Day: July 8, 2017


Daring to bare shoulders: Debate on dress code for female Hill reporters heats up

A story about a female Capitol Hill reporter unexpectedly barred from the House Speaker’s Lobby for wearing a sleeveless dress is emerging as Washington’s hottest controversy — with some veteran journalists now trying to take the blame off Speaker Paul Ryan and saying the rules have long been in place.

The controversy apparently started with a story by CBS News about the bare-shouldered reporter being told by a guard that she couldn’t enter the area, adjacent to the House floor. So she tried unsuccessfully to cover her shoulders by creating sleeves with pages she ripped from her notebook.

The flap over the dress code in the area, where reporters often catch House members exiting the floor for an interview, frequently emerges during the hottest days of summer.

This summer, some publications have suggested the ban on bare-shouldered tops and open-toed shoes for women was instituted or being enforced by Ryan, R-Wis.

However, such rules appear to have been in place for a long time, though apparently subject to different interpretations and enforcement. 

House rules state lawmakers must “dress appropriately, which has traditionally been considered to include a coat and tie for male members and appropriate attire for female members.”

Another part of the rules makes clear that members should not wear overcoats or hats on the floor while the House is in session.

“Don’t hang this on @SpeakerRyan I’ve covered Congress & have seen women and men incl (members) booted for breaking the dress code,” National Press Club President Jeff Ballou tweeted Friday.

One possible explanation is that Ryan recently reminded members to wear “appropriate business attire on the House floor.”

In the online CBS story posted Thursday, Haley Byrd, a congressional reporter for Independent Journal Review, reportedly said she was kept out of the lobby in May because she was wearing a sleeveless dress.

“I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway, but I was told I was violating the rules,” Byrd is quoted as saying. “They offered to find a sweater for me to put on, so it wasn’t some tyrannical end of free press, but I opted to just go around instead. But recently they’ve been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes.”

NBC News’ congressional reporter Kasie Hunt said over a series of tweets earlier this week: “This is simply wrong. The Speakers’ Lobby dress code has been this way for decades. Can be argued it should change — but let’s be factual,” and “As long as I’ve worked on the Hill (on and off for 10+ years), it’s been enforced. Including when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Joseph Weber contributed to this story.

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House Republicans stymied in their efforts to adopt a budget

Republicans relished criticizing congressional Democrats when they fumbled or flat-out didn’t try to approve a budget.

They took particular joy in upbraiding former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, when he didn’t shepherd a budget through the Senate, piously preaching the virtues of congressional budgeting.

Certainly the struggle to OK a budget doesn’t look good for Republicans, who now control the House and Senate.

There was a plan a few weeks ago to advance a budget through the House Budget Committee. But that effort crumbled when Republicans fought over defense spending. Republicans fractured again when they fought over slashing some $50 billion in entitlement spending.

The law says the House is supposed to adopt a budget in April.

But the House’s collapse when it comes to budgeting threatens to imperil the most holy of Republican agenda items: diminishing federal spending and tax reform.

Let’s go subterranean for a moment.

Congress doesn’t approve money annually for costly federal entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Those dollars just fly out the door automatically. It’s known as “mandatory spending.”

Now, Congress doesn’t have to spend it. Lawmakers voted decades ago against deciding each year how much money to allocate to those programs. The federal Treasury directs about 70 percent of all federal spending to that trio of entitlements. An increasingly large chunk of “mandatory” spending is interest on the debt.

The rest of the money — about 30 percent — constitutes “discretionary” spending.

Congress wields “discretion” over spending everything else. How much goes to the National Park Service. How much to run the Federal Reserve. How much to operate the State Department.  How much it allocates to itself.

By the way, the chunk of change devoted to the legislative branch is on the rise after the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice. A few million more dollars are in the pipeline for security improvements and to hire additional U.S. Capitol Police officers.

So, if you truly wanted to harness federal spending and the nation’s $21 trillion debt, from which side of the ledger would you cut? From mandatory spending or discretionary spending?

“You cannot address long-term debt without looking at the mandatory side of the budget,” said White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “You would be hard pressed to be able to balance the budget without looking at mandatory spending.”

But that’s where the problem lies for House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn.

True budget savings would come from slashing entitlement spending.

Black and other GOPers would like to reduce $200 billion in entitlement (mandatory) spending. But a coalition of 20 moderate Republicans pushed back. They argue that Black’s plan isn’t “practical” and that they are “reticent” to vote for such a deep cut. Losing those 20 Republicans doesn’t quite kill the vote count for the budget. But it’s close.

President Trump wants to spend more on defense in this budget. Defense hawks demanded somewhere north of $640 billion for the Pentagon. Of late, the defense target has fallen between $617 and $623 billion.

Technically, defense spending isn’t supposed to exceed $549 billion. That’s the ceiling imposed by sequestration, the mandatory set of spending cuts created by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the debt limit.

One senior Republican close to the discussions suggested they “should have started with a defense number around $603 billion and negotiated up” to lure defense-minded Republicans.

Keep in mind that Republicans would first have to engineer a budget that wouldn’t collapse in committee to say nothing of getting nuked by GOPers on the floor.

So, there’s a stalemate.

Failing to adopt a budget would certainly be a blow to Republicans — especially former House Budget Committee Chairman and now House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

The House didn’t advance a budget last year on Ryan’s watch, either. No budget means there’s no way to mine the federal coffers for major cuts essential to contracting the deficit.

But a bigger problem lurks for Republicans.

No budget could imperil the GOP plan to approve tax reform.

Ryan insists Republicans will approve tax reform.

“Tax reform is happening, not next year or next Congress,” he said recently. “It is happening now, in 2017.”

Here’s the issue: Republicans would face a filibuster in the Senate from Democrats and probably some Republicans on tax reform.

The GOP leadership in both bodies wants to use a special process called “budget reconciliation” for tax reform to avoid a filibuster. This is the same parliamentary scheme Republicans are now using to deal with ObamaCare.

Otherwise, the sides must round up 60 votes just to break the filibuster to start debate on the tax bill and 60 votes a second time to wrap things up.

However, there’s a reason the process is called “budget reconciliation.” The House must first adopt a budget to give the Senate something with which to work.

No budget, and any effort at tax reform could be in trouble.

Certainly the House could approve a “skeleton” budget, designed expressly as a “shell” for the Senate to use when handling tax reform.

In other words, it’s a budget in name only. Only the framework. The House essentially followed that path in January to set up the legislative vehicle to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Meantime, look at the raw dollars. The biggest standoff among congressional Republicans in settling the budget impasse is waged between defense advocates and Republicans who want to fund everything else — yet cut spending.

This is where things get interesting.

The House Appropriations Committee wrote a defense spending bill totaling $658.1 billion. That’s $68.1 billion more than last year and $18.4 billion more than Trump requested. When the House Armed Services Committee wrote this year’s defense authorization bill — which is different from the appropriations legislation — Republican lawmakers found themselves all over the map.

Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel, took note.

“We do not have $600, $700, $800, $900 billion to spend on defense unless we pretty much completely eliminate all non-defense discretionary spending, which there isn’t support for doing,” he said. “Twenty trillion dollars in debt, a $706 billion deficit, trying to find $50 billion in mandatory savings, and the majority can’t even do that, all right?”

Smith’s remark crystalizes the entire debate about the GOP attempting to complete a budget.

As a result, Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, the leading Democrat on the House Budget Committee, says that the GOP “shell” budget is “looking more and more likely.”

And there’s a reason behind that. The “faux” budget would not be so much to actually alter the nation’s spending trajectory. But if the House approves a budget, it will serve as a contrivance to help tax reform navigate the U.S. Senate.





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'WILL BE DEARLY MISSED' 'True Blood' Star Nelsan Ellis dies at age 39

Nelsan Ellis, known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood,” has died at age 39, reports Variety

The actor died after complications from heart failure.

“We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis,” HBO said in a statement. “Nelsan was a long-time member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of ‘True Blood.’ Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO.”

“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Emily Gerson Saines, his manager, told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

Ellis’ “The Help” costar Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram Saturday morning, saying, “Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family.”



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'ONE WAY OR ANOTHER' Trump assures Chinese leader North Korea nuclear threat will end

President Trump, at the start of his meeting Saturday in Germany with Chinese President Xi Jinping, called the Asian nation a “great trading partner” and said the increasing North Korea nuclear threat will eventually be resolved “one way or the other.”

The much-anticipated meeting was one of several Trump and top administration officials had Saturday with world leaders at the close of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. But it was considered perhaps the most critical.

China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, which gives the country considerable influence over Pyongyang and its growing threat, which includes developing a nuclear warhead and launching long-range missiles to transport them.


Trump told Xi that putting an end to North Korea’s nuclear missile testing “may take longer than I’d like, it may take longer that you’d like. But there will be success in the end one way or the other.”

“Something has to be done,” the president also said.

Xi also spoke briefly, but his comments in Chinese were not immediately translated and available.

Saturday’s meeting also focused on trade between the two nations.

Trump said “many things have happened” that have created trade imbalances between the United States and China but “we’re going to turn that around.”

The president was flanked in the meeting room by about a dozen top administration officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and adviser Jared Kushner.

The meeting followed a long-range missile test launch by North Korea on Tuesday, which a Pentagon spokesman said was a type not previously seen by U.S. analysts.

Following the missile launch, Trump expressed frustration with China over its expanding trade with North Korea. Trump had expressed optimism after his first meeting with China’s president that the two would work together to curb North Korea’s nuclear pursuits.

The president tweeted Wednesday, “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!”

China has long resisted intensifying economic pressure on neighboring North Korea, in part out of fear of the instability that could mount on its doorstep, including the possibility of millions of North Koreans fleeing into China. China has also been concerned that a reunited, democratic Korea — dominated by South Korea — would put a U.S. ally, and possibly U.S. forces, on its border.

Tillerson on Tuesday vowed “stronger measures” to hold North Korea accountable.

“Global action is required to stop a global threat,” he said.

Tillerson also said any country helping North Korea militarily or economically, taking in its guest workers or falling short on Security Council resolutions “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.”

However, his statement did not specifically mention China.

Fox News’ John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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WOUNDED VET'S PLEA Company won't let Marine bring PTSD dog to work

An ex-Marine awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat says his bosses won’t let him come to work with his trained service dog.

“I was told by my supervisor that HR said that if I showed up with the dog I’d be fired,” Yaunce Long told Fox & Friends Saturday.

Long said he installs phone lines for Cincinnati Bell in Ohio. He has a service dog, named C4, to help him control anxiety caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was diagnosed with the condition after a 10-year stint in the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was with counter-intelligence.

Long said that each day for a week he was sent home without pay when he showed up with C4.


“Basically, they’ve treated the dog as if it’s an option,” he said.

Long said he has requested an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I’ve pleaded with the company,” he said. “I’ve gone through all the necessary paperwork. I provided everything that they asked for and I even followed up with them to make sure I had everything in proper order because I wasn’t sure of the process either.”

He said his application has languished for months because the company is stonewalling.

“Despite repeated effort we have yet to receive any information regarding the current status of Yaunce’s condition and its effect on his ability to perform his duty,” Cincinnati Bell told Fox & Friends.


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Putin: TV Trump very different from real Trump

‘Shame on You:’ Activist Who Called For ‘Jihad’ Against Trump Sparks Clash With Ben Shapiro and CAIR Rep

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that “Television Trump” is very different from the real President Trump.

“As I see it, Television Trump is very different from the real person,” Putin said Saturday at a press conference. “He is absolutely concrete, absolutely adequately perceives the interlocutor, quite quickly analyzes, answers questions or draws from the discussions some new elements.

“As regards personal relations, I think they are established,” the Russian president stated.

St. Louis Drops Minimum Wage More Than $2

The two world leaders met for the first time at the three day G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Their meeting spread to two and a half hours instead of the planned half hour.

Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election was not resolved in the meeting, but the presidents did agree upon a cease-fire in Syria.

Afterwards, the Russian foreign minister asserted that Trump had accepted Putin’s denial of election interference, a claim the White House pushed back on.

“There is no basis to believe that Russia interfered in the electoral process of the United States,” Putin said.

Both presidents were optimistic about working together on many issues, such as cyberspace security in the future.

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Marine Vet’s Employer Bans His PTSD Service Dog

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ICE crackdown scaring illegals back to Mexico…

President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants by federal agents is scaring some of those families back to Mexico, according to knowledgable sources in the Pueblo community.

According to news reports, federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents were told in a February memorandum to detain any undocumented person they encountered — not just those with a criminal history or those in jails, the previous policy.

That ramped-up enforcement has reportedly led to 14 people in the Pueblo area being arrested by ICE agents this year.

One of those people — 49-year-old Benito Rubio — died in a Denver hospital from undetermined causes while in federal custody after being arrested Feb. 28 in Pueblo.

Sources report that some undocumented families have left the area for Mexico rather than run the risk of having a parent arrested or even sentenced to prison for immigration violations.

Rubio, for example, was facing felony charges from repeat immigration violations and was likely to be sentenced to prison before being deported, according to his family.

The danger of arrest is also being felt in the number of longtime local people who offer to pick fruits and vegetables in Southern Colorado.

Michael Hirakata, whose family has grown cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkins in the Rocky Ford area since 1927, said he has applied for 60 federal H2A worker visas this year. The documents allow workers to stay here from July to October and work on Hirakata’s farm.

“Fewer and fewer local people have been taking part in the (farm) labor pool anymore,” Hirakata said Friday.

Growers weren’t always certain of those workers’ immigration status.

A member of the Colorado Agriculture Commission, Hirakata said there is a shortage of approved H2A workers across the state.

“I know growers in this area have also changed their crops in response,” he said. “You don’t see as many onions being grown anymore because that’s a crop that requires field workers.”

The search for H2A workers has grown more intense in the past year.

The Colorado Department of Labor reports that in the 2016 growing season, 234 growers filed applications to obtain H2A workers. This year, that number has grown to 316.

“That may be an indication the supply of local (farm workers) is dwindling,” a spokesman said.

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FBI: Flight attendant on broke wine bottle on man's head – Video shows flyer yelling at flight attendant – Airline employee stops rolling truck, averts disaster

A wine bottle broken on his head did not faze a man who lunged for an exit door and fought with other passengers on an international Delta Air Lines flight to Beijing, the FBI said.

Authorities said Joseph Daniel Hudek IV, 23, of Tampa, Florida forced a Seattle to Beijing flight to return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday when he tried to open an exit door before getting into a scuffle with flight attendants and other passengers.


FBI special agent Caryn Highley  said in a probable cause statement on Friday that during the disturbance, Hudek punched one flight attendant twice in the face and struck at least one passenger in the head with a red dessert wine bottle. As the struggle continued, a flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek over the head with each – breaking at least one of them.

According to one flight attendant, “Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or something to that extent,” the complaint said.

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Eventually several passengers were able to hold Hudek down long enough to place zip-tie restraints on him, Highley wrote.

Hudek, who appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday, wearing a beige jail uniform and sporting a scrape or bruise below his right eye, was charged with interfering with a flight crew, which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to remain in custody at least until a detention hearing on July 13.

He did not speak during the hearing. His attorney, Robert Flennaugh II, declined to comment.

One flight attendant and a passenger were taken to a hospital after suffering severe facial injuries, authorities said. Perry Cooper, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, described the injuries as non-life-threatening.

Highley said Hudek was sitting in the first row of the Boeing 767’s first-class section. He asked a flight attendant for a beer before takeoff, and was served one, but he exhibited no sign of being intoxicated and ordered no other alcoholic drinks, the attendant told authorities.

About an hour into the flight, while the plane was over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Vancouver Island, Hudek went into the forward restroom. He came out quickly, asked the attendant a question, and went back in, the agent wrote.

When he came out again two minutes later, he suddenly lunged for the exit door, grabbed the handle and tried to open it, Highley wrote. Two attendants grabbed him, but he pushed them away, and the attendants signaled for help from several passengers and notified the cockpit by telephone, the complaint said.

It was then that Hudek punched one flight attendant and struck a passenger with wine bottle.

Hudek was put in a head-lock by a passenger before he was restrained, Highley wrote. Even then he remained combative, she said, and it took multiple passengers to keep him restrained until the plane landed and Port of Seattle police arrested him.


Hudek had been traveling on a “dependent pass,” the complaint said. Such passes allow certain relatives of Delta employees to fly standby.

Passenger Dustin Jones told KIRO-TV that he saw the man being rolled into the terminal in a wheelchair after the plane landed.

“He started yelling for help,” Jones said. “And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent.”

The flight left for Beijing later Thursday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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'WE'RE NOT WINNING' Sheriff's stance on life-saving drug questioned

An Ohio sheriff is taking a stand in the war on heroin addiction that he said will get at the root of the epidemic, and that seems to fly in the face of standard police practices.

Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, Ohio, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he believes the drug naloxone, a substance used to revive overdose victims that is known by its brand name Narcan, is more trouble than its worth.

“I don’t do Narcan,” Jones told the Enquirer, noting that his deputies “never carried it… nor will they.”

Jones’ position raises eyebrows for a number of reasons. In his state alone, health care costs related to the epidemic totaled some $1.1 billion in 2015, with Ohio tallying more prescription opioid overdose deaths that same year than any other state in the nation.


And it’s not as if his county has been immune, either. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there were less than two dozen unintentional drug overdose deaths in Butler county in 2003. By 2015, that number had skyrocketed to 195.

In June, Middletown city council member Dan Picard proposed a three-strike style policy for repeat-overdose victims. He said his proposal wasn’t meant to address the heroin issue, but to help the city budget cope with the high uptick in overdose calls. 

“My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city,” Picard told The Washington Post. “If we’re spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to start laying off. We’re going to have to raise taxes.” 

In Dayton, Ohio, the drug has been used to reverse overdoses more than 160 times since December 2015.


While there are no laws mandating the use of naloxone by law enforcement, data from the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a group committed to getting the drug into the hands of community members and law enforcement, suggests that 1,214 law enforcement agencies nationwide are using it as of December 2016.

For Jones, these numbers mean little when weighed against the safety of his deputies. Jones said that users can often become violent, or start vomiting once the drug is administered, and that for his officers “to get on the ground and spray it in their nose is simply dangerous.”

Jones told Fox News that another point he thinks is being missed in the debate over Narcan is that the drug has “helped revive and save some lives but not bring down the usage of heroin.”

Jones said the heroin problem is so bad in his county that “heroin parties” are being held with designated Narcan providers who can buy it at a health department. 

He said there have been at least three babies born in his county jail in the last 18 months that were addicted to heroin.



“I’ve held these little kids and their legs quiver,” Jones said. ” It’s sad.”

Jones isn’t alone in his reluctance to have officers carry the drug.

Chief Craig Bucheit of Hamilton, Ohio, won’t have his officers carry Narcan because the paramedics do.

“It would duplicate efforts,” Bucheit told Fox News.

The idea that using Narcan borders on a medical procedure, and thus should be left to people like EMT’s, is a philosophy embraced by some officers, as well. According to a man identified as a senior officer serving with a North Carolina municipal police department, the issue of whether officers should be carrying Narcan presents something of a Pandora’s Box.

“Officers have years of training and experience in enforcing the law and making arrests,” the officer wrote in Calibre Press. “It takes a unique mindset and specialized skills. It’s not realistic to ask an officer to switch all of that off in an instant and become a medical professional. Where do we draw the line? Do officers carry EpiPens? Anti-seizure medication? Nitroglycerin pills? These are things that can all save lives, too.”

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17 pounds of heroin seized in S. Carolina interstate bust

One of the most dangerous drugs on the streets is among more than a dozen pounds of narcotics Greenville County, South Carolina deputies found being transported on the interstate.

Sheriff Will Lewis held a press conference at 2:30 p.m. on Friday to discuss busts made by the county’s new interdiction team. Since February the four-deputy team has been working full-time to seize illegal drugs, guns, stolen cars and traveling fugitives on the county’s interstates.


Last week, Lewis said in four different traffic stops, the team seized more than 17 pounds of heroin, over a pound of “gray death,” 220 grams of methamphetamine and three ounces of marijuana.

Gray death, a nickname for a drug cocktail often made of fentanyl and the buffalo tranquilizer carfentanil, can be cut with heroin. The mixture, which Lewis described as looking like concrete mix, is extremely lethal and can be deadly through skin contact.

Lewis said 0.2 milligrams of gray death can kill. The drug was located after a K-9 alerted on a bus which was stopped.

He said deputies risk accidental exposure to the deadly substance during traffic stops and in order to prevent exposure, a laser scanner is used to test gray death.

“People just don’t even know about this yet,” Lewis said. “The word is not even out.”

He also said they are working with veterinarians to determine how to protect K-9 units from exposure, saying the department would never knowingly put a K-9 in contact with a fentanyl-based substance.

The heroin seized was found after a traffic stop for failure to maintain lane. Lewis described the amount as “California numbers” and said the quantity is not something seen often in the state.

“It’s almost unfathomable,” Lewis said. “I’ve never heard – in my entire time in narcotics, my entire time in the DEA task force – I’ve never heard of a 17 and a half pound seizure in South Carolina, ever.”

The wholesale value of the drugs is estimated at more than $545,000. Street value can be up to 70 percent higher.

Read more at Fox Carolina.


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