Medill DC

Jul 30


Ryan has big ideas, but few specifics at Monitor Breakfast

WASHINGTON— Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, solidified his role as the Republicans’ new voice of reform at Wednesday’s Monitor Breakfast, but preferred to look at his ideas from a big picture, developmental point of view.

Ryan, R-Wis., last week introduced a new anti-poverty program, which he referred to as an “upward mobility plan” at the breakfast, that would consolidate federal welfare and food stamp program dollars into “Opportunity Grants” to be distributed to each state. States would then channel the funds to various private, public and non-profit organizations. Working in partnership, these groups would then use the allocated dollars to help those in need develop individualized plans.

At the breakfast, Ryan stressed accountability to tax payers and the need for a results-based plan, but has yet to figure out the details.

"People are generous with their tax dollars they send to the government. I think it’s wholly right and appropriate to expect something in return," Ryan said. 

"You can fund these reforms at any level. I didn’t want to get into a funding debate over proper funding levels at the status quo. That’s really beside the point."  

"The point is, the status quo isn’t working – let’s figure out how to reform it and then we can figure out what funding levels should fund it, if you want to have that conversation at another time," Ryan said.

When asked if his plan’s extra customization would take away from money that’s already being spent on aid programs, Ryan emphasized the importance of utilizing partnerships and the additional dollars they could contribute. 

"I think having work requirements and time limits, along with customization and leveraging of other sources of funding, that to me is the most effective approach we ought to take," Ryan said.

Ultimately, Ryan urged those present to look at his overall plan before zooming in on how it would be carried out.

"I think you have to broaden your understanding of the proposal before you take a look at that notion," Ryan said.

"The alternative argument is just stick with the status quo. The status quo isn’t working." 

Jul 28

Sega vs. Nintendo: Marketing Masters

Everyone on the panel joked about the use of terms like Blast Processing, which were completely made up for use with marketing. When asked what Blast Processing did, Kaplan joked it did the same thing as the Super FX chip.

Sega valiantly pushed against Nintendo with its marketing, and though Nintendo rarely acted in kind, Kaplan said it did nearly decide to dump a dump truck full of bananas into Sega’s parking lot to celebrate the release of Donkey Kong Country, but ultimately decided not to as it would require a huge amount of clean-up and would be an incredible waste of food.

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A global Tea Party?

“We believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement,” declared Bannon, who took over the American conservative new media empire after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. Speaking via Skype to a conference on Catholic responses to poverty, he said, “You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels… On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement.”

Events across the Atlantic do look familiar to American eyes: an uprising against long-established parties in Brussels amid economic stagnation. But these elements have been around a long time in European politics. What is new — and what feels so American — is represented by the group Bannon was addressing: Europe is getting its own version of the religious right.

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Washington Post: ‘Dumb’ Polls need context

Will Americans be forced to choose between Congress and Nickelback? It seems unlikely. Will Darth Vader give Chris Christie a run for his money in Iowa? Probably not.

But those comparisons at least put an interesting spin on what is otherwise a pretty boring set of questions that are asked over and over again and show the same things: that Congress is terrible and that the GOP presidential race is wide open.

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CNN Poll: Romney beats Obama if election held today

According to the poll, if the 2012 election were somehow held again, Romney would capture 53% of the popular vote, with the President at 44%. Obama beat Romney 51%-47% in the popular vote in the 2012 contest. And he won the all-important Electoral College by a wider margin, 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.

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Politico on Obama’s hits and blunders

Try to find a Republican in Washington who thinks he hasn’t been partisan. But to Obama’s team, it’s mostly the GOP that has built the wall of opposition, to the point where they’re convinced many Republicans reflexively turn against anything he supports.

“I’d love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition,” Obama put it to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon last week in Los Altos Hills, California. “But that’s not what we have right now, and as a consequence we’re going to need change.”

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Jul 24


Jul 17

Marine tech experts suggest solutions to finding missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

WASHINGTON—Marine technology experts said equipping planes with longer-range transponders as well as pingers could help avoid another Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared during a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Executives from Teledyne Marine Systems, Bluefin Robotics and Phoenix International, all companies involved in the futile search for the aircraft, discussed technology advances that could help find missing flights.

While pingers emit a continuous sound lasting 30 to 45 days from the time they hit water, a transponder waits for a request to send out its signal. Transponders can last from six months to several years.

“There are already rulings in Europe and the U.S. to get longer range pingers to add to the current systems, not replace them,” said Tom Altshuler, vice president and group general manager of Teledyne. “It will be attached to the aircraft, not the black box, so this is more to find the plane.”

 Airlines, however, are reluctant to add longer-range transponders, as they take up valuable space and weight on an airline. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 did have a transponder, but it was turned off at some point before the plane vanished.

Altshuler said another feasible option is to use a plane’s Wi-Fi to transmit data to a server, eliminating the need to search for an aircraft’s black box, which contains the pinger.

“There’s virtually no net cost. I just need an Ethernet cable to connect this to this and I change the paradigm,” Altshuler said. “I’d expect to see that in the next few years.”

The future of the search for Flight 370 depends on what contract the Australian Transport Safety Board accepts for a renewed effort, but the executives said that search will likely include side-scan sonar technology, which has been used before.

“The award for that opportunity is pending,” said Peter LeHardy, manager of Phoenix International, “It could come at any moment.”

 Malaysia Airlines was not immediately available for comment as the airline dealt with another plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine — reportedly shot down while carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

By: Cat Boardman 

Twitter: @CEBoardman

Malaysian plane crashes in the Ukraine

Jul 16

Overcrowding in prison cause for concern

WASHINGTON — State officials told a House panel Tuesday that overcrowding in prisons is pushing their penal systems to the breaking point. Lack of attention on the back end – what to do when prisoners are released – is one cause for concern.

 “The State of Alabama faces a great crisis in our Department of Corrections,” said Alabama legislator, Cam Ward, in testimony before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations.

 Ward was joined by John E. Wetzel, head of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Jerry Madden, former chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee and  Nancy G. La Vigne, director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.

 The witnesses said they were pressing for meaningful prison reform in their respective states.

 “Every decision throughout our corrections system must keep one target in mind: that when someone leaves of our prisons and is successfully reintegrated into the community, we’ve proactively impacted crime,” Wetzel told the subcommittee.

 The Pennsylvania Transportation Department has implemented a simple, yet effective plan. The state agency provides identification cards prior to a prisoners’ release. Last year, more than 9,000 released prisoners got the Ids, helping them reintegrate into society..

 “The release of offenders with their Ids enables them to connect with services that are available to them more readily, thereby removing an imposing barrier,” says Wetzel.

 Texas prisons have added beds in their facilities that can also be used to treat substance abuse cases handled by parole and probation departments. They’ve also added alcoholic treatment programs.

 Additionally, the Texas system introduced intermediate sanction facilities for former inmates on probation and parole. Individuals who violate their parole or probation would be given a short-term alternative of two to three months instead of facing longer sentences.  

 In Alabama, community corrections programs are beginning to offer alternative punishment options for judges to alleviate the overcrowding and congestion within penitentiaries. The options available for sentencing criminal defendants are expanding. Low to medium-risk offenders may be diverted elsewhere.

 One theme prevailed – the need for more support on the “back end” – allowing ex-prisoners to more smoothly reintegrate into society  – with honesty and integrity. 

Rachel Menitoff for Medill News Service

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