The Progressive Policy Institute is a Democratic think tank located in Washington, DC and is under fire for actions it used when it found out one of its managers was embezzling funds. 3 years ago PPI realized that a senior manager had quietly used unauthorized checks, credit card charges and cash withdrawals to take $100,000 from the think tank’s accounts. These actions almost caused the organization to reach insolvency.
The biggest problem is with how the think tank handled the information they were given. Instead of reporting the employee’s actions to the police, the nonprofit organization decided to forgo legal action and settle on restitution. They did not alert their donors to this breach of trust. Unfortunately many DC organizations faced with this same issue have found the same approach to be best.
By not reporting the incident to the police, the group has managed to avoid much of the bad publicity they may have had they chosen to prosecute the alleged embezzler. But doesn’t this seem a bit like a lie to their donors? Additionally, the person who did this has not been named. That allows this person to just go and find a new job, potentially at another similar organization without any blemishes on their reputation.
With other groups falling into this same category, it is smart to be aware of who you are donating to. The crooked behavior of these nonprofits and think tanks is concerning for many donors who may not be aware.
The week of Thanksgiving is a time for all Americans to pause, reflect and count their blessings. On Sunday morning, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and her family received perhaps the greatest blessing of all: a new baby girl, Brynn Catherine. The newborn is “taking it all in stride,” the Congresswoman playfully wrote on her Instagram page, which you can see and read below:
Congratulations to the Rodgers family from everyone here at Townhall!
Here's another anecdote for the White House to dismiss, just in time for the holidays. Via the Weekly Standard, meet Debra Fishericks:
This segment, which aired on a CBS News affiliate in Virginia, is unsparingly brutal for the White House. Fishericks is (a) fighting kidney cancer, (b) loves her soon-to-be-canceled employer-based coverage, (c) can't find an affordable policy on Obamacare's exchange that allows her to keep her doctors, and (d) tearfully frets that the new regime will be so punitive and expensive that she won't have enough money to visit her beloved grandchild. A genuine parade of horribles. Fishericks' experience shreds four core promises of Obamacare: She can't keep her plan, she can't keep her doctor, she can't afford the new options, and she falls beyond the administration's "five percent" deception. She's one of the millions who will lose their group coverage status over the next few years. The Chicago Tribune's editorial board notices that Obamacare's roster of losers seems to grow by the day:
If President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders think the outcry against Obamacare is fierce now, watch if millions more Americans get blindsided with the news that they'll be forced into these dysfunctional government online marketplaces. Some will face higher premiums or higher deductibles, and they'll be required to share private medical and financial information on a website with a questionable security firewall, opening them to fraudsters, hackers and cyberchaos...The full brunt of Obamacare's impact on Americans is still gathering. Every law creates winners and losers, but with this law so far, the losers are piling up.
Click through for their rundown of this list. The fundamental lie of Obamacare was that there were no losers. Everyone will benefit! Lower national spending! Less healthcare-related deficit spending! Substantially decreased rates for everyone! Keep your doctor! Keep your plan! These blanket promises were never going to be honored, yet they were routinely articulated by the law's advocates. Today's retroactive attempt to introduce the concept of trade-offs has been particularly wrenching for Democrats because of how much political capital they've spent in recent years denying or downplaying these exact critiques. Another categorical vow from the Obamacare set is that lower-income Americans will qualify for generous taxpayer subsidies to offset rising health costs. A National Journal analysis concluded that for a majority of families and individuals forced into the group market, government subsidies won't be sufficient to reduce net expenses. New reporting from CNN echoes a point that conservative wonks like Philip Klein have been making for months -- namely, that many young, healthy, lower-income people won't receive any subsidies at all. Because a fair chunk of this cohort eschews insurance already, the sticker shock will be intense:
One of the basic tenets of Obamacare is that the government will help lower-income Americans -- anyone making less than about $45,900 a year -- pay for the health insurance everyone is now mandated to have. But a CNN analysis shows that in the largest city in nearly every state, many low-income younger Americans won't get any subsidy at all. Administration officials said the reason so many Americans won't receive a subsidy is that the cost of insurance is lower than the government initially expected. Subsidies are calculated using a complicated formula based on the cost of insurance premiums, which can vary drastically from state to state, and even county to county. That doesn't change the fact that in Chicago, a 27-year old will receive no subsidy to help offset premiums of more than $165 a month if he makes more than $27,400 a year. In Portland, Oregon, subsidies for individuals making just $28,725 a year phase out for those younger than 35 years old...Back in April, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional subcommittee that any individual making under that $45,960 threshold -- or four times the poverty level of $11,490 for an individual -- would qualify for "an upfront tax subsidy." "Somebody who's making $25,500 would definitely qualify for a subsidy if he or she is purchasing coverage in the individual market," Sebelius added. Despite the secretary's assurance, a 25-year-old living in Nashville, Tennessee, making $25,500 will not qualify for a subsidy, for example.
The Obama administration contends that this is actually good news because some of the premium costs are lower than they'd anticipated. But "lower than anticipated" is not the same as "lower." For young people who've been opting out of insurance, or who've been purchasing bare-bones catastrophic coverage, the new costs will be unaffordable. These are exactly the sorts of people Obamacare supporters must lure into the risk polls to make the law's financial model viable (and are thus far failing). If young urbanites discover that earning less than $30,000 per year makes them too wealthy to qualify for Obamacare subsidies, they very well may choose to simply pay the inexpensive Obamacare mandate tax and avoid the scheme altogether. That's also assuming that the IRS penalty structure will be enforced competently and efficiently -- a big question mark. As the Washington Post reports today, the enforcement process is shaping up to be a byzantine logistical hurdle, complicated by many moving and incomplete parts. Obamacare represents "“the largest expansion of IRS responsibilities in recent history,” a Treasury official tells the Post. Oh good. I'm sure the IRS' heavy involvement will do wonders to resuscitate Obamacare's image, in light of the agency's wide popularity and sterling reputation for even-handed fairness.
The federal government posted a $41.3 billion profit on its student loan business in fiscal year 2013, a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil ($44.9 billion) and Apple ($41.7 billion). USA Today reports:
The numbers track the entire fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. They come as concern continues to mount about the level of indebtedness by college students and graduates. Estimates show more than $1.2 trillion in student loan debt across the nation, more than the nation owes on credit cards.
Kelly Wilk, a December 2010 graduate from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, feels the impact of her loans all the time. She graduated with about $25,000 in federal loans and now owes slightly more than $22,000, with a monthly payment of $281.
"For some, this payment may not seem too bad," the 25-year-old Livonia resident said. "But for me, it is a huge monthly payment; it is pretty much a car payment or half of rent.
Student loan debt is crushing young Americans and it is the fastest growing type of debt in the nation. While credit card debt has grown by just 2 percent over the last two years, student loan debt has grown by 20 percent. Americans now owe more in student loan debt than any other consumer type of consumer debt except for mortgages.
And yet the federal government insists on continuing to subsidize it, which only sends tuition higher, forcing even more students to take on more debt.
There is a better way.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is working on legalization that would reduce the price of higher education by dismantling the monopoly power existing colleges an universities use to keep tuition rising.
Lee's bill would empower states to create their own accreditation organizations, who would then be able to sanction new higher education options. Lee outlined in October:
Today, only degree-issuing academic institutions are even allowed to be accredited. Under the new, optional state systems that my bill would authorize, accreditation could also be available to specialized programs, individual courses, apprenticeships, professional credentialing, and even competency-based tests. States could accredit online courses, or hybrid models with elements on- and off-campus.
Imagine having access to credit and student aid and for:
- a program in computer science accredited by Apple or in music accredited by the New York Philharmonic;
- college-level history classes on-site at Mount Vernon or Gettysburg;
- medical-technician training developed by the Mayo Clinic;
- taking massive, open, online courses offered by the best teachers in the world... from your living room or the public library.
Brick-and-ivy institutions will always be the backbone of our higher-education system, but they shouldn’t be the only option.
If these new models were to succeed, they would create a virtuous cycle. Traditional colleges would be impelled to cut waste, refocus on their students, and embrace innovation and experimentation as part of their campus cultures.
This reform could allow a student to completely customize her transcript – and “college” experience – while allowing federal aid to follow her through all of these different options.
Students could mix and match courses, programs, tests, on-line and on-campus credits a la carte, pursuing their degree or certification at their own pace... while bringing down costs to themselves, their families, and the taxpayers.
The federal government should not be in the business of subsidizing debt for anyone, but particularly not young Americans just starting to live on their own. More Republicans should embrace Lee's vision for a different higher education solution.
In a major blow to birth control proponents, the European equivalent of Plan B - known as the "morning after pill" - now includes a warning that the contraceptive is not effective for women over 165 pounds and does not work at all for women over 176 pounds. The implications are staggering: according to the Centers for Disease Control, the average weight of an American woman over 20 is 166.2 pounds.
Feminist outlet Jezebel pointed out that the saga began with a 2011 study:
...a 2011 study out of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland that found that "the risk of pregnancy was more than threefold greater for obese women compared with women with normal body mass index, whichever EC [Emergency Contraception] was taken." They also found that the risk of pregnancy was particularly high if that emergency contraception was made of levonorgestrel, the hormone found in many of the major over-the-counter morning after pills sold in the United States, like Plan B One-Step. The study recommended that overweight women use IUDs.
HRA Pharma, the European manufacturer of a drug essentially identical to America's Plan B, has followed up on the findings of that study and concluded that it is time to warn women that "the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds," reports Mother Jones.
This is a - no pun intended - huge problem for American women, most of whom are overweight and are using the morning after pill in increasing proportions.
Between 2006-2011, 11% of sexually experienced American women aged 15-44 has used emergency contraception - a group equivalent to 5.8 million women. Within that demographic, the percentages were even higher for the youngest: 14% of those aged 15-19 and 23% of those aged 20-24 had used emergency contraception.
It is worth noting that the study only included data through 2010, and all trends point to increasing use of emergency contraception like Plan B. Many recent events encouraged the use of the morning after pill, including: Obamacare's insurance-covered contraception mandate, the FDA's approval earlier this year of non-prescription morning after pills, and the late 2012 push by pediatricians to expand birth control access to girls under age 17.
It is tragic that so many women who bought into the massive liberal campaign to expand use of the drug are not only using an ineffective method of birth control but are still operating under a false peace of mind. Many celebrated that emergency contraception would lower abortion rates by preventing conception, but if the pill is truly ineffective for most American women then it is hard to believe that it has decreased the rate of unwanted pregnancy.
Although Plan B is the most well-known American morning after pill, other similar emergency contraceptives are also implicated. These include:
At this point, neither the FDA nor major birth control manufacturers have responded to the developments in Europe or issued similar warnings. It is absolutely critical that users of birth control look past the propaganda of the drug's supporters and inform themselves. An unwanted pregnancy is not worth the risk.
UPDATE - The FDA is reviewing the evidence. Mother Jones has the full update here.
American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been sitting in a filthy Iranian prison for more than a year. He's been tortured and beaten for practicing his faith, but that wasn't enough for the Obama administration to bother negotiating his release as part of the deal reached with Iran over the weekend.
"It's devastating," the pastor's wife Naghmeh Abedini told Fox News Radio.
She said her children were praying to have him home for the holidays. "It's unbearable," she said, "to think of another Christmas without him and see my kids not have him home for Christmas."
After the nuclear deal announced over the weekend, Abedini said she doesn't see "any more leverage left."
"Iran has no incentive for them to release him. I don't think we have any more leverage," she said. "We now have to consider other avenues and having other countries speak out because our country when we could have used our leverage chose to stay silent."
On the night of November 23, 2013, the President of the United States left an American pastor, Saeed Abedini, behind.
The "deal" with Iran announced tonight by President Obama, which allegedly halts "part" of Iran's nuclear program, allows Iran to enrich uranium and allows it to maintain a nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions and humanitarian relief.
It is outrageous that the Obama Administration commenced these negotiations and concluded them without the release of Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen. In fact, the Administration has just confirmed that he was not even part of the negotiations, stating that “The P5+1 talks focused exclusively on nuclear issues.”
The Obama Administration did not volunteer this information; it was revealed only after a specific inquiry from Fox News.
For more than a year, Pastor Saeed has undergone torture at the hands of his Iranian captors, most recently being transferred to one of the most deadly prisons in the world. Yet instead of demanding the release of this innocent U.S. citizen as a precondition to any negotiations with Iran, the Obama Administration is relaxing sanctions and providing humanitarian relief, while getting nothing but more meaningless promises in return.
Iran has been in a state of armed conflict against the U.S. since 1979. It has taken American hostages, killed Americans directly through terror attacks, and has been a principal supplier of arms to our jihadist enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In other words, Iran has American blood on its hands.
Iran has been our enemy since the jihadist takeover in 1979, and it remains our enemy. It holds an American pastor -- torturing him in horrific prison conditions -- merely because it hates his Christian faith.
Pastor Saeed entered Iran with the permission of the Iranian government to help construct an orphanage, a mission to help the most vulnerable in Iranian society. Once there, he was arrested, tried without even being allowed to be present for his entire trial, convicted of nothing more than his Christian faith, and held in appalling conditions.
And we're giving Iran humanitarian relief?
It is difficult to comprehend the level of betrayal. We have made "deals" with tyrants before. One of former President Bill Clinton's gifts to the world was the 1994 "agreed framework" that provided U.S. aid in exchange for an alleged halt in North Korea's nuclear program. The result? North Korea is now not only a nuclear power but also a nuclear proliferator that has worked with Iran.
We have left Pastor Saeed behind in the vain hope that we can trust Iran.
It is a dark, cold night in America.
The Obama administration leaving Americans behind? Typical. The Obama administration refusing to stand up for persecuted Christians in the Muslim world? Also typical.
If you want to help, you can sign a petition here urging for Pastor Saeed's release.
I've already written about the issues plaguing Vermont's health insurance exchange, and the problems keep on coming.
For starters, less than one percent of Vermont's residents have attempted to enroll in any plan at all. Roughly 5,500 Vermonters have attempted to enroll (0.88 percent of the state's population), and of those 5,500 people, about 2,200 have succeeded in enrolling in a plan. (It is unknown how many people have actually paid, however.)
For comparison's sake, the undergraduate population of the University of Vermont is 9,970 students.
Secondly, the website is a piece of crap that might compromise a person's identity.
From the Burlington Free Press:
Officials overseeing the Vermont Health Connect website confirmed Friday there was a security breach on the system last month in which one user got improper access to another user’s Social Security number and other data.
A report from state to federal officials overseeing the health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act said a consumer reported the incident with the Vermont Health Connect website on Oct. 17.
The consumer, whom officials would not identify, reported that he received in the mail — from an unnamed sender — a copy of his own application for insurance under the state exchange.
“On the back of the envelope was hand-written ‘VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS NOT A SECURE WEBSITE!’ This was also (written) on the back of the last page of the printed out application,” said the incident report.
As Vermont is shifting to a single-payer system in the coming years, individual insurance plans will be illegal in the state as of the end of this year and people without employer-provided insurance will be put on the exchange. Thousands of Vermont residents could be without insurance if the exchange website continues to have these errors.
The internecine feud between Liz Cheney, and her estranged younger sister, Mary, isn’t the only problem the U.S. Senate hopeful faces as she positions herself to unseat incumbent Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in next year's primary run-off. Charges of carpet bagging have cropped up from time to time, of course, and it seems obvious Team Cheney is finally determined to put those growing fears to rest. Politico reports her campaign spent $40,000 this week on a new spot featuring her three children, which will run before, during and after the Thanksgiving holiday, highlighting her family’s deep ties to Wyoming. Notably, the ad explicitly mentions her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president -- a guy who might not have national appeal but who is, as the Washington Post editorialized, as close to “political royalty” as one can possibly be in the Cowboy State.
Speaking of the retired elder statesman, he’s convinced his daughter is going to win this thing outright, this poll notwithstanding. The ad below, then, might do some good on that score, and convince Wyomans she’s indeed one of them. If not, I'm not sure how she bounces back:
As the United States continues to draw down troops in Afghanistan, extremism inside the country continues to creep back in. What's the issue this time? Bringing back public stoning, which is used most of the time against women.
Afghanistan's decision to consider reintroducing public stoning as a punishment has drawn a sharp rebuke from Human Rights Watch, who says it harks to the time of Taliban rule.
"It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the [Hamid] Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment," said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, according to The Guardian.
"President Karzai needs to demonstrate at least a basic commitment to human rights and reject this proposal out of hand."
The punishment appears in a draft revision of Afghanistan’s penal code, which is being managed by the country’s Ministry of Justice.
The draft says those who are unmarried and commit acts of adultery should be subjected to 100 lashes, and if they are married, they should be stoned in public, The Telegraph reports.
"Men and women who commit adultery shall be punished based on the circumstances to one of the following punishments: lashing, stoning [to death]," a portion of the text read, according to The Guardian.
It isn't surprising Karzai would consider something like this, after all, he is a scum bag who said once if Pakistan went to war with the United States, he would side with Pakistan. The reality for Karzai is that once the U.S. completely turns over security to Afghan forces, he's a dead man unless he agrees to re-implement extremist policies like public stoning.
Last week on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President George W. Bush and his wife Laura warned about the devastating impact U.S. forces drawing down too quickly will have on Afghani women.
"I know if we leave too early, women and young girls will suffer a lot."
House Speaker John Boehner’s health insurance premiums will nearly double — and his deductibles will almost triple — as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to figures provided by his office at POLITICO’s request. “The Boehners are fortunate enough to be able to afford higher costs. But many Americans seeing their costs go up are not,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. “It’s because of them that this law needs to go.” Boehner and his wife, Debbie, currently pay a monthly premium of $433 for family coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield, with a deductible of $700, according to his office. Last week, the speaker began shopping for a new plan in the D.C. exchange, a search his office drew attention to by tweeting pictures of him trying to enroll...This is what he found at the market: To keep a similar plan, the Boehners would have to pay $802 per month in premiums, with a deductible of $2,000...The speaker, who is 64, chose to sign up for an individual plan with benefits similar to those he receives under FEHB. That will cost him $449 per month in premiums, and the policy carries a $1,000 deductible. So, he’ll pay more next year for himself than he paid this year for both himself and his wife — and, together, the Boehners will still pay roughly $800 per month in premiums with deductibles in the $2,000 range.
The GOP rode Obamacare to large electoral gains in the 2010 midterm elections, including winning back the House, which they've controlled ever since. One could make the argument that absent Obamacare, Boehner may not have seized the Speaker's gavel -- control of which has surely felt like a mixed blessing at times. Boehner has a reputation for weepiness, so it's not hard to imagine him shedding few tears over major spikes in his family's health costs. These increases are a direct result of a law he's fought to block, delay and repeal since the opening salvo of this debate in 2009. Conservatives had a schadenfreude-laced chuckle over Hill Democrats carping about rising premiums and out-of-pocket expenses last week, but it's important to remember that many Republicans are being socked by this law, too. Democrats' sticker shock is richly deserved. But for GOP members and their aides, Obamacare's rising costs present an acutely painful instance of 'I told you so' politics. Boehner and his wife are affluent and can absorb the rate shock with relatively little pain. The same isn't true for millions of ordinary Americans who were promised lower rates and affordable coverage. Reality is running a decidedly different course for many -- including some of the administration's self-identified "success" stories. I'll leave you with this quote from one of Boehner's counterparts from across the aisle:
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer says the Obamacare rollout had been a huge disappointment to its supporters..Of the rocky rollout, Hoyer said the process had been “terrible” and “we’re all very disappointed.”
This is the guy who admitted that he knew "keep your plan" was a sack of baloney all along, but repeated it anyway.
The “Stupid Party” Strikes Again: Republicans Poised to Give Up Sequester Victory | Daniel J. Mitchell