Saturday, January 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood Admits: Abortion Stops a Beating Heart

    "Abortion stops a beating heart" has long been a poignant rallying cry for the pro-life movement. Abortion rights advocates often characterize the unborn as an impersonal "clump of cells" that a woman may choose to do with whatever she wants. But even as the House of Representatives plans a January 20th (Roe v. Wade anniversary) vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it turns out the leading abortion provider in the nation matter-of-factly acknowledges on its website that many abortions involve stopping a beating heart.
     According to Planned Parenthood's own description of fetal development, an unborn child's heartbeat begins around two to three weeks after egg fertilization, or weeks five and six of the pregnancy [highlight added]:

    Most abortions, which take place in the first trimester, do not involve taking active steps to stop the fetal heartbeat before the procedure is carried out, though obviously the procedure itself stops the heart in those abortions that take place after the five-to-six week threshold. However, as Planned Parenthood spells out under an explanation of a D&E (Dilation and Evacuation) abortion [emphasis added], "In later second-trimester procedures, you may also need a shot through your abdomen to make sure that the fetus's heart stops before the procedure begins." Here's how the section currently appears on the website [highlight added]:

    Although the Planned Parenthood site does not provide the reason for stopping the heart, an explanation can be found on the website of the Orlando Women's Center in Florida (not affiliated with Planned Parenthood), and the main reasons are not medical [emphasis added]:
Fetal Demise

This is initiated by injection of the combination of Digoxin and Potassium Chloride (most commonly) into the fetal heart to assure the following:

No additional pain or discomfort to the fetus
Generally assures no chance of a live birth
The fetal tissue becomes softer which makes it easier for the tissue to pass safely through the mother's cervix
Many studies show a fetus that succumbs in the uterus delivers faster
    The website latetermabortion.net is associated with the Orlando Women's Center, and there the primary reason is given in starker terms [emphasis added]:
Stopping the heart beat does two important things: 1) it assures nearly 100% that there will be no evidence of a live birth when the delivery takes place and 2) the softening of the fetal tissue allows for less complications should surgical removal become necessary. 
    Based on these descriptions, the proactive stopping of the heart beat via an injection primarily has to do with the viability and size of the unborn child. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 11 percent of abortions take place after the twelfth week of pregnancy, a figure which drops to 1.2 percent after 21 weeks. However, only one-third of abortions occur by 6 weeks, around the time the unborn child's heart has begun to beat. At the very least then, two-thirds of the one million plus abortions that take place in the United States each year indeed stop a beating heart. It's a fact that even Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion in this country, must own up to.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Feds Buy 'Cossack' Armored Border Guard Truck … For Ukraine

    In April, the Obama administration announced plans for financial aid, advisers, and 'non-lethal' security assistance for Ukraine in its struggle against Russian encroachment on its territory. Eight months later, citing the "urgent and compelling need to establish security and stability," the White
House National Security Council staff approved the purchase of an armored “Cossack” truck, a rapid-reaction military vehicle, for use by the border guard service of Ukraine.

    The $189,000 vehicle was purchased from the Practika PJSC company, in Ukraine, and is being handled by the state department's procurement office in Germany.
    Despite the lapse of eight months since the assistance was announced by President Obama, the Justification and Approval document cited "unusual and compelling urgency" as the reason that full and open competition was precluded for the contract. When asked about the timing of the vehicle purchase, a state department official replied, "The United States has committed over $118 million to Ukrainian forces since the start of the crisis, including over $47 million in equipment to border guards.  The urgent and compelling requirements are derived from Ukraine’s ongoing operations to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity." The official also said that the vehicle is scheduled to be delivered to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service on January 19th: "The “Cossack” armored truck, designed and manufactured by the Ukrainian company 'Practika,' is one of a variety of armored vehicles that we are providing to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service to help it better monitor and secure its borders and operate more safely and effectively."
    A June 4, 2014, "fact sheet" issued by the White House said that as of that date, "President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March," and went on to detail the assistance already provided to the Ukrainian border service:
Embassy Kyiv has purchased and delivered 20-person shelters, sleeping bags, fuel filter adapters, barbed wire, patrol flashlights, perimeter alarm systems, fuel pumps, concertina wire, vehicle batteries, spare tires, binoculars, excavators, trucks, generators, food storage freezers, field stoves, and communications gear to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, for use in monitoring and securing their borders.
    THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported in August that the state department spent $435,000 on security fencing for the Ukrainian border.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

White House Goes Upworthy: Video of Obama Helping 'To Make Your Internet Faster'

    The White House branched out into yet another social media venue Tuesday. Upworthy, the popular you-won't-believe-what-happened-next site, was given an exclusive on a White House video of President Obama discussing the executive action he plans to take to improve internet speeds in US cities. In true White House fashion, the Upworthy video and article were promoted with re-tweets on Twitter Tuesday night, such as this one from a women who gushed, "I love how tech savvy POTUS is -- this video is awesome!"

    Similar to the free community college proposal from last week, the faster internet pitch is a preview of an item the president plans to include in his 2015 State of the Union address. In the video, the president discusses his upcoming trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the city that the president intends to hold forth as a model of internet done right:

    The Upworthy article accompanying the video explains in true Upworthy fashion:
The reason why Cedar Falls has such crazy-fast Internet? 
They got together as a community and built their own public network. 
And they run it like a utility. So the same way that you pay the heating bill or the gas bill, you pay an Internet bill. And because the whole city pitched in, they're able to offer fiber-optic networks' blazing fast speeds. 
The article also takes a shot at current internet providers for being part of the problem:
The problem is that some companies — not saying who, not pointing fingers...  
...aren't too keen on the competition. So they've been throwing vast sums of money at politicians in cities around the U.S. to dissuade them from building their own networks. They've also been pressuring communities with pre-existing networks from expanding their services into suburban and rural areas where the cable companies are the only game in town. 
But what's the problem with a little competition? 
That's capitalism, yo.
    Incidentally, Open Secrets reports that the top two recipients of campaign donations from Comcast-related PACs and individuals in the 2012 election cycle were the DNC Services Corp. ($415,329) and Barack Obama ($328,128).
    That's politics, yo.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pentagon Calls Paris Attack 'Lone Wolf'' Event, Twitter Hacking 'Cyber Vandalism'

    The Pentagon called the hacking of the Central Command's (CENTCOM) YouTube and Twitter accounts Monday "cyber vandalism" in a letter to service members and their families to allay concerns about the incident. General Lloyd Austin said that the FBI is investigating the "alleged breach" of the two social media sites by hackers who claimed to be aligned with the Islamic State (ISIL.) While Austin said that "CENTCOM network was not compromised and no classified information," he acknowledged that the hackers posted "information obtained from the accounts," though he did not go into further detail.
    Austin also referred to "the threat of ‘lone wolf’ attacks by individuals who align with or are sympathetic to radical Jihadist elements," examples of which, according to Austin, are the "recent tragedies in Paris..., New York City and Ottawa, Canada." The general acknowledged that Monday's hacking included threats, but said there were no "no credible threats made to U.S. military personnel or their families."
    In any case, Austin said, the military is taking the threats "very seriously" and will "take all possible measures" to keep military personnel and their families safe.
    The full text of General Austin's letter is here:
This week, hackers claiming to be aligned with the extremist group ISIL took control of CENTCOM’s Twitter and YouTube accounts for approximately 30 minutes. They posted tweets with information obtained from the accounts and they also posted threats against military members and their families. 
I recognize that this has caused significant angst among family and friends who are understandably concerned about their loved ones’ safety. I want to personally reassure you that we are taking this matter very seriously and we continue to take all possible measures to keep our personnel safe. 
With respect to the alleged breach of our Twitter and YouTube accounts, The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in the process of conducting a full investigation. However, you should know that the CENTCOM network was not compromised and no classified information was obtained by the group. Also, as yet, there have been no credible threats made to U.S. military personnel or their families. 
That said, we do not take these threats lightly, and we will do what is necessary to mitigate them. Unfortunately, the threat of ‘lone wolf’ attacks by individuals who align with or are sympathetic to radical Jihadist elements exists today, and we’ve seen this demonstrated with the recent tragedies in Paris and before that in New York City and Ottawa, Canada. We must all take the necessary precautions and be highly vigilant to protect against these threats. 
Our people are our most important assets and our top priority and that includes our family members. And, we need to make sure that we are looking out for one another. All of you are an important part of our CENTCOM team, and I want to thank you for your many contributions and your strong support. If you need anything or have additional concerns please do not hesitate to reach out to your service member’s chain of command or the headquarters. 
Be safe!
    Although General Austin referred to the Paris attacks as 'lone wolf' events, there have been some possible links to al Qaeda uncovered as Thomas Joscelyn reports in the January 19 edition of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, including an eyewitness account that one of the killers said "You can tell the media that it’s al Qaeda in Yemen" during the attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Kerry: Climate Change 'Enormous Cloud Hanging Over All of Us'

    While the attention of much of the world Sunday was focused on the massive unity rally in France in response to the recent terror attacks in that country, Secretary of State John Kerry was in India for a "global business" summit where he spoke of, among other concerns, the "one enormous cloud hanging over all of us which requires responsibility from leaders. Global climate change[.]" Kerry said that climate change is "violently affecting communities" worldwide, but that the silver lining in his view is that responding to climate change offers an "unprecedented number of plusses, and frankly, almost no downside." His full remarks on the subject came during his speech at the opening ceremony of the summit [emphasis added]:
I am convinced, as we look to the relationship of the future though, just as Ban Ki-moon mentioned a few minutes ago, there is one enormous cloud hanging over all of us which requires responsibility from leaders. Global climate change is already violently affecting communities not just across India but around the world. It is disrupting commerce, development, and economic growth. It’s costing farmers crops. It’s costing insurance companies unbelievable payouts. It’s raising the cost of doing business, and believe me, if it continues down the current trend-line, we will see climate refugees fighting each other for water and seeking food and new opportunity. 
So this is a relationship between India and the United States where we believe very deeply that we could turn sustainable economic growth opportunities into a prosperity we have ever seen before. And it means one very [simple] thing: Unlike many problems in public life where you struggle sometimes between the plusses and minuses of a particular choice you make – and leaders here all know and business leaders all know what I’m talking about – the choices of climate change offer an unprecedented number of plusses, and frankly, almost no downside. If we make the choices that are staring us in the face, the fact is that a solution to climate change is already here. It’s called energy policy. Sustainable energy policy. And in a sustainable energy policy comes a whole set of benefits to our economy, something many countries of the world are screaming for today.
    While the bulk of Kerry's talk centered on economic and business issues, he did pay tribute to the rally in France:
We may all come from different walks of life, but we stand together this morning with the people of France as they march in tribute to the victims of last week’s murderous attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. And we stand together not just in anger and outrage, but in solidarity and commitment to the cause of confronting extremism and in the cause that extremists fear so much and that has always united our countries – freedom. We stand together in freedom and together we make it clear that no act of terror will ever stop the march of freedom. (Applause.)
    Kerry's complete remarks at the opening ceremony can be found here.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Friday, January 9, 2015

President Obama's 'Free' Community College Plan Could Cost $34B Per Year

    Previewing an item from his upcoming State of the Union address, President Obama announced a "Free Community College" plan Thursday evening:

    According to Justin Sink of The Hill, Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, declined to put a price tag on the plan during a conference call Thursday evening. Rather Muñoz said details of the plan will be in the president's next budget proposal.
    However, the president's announcement said that the plan could benefit as many as nine million students who could save an average of $3,800 per year. This would put the total cost at a little more than $34 billion.
    In a video accompanying the announcement, the president said that his plan would be "making two years of community college free for anyone who's willing to work for it." At $34 billion per year, taxpayers at least will be working for it, willing or not.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

State Dept. Wishes 'RIP' to Living Captives of Terrorists, Then Apologizes

    The year began on a rough note for the U.S. state department's Think Again, Turn Away anti-terror program. On January 1, the state department used the program's official Twitter account to tweet a photo collage accompanied by the message, "Entering 2015, taking time to honor some of terror’s many victims of 2014 and their families – RIP." However, none of the individuals appearing in the photos are believed to be dead, but rather held captive by terrorists.
    The tweet, since deleted, appeared as follows, and is archived here:

    The photo collage was part of a feature on December 17 on Al Arabiya New's English website entitled "Remembering 2014’s captives still held by extremists." Per the caption on the photo that accompanied the article, those included in the collage (a collection of Reuters, AFP, and YouTube images) are (clockwise from top left): Nigerian school girls, a captive Lebanese soldier's mother, American journalist Austin Tice, British journalist John Cantlie, and Yazidi women and children. 

    The first paragraph of the Al Arabiya article notes:
Thousands of people, mostly women, continue to be held captive by Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front, and Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
    The state department's error was apparently first noted by the Daily Beast's senior national security correspondent Nancy Youssef, who tweeted the following two messages to the state department within a day of the original tweet:
    The morning of January 2, the state department posted the following two tweets apologizing for the mistake:

    A state department spokesperson replied to an email seeking additional information by repeating the tweeted apology, and then added:
We are assessing internal processes and will continue to work diligently to review and authenticate the information we post. 
CSCC and its English language “Think Again Turn Away” campaign have been actively and intensively engaged in an online effort against ISIL and other extremist organizations.
    The Think Again, Turn Away campaign has been controversial since its inception in 2014 for its shocking photos of terrorist atrocities. The stated goal of the campaign is to "expose the facts about terrorists and their propaganda" to try to discourage disaffected youth in the Arab world from joining terrorist organizations.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Feds Looking for Company to Run 'National Data Warehouse' for Obamacare, Medicare

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is looking for vendors to run its "National Data Warehouse", a database for "capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information" related to beneficiary and customer experiences with Medicare and the federal health insurance Marketplaces. Although the database primarily consists of quality control metrics related to individuals' interactions with customer service, potential contractors are to "[d]emonstrate ... experience with scalability and security in protecting data and information with customer, person-sensitive information including Personal Health Information and Personally Identifiable information (personal health records, etc.)." Vendors are also instructed that one of the requirements of a possible future contract would be "[e]nsuring that all products developed and delivered adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance standards[.]"
    For a number of years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the division of HHS responsible for Medicare and now Obamacare also, has maintained a "national data warehouse" (NDW) related to the 1-800-MEDICARE helpline. The passage of the Affordable Care Act and subsequent establishment of the Marketplaces has expanded the scope of the NDW. The CMS notice explains the NDW as follows:
The NDW performs a significant role with oversight and monitoring functions under the Virtual Call Center Strategy (VCS) initiative and Medicare Reform legislation. The NDW acts as the central repository for capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information related to the beneficiary experience with Medicare and the consumer experience with Marketplaces. The NDW also serves as a foundation for operational and management reporting to support improved decision-making, business practices, and services to callers. 
    The type of data included in the NDW "includes information for CMS’ Virtual Contact Center operations including, but not necessarily limited to" items such as "Workforce management data", "Quality monitoring", "Medicare disenrollments", "Beneficiary satisfaction surveys", and "Web Chat metrics." The NDW is part of CMS's larger $15 billion "Virtual Data Center" program awarded to multiple vendors in 2012. The eventual vendor for the NDW must be able to integrate and share data with the other Virtual Data Center vendors.
    The description for the "NDW Functional Requirements" included thirty-six items, several with multiple subpoints, and even this list is not meant to be "all inclusive" according to CMS. In addition to these functions, the "contractor shall implement a security program that adheres to CMS security standards." Interested vendors have until January 19, 2015, to respond.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mail Carrier Jailed for Taking Bribes, Delivering Pot

    For at least eight months in 2013 and 2014, letter carrier Devona Charley of Washington, D.C. delivered more than just letters and junk mail. The twenty-seven year old now-former US Postal Service employee was sentenced to a year and a day in prison plus 6 months of home detention, part of three years of a supervised release plan imposed by a plea agreement on drug and bribery conspiracy charges.
    From September 2013 to April 2014, Charley and Dominique Jones of Oxon Hill, Maryland, schemed to have marijuana delivered to Jones in packages addressed to other people. All told, Charley is believed to have delivered between 40 and 60 kilograms of marijuana, valued from $70,000 to $120,000. The justice department describes the conspiracy this way:
Specifically, Charley provided Jones with addresses for the shipment of packages along her postal route. Charley agreed to deliver the packages to Jones even though they were addressed to another person. Her co-conspirators agreed to pay Charley $350 per package. Based on the information provided by Charley, packages containing marijuana were shipped to the addresses provided by Charley. When the packages arrived at the post office, Charley picked up the packages and texted Jones. Jones and an associate then met Charley along her mail route and Charley delivered the packages.
    Jones was already sentenced to 54 months after a guilty plea in the case. There is no mention of charges regarding the "associate."
    According to U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, the Charley case is not the only one the justice department has uncovered. Rosenstein explains the department, along with other law enforcement agencies, is "investigating several cases involving letter carriers who took bribes to divert shipments of illegal drugs." He also expressed concern that the "corruption of postal employees is a significant vulnerability in the system." Earlier this year, several Maryland USPS employees were sentenced in a contracts-related bribery scheme involving over half a million dollars.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Steve Scalise Not Mentioned as Speaker in 2002 Press Release by White Supremacist Group

    While the controversy surrounding House GOP whip Steve Scalise continues to simmer, a 2002 press release (first uncovered by John Sexton) by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) promoting the May 17-18 "workshop" to "train future civil rights activists" fails to mention Scalise as a speaker. The 2002 website of the EURO organization no longer exists, but is available via the Internet Archive here:

    While the press release may not be completely exculpatory for Scalise, it lends credence to the story reported by Betsy Woodruff of Slate that Scalise apparently did not address the EURO gathering at all, but rather a more informal community meeting at the same location as the EURO conference that began later that same day. Scalise has already apologized for his connection to the event, but the press release above seems to indicate any connection he had to it is indeed tenuous.

UPDATE: John Sexton later wrote his own post about this at Breitbart.

Note: A version of this post before the update first appeared at The Weekly Standard.