Review Category : Poltics

US Senate Candidate Gets Boost from “Game of Thrones” Author

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Tom Udall’s campaign has enlisted the help of Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, who is holding a unique event for the incumbent senator’s re-election bid.

One winner and a friend will get to attend the exclusive VIP event with Udall, D-N.M., and Martin at Martin’s personal cinema in Santa Fe, where a “discussion on New Mexico issues and politics in support of Sen. Udall’s reelection campaign” will take place.

The minimum $5 donation for the contest gets the lucky winners airfare and hotel, along with VIP access to the main event, photo reception and dinner. General admission tickets start at $250, with additional meet and greet and photo reception tickets costing $1,000.

Big fans (and supporters) might be most interested in the $2,600 ticket option, which will give them VIP access to the event, photo reception and an exclusive dinner where they will “get to talk with George and Tom and ask them anything.”

Win a trip to meet George R.R. Martin and Senator Udall in Santa Fe. Enter here: http://t.co/gqPj0ohYQ4 #GRRM #GoT pic.twitter.com/mLG9CD8Vjs

— Tom Udall (@tomudall) September 18, 2014

A Game of Thrones, the first book of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, fantasy series was published in 1996. The series was adapted for television by HBO in 2011. Over seven million viewers watched the Game of Thrones season finale in June.

Both the senator and author are supportive of New Mexico’s conservation efforts. Earlier this year, Martin hosted a Prizeo fundraiser to benefit New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe, which went on to raise over $500,000.

Martin is naming two characters in his upcoming novels after the highest donors.

Udall has served in the Senate since 2009, and is favored to win the election.

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Clapper Talks ISIS at Intelligence and National Security Summit

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — ISIS is a group of “very sophisticated recruiters and motivators.”

That’s what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told intelligence experts at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington Thursday when asked about raids in Australia the day before that resulted in the arrests of 15 people involved in a terror plot connected to ISIS.

“It’s emblematic of the world we’re in — a lot of the discussion about ISIL and the potential threat it may pose to the homeland. People conjure up the image of another 9/11 attack or something of that magnitude,” Clapper said. “…In this case with this group, who are very sophisticated recruiters and motivators…we continue to worry, I think, more than any other single threat — you know the homegrown version, which are very hard to detect. So I think what’s happened in Australia is a manifestation of that threat.”

Clapper also unveiled the 2014 National Intelligence Strategy, which is entirely unclassified. It lays put the intelligence environment and tried to identify emerging threats. This year, Clapper put the code of professional ethics for intelligence gathering right in front in the report. It’s seven points are mission, truth, lawfulness, integrity, stewardship, excellence and diversity.

The DNI chief noted that AFPAK fighters in Syria, in terms of a threat to the homeland, perhaps pose the same threat as ISIS.

As for government funds that would be allocated to counterterror efforts, Clapper added that many people in government have high security clearances, which largely go unused, that cost the government large sums of money that could be better spent.

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GAO: Healthcare.gov Security, Privacy Weaknesses Still Exist

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — An audit released by the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday says that some privacy and security flaws that existed when Healthcare.gov was launched still remain months later.

The GAO noted that many systems and entities must exchange information in order for users to optimally utilize Healthcare.gov to compare, select and enroll in private health insurance plans. When the website launched, it was notably full of security holes, glitches and errors that complicated users’ efforts to sign up for health insurance.

In Capitol Hill testimony about the myriad problems with the site back in November, ABC News reported that “white hat hacker” David Kennedy highlighted for Congress that the beleaguered website, which cost hundreds of millions to launch, had critical flaws and exposures, “that hackers could use to extract sensitive information.” Kennedy said at the time, “Just by looking at the website, we can see that there is just fundamental security principles that are not being followed,” before physically demonstrating how easy Healthcare.gov was to hack. “We can actually…monitor [a user's] webcam, listen to their microphone, steal passwords…Anything that they do on their computer we now have full access to.,” Kennedy advised.

In Wednesday’s audit, the GAO notes that while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have, “taken steps to protect the security and privacy of data processed and maintained by the complex set of systems and interconnections that support Healthcare.gov, weaknesses remain.”

CMS, the GAO says, “did not and has not yet ensured a shared understanding of how security was implemented for the federal healthcare marketplace” among each entity involved. Until the CMS addresses the existing weaknesses, the GAO warns, “unnecessary risks remain of unauthorized access, disclosure, or modification of the information” users may input.

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Joe Biden Refers to Asia as ‘The Orient’

Official White House Photo by David Lieneman(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Vice President Joe Biden described Asia as “the Orient’ in a speech in Iowa on Wednesday, hours after he apologized for using a word that could be perceived as anti-Semitic.

“You know, on the way back from Mumbai to go meet with President Xi in China, I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew, who most foreign policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient,” Biden said at the kickoff for the “Nuns on the Bus” tour.

The word “Orient” is considered widely outdated and could be perceived as offensive, or insensitive, especially when used in reference to people.

The Republican National Committee jumped on the remark, with its Asian-American spokesman Ninio Fetalvo saying in a statement, “Vice President Joe Biden’s insensitive remarks are offensive to both Asian-Americans and our Asian allies abroad.”

“His comment is not only disrespectful but also uses unacceptable imperialist undertones. It’s time for the vice president to apologize and to understand that his comments embarrass our country,” Fetalvo added.

Meanwhile, Biden apologized earlier Wednesday, saying he made a “poor choice of words” when he used the word “Shylock” to describe bankers who take advantage of U.S. troops returning from serving overseas. The word can be perceived as an anti-Semitic term.

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Joe Biden Refers to Asia as ‘The Orient’

Official White House Photo by David Lieneman(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Vice President Joe Biden described Asia as “the Orient’ in a speech in Iowa on Wednesday, hours after he apologized for using a word that could be perceived as anti-Semitic.

“You know, on the way back from Mumbai to go meet with President Xi in China, I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew, who most foreign policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient,” Biden said at the kickoff for the “Nuns on the Bus” tour.

The word “Orient” is considered widely outdated and could be perceived as offensive, or insensitive, especially when used in reference to people.

The Republican National Committee jumped on the remark, with its Asian-American spokesman Ninio Fetalvo saying in a statement, “Vice President Joe Biden’s insensitive remarks are offensive to both Asian-Americans and our Asian allies abroad.”

“His comment is not only disrespectful but also uses unacceptable imperialist undertones. It’s time for the vice president to apologize and to understand that his comments embarrass our country,” Fetalvo added.

Meanwhile, Biden apologized earlier Wednesday, saying he made a “poor choice of words” when he used the word “Shylock” to describe bankers who take advantage of U.S. troops returning from serving overseas. The word can be perceived as an anti-Semitic term.

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Phoenix Wait-Lists ‘Contributed’ to VA Deaths

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Delays caused by secret waiting lists “contributed” to deaths at the Phoenix VA earlier this year, an assistant inspector general who helped draft a controversial Inspector General report admitted Wednesday under intense questioning by the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The assertion by Dr. John Daigh comes less than a month after the Office of the Inspector General proclaimed in its official report that it is “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely care caused the deaths of these veteran.”

Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., asked Daigh whether he could “conclusively assert that wait-lists did not contribute to the deaths of veterans?”

“No,” Daigh replied.

When asked whether he’d be “willing to say wait-lists contributed to the deaths,” Daigh responded, “Yes.”

It was a startling admission, following complaints that the OIG softened the report at the VA’s request. The sentence about being “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely care caused the deaths of these veterans” was not in the first draft of the report and only appeared in the final draft after the VA had a chance to review and comment privately on it.

Daigh also said that while he could not say “the delays caused the deaths,” he also could not say they didn’t.

That caused Jolly to ask him whether such was the case, and why put one assertion in the report but not the other.

“The issue is cause or, of course, a direct relationship, how tight of a relationship do you want? That’s where the difficulty is here,” Daigh said.

Daigh said earlier in the testimony “I’m not clairvoyant. It’s very difficult to know how someone died.”

The acting inspector general, Richard J. Griffin, added “We don’t know how they died or why. Nor do you, I would say that it may have contributed to their death, but we can’t say, conclusively, it caused their death.”

The Inspector General’s Office also suffered severe criticism from two whistle-blowers testifying before the Veterans Affairs committee. Dr. Samuel Foote and Dr. Katherine Mitchell scolded the OIG for downplaying the causation and link between wait times and deaths.

“I would like to use this statement to comment on what I view as the foot-dragging, downplaying and, frankly, inadequacy of the Inspector General’s Office,” Foote said.

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Obama’s Unexpected Air Force One Routine Causes Suspense

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — There was a moment of suspense and mystery surrounding President Obama’s arrival at Andrews Air Force Base Wednesday when the highly choreographed routine took a peculiar turn.

All seemed to be running as usual when the president arrived on Air Force One at 3:28 p.m. Wednesday, after delivering a speech to troops in Florida.

But after stepping off the plane, the president spent several minutes chatting with several Secret Service agents before getting into the presidential limo, known as the Beast.

Then, instead of pulling off the tarmac, his motorcade made a loop and pulled up next to an unidentified, smaller plane. The president then walked up the steps of the plane and spent several minutes aboard before walking back down the steps and getting into his motorcade and pulling away.

“Prior to heading back to the White House, the president stopped to chat briefly with FLOTUS prior to her departure for her trip,” according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, referring to the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

Minutes later, the first lady was spotted stepping off that plane and walking across the tarmac to another plane that is part of the usual Air Force One fleet. She is scheduled to speak in Memphis, Tennessee, Wednesday afternoon. There was a maintenance issue with her plane.

“The First Lady is delayed by approximately an hour and a half. The delay was caused by an aircraft maintenance issue. As previously planned, the First Lady is looking forward to visiting with the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and their families,” according to the White House.

Adding to the mystery, the TV pool coverage that customarily carries the arrival and departure of Air Force One live was blocked from the tarmac by base officials. White House officials said they don’t know why the cameras were blocked, contrary to policy.

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House Authorizes US Military to Train, Equip Syrian Rebels

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon to approve President Obama’s request to authorize the U.S. military to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition forces.

By a vote of 273 to 156, the House easily passed the amendment, which was attached to a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 11. The bill was later passed by the House by a vote of 319 to 108.

Seventy-one Republicans and 85 Democrats opposed the vote on the Title X authority while 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted in favor of it.

The Title X authorization to aid Syrian opposition forces will expire at the latest by Dec. 11. If Congress clears a National Defense Authorization Act before that date, the authorization could expire even earlier.

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Biden Rolls into Iowa with Nuns on a Bus

The White House(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Just three days after Hillary Clinton visited the presidential testing grounds of Iowa, Vice President Biden was right behind her with a populist speech that sounded at times like it was 2016. Although this trip was an official White House visit, in Iowa the topic of presidential politics can’t be avoided.

Biden’s address focused on raising the minimum wage and making life better and fairer for the middle class. He came to the Iowa Capitol to help launch a nationwide tour of the liberal group “Nuns on the Bus.” The vice president joined about a dozen nuns on stage who are heading out their rolling nunnery on a 10 state, 36 city tour of the country registering voters and preaching their message of social justice.

Biden, the nation’s first Catholic vice president, noted his 12 years of Catholic education telling the crowd of about 300, “I was asked by the press why am I going out with Nuns on the Bus? I said because they are nuns. It’s a simple proposition,” adding to laughs, “I woke up every morning saying, ‘Yes sister, no sister, yes sister, no sister.’”

He thanked the nuns for their work for health care reform saying in his signature colorful style, “The Nuns on the Bus fought like the devil for health care.”

The audience cheered Biden who appeared with his sleeves rolled up on a warm, sunny Iowa day, but Hillary Clinton cast a shadow over the appearance.

Mike Winjum was wearing an Obama-Biden T-shirt and enthusiastically spoke about how his father still talks about meeting Biden at last year’s Harkin Steak Fry. He called the vice president a “great guy,” saying “when he talks, people listen.” But, when asked about whether he could caucus for Biden in 2016, he didn’t hesitate: “Nope, I’m for Hillary. If Hillary jumps out, I’ll be for Joe. He’s number two.”

Arloene Yungclas was at the event to celebrate her 80th birthday and although she likes the vice president, she said without a pause, “I’d like to see a woman be president of the United States and I think she (Clinton) is pretty knowledgeable about the world.”

Her husband Jim agreed saying Biden is “probably” in Iowa because of possible presidential ambition, but “I would like to see a woman become president and Hillary would be a good president, she would be a good representative for us.”

Mazie Johnson, a Democratic activist, was wearing a blue “Ready for Hillary” T-shirt.

“I am personally a huge fan of Hillary, I’m very supportive of what she is doing for women in the political world. She brings a lot of power and she also has an incredible track record of supporting fellow women, so I would absolutely say I am very supportive of Hillary,” Johnson said.

On Sunday, Clinton returned to the first caucus state of Iowa for the first time since 2008 when she came in third in the Iowa caucuses behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. Over 6,000 people attended the Harkin Steak Fry Sunday where she headlined, along with former President Bill Clinton.

Biden, who hasn’t ruled out another presidential bid, made no mention of Clinton, but did at times sound like he was on his third presidential campaign trail railing against income inequality, as well as restrictions on voting rights.

This was Biden’s first trip to the state since the last Harkin Steak Fry last year. He will hold a photo line fundraiser for multiple candidates while in Des Moines, but he won’t stump for any 2014 Democratic candidates, including Bruce Braley who is running to succeed Harkin in the Senate. A poll out Wednesday from Quinnipiac University showed his Republican rival Joni Ernst with a six point lead.

After his speech, Biden boarded the nuns’ bus, stopping at the Waveland Café, a Des Moines diner. He added his signature to the side of the bus, signing it with a black Sharpie.

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Why One Congressman Is Tweeting Out the Whole Constitution

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Wednesday is the U.S. Constitution’s 227th birthday, celebrated as a federal holiday called Constitution Day.

Here’s a look at how some lawmakers are celebrating Constitution Day 2014:

  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, 81, made us all feel out of shape when the Republican tweeted a picture Wednesday morning after running over 6 miles from his house to the Capitol, in a shirt that says “Rural Power.”
  • California Rep. Darrell Issa tweeted the entire Constitution. Article I alone was over 130 tweets, and took over an hour to type and send. The Republican probably lost some followers along the way, too.
  • Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who live-tweeted his visit to the hospital last week, responded to Issa’s idea with an easier way to read the Constitution in full.
  • Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware tipped his hat to Sen. Robert Byrd, who passed the bill founding the holiday 10 years ago.
  • Kansas Rep. Jim Ward spent the day speaking to classes of eighth-graders, a task he called “exhausting.”
  • The White House tweeted a photo of President Obama, along with a news release about the day. ”As we celebrate our Nation’s strong and durable framework, we are reminded that our work is never truly done,” Obama said. “Let us renew our commitment to these sacred principles and resolve to advance their spirit in our time.”

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