Friday, May 25, 2012

Top two crime cartels wreak havoc in effort to intimidate authorities

mexico city — The two most important criminal organizations in Mexico are engaged in all-out war, and the most spectacular battles are being fought for the cameras as the combatants pursue a strategy of intimidation and propaganda by dumping ever greater numbers of headless bodies in public view — some of the victims most likely innocents.

ALEJANDRO ACOSTA/REUTERS Juan Carlos Antonio Mercado, a local leader of the Zetas cartel, was closely guarded this month at police headquarters in Guadalajara, Mexico. Mercado has asserted responsibility for dismembering 18 people.

With the groups no longer limiting themselves to regional skirmishes, the older, established drug-smuggling Sinaloa cartel is now fighting the brash, young paramilitary Zetas crime organization across multiple front lines in Mexico in a desperate battle, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials and security analysts on both sides of the border.
As the number of total homicides in Mexico has been slowly dropping, the sensational violence spikes higher, creating an atmosphere of instability that makes Mexicans and American visitors fear travel in wide stretches of country that even Mexican military leaders concede are not completely under state control.
The two gangs and their surrogates continue to quietly kill each other, but they are also staging public massacres in order to terrify civilians, cow authorities and taunt outgoing President Felipe Calderon, who has made his U.S.backed confrontation with the cartels a centerpiece of his administration.
“What was once viewed as extreme is now normal. So these gangs must find new extremes. And the only real limit is their imagination, and you do not want to know what is the limit of psychopaths,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst with the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a nonpartisan think tank.
In the past month alone, in what authorities describe as a gruesome version of text messaging, the two criminal groups and their allies deposited 14 headless bodies in front of the city hall in the border community of Nuevo Laredo and hanged nine people, including four women, from a bridge in the same city.
They have left 18 dismembered bodies in vans near Lake Chapala, an area frequented by tourists and U.S. retirees outside Guadalajara. They used a dump truck to unload 49 more corpses, missing not only heads but also feet and hands, outside Monterrey, Mexico’s main industrial city.
To guarantee the widest possible audience, they posted a video of themselves dumping the bodies, plus a banner: “Gulf cartel, Sinaloa cartel, marines and soldiers, nobody can do anything against us or they will lose . . . ”
It was signed with names of Zeta leaders.

Mexico’s drug war: As Mexico’s drug war rages on, the country remains stricken with a kind of social poverty.

“We’ve had over recent weeks these despicable inhuman acts in different parts of the country that are part of an irrational struggle mainly between two of the existing criminal organizations and their criminal allies,” said Mexico’s interior minister, Alejandro Poire.
Fighting among Mexican crime gangs is nothing new. What is new: the Sinaloa cartel creating alliances with former competitors — the Gulf cartel, the remnants of the Arellano Felix brothers in Tijuana, new elements of Michoacan’s La Familia gang — to beat back the ascendent Zetas and their allies, in what one security analyst compared to a narcoversion of World War III.
‘Psychopathology at work’
Many of the victims have not been identified, and in the case of the 49 decapitated corpses, the heads have not been recovered. It appears likely that the victims were not members of the warring groups but street criminals, addicts, civilians, or migrants passing through on their way to the United States.
“The killings are done to draw a response from the media, from the government, to bring in the military. So these victims, they are not members of the organizations. They are just random guys. All the evidence suggests this,” said Jorge Chabat of the Center for Research and Teaching on Economics, an expert on the drug trade.
“They have never been very careful about who they kill,” Chabat said. “They just kill.”
For the past few months, based on wiretaps, intelligence from informants and arrests, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agents say they have been watching the Zetas make incursions deep into the Sinaloa cartel’s traditional territories — even in Sierra Madre towns such as Badiraguato and Choix, once thought of as impregnable strongholds for Sinaloa’s leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the most-wanted man in Mexico.
The motivation behind the massacres? “These acts show force. They tell the world, the government, their opponents, that ‘I am alive! You have not defeated me. I still am here.’ They show muscle,” said Martin Barron, an expert on security at the National Institute of Criminal Justice.
“Now why have things gone so far? Such brutality? Why cut off the heads, hands and feet? Previously, these organizations settled matters with a bullet in the head. Not anymore,” Barron said. “Now there is a psychopathology at work. Some of these people obviously enjoy this, and they are teaching their surrogates, teenagers, to enjoy it.”
To bolster their defense of regions they control, and to destabilize their opponents, both groups have taken the fight to the other’s territory. Part of this strategy is to “heat up the plaza” — a plaza being a city or town where a criminal group controls corrupt officials and police as well as smuggling routes, a network of safe houses, armories of stashed weapons, and teams dedicated to spying, collecting money and killing.
By heating up a plaza, the warring sides hope to bring in a forceful response by the authorities — sending in the army or marines, who round up local crime cells and put pressure on the dominant group.

April 10, 2012
A forensic worker takes a picture of the scene where the bodies of eight taxi drivers were killed in the Costa Azul neighborhood in Monterrey, Mexico. More than 40,000 people have been killed in rising drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers and federal police to take on organized crime.

The assassins almost always leave “narcomantas,” neatly printed manifestoes full of expletives and obscure rants that claim authorship for the killing.
Sometimes the manifestoes are accurate; other times they are designed to confuse. In the case of the 49 mutilated bodies left last week outside Monterrey, the Zetas first asserted responsibility, then denied it in other banners hung across the state, then finally claimed the killings, perhaps reluctantly, when Mexican military forces arrested Daniel Elizondo, alias “The Madman,” a leader of the local Zetas cell.
Elizondo told authorities that he had been ordered by the Zeta leadership to dump the bodies in the center of Cadereyta, an industrial town on the outskirts of Monterrey, but that he became frightened and put them on the highway leading outside of town.
Lack of public trials
There is no way to know whether Elizondo’s confession was true or made under duress. Those arrested for massacres are never tried in open court, the records are almost impossible to obtain, and most are never put before a judge but sent to jail and eventually released. Mexico’s prosecution rate for homicides is low.
U.S. law enforcement and Mexican analysts say the outbreak of war is not designed to directly influence the July 1 presidential election.
But front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which hopes to return to power after 12 years, has stressed that he is more interested in lowering violence than in fighting drug trafficking.

This would put Peña Nieto squarely against the Zetas, who specialize more in carjacking, kidnapping, extortion and smuggling migrants than in smuggling cocaine and marijuana.

Timeline: Mexico's drug war

Five years after it began, the U.S.-backed drug war rages on.

September 2006

At a police roadblock operation in Zacapu, West of the state capital, an officer gives IDs back to two men who were questioned. (The Washington Post)

Drug syndicate leaves severed heads at a disco club

A new drug syndicate calling itself La Familia tosses a bag filled with severed heads onto the dance floor of a disco club in Uruapan, Michoacan state.

December 2006

President Felipe Calderon, center, reviews troops with Minister of Defense Guillermo Galvan, left, and Minister of the Navy Mariano Saynez, right, at Campo Marte in Mexico City on Dec.1, 2006. (Gregory Bull/AP)

Calderon deploys troops

Within days of taking office, Mexico president Felipe Calderon sends 6,500 Mexican troops to battle drug traffickers in Michoacan, his home state, marking a major escalation of the government's campaign against the cartels. Today, 50,000 troops patrol Mexico's streets and highways.

October 2007

Mexico's Secretary of Public Safety Genaro Garcia Luna, center, speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, third right, during the delivery ceremony of three US made helicopters to the Mexican government in Mexico City, on Nov. 24, 2010. (Alxandre Meneghini/AP)

U.S. announced security aid package

Calderon and President George W. Bush announce the Merida Initiative, a $1.6 billion security aid package including Black Hawk helicopters, police training and intelligence sharing for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

December 2008

Relatives weep as an injured man is taken away by paramedics after unknown gunmen opened fire killing at least one person in the northen border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Nov. 25, 2008. (AP)

Ciudad Juarez sees increase in murder

The border town of Ciudad Juarez ends the year with 1,600 homicides, up from 307 the previous year, as Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman invades the city in a bid to muscle aside the long-dominant Juarez cartel. Since 2008, more than 10,000 people have died in Juarez, making the city one of themost murderous places on Earth.

January 2009

Municipal police officer Luis Giovanni Sanchez Bustos, a member of a Special Operations Group, patrols the neighborhood of Mesa de Otay in Tijujuana in the early hours of the morning. (Sarah L. Voisin)

Cartels target TV journalist

Gunmen hurl a grenade at the offices of broadcaster Televisa in Monterrey, as cartels increasingly target journalists in an attempt to manipulate coverage of the violence or silence the media entirely.

December 2009

Photo of drug boss Arturo Beltran Leyva. (File photo)

Mexican drug boss killed in shootout

Aided by U.S. intelligence, Mexican troops kill powerful drug boss Arturo Beltran Leyva in a shootout in Cuernavaca, notching a major victory for the Calderon government. But his cartel fragments into smaller, rival groups, fueling more violence.

January 2010

Unidentified friends and relatives of those killed during an attack on a birthday party mourn during a funeral service in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Oct. 24, 2010. (Raymundo Ruiz/AP)

Gunmen attack birthday party

In the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, gunmen attack a birthday party packed with high school students, killing 16 and drawing new attention to the growing death toll of civilians seemingly unconnected to the drug trade.Calderon travels to Juarez to announce an ambitious social spending plan, an acknowledgment that military might alone can't quell the violence.

July 2010

A police officer runs as a firefighter sprays a police truck with water after an attack on police patrol trucks that killed two officers in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on July 15, 2010. (AP)

Sophisticated car bomb explodes in Cuidad Juarez

Experts reveal that a car bomb that exploded near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez was a sophisticated device never before seen in Mexico, triggered by cellphone after police and medical workers were lured to the scene.

August 2010

Susana Conoz cries next to the coffin of her relative Jose Yovanny Bocel, at an Air Force base in Guatemala City on March 21, 2012. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

72 migrants murdered at ranch

Gunmen from the Zetas cartel abduct and murder 72 migrants at a ranch near the town of San Fernando, an hour south of the Texas border. The massacre draws new attention to the the horrors facing U.S.-bound migrants, mostly from Central America, who are increasingly preyed upon by criminal gangs as they attempt to cross Mexico.

November 2010

Forensic police investigators carry one of four victims of a shootout at a jewelry store in Monterrey, Mexico. (Monica Rueda/AP)

Monterrey becomes new front in drug war

The business and industrial center of Mexico, Monterrey, becomes new front in Calderon's U.S.-backed drug war, its future clouded by lawlessness. One top executive said, "If Monterrey is lost, all is lost."

January 2011

A guard stands on the watch tower of the Aquiles Serdan city jail on the outskirts of Chihuahua, on January 17, 2011. (Reuters)

Inmates escape Nuevo Laredo prison

More than 150 inmates escape from a state prison in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Texas, the largest prison break in Mexican history. The escape exposes the inability of the Mexican prison system to accommodate all the new inmates, as well as the fact that many facilities are controlled by the cartels.

Febuary 2011

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed in the line of duty after he was attacked by unknown assailants while driving between Monterrey and Mexico City. (Courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

U.S. agent killed in Mexico

ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and his partner Victor Avila are attacked by Zeta gunmen while driving along Mexico's Highway 57 in an armored Chevy Suburban with diplomatic license plates. Zapata is killed in the ambush, making him the first U.S.agent to die in the line of duty in Mexico since 1985.

April 2011

Morgue employees take a body, found in a mass grave, from a refrigerated truck into the local morgue in Matamoros, northern Mexico. (Alexandre Meneghini/AP)

Dozens of mass graves found

Mexican investigators pull 193 bodies from dozens of mass graves around the town of San Fernando, in Tamaulipas state, where gangsters from the Zetas drug cartel had been abducting passengers from buses and taking them to remote ranches to be robbed, raped and executed.

May 2011

A police officer escorts suspect Jose Godoy Artola, right, from Guatemala, upon his arrival to an air force base in Guatemala City. (Moises Castillo/AP)

Zeta gunmen massacre 27 in Guatemala

Zeta gunmen massacre 27 people at a jungle ranch in northern Guatemala, as the cartels push deeper into Central America in the competition for new smuggling routes. Governments in the region, following Mexico's lead, send their military forces against the traffickers, backed by growing amounts of U.S. aid.

August 2011

Investigators walk through debris of the charred Casino Royale after a deadly arson assault, in Monterrey, Mexico on Aug. 26, 2011. (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

52 dead after arson attack at casino

An arson attack at the Casino Royale in Monterrey leaves 52 dead in one of the worst mass killings of ordinary Mexicans in the five-year-old campaign against organized crime.

September 2011

Mexican army soldiers patrol near the site where state prosecutors will gather for a convention in the Gulf port city of Veracruz, Mexico on Sept. 21, 2011. (Felix Marquez/AP)

35 bodies dumped in Mexican city

A gang dumps 35 bodies at a busy intersection in the tourist zone in the coastal city of Veracruz. Authorities try to calm the public by saying that most of the dead were criminals who were killed by a warring drug cartel.

January 2012

Police finds severed heads in Torreon

Mexican police in the northern city of Torreon find the severed heads of five people killed in a suspected outbreak of drug gang violence.

March 2012

Policemen ambushed and killed

Gunmen in Teloloapan, Guerrero ambush and kill 12 policemen who were investigating the beheadings of 10 people. At least nine other agents are injured during the incident.

May 2012

Police finds bodies hanging from a bridge, torsos by highway

Police find the bodies of nine people hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas. The same day, police also find the dismembered bodies of 14 people in garbage bags, dumped near the Nuevo Laredo police station. Later in the month, dozens of mutilated bodies are found dumped by a highway near Monterrey.
SOURCE: The Washington Post; BBC News. GRAPHIC: Bill Booth and Anup Kaphle - The Washington Post. Published May 09, 2012.

5/15/2012 10:36 AM EDT
The real timeline goes back to June 17, 1971, when Richard (I'm not a crook) Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Nixon made perfectly clear that he wanted a report which supported his views and 'tough on crime' policies, no matter what the facts might be. This is why he ignored the Shafer Commission's report, calling for the decriminalization of marijuana. Nixon was a menace to humanity.

It was not the five severed heads rolled onto the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra (Sun and Shade) night club in Uruapan, Michoacan in 2006.

Soldiers laid to rest in Yemen

  • 25 May 2012
  • The Washington Post

Yemeni soldiers carry coffins in a procession Wednesday during a funeral for the scores of soldiers killed in Monday’s suicide bombing in Sanaa, the capital. A man with explosives strapped under his army uniform killed 100 people when he blew himself up during a military parade rehearsal. The plot by al-qaeda’s Yemen branch narrowly missed killing the defense minister and was the country’s worst terrorist attack in years. 

GOP showing small shifts on taxes

By , Friday, May 25, 1:01 PM

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg - Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), speaks at the Bloomberg Washington Summit on May 1 in Washington.

In GOP activist circles it is known simply as “the pledge,” and over the past generation it has become the essential conservative credential for Republicans seeking elective office. Of the 242 Republicans in the House today, all but six have signed the pledge

But now, an increasing number of GOP candidates for Congress are declining to sign the promise to oppose any tax increase, a small sign that could signal a big shift in Republican politics on taxes.

Of the 25 candidates this year promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as “Young Guns” and “Contenders” — the top rungs of a program that highlights promising candidates who are challenging Democrats or running in open seats — at least a third have indicated they do not plan to sign the pledge authored by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.
Two of the seven candidates promoted by the NRCC as the “Young Gun Vanguard” — candidates competing in open seats that are considered Republican-leaning — also have declined to sign.

The pledge pushed by Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, compels candidates to “resist any effort” to raise tax rates for individuals and businesses. Signers also pledge to oppose the elimination of tax credits and deductions unless they are matched dollar-for-dollar with tax cuts.

Norquist insists ATR, the powerful group he founded in 1986, is ahead of schedule in collecting pledge signatures from congressional candidates for the year. He points out that the likely GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney, has signed the pledge. But there have been defections.

Republican candidates declining to sign generally indicate that they nevertheless oppose tax hikes. But some chaff against the constraint on eliminating tax loopholes, believing those restrictions limit Republicans’ ability to negotiate seriously with Democrats on a deal to tackle the nation’s mounting debt.

In Pennsylvania, Republican state Rep. Scott Perry said he was disappointed to see his party’s presidential candidates — all but one of whom signed the pledge — uniformly indicate in a debate last year that they would reject a deficit reduction deal that paired $1 in revenue increases for every $10 in spending cuts.

“I just think it’s imprudent to hem yourself in where you can’t make a good agreement that overall supports the things you want to do,” said Perry, who said he generally opposes tax increases but recently won a Republican primary in a conservative district over candidates who had signed the pledge. “I just don’t see what the point of signing would be for me. . . . I’ve got a record, and everyone who wants to know where I’ve been and where I’m at can look to that.”

Others insist they can make promises to voters without signing a pledge circulated by a Washington lobbying group. That indicates Democrats might be having some success at painting Norquist as a D.C. insider instead of the anti-establishment rebel he portrays himself to be.

“I don’t want to get tied up in knots,” said Richard Tisei, an NRCC Young Gun and former Republican state senator in Massachusetts who is running against Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney. “If there’s a loophole that can be closed that ends up generating additional revenue that can be used specifically to pay down the national debt, I’m not going to lose sleep. And I don’t want to be bound by the pledge not to close it.”

The refusals among some new candidates come as a handful of incumbent Republicans who signed the pledge when they first ran for office also are publicly rejecting it.

Freshman Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who signed the pledge in 2010, recently posted an open letter to constituents indicating that he would not renew the promise as he runs for reelection. He said he fears it could stand in the way of an everything-on-the-table approach to tackling the mounting debt.

“Averting bankruptcy requires us to grasp the severity of our fiscal condition and summon the courage to speak boldly about the difficult steps needed to increase revenue
s and sharply decrease spending,” he wrote.

An erosion of support among candidates would be especially significant because Norquist has long aimed to collect signatures from Republicans before they take office. He encourages candidates to use their pledges to help to define their tax stance for voters.

Once the pledge is signed, Norquist considers it binding for the remainder of the candidate’s career in public service if he or she wins office.

In an interview, Norquist said the pledge is a strong as ever. He noted that in the pressure-cooker days of the debt-ceiling debate last summer, Republicans held firm against tax increases and wrested a deal from Democrats to lower deficits through spending cuts alone.
“That was when the pledge was tested and the commitment of Republicans not to raise taxes was really pushed hard. And Obama and the spending interests failed, and Republicans and the taxpayers won,” he said.
He cited several recent examples of Republican primaries in which ATR-backed candidates defeated Republicans considered less fiscally conservative. This month, ATR helped Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeat six-term Sen. Richard G. Lugar in a Republican primary. And this week, Tom Cotton won a Republican primary in Arkansas after ATR called voters to let them know his opponent had not signed the pledge. Cotton is seeking a seat held by retiring Democrat Rep. Mike Ross.

Norquist said the ATR pledge remains the best way to signal to wary voters that a candidate will not change his mind on taxes once in office. “The pledge isn’t what keeps them from raising taxes,” he said. “It’s what confirms to voters that they won’t raise taxes. Because they’re competing with several hundreds of years of politicians lying about this.”

But a new test looms: a colossal fight over spending and taxes at the end of the year, when the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the same time a series of deep cuts to defense and domestic programs is set to take effect.

Democrats have said they will not agree to renew some of the tax breaks or avert the defense cuts, as Republicans want, unless Republicans agree to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. Any wiggle room for Republicans on taxes could dramatically reshape that debate.

Because of the GOP’s sweeping successes in the 2010 election, the NRCC’s targeted Young Gun races include some districts where Republicans have little chance of winning in November. It is unclear how many of the new pledge refuseniks will make it to Washington.

But after months of Democratic attacks on ATR and Norquist as obstacles to a debt deal, some Republican candidates report that they are hearing from more voters who want them to reject the pledge than the opposite.

Gary DeLong, a member of the Long Beach City Council who is labeled a “contender” for a House seat by the NRCC, said he is routinely encouraged on doorsteps and at town halls and candidate coffees to avoid the pledge.

Voters “ want me to represent them and not special interests,” said DeLong, who will compete next month in California’s unusual mixed-party primary for one of two spots on the November ballot in a newly drawn district.

Two Republicans vying to challenge Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa have indicated they will not sign. In Indiana, former U.S. attorney Susan Brooks won the GOP nomination for a solidly Republican seat, defeating three Republicans who had signed the pledge.

“She’s committed to lowering taxes,” said Dollyne Sherman, a spokeswoman for Brooks. “She thinks that’s a key ingredient in restoring the nation’s economy. But she doesn’t need to sign a tax pledge to do that.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a fiscal conservative who has tangled with Norquist, said he believes candidates are starting to understand that the ATR pledge’s power has been exaggerated by Norquist and the media and that Norquist is wrong when he asserts that it is nearly impossible to win a Republican primary without signing the pledge.

“That’s him patting himself on the back,” Coburn said. “And I think it’s bull crap.”

9:15 PM EDT
About time! Interesting that Romney has also signed this pledge. That completely disqualifies him as President of the United States of America. Executing such a pledge is insantiy, and totally demonstrates how out of touch, and one sided his viewpoint of America, and his understanding of the responsibites of the Office he is attempting to show he qualified to fill. This pledge by a candidate for President is totally unacceptable

I wonder if and when Romney was going to get around to telling the American voters about his decision to execute that pledge. Once again, Winning and Party First, Nation Last.

9:18 PM EDT
[Not to sign] "this pledge by a candidate for President is totally unacceptable." Now, your statement reflects the will of the majority of the voters in the U.S.S.A.  
7:35 PM EDT
Glad to see there may be intelligent life in the GOP. I had given up hope. 
6:52 PM EDT
Every American knows the Clinton-era tax rates worked, despite Republican predictions of disaster. Every American also knows Obama's spending spree is unsustainable and disastrous (and far beyond Clinton-era levels). The Democrats won't cut spending and the Republicans won't raise taxes. Both parties are crazy.

What we need is a non-ideological President who will deal with the facts, not some pursuit of phantom "economic justice." That's why we're about to elect a smart business guy who doesn't care about the BS but gets the job done.

Forget Bain — Obama’s public-equity record is the real scandal

By , Published: May 24

Despite a growing backlash from his fellow Democrats, President Obama has doubled down on his attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. But the strategy could backfire in ways Obama did not anticipate. After all, if Romney’s record in private equity is fair game, then so is Obama’s record in public equity — and that record is not pretty.
Since taking office, Obama has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in private businesses, including as part of his stimulus spending bill. Many of those investments have turned out to be unmitigated disasters — leaving in their wake bankruptcies, layoffs, criminal investigations and taxpayers on the hook for billions. Consider just a few examples of Obama’s public equity failures:
● Raser Technologies. In 2010, the Obama administration gave Raser a $33 million taxpayer-funded grant to build a power plant in Beaver Creek, Utah. According to the Wall Street Journal, after burning through our tax dollars, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. The plant now has fewer than 10 employees, and Raser owes $1.5 million in back taxes.
● ECOtality. The Obama administration gave ECOtality $126.2 million in taxpayer money in 2009 for, among other things, the installation of 14,000 electric car chargers in five states. Obama even hosted the company’s president, Don Karner, in the first lady’s box during the 2010 State of the Union address as an example of a stimulus success story. According to ECOtality’s own SEC filings, the company has since incurred more than $45 million in losses and has told the federal government, “We may not achieve or sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future.”
Worse, according to CBS News the company is “under investigation for insider trading,” and Karner has been subpoenaed “for any and all documentation surrounding the public announcement of the first Department of Energy grant to the company.”
● Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP). The Obama administration gave NGP a $98.5 million taxpayer loan guarantee in 2010. The New York Times reported last October that the company is in “financial turmoil” and that “[a]fter a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal’s cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was ‘significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.’ ”
● First Solar. The Obama administration provided First Solar with more than $3 billion in loan guarantees for power plants in Arizona and California. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report last week, the company “fell to a record low in Nasdaq Stock Market trading May 4 after reporting $401 million in restructuring costs tied to firing 30 percent of its workforce.”
● Abound Solar, Inc. The Obama administration gave Abound Solar a $400 million loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories. According to Forbes, in February the company halted production and laid off 180 employees.
● Beacon Power. The Obama administration gave Beacon — a green-energy storage company — a $43 million loan guarantee. According to CBS News, at the time of the loan, “Standard and Poor’s had confidentially given the project a dismal outlook of ‘CCC-plus.’ ” In the fall of 2011, Beacon received a delisting notice from Nasdaq and filed for bankruptcy.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. A company called SunPower got a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, and as of January, the company owed more than it was worth. Brightsource got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and posted a string of net losses totaling $177 million. And, of course, let’s not forget Solyndra — the solar panel manufacturer that received $535 million in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees and went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
Amazingly, Obama has declared that all the projects received funding “based solely on their merits.” But as Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, “Throw Them All Out,” fully 71 percent of the Obama Energy Department’s grants and loans went to “individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.” Collectively, these Obama cronies raised $457,834 for his campaign, and they were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.35 billion. Obama said this week it’s not the president’s job “to make a lot of money for investors.” Well, he sure seems to have made a lot of (taxpayer) money for investors in his political machine.
All that cronyism and corruption is catching up with the administration. According to Politico, “The Energy Department’s inspector general has launched more than 100 criminal investigations” related to the department’s green-energy programs.
Now the man who made Solyndra a household name says Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital “is what this campaign is going to be about.” Good luck with that, Mr. President. If Obama wants to attack Romney’s alleged private equity failures as chief executive of Bain, he’d better be ready to defend his own massive public equity failures as chief executive of the United States.

Zimmerman recalls Trayvon Martin's last words

May. 16, 2012 - New evidence was released in the Trayvon Martin case, including what Zimmerman claims were Martin's last words. (CBS News)

Firing up Romney

May. 17, 2012 - The presumptive Republican nominee promises to reverse the growing national debt. (Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post)

Rod Paige, other Bush administration appointees named to Mitt Romney’s education advisory group 

Does this team scream 'BUSH, BUSh, BUsh, Bush', one too many times.

at 12:44 PM ET, 05/22/2012

NEW YORK – Mitt Romney on Tuesday announced a team of education policy advisers that includes former education secretary Rod Paige and other top appointees from President George W. Bush’s administration.

(Mary Altaffer - AP)

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Romney, who is attending a series of fundraisers in New York Tuesday, has not made education policy a focus of his campaign. But he plans to outline what he would do as president in an education policy address in Washington on Wednesday.
Romney is a proponent of expanding school choice – as governor of Massachusetts, he was a charter schools advocate -- and has been an outspoken critic of teachers’ unions.
Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Committee includes several prominent opponents of teacher’s unions, including Paige, who as secretary of education in 2004 labeled the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.”
Announcing the committee, Romney said in a statement: “Our education system is failing too many of our kids, and I look forward to working closely with these leaders to chart a new course that emphasizes school choice and accountability, the importance of great teachers, and access to quality, affordable higher education.”

Here are the advisers and their biographies, as provided by Romney’s campaign:
K-12 Education Co-Chairs:
Nina S. Rees, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Knowledge Universe; Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (2002-06).
Dr. Martin R. West, Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Executive Editor, Education Next.
Higher Education Co-Chairs:
Phil Handy, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Industries; Chairman of the Florida State Board of Education (2001-07); Twice appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Board of Education Sciences, served as Vice Chairman; Member of the Florida Governor’s Council of 100 (1987-present), Board of Directors, and Chair, preK-14 Education Committee; Director, Foundation for Educational Excellence.
Bill Hansen, Chairman & CEO of Madison Education Group; Chairman & President of Scantron/Global Scholar (2009-11); Deputy Secretary of Education (2001-03); President of the Education Finance Council (1993-2001); Assistant Secretary of Education for Management and Budget & CFO (1991-92); serves on numerous corporate, university, and philanthropic boards.
Workforce Training Co-Chairs:
Dr. Carol D’Amico, Vice President of Project Lead the Way; Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education (2001); Chair of National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity (2004-07); Board Member, Institute for Education Sciences (2003-07); Director, Center on Workforce Development, Hudson Institute, and co-author of Workforce 2020, Published Hudson Institute (1997); Executive Vice President, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (2004-07).
Emily Stover DeRocco, President of the Washington, D.C.-based Manufacturing Institute (2008-present); Assistant Secretary for Employment & Training at the U.S. Department of Labor (2001-08); Senior Advisor to Secretaries of Energy and the Interior (1981-88); holds two University Board of Trustees positions.
Special Advisor:
Dr. Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education (2001-05); Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, established the University’s Center for Excellence in Urban Education; Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District; 2001 National Superintendent of the Year; Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
John Bailey, White House Domestic Policy Council; Deputy Policy Director to the Secretary of Commerce; Director of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education; currently works with education entrepreneurs, philanthropies, and private sector investors.
Dr. Robert M. Costrell, Professor of Education Reform and Economics, Endowed Chair in Education Accountability, University of Arkansas; Chief Economist, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2003-06); Education Advisor to Governor Mitt Romney (2005-06).
Christina Culver, President of CH Global Strategies; Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education (2003-06); Co-Author, “Virtual Schooling: a Guide to Optimizing Your Child’s Education.”
Dr. John E. Chubb, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Education Sector; Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution.
Dr. Bill Evers, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Education (2007-09); Senior Adviser for Education, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq (2003); National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board (2001-02).
Scott Fleming, President and Vice Chairman of Madison Education Group; former Senior Vice President at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scantron; Senior Education Policy Advisor and Professional Staff to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (2002-06).
Julio A. Fuentes, President & CEO of Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO). Hispanic CREO’s mission is to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic children by empowering families through parental choice in education.
Tom Luna, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction (2007-present); President of Council of Chief State School Officers (2011-present); Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education
Rod Paige (2003-05); Chair of Idaho’s Assessment and Accountability Commission (2000-02); Chair of Nampa School Board (1997-2000).
Dr. Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Editor-in-Chief, Education Next; Member, Independent Review Panel, No Child Left Behind, U.S. Department of Education (2002-06).
Jim Peyser, Managing Partner with New Schools Venture Fund and Chairman of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; Former Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education (1996-2003); Former Executive Director of Pioneer Institute (1993-2000).
Dr. Herbert Walberg, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution.
Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, Senior Fellow and Director of the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy; Director of the U.S. Institute of Education Sciences (2002-08); Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (2001-02); Board of Directors of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2004-07).

Romney bullying allegations faze few

Romney bullying allegations faze few
Source: This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone May 17 to 20, among a random sample of 1,004 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York. The Washington Post. Published on May 23, 2012, 6:46 p.m.

Mitt Romney promotes school vouchers in attack on Obama’s education policy

By and , Published: May 23


Calling it a “national education emergency,” Mitt Romney said Wednesday that poor and disabled children should be allowed to escape failing public schools by using federal money to attend private schools and other alternative settings.

Under a banner that read “A Chance for Every Child,” the likely GOP presidential nominee seized on K-12 education, an area that had so far been overlooked on the campaign trail. It is considered one of President Obama’s strengths, bringing him more bipartisan support than any other issue and winning him accolades from Republican governors such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio.

Romney borrowed from Obama, calling education “the civil rights issue of our era,” but then tried to draw a sharp contrast, saying the president is beholden to teachers unions and blaming him for rising college costs, among other things.

During his speech at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit in Washington, Romney said he would “do everything in my power to reverse this decline” in America’s schools, adding that if it were not for the struggling economy and the housing crisis, education would be “the great cause of this campaign.”

Romney said he wants to expand choices for families so children can flee failing schools. His campaign released a white paper highlighting his support for federal vouchers — a plan to reroute tax dollars sent to public schools to help educate poor and disabled children, instead letting that money follow the students to private schools. The federal government will spend $48.8 billion this year on poor and disabled students.

Romney did not discuss how he would fix troubled public schools. He said No Child Left Behind, the federal education law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was too prescriptive in requiring failing schools to adopt specific turnaround strategies. Instead, he suggested that schools would feel pressure to improve if they had to issue public report cards documenting their performance, although No Child Left Behind already requires them to report such data.

Progressive groups said Romney’s approach would return the nation to a time without accountability.
“We have a long history in this country — and you can see it in the civil rights struggle to desegregate schools — of states and districts not doing anything to provide an equal educational opportunity for all students,” said Cynthia Brown of the Center for American Progress.

Romney slammed the Obama administration for not funding next year’s budget for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, created by Congress in 2004 as the first and only vehicle to provide federal money for private-school vouchers for low-income children. He said he wants to expand the program to make it a “national showcase.”

A 2010 study by the Department of Education found “no conclusive evidence” that the D.C. program improved achievement, noting that students with vouchers had reading and math test scores that were statistically similar to the scores of students without them, although they were more likely to graduate from high school.

Congressional supporters of the program, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), have been pushing the administration to fund the vouchers.

May 24, 2012
Romney participates in the roundtable discussion at the Universal Bluford Charter School.
Mary Altaffer / AP
But the president believes the vouchers drain resources from public schools and do not help most students, James Kvaal, policy director for the Obama campaign, told reporters Wednesday. “Vouchers, which might serve a small number of students, will do nothing for the vast majority of students left behind in public schools,” he said.

Teachers unions are steadfastly opposed to vouchers.

“What Romney fails to understand is that when teachers and public schools have the resources they need, students win,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Real public education improvement comes from teachers, administrators, parents and communities rolling up their sleeves and working together to help all kids, not just some kids, succeed.”

The idea of vouchers, which has floated around for decades, began gaining traction across the country in 2010 after Republicans won majorities in several state legislatures. Louisiana, Indiana and other states have passed programs that allow poor and even middle-income children to use state tax dollars for private-school tuition. Some legal challenges have arisen regarding the constitutionality of giving public money to private religious schools.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, created by the late economist and free-market advocate Milton Friedman, welcomed the introduction of vouchers into the presidential campaign. “If you want to dramatically improve education, you have to give all parents the freedom to choose,” said Susan L. Meyers, a spokeswoman for the foundation.

In his speech, Romney lashed out at teachers unions, which he said are entrenched interests opposed to common-sense reforms.

“When your cause in life is preventing parents from having a meaningful choice or children from having a real chance, then you are on the wrong side,” he said. “You might even be in the wrong vocation, because good teachers put the interests of children first.”

This week, Romney announced a team of education advisers that includes Rod Paige, a former education secretary who drew fire in 2004 when he called the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, a “terrorist organization.”

Romney also attacked Obama for his connections to the politically powerful unions, saying the president is talking about reform while “indulging” the groups that are blocking it. “He can’t be the voice of disadvantaged public school kids and the protector of special interests,” Romney said. “We have to stop putting campaign cash ahead of our kids.”

Teachers union leaders were attending a conference Wednesday to discuss ways to work with management to improve schools.

 “His speech demonstrates a complete disdain for public schools and educators.  He’s completely out of touch with what is happening in schools and classrooms across the country.”said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

The facts about the growth of spending under Obama

at 06:02 AM ET, 05/25/2012

(Carolyn Kaster/AP)
“I simply make the point, as an editor might say, to check it out; do not buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration. I think doing so is a sign of sloth and laziness.”
— White House spokesman Jay Carney, remarks to the press gaggle, May 23, 2012
The spokesman’s words caught our attention because here at The Fact Checker we try to root out “BS” wherever it occurs.
 Carney made his comments while berating reporters for not realizing that “the rate of spending — federal spending — increase is lower under President Obama than all of his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower, including all of his Republican predecessors.” He cited as his source an article by Rex Nutting, of MarketWatch, titled, “Obama spending binge never happened,” which has been the subject of lots of buzz in the liberal blogosphere.
 But we are talking about the federal budget here. That means lots of numbers — numbers that are easily manipulated. Let’s take a look.

The Facts
First of all, there are a few methodological problems with Nutting’s analysis — especially the beginning and the end point.

Nutting basically takes much of 2009 out of Obama’s column, saying it was the “the last [year] of George W. Bush’s presidency.” Of course, with the recession crashing down, that’s when federal spending ramped up. The federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, so the 2009 fiscal year accounts for about four months of Bush’s presidency and eight of Obama’s.
 In theory, one could claim that the budget was already locked in when Obama took office, but that’s not really the case. Most of the appropriations bills had not been passed, and certainly the stimulus bill was only signed into law after Obama took office.

Bush had rescued Fannie and Freddie Mac and launched the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which depending on how you dothemath, was a one-time expense of $250 billion to $400 billion in the final months of his presidency. (The federal government ultimately recouped most of the TARP money.) So if you really want to be fair, perhaps $250 billion of that money should be taken out of the equation — on the theory that it would have been spent no matter who was president.

 Nutting acknowledges that Obama is responsible for some 2009 spending but only assigns $140 billion for reasons he does not fully explain. (Update: in an email Nutting says he attributed $120 billion to stimulus spending in 2009, $5 billion for an expansion of children’s health care and $16 billion to an increase in appropriations bills over 2008 levels.)

 On the other end of his calculations, Nutting says that Obama plans to spend $3.58 trillion in 2013, citing the Congressional Budget Office budget outlook. But this figure is CBO’s baseline budget, which assumes no laws are changed, so this figure gives Obama credit for automatic spending cuts that he wants to halt.

 The correct figure to use is the CBO’s analysis of the president’s 2013 budget, which clocks in at $3.72 trillion.

 So this is what we end up with:

2008:  $2.98 trillion

2009:  $3.27 trillion

2010:  $3.46 trillion

2011: $3.60 trillion

2012: $3.65 trillion

2013:  $3.72 trillion

Under these figures, and using this calculator, with 2008 as the base year and ending with 2012, the compound annual growth rate for Obama’s spending starting in 2009 is 5.2 percent.  Starting in 2010 — Nutting’s first year — and ending with 2013, the annual growth rate is 3.3 percent. (Nutting had calculated the result as 1.4 percent.)

Of course, it takes two to tangle — a president and a Congress. Obama’s numbers get even higher if you look at what he proposed to spend, using CBO’s estimates of his budgets:

2012: $3.71 trillion (versus $3.65 trillion enacted)

2011: $3.80 trillion (versus $3.60 trillion enacted)

2010: $3.67 trillion (versus $3.46 trillion enacted)

So in every case, the president wanted to spend more money than he ended up getting. Nutting suggests that federal spending flattened under Obama, but another way to look at it is that it flattened at a much higher, post-emergency level — thanks in part to the efforts of lawmakers, not Obama.

 Another problem with Nutting’s analysis is that the figures are viewed in isolation. Even 5.5 percent growth would put Obama between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in terms of spending growth, but that does not take into account either inflation or the relative size of the U.S. economy. At 5.2 percent growth, Obama’s increase in spending would be nearly three times the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, Nutting pegs Ronald Reagan with 8.7 percent growth in his first term — we get 12.5 percent CAGR — but inflation then was running at 6.5 percent.

 One common way to measure federal spending is to compare it to the size of the overall U.S. economy. That at least puts the level into context, helping account for population growth, inflation and other factors that affect spending. Here’s what the White House’s own budget documents show about spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy (gross domestic product):

2008: 20.8 percent

2009: 25.2 percent

2010: 24.1 percent

2011: 24.1 percent

2012: 24.3 percent

2013: 23.3 percent

 In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney. Part of this, of course, is a consequence of the recession, but it is also the result of a sustained higher level of spending.

 We sent our analysis to Carney but did not get a response. (For another take, Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute has an interesting tour through the numbers, isolating various spending categories. For instance, he says debt payments should be excluded from the analysis because that is the result of earlier spending decisions by other presidents.)

The Pinocchio Test

 Carney suggested the media were guilty of “sloth and laziness,” but he might do better next time than cite an article he plucked off the Web, no matter how much it might advance his political interests. The data in the article are flawed, and the analysis lacks context — context that could easily could be found in the budget documents released by the White House.

The White House might have a case that some of the rhetoric concerning Obama’s spending patterns has been overblown, but the spokesman should do a better job of checking his facts before accusing reporters of failing to do so. The picture is not as rosy as he portrayed it when accurate numbers, taken in context, are used.

Three Pinocchios

Hecklers mar Romney’s visit to inner-city charter school in Philadelphia

at 03:15 PM ET, 05/24/2012

PHILADELPHIA – When Mitt Romney came to an inner-city charter school here Thursday to promote his new education agenda, he received something of a history lecture about the persecution of blacks in America and the struggles of African American children to meet the academic achievements of their white counterparts.
Seeking to broaden his appeal heading into the general election, Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood to hear the concerns of local educators and community leaders. But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation’s first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, “Get out, Romney, get out!”
Romney arrived at Universal Bluford Charter School aboard his logo-emblazoned campaign bus and began his morning visit by meeting school and civic leaders at a formal roundtable session. “I come to learn, obviously, from people who are having experiences that are unique and instructive,” he said.

Kenny Gamble, who founded the West Philadelphia school last year, told Romney that his school’s top priority is improving the education of African Americans and closing the achievement gap between blacks and whites. Gamble, a legendary songwriter and founder of Philadelphia International Records, created and runs Universal Companies, a not-for-profit community development organization involved in education, real estate and social services.
“Where there was a time when it was against the law of the country for people of African-American descent to even read or write, it is even more important today that we discuss education for the African-American community,” Gamble told Romney.
Romney highlighted his record of education as governor of Massachusetts, when the state’s schools were among the best in the nation in some areas. But Gamble interjected, “Governor, you’ve got to go back and remember how the whole concept of education has failed. You go back a few years, even in Boston, when they were trying to integrate schools and they had young black children going to white neighborhoods and they were throwing eggs at the little black children, spitting on them, calling them all kinds of names.”
Outside, meanwhile, some brick row houses across from the school were boarded up. Police had cordoned off a full city block to protect Romney and his entourage. Residents, some of them organized by Obama’s campaign, stood on their porches and gathered at a sidewalk corner to shout angrily at Romney. Some held signs saying, “We are the 99%.” One man’s placard trumpeted an often-referenced Romney gaffe: “I am not concerned about the very poor.”
Madaline G. Dunn, 78, who said she has lived here for 50 years and volunteers at the school, said she is “personally offended” that Romney would visit her neighborhood.
“It’s not appreciated here,” she said. “It is absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) addressed protesters and the media, quipping that Romney “suddenly somehow found West Philadelphia.”
“It’s nice that he decided this late in his [campaign] to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. But, he added, “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”
“You want to have an urban experience?” Nutter added. “You want to have a West Philly experience? Then come out here and talk to somebody in West Philly.”
Philadelphia’s district attorney, Seth Williams, said Romney does not understand the plight of urban America and was hiding from “real Americans.”
“Instead of just talking at the school and getting back on his huge bus, he should come out, he should walk 60th Street, he should talk to folks who are out here that are mad so maybe he could understand how real Americans, those that live here in urban America, the issues that are important to us,” Williams said.
Although Romney has not focused on the black community in his campaign so far, his father, George, reached out to African Americans and pursued policies designed to help lift blacks out of poverty during his service as governor of Michigan and secretary of Housing and Urban Development as well as in his 1968 presidential campaign.
Inside the school, Romney debated issues with educators and tried to connect with the students. When he visited a classroom where the kids in the elementary school choir were standing, swaying and clapping to the beat of Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile,” Romney appeared charmed but did not dance with them. Rather, he tapped one of his toes slightly and bobbed his head, but did not catch the rhythm..
“You just sang a song about smiling,” Romney told the kids. “You’re all smiling right? Smile! Oh, that’s great.”
During the roundtable session, Romney said there was no correlation between classroom size and student performance, citing a report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company. That sparked a debate with some educators and other leaders around the table.
“I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, for 10 years, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit,” said Steven Morris, a music teacher at the school. “And I can’t think of a parent that would say I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher.”
Later, during a discussion about the gap in student performance between whites and blacks, Romney said a key to improving achievement in the classroom is traditional households of a mother and father.
“For a single mom living in a shelter with a couple of kids – those kids are at an enormous disadvantage, there’s no question about that,” Romney said. “Relative to a home where a mom and a dad are -- where they’re able to be home for dinner…. And so if we’re thinking about the kids of tomorrow, trying to help move people to understand, you know, getting married and having families where there’s a mom and a dad together has a big impact.”
This story has been updated.