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State Organization
J. ROSS MACBETH ATTORNEY AT LAW LAKEVIEW PROFESSIONAL Bldg. 2543 U.S. Highway 27 South . Sebring, Florida 33870-2125 Bus: (863) 385-7600 . Fax: (863) 385-7911

On Amendment 2, the Tampa Tribune recommends a “no” vote

September 29th, 2014

Editorial from The Tampa Tribune -

Voters should reject the medical marijuana amendment    

        Published: September 28, 2014

It’s human nature to want to relieve the pain and suffering of another human being. And there’s no denying the testimony of thousands of patients who say marijuana has helped them endure the nausea, the loss of appetite and other symptoms associated with the treatments for cancer, AIDS and other debilitating diseases.That explains the polls showing public support for Amendment 2, which would allow the use of marijuana in Florida by patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions.If the proposed amendment were that simple, we would favor its passage. But it’s not.Amendment 2 is a broadly written blueprint for allowing the manufacture and distribution of an illegal substance the federal government classifies as a Schedule 1 drug with a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use.The proposal allows doctors to certify patients as eligible for marijuana to treat any “debilitating” ailment a doctor thinks will relieve suffering. For unscrupulous doctors, that could include back pain and anxiety and other ailments that they determine to be debilitating conditions.

Amendment 2 asks voters to make medical marijuana legal today on the promise that the state will later enact the rules and regulations necessary to prevent its abuse by doctors and distributors and by patients and the caregivers who can be certified to obtain the drug for others. It offers civil liability immunity to physicians, patients and dispensaries associated with medical marijuana use. It could allow for the smoking of marijuana plants that vary in intensity and ingredients and can cause many of the same ailments associated with cigarette smoking. And it legitimizes a drug that, according to studies, can impair brain development in minors.

In short, the amendment poses too many risks.

Amendment 2 supporters gathered the signatures needed to place the proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot by telling the heart-wrenching stories of patients who find marijuana provides relief when no other drugs have helped. The proposed amendment lists cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease as debilitating diseases that would qualify for medical marijuana treatment. But the list ends with the phrase, “… or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

That could make it available for almost any patient who can find a willing physician. How the marijuana would be produced and distributed remains to be determined by state officials who are now struggling with the rules related to the more acceptable Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana that lawmakers voted to legalize this year. That strain is used to treat seizures and is non-euphoric and ingested through oils and other means rather than smoked. Because it doesn’t get its users high, it won’t be subject to the abuses that can be expected with the smokable marijuana permitted under Amendment 2.

An alternative to smokable marijuana, the synthetic drug Marinol, has Federal Drug Administration approval and can be taken by pill form. Although its cost may be greater, and the effects not always as immediate or lasting as smoking the drug, Marinol is proven to be safe and is available through a doctor’s prescription to treat weight loss and nausea associated with treatments for disease.

Marijuana can’t be prescribed by doctors and dispensed through pharmacies because it’s illegal under federal law. Amendment 2 would create state-sanctioned dispensaries to distribute marijuana to patients certified by a doctor for its use.

State estimates put the number of medical marijuana patients in Florida at less than 450,000. But with the broad language in Amendment 2, that number might prove to be a joke. And whether the state will allow “pot shops” in our communities to serve those patients, or require parental consent for minors before certifying their marijuana use, are questions to be addressed in regulations that remain to be written. 

Twenty-three other states have legalized medical marijuana, with varying results. The first, California, turned the law into a farce that stains the reputation of that state. Florida’s reputation risks a similar stain if Amendment 2 passes and abuses occur.

The amendment’s chief supporter, trial lawyer John Morgan, insists the law is about helping thousands of suffering patients and nothing more. But his buffoonish performance before a group of Lakeland bar patrons betrayed that insistence by revealing a cavalier attitude about casual marijuana use. It bolstered suspicions that the amendment is really about opening the door to full legalization of marijuana for recreational use, as Washington state and Colorado have done. 

Supporter Ben Pollara, who is leading the campaign for passage, says the state Supreme Court has affirmed that the ballot language for Amendment 2 is not vague or too broad. But the legal opinion about ballot language doesn’t address the alarming loopholes in the amendment.

We are not without compassion for the sufferers of chronic pain. But the wording of this amendment opens the door to abuse. It’s based on blind faith that the state adopts the right rules and has the capacity to enforce them.

On Amendment 2, the Tribune recommends a “no” vote.

For the rest of the story and others, see:

For additional information and to get involved, go to

or like them on Facebook: NoOnAmendment2

Conservatives Reach the Summit in DC!

September 27th, 2014

From the Family Research Council 

If you only went by the excitement of the 2,000+ registered participants at the 2014 Values Voter Summit currently underway here at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., you might mistakenly think that all is right in our nation’s capitol. After all, the hopeful exuberance of the VVS crowd is enough to encourage anyone that hope remains for our country.

But, as our speakers today have reminded us, there is much work to be done. This morning I had the privilege of welcoming my friend Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to the stage to kick off America’s premier event for social conservatives. Rep. Jordan reminded the audience of the importance of the family to American’s prosperity. Next, Gen. James Conway (Ret.), Maj. Gen Robert Dees (Ret.), and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C) joined FRC’s Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin (Ret.) for a panel discussion about America’s role in the global quest for freedom. The panelists outlined the threats facing us both abroad and within our own borders, and encouraged the values voters of America to keep standing up with vigilance.

We also heard from Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Lt. Col. Oliver North, USMC (Ret.).

A strong respect for religious liberty was a thread that ran through all of the morning’s speakers, as it was made clear that our First Freedom is under attack. But as Sen. Paul noted, “The First Amendment is not about keeping religious people out of government, it is about keeping government out of religion.” If only the government would understand that fact!

But America is not yet finished. As Sen. Cruz told us today, “We stand on the promise of the Word. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Speaking of the morning, the Summit goes on! Don’t forget to watch the live webcast of #VVS14 tomorrow (and tonight!) as well. Check the schedule here, and watch your favorite speakers tackle America’s toughest issues.

** Also, don’t miss out on Washington Watch Live today from the floor of Values Voter Summit. I will be joined by Duck Dynasty’s Al Robertson, The Benham Brothers, Dr. Jerry Johnson, President, National Religious Broadcasters, Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.). Listen to the live radio show online at

For the rest of the story and others, see:

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Breaking news – Holder resigning as attorney general, officials say

September 25th, 2014

Now PlayingAttorney General Eric Holder to announce he’s stepping down
Attorney General Eric Holder plans to announce Thursday that he is resigning from the Obama administration, officials confirmed to Fox News. The decision would cap a tumultuous six-year term for the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Holder is one of the few Cabinet officials to have stayed on since the beginning of the Obama presidency. A Justice Department official said Holder has agreed to remain on the job until his successor is confirmed.

 According to the official, Holder has discussed his plans with Obama on “multiple occasions” in recent months.

“[He] finalized those plans in an hour-long conversation with the president at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend,” the official said. The official added that Holder has “no immediate plans” after leaving the post.

Holder, who previously worked in private practice and before that was a federal prosecutor, was one of the most controversial members of the Obama administration.

He was held in contempt of Congress by the Republican-led House in 2012 for failing to provide key information about the botched Operation Fast and Furious program. He is the only sitting Cabinet member to have been held in contempt of Congress.

Holder and GOP lawmakers routinely clashed, over Fast and Furious but also over his department’s handling of the IRS targeting scandal, its civilian prosecution of terror cases, surveillance of media outlets and other issues. His hearing appearances were at-times combative; some lawmakers even sought to impeach him.

During the contempt fight, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was quoted saying Holder’s “arrogance knows no bounds.”

In that debate, Holder was blasted by Republicans for not turning over documents related to the gun-running probe along the Southwest border. Democrats decried the contempt push, in an election year, as political.

Holder is the fourth-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history, and the first black attorney general.

A White House official said the president has not made any final decision about a possible replacement for Holder.

Of the outgoing attorney general, the official said: “Holder’s accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system. Holder revitalized the Department’s praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few.”

The 63-year-old former judge and prosecutor, who took office in early 2009, grappled with divisive questions on the handling of captured terrorism suspects.

In his first few years on the job, Holder weathered a firestorm over an ultimately-abandoned plan to try terrorism suspects in New York City. The attorney general gave up the effort, but he continued to maintain that civilian courts were the most appropriate venue. He argued that his original plan was vindicated by the successful prosecution in New York of Usama bin Laden’s son-in-law — this week, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Under Holder’s watch, the Justice Department also cracked down on news media reporting on national security matters. The department secretly subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors and used a search warrant to obtain some emails of Fox News’ James Rosen as part of a separate leak investigation.

Holder eventually agreed to overhaul department policies with regard to dealing with media.

The attorney general was often outspoken in his public remarks. He even referred to America in 2010 as a “nation of cowards” in discussing matters of race. He later lamented that “systemic and unwarranted racial disparities remain disturbingly common.”

He was known to weigh in on matters of racial fairness, taking steps to improve police relations with minorities, enforce civil rights laws and remove racial disparities in sentencing. Most recently he became the Obama administration’s face in the federal response to the police shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo. In the shooting’s aftermath, he enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement.

A former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder was pulled away from private practice to reshape a Justice Department that had been tarnished by a scandal involving fired U.S. attorneys and that had authorized harsh interrogation methods for terrorism suspects.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For the rest of this story and others, see:

Reminder – Highlands Republican Meeting Thursday evening at 6:30 PM at the Sebring Elk’s Lodge

September 24th, 2014

Just a quick reminder that we are having our monthly meeting tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM with optional dinner before the meeting beginning at 5:30 PM.  With the all important general election now only 40 days away, the program  this month will focus on the planned activities and responsibilities regarding the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts and also a very important update on the latest information regarding the Vote NO on Amendment 2 efforts.

Please encourage families and friends to attend and bring them with you.  We need additional volunteers in many areas.  We also have opening for new members of the Highlands County Republican Executive Committee in most precincts.  Won’t you consider encouraging someone you know to attend and to get involved?


AGENDA – September 25, 2014

HighlandsCounty Republican Executive Committee Meeting                                                                          Elk’s Lodge Sebring 6:30 PM

Optional meals & beverages 5:30 PM

Call to Order                                                       Kathy Rapp, Chairman

Invocation                                                            Bob Hummel

Pledge of Allegiance                                            TBD

Welcome guests                                                    Kathy Rapp Chairman

Recognize Elected Officials / Candidates             Kathy Rapp Chairman

Roll Call by Precinct                                               Ida Jackson

Request Motion to approve absences                               Kathy Rapp Chairman


Request Motion to approve minutes 8/28/14                  Kathy Rapp Chairman

Treasurer’s Report                                                           Penny Kocarek, Treasurer

Vice Chairman’s Report                                                  Virgil Beato, Vice Chairman

New Business

State Committee Woman Report                            Joan Hartt

State Committee Man Report                                  Chuck Oakes

HRWN Report                                                        Kathy Rapp

Webmaster Report                                                 Earl Claire


GOTV Activities & Precinct Responsibilities – Virgil Beato and Kathy Rapp

Status of Headquarters and Volunteer Sign-up – New volunteers are needed for many key areas!

WIFI – Women’s Issues – Fresh Ideas *coming Soon

Vote NO on Amendment 2 – Kathy Rapp

(For those of you who would like to have questions answered and/or to volunteer to get involved on this issue, you can go to the web-site and sign up to get involved.  They also have Facebook and Twitter sites for those who would like to join in the social media campaign for Vote NO on 2. )


Next Meeting October 30

Next Board Meeting October 14 @6:30 Republican Headquarters

Neighborhood Canvassing each weekend in Sebring and several weekdays in Lake Placid as your schedules permit for the Re-election of Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet members –Contact Virgil Beato or Earl Claire for times and meeting location

Subscribe to our Highlands County Republican web-site at:

SUNDAY SHOW WRAP-UP: ISIS DOMINATES – Feinstein: ISIS is beheading children

September 21st, 2014

When the senior Dems start taking notice of the ISIS threat and begin publicly  disagreeing  with O’s policies, you can believe that they are beginning to be worried about the rise of the “security moms” and their probable Republican vote in November!  You might ask why Feinstein did not speak up months ago when the written and visual reports of the mass murders of  thousands  of Christian men, women and children and other minorities begin being reported from Iraq?

From The Hill

By Scott Wong – 09/21/14 12:04 PM EDT

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) painted a gruesome picture of the violence being carried out by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists, describing a photo she had seen of a beheaded child dressed up for a party.
“I have a picture of what I estimate to be a 6-year-old girl in a gingham party dress, white tights, a little red band around her wrist, Mary Janes [shoes] and she’s lying on the ground and her head is gone,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”“This could be an American child. It could be a European child. It could be a child anywhere,” the chairwoman added. “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with. They have killed thousands, they are marching on, they have an army, they are well organized.”For the rest of the preceding story and others, see:

September 21, 2014


Senators spar over ISIS approach ”You cannot negotiate with ISIS,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said.

Feinstein: ISIS is beheading children “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with,” she said.

US has ‘legal basis’ for strikes in Syria, Power says Power suggested the Russians would back the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council.

Power: US not coordinating with Iran on ISIS fight Power said Iran’s backing of Syria’s president and Hezbollah has been “very destructive.”

Gates: ‘Small number’ of US ground troops needed to combat ISIS Gates said the mission will require advisors, trainers, special forces and forward spotters.

Mullen: Buck stops with Obama on troop decision The former Joint Chiefs chairman said Dempsey’s comments were blown out of proportion.

Tony Blair: Western combat troops may be needed in ISIS fight Blair emphasized that “there’s no need to put in a kind of army of occupation.”

Send in US ground troops to defeat ISIS, King says ”Why take that off the table?” the Republican asked.


Congress voted last week to give the green light to President Obama’s plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels waging war against ISIS.

But Feinstein said Congress, after the Nov. 4 election, will need to vote on a broader authorization for use of military force in the war against the militant group.

“We need to deal with this on a more comprehensive basis,” she said.

Appearing on the same show, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) agreed that Congress should vote on full Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). And he said Obama shouldn’t rule out putting American boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

“We probably shouldn’t lay out our battle plans,” Rogers said, “but we shouldn’t take anything [out of] our battle plans.”

Senate Democrats Block Ted Cruz Bill Revoking U.S. Citizenship of Terrorists

September 21st, 2014


Your friends and family need to know about the kind of insanity that the Democrat Party endorses.  Please forward and encourage them to leave the party that has long since left them and then to register and vote Republican !


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday ripped U.S. Senate Democrats for blocking his bill that would revoke the U.S. citizenship of those who join the ISIS terrorist organization, noting that they are abandoning something Hillary Clinton supported when she was Secretary of State.

The Democrats blocked Cruz’s bill on Thursday, a bill that would revoke citizenship from Americans who join ISIS. Cruz’s bill is very similar to one that then Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)—who is now running in New Hampshire against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)—and then Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) offered a couple of years ago.

“As then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said concerning the Brown-Lieberman legislation — quote — ‘United States citizenship is a privilege, it is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers or in this case foreign terrorists are clearly in violation of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.’ The Expatriate Terrorist Act of 2014 is only a very modest change to current law. It’s one small step in a larger and necessary effort to refocus our ISIS strategy that I urge President Obama to consider immediately.”

On the campaign trail last week in New Hampshire, Brown endorsed Cruz’s bill.

“When people are in ISIS and they’ve left their citizenship at the door, they made it crystal clear when they went there planning on fighting—they’re not coming back for a house with a picket fence, they’re coming back potentially using and hiding behind that citizenship,” Brown said in a press scrum at an event where Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsed him.

“I agree with Sen. Cruz. I’m glad he filed [that bill] and I filed twice already because they should not be able to hide behind the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, especially when they’re looking to hurt and kill our citizens,” Brown added.

Cruz had made an effort to seek unanimous consent to have his bill considered, and Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii objected on behalf of the Senate Democrats on the Senate floor. Cruz said then:

It seems only prudent to address this threat, and I am therefore going to be asking for unanimous consent for the Expatriate Terrorist Act or ETA of 2014, which will make fighting for ISIS, taking up arms against the United States, an affirmative renunciation of American citizenship—and I should note here that the ETA is very similar to the bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown in 2010 to address Americans who were joining al Qaida overseas, notably the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, or here at home, like Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to blow up a car bomb in Times Square.

Senate Democrats Block Ted Cruz Bill Revoking U.S.…/Ted-Cruz-Senate-Democrats-Abandon-Hi…


3 days ago – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday ripped U.S. Senate Democrats for blocking his bill that would revoke the U.S. citizenship of those who join the ISIS … to hide behind the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, …


    Senate Passes Bill to Offer Reward for Information on the Murders of American … (R-NH), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) today hailed the Senate’s unanimous. … Remove. Tony Wilson Why would the U.S. rearm the Free Syrian Army, …

How Obamanomics Harms Obama Voters the Most

September 20th, 2014

Photo: Getty Images

Politics is often filled with paradoxes, and here is one that nearly defies explanation. The demographic groups that voted most heavily for Barack Obama in 2012 have suffered the most from this president’s economic policies. Maybe the people in these demographic groups — blacks, Hispanics, single women and young people — are economically uninformed, or maybe for these groups, when it comes to voting, it’s not the economy, stupid.

Whatever the explanation, the facts speak for themselves: Obama voters have not benefited from his policies.

I looked at the most recent Census Bureau data as analyzed by statisticians from Sentier Research. Last month, Sentier released “Household Income on the Fifth Anniversary of the Economic Recovery: June 2009 to June 2014.” This report found, depressingly, that five years into an “economic recovery,” real median household income “is now 3.1 percent below that of June 2009 when the ‘great recession’ officially ended.” In dollar terms, real median household income fell by $1,698. So much for the Obama claim on Labor Day that “by nearly any measure, the economy is doing better.” Well, actually, for more than half of Americans, their personal financial situation is worse.

The poor and unskilled that Obama says he cares so much about saw their incomes fall by 7.4 percent for those with less than a high-school diploma

Now let’s look at who the Obama voters were in 2012 — and the numbers weren’t a whole lot different in the “hope and change” election of 2008. The demographic groups that were crucial to his victory were: young voters 60 percent (for Obama), single women 67 percent, Hispanics 71 percent and blacks more than 90 percent.

Here’s how these groups have fared economically since Obama became president. According to the Sentier research, single women with and without children present saw their incomes fall by roughly 5 percent. Those age 25-34 experienced an income decline of 4.4 percent. Black heads of households saw their income tumble by 7.7 percent, while the income of Hispanic heads of households fell 5.6 percent. In other words, many of these groups experienced double the income fall than the average voter.

Crystal Caballero, who said she needs a job so she can get off welfare, holds her son, 2 1/2-year-old Lah-Johndre (cq) Pardue, as she waits in line outside Chukchansi Park to apply for seasonal work. / © Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee/

Crystal Caballero, who said she needs a job so she can get off welfare, holds her son as she waits in line to apply for seasonal work. (Photo: Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee/Newscom)

Oh and by the way, the poor and unskilled that Obama says he cares so much about saw their incomes fall by 7.4 percent for those with less than a high-school diploma and 8.2 percent for those with only a high-school diploma.

In dollar terms, between the time the Obama recovery began in June 2009 and June of this year, median black household income fell by nearly $3,000, Hispanic households lost nearly $2,500, and female-headed households lost roughly $1,500.

The jobless numbers show pretty much the same pattern. July’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data (the most recent available) show a national unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. The highest jobless rates by far are for key components of the Obama voter bloc: blacks (11.4 percent), Hispanics (7.8 percent), those with less than a high-school diploma (9.6 percent). For teens, it’s 20.2 percent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was blacks and women who had the largest percentage income gains. Now that progress in reducing racial and gender income gaps has reversed course under Mr. Obama. The income gains under Mr. Obama have been concentrated in those in the top 20 percent of income.

One reason incomes haven’t risen for most groups is the steady decline in labor-force participation. That number has dropped to 62.9 percent from 65.5 percent five years ago. This means a 6.4 million drop in workers earning paychecks.

Income redistribution isn’t an economic strategy for growth. It’s a lifeboat strategy. It would be hard to point to a single initiative the Obama administration has proposed that would help businesses grow and invest. In fact, as the Burger King fiasco documents, companies are leaving the United States owing to taxes and regulation. The poor and minorities have taken the big hit — and that’s the real injustice of Obamanomics.

Originally appeared in the Washington Times.

For the rest of the story and others, see:

What Should U.S. Diplomacy Strategy Be in a Time of Terrorism?

September 19th, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Rick Stengel (Photo: State Department/Sipa USA)

Without question, the Obama administration has been slow in coming up with a strategy to counter the threat from ISIS terrorism.

This week, Rick Stengel, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, made the case for soft power. He told a packed audience at the American Security Project his office faces challenges as momentous, but far more complex, than any the United States has seen since the fall of Soviet communism.

Stengel, a former TIME magazine editor who has been on the job for six months, is the eighth person to hold the public diplomacy post since it was created in 1999. Regardless of who serves in the post, U.S. messaging will be only as convincing as the man in the White House, where a gaping international leadership vacuum has developed under President Obama.

Stengel described U.S. leadership in the 21st century as a “gyroscope in a multifaceted world.” Hardly words of comfort for countries in trouble such as Iraq or Ukraine.

In discussing the part public diplomacy can play in the “gigantic global conversation,” Stengel inadvertently made a troubling point. “We need to figure out what to answer when people talk to us,” he said. “We have to explain our policy. We should be the nation that listens.”

This reflects the Obama administration view of the Internet as the key tool for public diplomacy. It is a view that has caused a de-emphasis of other public diplomacy tools such as U.S. International Broadcasting, one of the largest accounts in the public diplomacy budget, but one that is constantly under stress even as countries such as Russia and China beef up their broadcasting capability.

Stengel acknowledged reliance on the Internet can be problematic. “We are seeing a closing off of the Internet and the information space by illiberal autocracies,” he said. “People can close off information space.  We did not expect this.” He also said he was “amazed at the surge” in Russian propaganda “in the Near Abroad,” although growing Internet censorship and other similar Russian behavior have hardly been secrets.

ISIS propaganda is the other main challenge of the moment. Stengel correctly described ISIS as combining savagery with sophistication in the digital space.  Here the main weapon is the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counter Communication—a small, but critical office whose mission is to “coordinate, orient and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism.” Six weeks ago, the CSCC added English to the languages in which it broadcasts, which also include Arabic, Pashtu and Dari.

Elements of a more serious strategy did appear to be emerging relating to the Middle East. “We need to harden the soft-power landscape,” Stengel acknowledged. He said fighting lies about the United States among Middle East conspiracy peddlers probably would be a wasted effort, but we should “focus on persuading people that being in a coalition with the United States is in their interest.”

But to do that the United States has to be seen as a bedrock of commitment, not a “gyroscope.”

For the rest of the story and others, see:


Rooney Office Staff holding mobile office hours in Arcadia Friday 19 Sept

September 18th, 2014

News from Representative Thomas Rooney

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Do you need assistance with the VA, Social Security Administration, or other federal agency? My office is here to help.
This Friday, September 19, members of my staff will be holding Mobile Office Hours in Arcadia. Our office will be on hand to assist all constituents resolve issues with federal agencies on a first-come, first-served basis. All residents of Florida’s 17th district are welcome to attend.
Event Details
WHAT:   Rooney Staff Mobile Office Hours
WHERE: Board of Commissioners Conference Room, First Floor               201 E. Oak Street               Arcadia, FL
WHEN:   Friday, September 19               9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Do you plan to attend this Friday’s Mobile Office Hours in Arcadia?
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Having difficulty? Please click here.
Can’t make it this Friday? Please stay tuned for announcements on future Mobile Office Hours in your area. You can also always give us a call or drop by one of our offices.
Thank you, Tom Rooney


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Government Insider Warned of Security Risks: ‘I Am Tired of the Cover Ups’

September 18th, 2014

From The Daily Signal

Photo: Julie Rogers/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by and its related systems at risk. security problems put “sensitive personal information” at risk, @usgao concluded.

As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover ups” masking the severity of the problems.

The findings run counter to claims by Obama administration officials who have long insisted there’s no reason for any concern regarding the website’s security.

The news comes in advance of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing at 11 a.m. today examining the security vulnerabilities. GAO Director of Information Security Issues Greg Wilhusen will testify. His report concludes, “Until these weaknesses are addressed, the systems and the information they contain remain at increased risk of unauthorized use, disclosure, modification, or loss.”

Missing Information

As the GAO performed its security investigation, it did not receive full information from the government, according to Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He says that government officials refused to provide GAO with reports on 13 security incidents.

“What vulnerabilities to sensitive personal information is CMS still so intent on hiding from an independent government auditor?” said Issa in a statement issued Wednesday.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. (Photo: Getty Images/Newscom)

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. (Photo: Getty Images/Newscom)

The GAO found that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs, failed to “analyze privacy risks associated with systems or identify mitigating control.” The GAO also faulted officials for not performing comprehensive security testing and not ensuring that security plans contained all required information, “which makes it harder for officials to assess the risks involved in operating those systems.”

According to the GAO, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CMS, agreed or partially agreed with GAO’s six recommendations “to fully implement its information security program” and “concurred with all 22 of the recommendations to resolve technical weaknesses in security controls, describing actions it had under way or planned related to each of them.”

Warnings Ignored

Serious security problems with were exposed in stories I reported for CBS News in November and December of 2013. They revealed that Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, explicitly recommended the website should not be launched Oct. 1, 2013, due to security concerns, but was overruled by her superiors.

“I am tired of the cover ups,” a government security chief said of problems.

Fryer said she had warned, both verbally and in a briefing, that the website carried “high [security] risks” and possible exposure to “attacks.” Fryer also said that she refused to put her name on a letter recommending the website be given a temporary authority to operate while the issues were sorted out.

Additionally, Henry Chao, the CMS project manager in charge of building the website, was apparently kept in the dark about serious security failures. Those included “high-risk” issues, flagged by the government’s security testing firm, which indicated “the threat and risk potential [to the system] is limitless.”

‘Tired of the Cover Ups’

Meantime, internal documents newly released by Republicans on the Oversight Committee detail agency infighting and secrecy efforts surrounding the troubled launch of

Fryer indicated that she was frustrated by fellow CMS officials who were not providing a true picture of security testing prior to the launch.

“I am tired of the cover ups,” she emailed a colleague, stating that she intended to give “a truthful update of exactly what was going on” to an official at Health and Human Services who had asked for a status report.

Marilyn Tavenner (Photo: Alyson Fligg/Sipa USA/Newscom)

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner (Photo: Alyson Fligg/Sipa USA/Newscom)

When CMS’ independent security testing prior to launch produced negative results, documents indicate one CMS official sought to have the report changed.

“We need to hit the pause button on this report,” wrote CMS’ Thomas Schankweiler, “and have an internal meeting about it. … It is very possible that this report will be reviewed at some point by [the Office of the Inspector General], and could see the light in other ways.”

In an Oct. 5, 2013, email, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner forwarded a subordinate a complaint from a White House adviser and then instructed, “Please delete this email.” Issa says that instruction violates federal record-keeping rules.

Tavenner is scheduled to testify at today’s Oversight Committee hearing.


    Kathy Rapp
Vice Chairman
    Virgil Beato
    Olivia Scott
    Penny Kocarek

State Committeeman
    C. A. "Chuck" Oakes

State Committeewoman
    Joan Hartt