted that the former “worked” with Blumenthal, but stopped commenting from there. The FBI refused to comment, with Shearer saying he would heed to the advice of the Bureau and not talk about it.

Yet, the article also noted a Blumenthal memo on August 23, 2012 that detailed a series of kidnappings of foreign workers and diplomats in the Libyan cities of Benghazi, Tripoli, and Misrata, along with bombings that highlight a security situation devolving into chaos. Again, we do not know if Clinton read or replied to these correspondences, but if she did; it leaves her wide open to scrutiny, especially since she said no U.S. intelligence officials had “advance knowledge of the threat.” Granted, while the memo cited an increasingly hostile environment, it did not specifically say that U.S. foreign workers were at risk. Though, I doubt anyone will see it that way.

Though this network emailing Clinton’s private email address raises questions, the publications also mentioned that it was necessary to a certain degree:

Whatever Blumenthal, Shearer, Drumheller, and Grange were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf, it appears that she could have used the help: According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012—the height of the Libya crisis—State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers. Today, State has three Libyan desk officers and 11 people in the Near Eastern Magreb Bureau. A State Department official wouldn't say how many officers were on the desk in 2011, but said there was always "at least one" officer and "sometimes many more, working on Libya."

Reached for comment, a State Department public affairs official who would only speak on background declined to address questions about Blumenthal’s relationship to Clinton, whether she was aware of the intelligence network, and who if anyone was paying Blumenthal. Asked about the Tunisia-Libya mission, the official replied, “There was a trip with the secretary in October of 2011, but there was also a congressional delegation in April, 2011. There were media reports about both of these at the time." Neither trip involved travelling via Tunis.

Gawker updated its post to include that State had at least one desk officer assigned to Libya, despite no records of one in 2011 and 2012.

Still, who bankrolled this network? The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf aptly noted that just one of these missions, cited above, cost tens of thousands of dollars:

Who was paying for all this intelligence and analysis that wound up on Secretary Clinton's desk? Was this an expensive favor from someone? Did she bankroll it from her personal fortune? Was it hidden somewhere in the State Department's budget? The public deserves a true explanation, whatever it is, before they consider entrusting the presidency to her. So far, she is content to let voters wonder.

Bonus: Since we’re back on the issue of Clinton’s emails, James Carville conceded that the questions surrounding Clinton’s email server are “fair.” (H/T America Rising)

Here’s Ed’s post about this network over at Hot Air.

Daniel Doherty - Latest: Airliner Knew Deranged Pilot Suffered From "Severe Depression"
Posted: 4/1/2015 1:30:00 PM EST

It's been over a week now since 149 innocent passengers perished aboard Germanwings Flight 9525, all of whom suffered unimaginably and tragically in their final moments. Unsurprisingly, however, we still don't know (and probably cannot know) exactly why the flight’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, lost his mind and killed everyone on board.

And while it’s been firmly established that he was a deeply troubled young man (he shredded doctor notes declaring him medically unfit to fly and had, according to his girlfriend, an obsessive and overbearing personality), the latest bombshell is scandalizing: Lufthansa knew about Lubitz’s alarming medical history for years and did nothing.

The New York Times reports:

The co-pilot at the controls of the German jetliner that crashed in the French Alps last week informed Lufthansa in 2009 that he had suffered from severe depression, the company said Tuesday. …

It was the first acknowledgment by Lufthansa that it knew of Mr. Lubitz’s mental health issues before the crash, and raised further questions about why the airline had allowed Mr. Lubitz to complete his training and go on to fly passenger jets.

Why indeed? In fairness to Lufthansa, however, as Dennis Prager notes in his must-read column this week, just because a person is depressed does not necessarily mean he (or she) is capable of great acts of evil.

“We've heard repeatedly that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was being treated for depression -- as if that largely explains why he did what he did,” he writes. “Yet, every one of us knows one or two depressed individuals, and it is inconceivable that they would commit mass murder.”

Thus, the airline could not possibly have known the depths of Lubitz's derangement. After all, Prager argues, Lubitz “lacked a properly functioning conscience” that, quite obviously, wasn't readily apparent to most people. And yet while “severe depression” might not necessarily be a medically disqualifying condition for pilots (clearly it wasn't in this particular instance), isn't it alarming that the airline was not more aware of, or concerned with, Lubitz's medical condition?

Meanwhile, this isn't helping matters:

Lufthansa, whose CEO previously said Lubitz was 100% fit to fly, described its statement Tuesday as a "swift and seamless clarification" and said it was sharing the information and documents -- including training and medical records -- with public prosecutors.

Despite his medical record, this false and now-retracted statement suggests that the airline was completely and totally oblivious to how dangerous Lubitz was to the general public.

Surely, then, if this tragedy teaches us anything, it's that Germanwings (and every other airline in operation around the world) needs to do a much better job vetting and monitoring their pilots.

Let's hope that process has already begun.

Christine Rousselle - Newt Gingrich Pulls April Fools' Day Prank on Twitter
Posted: 4/1/2015 12:30:00 PM EST

Fans of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R) may have been a tad surprised when they saw him tweet early this morning morning that he's had a change of heart and now supports President Obama's foreign policy:

...but never fear, Gingrich was simply getting a (very) early start on this year's April Fools' Day pranks.

Gingrich joins many other politicians who have used April Fools' Day to make a fake announcement. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) teased in a tweet that sounded vaguely like a declaration of a presidential run...that wound up being an announcement of support for the University of Wisconsin's Men's Basketball team in their upcoming game in the NCAA Final Four.

Happy April Fools! Trust nobody.

Cortney O'Brien - Indiana Pro-life Site Hacked After it Announces Support of RFRA
Posted: 4/1/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

The Indiana Right to Life website has been taken offline by hackers after the pro-life group announced its support of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While no direct explanation has been confirmed, the timing of the attack is certainly suspicious. The pro-life group sent out this urgent press release Wednesday morning:

Hackers took Indiana Right to Life's website offline Tuesday evening, possibly in retaliation for the organization's support of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). A Twitter user claimed responsibility, using the same hashtag - #Offline - as was used by the apparent hacker who disrupted the state of Indiana's website on Friday, Mar. 27.

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter responded to the hacking incident with no regrets about his organization’s goals:

"We face bitter opposition to our work protecting the unborn every day, but most who oppose our mission do so in the open," said Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. "This attack on our website is cowardly. We have been exercising our freedom of speech as we support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is an important safeguard for pro-life Hoosiers against government directives supporting abortion. This attack appears to be in retaliation for that support. It's disappointing that the level of discourse has been lowered by a party wishing to silence our voice."

In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) defended RFRA and lambasted the press for their mischaracterization of the important legislation. While many critics decried the bill as a tool to discriminate against homosexuals, Pence rejected that description and insisted it is simply about protecting Hoosiers’ religious freedom.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination,” he said. “As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination I would have vetoed it. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana does not give anyone the right to deny services to anyone.”

Indiana Right to Life’s endorsement of the bill comes as no surprise, considering it would, in part, prevent pro-lifers from being forced to support abortions.

I think the #Offline hacker needs to read the fine print. Hopefully the website is restored and Indiana Right to Life can get back to providing Hoosiers with important pro-life information and resources.