Analysis: Donald Trump Is Right About One Thing

Analysis: Donald Trump Is Right About One Thing

By Patricia Murphy, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Congress, Donald Trump is on to you. He knows you’re taking campaign donations and he knows you are doing something in return for the cash.

He has called super PACs “the biggest disgusting joke you’ve ever seen” and pointed to Capitol Hill, the White House and his fellow candidates as Exhibits A, B and C of the corrupting influence of money in politics. He knows how bad it is, he says, because he’s the one who has been writing the checks.

“I used to be a businessman and when they call, I give,” he told the Republican debate audience in August. “And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”

Supporters at Trump rallies point again and again to the billionaire’s self-financing of his own campaign as a reason for supporting him. He is his own man, they tell me. Not like the other candidates. Not like Congress. They’re all “bought and paid for.”

Like a lot of things Trump says, there is a piece of the truth buried under his bombast. To see how right or wrong Trump is on this one, I spoke with veteran lobbyists, fundraisers and senior Hill staffers. I promised them total anonymity so that they could speak openly about what the campaign finance system in Washington looks like from the inside out.

The answer is that Trump is partially right, and I think most people in Washington know it. Giving money to a candidate or member of Congress gets a donor something in return. Whether it’s face time at fundraising events, returned calls from congressional staff or a meeting with the member of Congress to make their case, donations still buy access.

“You know who the donors are, and of course you’re going to meet with them,” a former chief of staff told me.

And the more money a donor gives, the more access they’ll get, either at fundraising events in Washington or more extensive weekend getaways designed specifically for “friends” with deep pockets to rub elbows with members of Congress.

Lobbyists, donors, campaign staffers and Hill staffers also all said that businesses based in a member’s district or state were equally as important as donors, if not more so, in nearly all offices, and that no amount of money from a donor would entice most members to engage in a quid pro quo.

“You know the rules and you’re careful about it,” one lobbyist said. “I would say 99 percent of the lobbyists in town don’t expect anything in return. Maybe 99 percent is too high, but it’s just part of the game that everybody plays. The members, the run-of-the-mill lobbyists don’t feel beholden in any way.”

At the very least, phone calls from a donor will be returned. “If you’re not getting a response, you go to the chief of staff. They should be savvy enough to know what happens,” a D.C.-based lobbyist told me. “If that’s not the case, you can go to the fundraiser you worked with when you gave $1,000 and complain to them. If the fundraiser is smart, and they want you to be a return customer, they’ll go to the chief of staff and say, ‘This guy has been helpful to the boss and he’s is not getting much love from the office.’”

But there is still a big difference between access and results. “If it’s ultimately not good for the boss, we’re not doing it,” a senior staffer said. But a smart donor or lobbyist is probably giving to someone inclined to agree with them anyway. “It’s extremely unlikely that any contribution is ever going to sway a member,” a lobbyist told me. “You’re typically giving money to people who are already helpful. It’s more of a reward than an inducement to change behavior.”

Without an exception, everyone I spoke with complained about the system as it is. Hill staffers lamented the amount of time fundraising takes away from regular work in Washington, often two to three hours of “call time” every day that a senator or member of Congress is in cycle. Instead of taking meetings or attending hearings, members sit with a campaign cellphone and a list of phone numbers (off of federal property) calling on lobbyists and wealthy contacts for donations.

Most members do not enjoy it and the lobbyists don’t like it much either. “I just told a guy new to downtown to avoid writing his first check as long as he can. Because once you do, they (the members of Congress) smell blood in the water.”

Some members call lobbyists so often many screen their calls. “Unless I know who it is, I do not answer,” one told me. “I have six voice mails from a Senate candidate who keeps calling. Do you not get it? I’m not giving you money.”

And for a process that was already flush with cash, staffers and lobbyists alike said that the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision eliminating limits on donations has exacerbated the pressure to raise campaign cash.

“The super PAC stuff has changed the whole dynamic,” a former legislative director told me, who described senior members spending additional time, above and beyond their usual fundraising, to fly to the hometowns of billionaires in hopes of a large, single money bomb for their parties or super PACs.

“There are no real limits anymore,” a lobbyist said. “You used to be able to tell people, ‘I’m maxed out.’ But that’s out the window.”

The universal theme on and off the Hill is that the current campaign financing system, while not explicitly corrupt, is bad and getting worse. For people who really want it to change, Trump may be their man, for now. “We’re going to go to new campaign finance laws that are going to be terrific,” he promised his crowd in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Unlike other candidates who are raising tens of millions of dollars from other people to finance their presidential campaigns, it’s almost plausible that Trump would change the rules, because he’s gotten to the top of the polls almost free of charge.

But even Trump may change his mind on paying his own way if he gets to the general election, where the cost of a national campaign will run well past half a billion dollars and “friends” with money will be happy to help. Footing that bill by himself might be a price too steep, even for Donald Trump. That’s real money, no matter who is paying.

©2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/James Glover II 


Many Travelers Going The Airbnb Route

Many Travelers Going The Airbnb Route

By Virginia Linn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Forty million guests, 34,000 cities, 1,400 castles and 190 countries.

These are the latest stats for Airbnb, the home-sharing lodging site founded in 2008 that now has 1.5 million listings worldwide. It looks like the $25 billion service is here to stay, at least until something more innovative comes along to provide alternatives to the traditional hotel industry.

For many travelers — and not just those in their 20’s and 30’s — Airbnb is providing more choices, particularly in expensive cities or communities where there is a dearth of affordable hotel rooms. And now the service is reaching out to business travelers to make it easier for them to find homelike accommodations while on the road.

I’ve stayed in five Airbnbs — from Providence, R.I., to Orlando, Fla., to New York City to Paris and Berlin — and for the most part the experiences have been positive. I welcomed the chance for short-term stays in full apartments with family or friends instead of cramped, overpriced hotel rooms.

That’s not to say the service hasn’t had its horror stories. In July, a 19-year-old Massachusetts man reported he was held captive and sexually molested by his Airbnb host in Madrid. And websites such as, Trustpilot and Quora abound with stories of absent hosts, last-minute cancellations, filthy rooms, apartment doors that don’t lock and profile descriptions that misrepresent the place. On the flip side, hosts have found their homes wrecked by disruptive guests or personal items stolen.

The New York full apartment we booked had a great location near Times Square and its room photos depicted the place fairly accurately (it was clean and had strong Wi-Fi). Yet our stay was disrupted by a ridiculously loud party in an apartment next door. The pounding music didn’t end until 3:30 a.m.

In Berlin in August, we loved our large, two-bedroom apartment, which was airy and modern and just footsteps from a U-Bahn stop. What the profile didn’t mention was that it overlooked a cemetery. That didn’t bother us, but it could have spooked others.

Guests can have bad experiences in hotels, too. I’ve stayed in a pricey boutique hotel in New York City that was infested with bedbugs and a historic resort in Central Pennsylvania that charged 5-star prices but delivered 2-star service.

Clearly you’ve got to be an intrepid traveler to give Airbnb a go. My twenty-something kids are frequent users and haven’t yet had any problems, but I always hold my breath when I click the button to book a place.

I do get a thrill when it turns out to be a gem. I was delighted with the breakfast of homemade granola, yogurt, fruit and French-press coffee that my host prepared each morning during my stay near Orlando. She had a lovely designer’s home full of modern artwork, and I had a whole wing of the house to myself. She and her Scottish husband, empty-nesters, opened up their home to Airbnb travelers because they loved meeting interesting people and had hosted guests from New Zealand to Nova Scotia. It was $77 a night (plus cleaning and booking fees) instead of the $240 I would have paid for a hotel in the same neighborhood.

Then there was the owner of our lovely and meticulously clean Paris apartment this past August, who spent a half-hour explaining the neighborhood and all the local sites. He even arranged a cab for us for our early-morning departure the day we left.

I first tried Airbnb in Providence a couple of years ago to visit my children at college. Even the cheapest hotel room — with fees and taxes — tops $200 a night.

I found a place for $70 a night, a bedroom with private half-bath in a duplex along a 1.6-mile linear park perfect for my morning jogs. The owner was a doctor who quit after two years to study art; her husband was a composer. They made me feel welcome and the stay overall was what I needed — affordable and where I wanted it.

An important caution is that Airbnb does not do background checks on hosts or guests. This can pose a risk for both parties. Airbnb did not make any official available for comment or questions, but on its website the company believes it has put in place checks and balances in the form of reviews and verified ID and customer profiles.

Like other sites in the sharing economy, guests rate the host and the host rates the guest. A writer for Business Insider recently complained that because the reviews are not anonymous, guests would feel pressured to write just positive reviews because they feared they might be rejected by future hosts.

Indeed, a spot check of reviews of Airbnb bookings shows mostly glowing descriptions. “The property was exactly as described and in the pictures.” “Gorgeous apartment, even better than description.” “Lovely place, would stay again!”

In explaining its review policy, Airbnb writes: “Our community is built on trust, and trust comes from honest conversation. Therefore, we ask for reviews that are truthful, clear and helpful to both the review’s recipient and the wider Airbnb community. … We strongly discourage personal insults, opinion that’s not backed up by examples, or generally unsociable behavior.”

It doesn’t censor, but “we may take the extraordinary step of disallowing or removing reviews or review responses. We reserve the right to remove reviews that violate review guidelines.”

In July 2014, Airbnb made a change to its review policy, in which reviews are revealed to the hosts and guests simultaneously. It also offers a place for private messages so guests can share concerns about their stay.


(c)2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Kate and Nik Stoltzfus, shown in July 2014, are among the hundreds of Pittsburghers who use Airbnb to rent out rooms, apartments or homes. They rent out a mother-in-law apartment in Garfield and screen potential guests carefully. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Americans Are Expected To Spend $6.9 Billion On Halloween This Year

Americans Are Expected To Spend $6.9 Billion On Halloween This Year

By James F. Peltz, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — A Batman bib-and-booties costume for $14.99 caught the eye of Joanna Robles as she searched for something for her months-old son to wear while she holds him as she hands out candy on Halloween.

“His dad is really obsessed with superheroes,” Robles said while strolling through a Spirit Halloween store outside Los Angeles.

In the next aisle, 35-year-old Joe Lige said he was browsing for an outfit “on the darker, spookier side” for a Halloween party. “My wife gives me a budget for Halloween and I always exceed it,” he quipped.

They’re among the 157 million Americans expected to celebrate Halloween this year, whether it’s by walking their kids around the block for free candy, carving a pumpkin for the front window or donning a costume for a neighborhood party.

Once mostly the purview of children, Halloween has grown into a major consumer holiday that now includes 18- to 34-year-old millennials and older adults who seize the opportunity for a night of escapism.

“It’s not just for kids trick-or-treating anymore,” said Trisha Lombardo, a spokeswoman for Spirit Halloween, which has 1,150 temporary stores that operate just for the Halloween season.

Consumers altogether will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year, or an average of $74.34 each, the National Retail Federation estimates based on an annual survey conducted by the research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s down from a peak of $8 billion, or $79.82 a consumer, in 2012 but still more than double the Halloween spending of a decade ago.

That spending cuts a huge swath across the retail and entertainment economies, and to some extent the farming industry.

Businesses can’t point to a single reason why consumer interest in Halloween has surged over the last decade but they do cite factors driving its popularity today.

For instance, “the millennials are really into group costumes and activities,” Lombardo said. “They love to do things in groups, whether they’re going as characters in ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Orange Is the New Black,'” and that drives added costume sales and theme-park attendance, she said.

Social media also has fueled the rise in Halloween’s appeal because consumers love sharing information, photos and videos of their Halloween costumes, decorations and night-on-the-town escapades, analysts said.

When people were asked where they look for inspiration for costumes, the websites Facebook and Pinterest each drew 13 percent of the responses, the National Retail Federation said. Nearly one-third of consumers said they looked online overall for Halloween costumes.

“I post stuff after I pick out my outfit,” especially on Facebook and Instagram, said Jessica Medina, 33, as she shopped at the Spirit Halloween store. “I also search online to see what’s out there and my friends post things.”

The impact of social media “has been exponential,” said Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail consultant. “The growth that’s occurred in Halloween spending over the last 10 years has almost mirrored that of the growth in social media.

“It’s more of a social holiday now, with ‘social’ meaning that people not only are enjoying Halloween with one another but sending it out to the world.”
(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Halloween has grown into a major consumer holiday, with 157 million Americans expected to celebrate this year. (Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

General Mills Issues Massive Cheerios Recall

General Mills Issues Massive Cheerios Recall

By Jenn Harris, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

General Mills has issued a voluntary recall of approximately 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios after discovering some of its gluten-free labeled products may contain wheat, the company announced last week.

The affected boxes of cereal were produced over several days at a production facility in Lodi, Calif., and were shipped nationwide, according to Kirstie Foster, General Mills director of corporate and brand communications.

“Our Lodi production facility lost rail service for a time and our gluten-free oat flour was being off-loaded from rail cars to trucks for delivery to our facility on the dates in question,” said Jim Murphy, president of the General Mills cereal division, in a statement. “In an isolated incident involving purely human error, wheat flour was inadvertently introduced into our gluten-free oat flour system at Lodi.”

General Mills is in the process of transitioning five of its cereal varieties to gluten-free oat flour.

The recall includes boxes of Cheerios with a “better if used by” date of July 14, 15, 16 or 17 of 2016 and an LD plant code. Affected boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios include a “better if used by” date of July 12 through July 25 of 2016, with an LD plant code.

Customers with wheat allergies, gluten intolerance or celiac disease should not consume the affected products.

General Mills is in the process of retrieving affected boxes of cereal. Customers who bought the cereal can contact General Mills at 800-775-8370 for a full refund or replacement.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Justin Sullivan via AFP

Will Debate Be Hillary Clinton’s Moment Of Economic Truth?

Will Debate Be Hillary Clinton’s Moment Of Economic Truth?

By Peter Coy, Bloomberg News (TNS)

NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton has drifted noticeably leftward on economics to fend off attacks from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who did not enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who did.

On Oct. 7 she even came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free-trade deal that her former boss, President Barack Obama, has made a centerpiece of his second term in office. That took away a potential bludgeon from Sanders, who had battered her fence-straddling on a trade pact that he says is “designed to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations.”

“You can see or sense a shift left relative to when she was Senator Clinton,” says Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, who is an outside economic adviser to the Clinton campaign. “It’s not a huge shift but it’s a shift.”

But Tuesday’s candidate debate in Las Vegas is likely to show that when it comes to the economy, Clinton is no Sanders. She remains a mostly centrist Democrat with a detailed set of policy proposals, while Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist who speaks in broad strokes about taking on “the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class.” Those two poll-leading candidates for the Democratic nomination will get the most scrutiny in the debate, which will also feature Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee. (Vice President Joe Biden looms as a possible challenger as well.)

The two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination are “telling very different stories about what’s going wrong and how to fix it,” says Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute in New York. “Bernie is talking about CEOs and the 1 percent and big finance and big corporations. Hillary’s trying to thread the needle with a story that’s all about that but also about opportunity and growth.”

The most extreme candidates tend to attract attention in debates, but governing happens in the messy middle. Clinton is likely to make that point, implicitly or explicitly when she takes on Sanders in Tuesday’s debate. “Plans for big, new government spending, even if we think they’re right on the economics, aren’t going to happen,” says Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “What could the Democrats do in the absence of a majority in Congress, and in the absence of having a magic wand?”

Clinton and Sanders aren’t miles apart on everything. Both want a higher federal minimum wage, although Clinton is stumping for $12 an hour over the next few years while Sanders wants $15. Both have big plans to make college more affordable. Both oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. And both say more should be done to crack down on Wall Street abuses.

But Sanders is a bigger spender. He wants to expand Medicare to cover all Americans, thus creating a single-payer health insurance system. That and other initiatives would cost $18 trillion over 10 years, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. (Sanders has disputed the number.) “I find that absolutely astonishing,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the Republican-oriented American Action Forum.

Clinton was a leading advocate for broadening health coverage when she was first lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency in the 1990s, but she doesn’t favor anything as expensive as Medicare for all. She wants to protect the Affordable Care Act, lower out-of-pocket expenses, and reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

Clinton wants to cut taxes on “hard-working families,” eliminate the “carried interest” provision that benefits hedge fund managers and enact the “Buffett Rule” to ensure no millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than their secretaries. Her college plan, which she estimates will cost $350 billion over 10 years, “will be fully paid for by closing tax loopholes and expenditures for the most fortunate,” her website says. Sanders is less specific — mentioning an estate tax and a speculators’ tax — but it’s obvious that his spending plan would have to be paid for with bigger tax hikes than Clinton envisions.

Sanders is also well to the left of Clinton on what to do about Wall Street. Clinton, who was a U.S. senator from New York before becoming Obama’s secretary of State, is trying to court the Sanders crowd without alienating wealthy donors in the financial industry. On Oct. 8, she proposed a “risk fee” on the biggest banks as well as a tax on high-frequency trading. She also called for the reinstatement of a rule to regulate derivatives called swaps that Congress repealed last year.

Says Blinder, Clinton’s outside adviser: “You don’t find Hillary Clinton looking to burn the house down but rather to improve the furniture or maybe even the structure of the house.” Sanders is readier with the matches, saying on his website that “it is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country.”

The other Democratic candidates who will appear on stage in Las Vegas have had a hard time getting traction in the polls. O’Malley, like Sanders, is to the left of Clinton. His campaign calls for the separation of “commercial and speculative banking” within five years. Chafee says he wants to remove “excessive loopholes and tax cuts for wealthy citizens and corporations.” Webb, campaigning to the right of Clinton, says the U.S. should begin “examining shifting our tax policies away from income and more toward consumption.”

Neera Tanden, a long-time ally of Hillary Clinton who is president of the Center for American Progress, says all the candidates in the Democratic debate — and the Republicans as well — are wrestling with the same few questions. “We need to make sure we have growth, but we want to make sure the growth we have is more fair. Wage stagnation is a very fundamental challenge.”

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Community Forum on Substance Abuse at The Boys and Girls Club of America campaign event in Laconia New Hampshire, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi

Florida Theme Parks Building Bigger, Longer Halloween Celebrations

Florida Theme Parks Building Bigger, Longer Halloween Celebrations

By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

Halloween celebrations at Central Florida’s major attractions are gearing up earlier and becoming more elaborate to scare up a share of the $7 billion spent for the holiday nationwide.

“Halloween has become the single biggest promotional event in our industry,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services.

At Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights is in the midst of a record 30-night run. Walt Disney World has created a new stage show featuring rarely used characters for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party events. SeaWorld Orlando and Legoland Florida have added dates for October celebrations geared to young visitors.

“Halloween has become one of the biggest investments in the park in terms of transitional theming,” Speigel said. “It costs a lot to put that on.”

Disney World dipped into its vault for inspiration for a new stage show for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the after-hours, extra-ticket event at Magic Kingdom. The production called “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” is based on the 1993 film “Hocus Pocus,” starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as sibling witches.

“The thing that I love about the Sanderson Sisters is that they’re funny,” said Denise Case, show director. “And being that our event is the Not-So-Scary, it’s a wonderfully funny, lighthearted way to have that great Halloween presence with witches, of course, but they’re funny witches.”

The show is not a retelling of the movie. Instead, the trio interact with relatively scary Disney villains. The production uses elaborate new projections on Cinderella Castle, costumes patterned after the originals and decor that daytime guests do not get to see.

“All of the scenic elements for the Villains Spelltacular are loaded in for each event night and then struck at the end of the night,” Case said.

The more programming that is produced for the season, the more time the parks need to celebrate.

“They need to get as much time out of it as they possibly can,” Speigel said.

Legoland Florida has added two Friday sessions amid its regular Saturday-Sunday schedule for Brick or Treat, an event with trick-or-treating, costume contests and other Halloween activities. It’s included with regular admission to the Winter Haven park.

Visitors can encounter new characters and Lego figures at this year’s event, said David Brady, a park spokesman.

“We have two new characters based on minifigures that have been released in the past: mad scientist and Frank N. Stein. They’re Lego’s take on the archetypes,” he said.

“We have our master model builders working on a 13-foot, vampire-themed hearse that we’re going to roll out as a photo op during the event,” Brady said. The vehicle is an oversized version of a Lego building set no longer for sale.

Legoland also added exclusive pirate-themed fireworks and a scavenger hunt with prizes that change every weekend. The latter draws annual-pass holders and boosts event repeatability, Brady said.

“It’s a challenge to us: How do we make it fun and different each year?” he said.

In America, trick-or-treating surged in post-World War II suburbia, and the kids who benefited from that have boosted Halloween festivities as adults, said Robert Thompson, who teaches pop-culture courses at Syracuse University.

“I think a lot of those baby boomers … didn’t want to let that go when they grew up,” Thompson said.

But theme parks and Halloween are a natural fit, he said.

“What’s one of the first noises you hear as you approach a theme park? People screaming,” Thompson said. “One of the things that an amusement park produces is fear that is artificial and therefore safe: It allows us to engage in fear without the actual bad feeling of terror.”

Some parks, including SeaWorld Orlando, have Halloween experiences included in regular admission. Other attractions charge special-event prices or present seasonal add-ons. A Not-So-Scary tickets costs $68 to $79, depending on date. One evening of Horror Nights runs $101.99, although Universal offers discounts and multinight combo tickets.

“They are upselling the experience,” Speigel said. “Some of the parks … if you want to go beyond the normal experience and have entrance to some of the really exceptionally scary things, it’s another X dollars.”

Universal Orlando, which is marking its 25th year of Halloween Horror Nights, this year added a “scareactor dining experience” with dinner buffet, photo opportunities with Horror Nights characters and a digital-download photo from the event. It sells for $49.99.

Because of the way the 2015 calendar falls, parks have more opportunities to lure crowds.

“It really works well for the parks … when Halloween falls on a Saturday or Sunday,” Speigel said. “Then they get that last weekend, they squeeze it out.”

(c)2015 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Guests wait along Main Street USA for Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Best Way To See The Bluegrass? Go On Foot Or By Bike

Best Way To See The Bluegrass? Go On Foot Or By Bike

By Tom Eblen, Lexington Herald-Leader (TNS)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Scenic drives have long been a local pastime in the Lexington area, but the best way to experience the beauty of the Bluegrass region is either on two feet or two wheels.

Drive by too fast and you miss the architectural detail of an old house or the craftsmanship of a dry-laid stone fence, either of which may be 200 years old. From a car window, you can’t fully appreciate a giant burr oak or blue ash tree, which may be 400 years old. And you certainly can’t hear the birds in the branches.

Several downtown walking tour maps and guides are available at the Lexington visitors’ center, 401 W. Main Street. Some also are online at, or the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s website, These include neighborhood guides to historic homes and the African American Heritage Trail.

Another option: Download the free LexWalk iPhone app, which has a 19-location tour with full multimedia.

Even without a map, app or agenda, Lexington’s downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods are easy, pleasant places to walk, thanks to a wise decision decades ago to run Interstates 75 and 64 around the city rather than through it.

The Gratz Park Historic District, two blocks north of Main Street between Broadway and Limestone, is one of my favorite places to walk. There you will find beautiful buildings that have sheltered some of Lexington’s most prominent citizens, including first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, educator Horace Holley, artist Victor Hammer and horseman John Gaines.

Don’t miss the recently restored fountain that writer James Lane Allen left to the “children of Lexington” when he died in 1925. It is in the park across Third Street from the campus of Transylvania University, the oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains.

If you have time for a tour, stop by the Hunt-Morgan House. It was built in 1814 by millionaire businessman John Wesley Hunt and was the birthplace of his great-grandson, Thomas Hunt Morgan, the father of genetics and the first Kentuckian to win a Nobel Prize (for medicine, 1933). Hunt’s grandson, Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan, visited but never lived in the house.

From there, head west on Short, Second or Third streets and admire the eclectic mix of 1800s houses. When you reach Jefferson Street, you will find plenty of places to take a break: It is one of Lexington’s hottest new restaurant districts.

Triangle Park on the west end of downtown is another good place to relax. On the east end of town, don’t miss Thoroughbred Park, with Gwen Reardon’s life-size bronze sculptures of a horse race. It may be Lexington’s most-photographed place.

Downtown north of Main Street is surprisingly easy to bicycle around, despite one-way street patterns that can seem baffling.

With a bicycle, you also can cruise around the scenic Northside neighborhood up to West Sixth Brewery at the end of Jefferson Street, or up North Limestone Street to the edgier, up-and-coming NoLi district of shops, restaurants and bars.

If you prefer a walk in the country, drive out to Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, 3885 Raven Run Way near the end of Jack’s Creek Pike. This 734-acre city park along the Kentucky River Palisades has some great hiking trails.

For rural bike rides, the Legacy Trail between downtown and the Kentucky Horse Park is a good place to start. More information:

For experienced cyclists, rural Fayette and surrounding counties can be a road biker’s paradise, if you know where to go. Lexington’s hub-and-spoke road system can make the spokes dangerous places to ride. But between the spokes are many beautiful, lightly traveled country roads.

Many tried-and-true routes are available on popular cycling apps such as and If you want company, visitors are welcome at Bluegrass Cycling Club rides, which are scheduled frequently with a variety of speeds and distances. See the ride calendar at:

(c)2015 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Gwen Reardon’s bronze statue group of a horse race in Thoroughbred Park is one of the most photographed places in Lexington. (Tom Eblen/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)

The Science Of Procrastination In An Age Of Information Overload

The Science Of Procrastination In An Age Of Information Overload

By Daniel J. Levitin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

With summer vacation over, we head back to work or school, to our normal routines. We begin the fall with a great sense of optimism about all we can accomplish. We vow to do things differently. Yet come Thanksgiving, we’ll find we didn’t get as much done as we thought we would. We procrastinated.

Everyone dawdles from time to time; it’s a universal trait. But not every procrastinator is the same.

Procrastination comes in two types. Some of us procrastinate in order to pursue restful activities — spending time in bed, watching TV — while others delay difficult or unpleasant tasks in favor of those that are more fun.

In this respect, the two types differ in activity level: The rest-seeking procrastinators would generally rather not exert themselves at all, while the fun-task procrastinators enjoy being busy and active all the time, but have a hard time starting things that are not so amusing.

The tendency to procrastinate has been linked to both genetics and the neurobiology of the brain. People are more likely to procrastinate if they are young and single (including divorced and separated). So are those with a Y chromosome, which could explain why women are far more likely to graduate from college than men.

Self-regulation and impulse-control problems in general are more likely to be found in males, who have a larger number of fatal and nonfatal accidents, a higher suicide rate, a higher incarceration rate and are more likely to seek and take risks. Variations in the structure of genes that regulate dopamine in the brain influence the extent to which we can control our attentional focus. One new study has shown that variations in a gene that regulates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in turn affect our ability to experience a sense of reward.

And, as it happens, reward is an important part of the story of procrastination — for all of us. We tend to put off those things for which we will not get an immediate reward: projects with a long event horizon such as those undertaken by academics, engineers, writers, housing contractors and artists. The output of their work can take weeks, or months or sometimes years to complete. And then, after completion, there can be a very long period before they receive any praise or gratification. And so there is a very strong pull from the brain’s reward center to engage in something — anything — else that will deliver a more immediate sense of satisfaction. The Internet to the rescue!

The human brain long ago evolved a mechanism for rewarding us when we encountered new information: a little shot of dopamine in the brain each time we learned something new. Across evolutionary history, compulsively seeking information was adaptive behavior.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century. Whereas information came at us very slowly 1,000 years ago, now it comes faster than we can process it. We’ve created more information in the last five years than in all of human history before it. Each new Facebook post, Twitter feed or email is a bit of new information that causes our brains to release dopamine and to experience immediate, if fleeting, pleasure.

Getting new information through Web-surfing almost always feels more rewarding than having to generate new information in the work that is in front of us. It therefore takes increasing amounts of self-discipline to stay on task.

We can’t just blame evolution and dopamine, though; we make getting down to business more difficult than absolutely necessary by defining a task too broadly, with not enough detail. “Build a house” is not something you can easily start. But grading the site, preparing to pour a foundation and starting framing are executable steps that themselves can be broken into subcomponents such as hiring an excavator and setting stakes for the outline of the foundation.

Often our tendency to procrastinate is a nuisance and nothing more: We simply start things later than we might have and experience unneeded stress as the deadline looms. But it can lead to more serious outcomes. Many people, for example, delay seeing their doctors, during which time their condition can become so bad that treatment is no longer an option. Or they put off writing wills, filling out medical directives, installing smoke detectors or backing up their computers until it’s too late.

The keys to a productive fall season include prioritizing tasks, breaking down large tasks into smaller steps and undertaking unpleasant or difficult tasks early in the day (or after lunch or a nap). Also, exercising just a bit of self-restraint when it comes to social networking. Staying away from electronics for at least short stretches can create a state of focused and relaxed engagement, which some call “mindfulness.”

The sheer volume of options that we face in this age of information overload nearly guarantees that we won’t finish everything. But when the December break comes, we may find that we’ve at least managed to finish (or at least start) the things we care about most.

(Daniel J. Levitin is the author, most recently, of “The Organized Mind.”)

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Procrastination comes in different types. (Fotolia)

A 10-Minute Pilates Workout

A 10-Minute Pilates Workout

By Lindsay Ellingson, Byrdie (TNS)

Need a quick workout that mixes several styles together? Here are four sequences that will tone your whole body and elongate your muscles at the same time while incorporating Pilates, ballet and yoga. Mary Helen Bowers, founder of Ballet Beautiful, taught me the ballet sequences, which I do constantly.

Power passe
1. Start lying on your side with your legs straight and slightly out in front of you.
2. With your toes pointed, draw your top leg into passe position at your knee.
3. Keep your hips open, with your knee drawing backward as you extend your leg straight up.
4. Lower your leg into starting position, and repeat the sequence 20 times.
5. Next, circle your leg.
6. Bring both legs slightly forward to form a V shape.
7. Lift your top leg and slowly circle it forward for one minute. Then reverse the direction of your circle for one minute.
8. Repeat the whole sequence on your other leg.

Ballet beautiful hips and thighs sequence
1. Lie on your side with knees bent, legs forming a 90-degree angle.
2. Keeping your knees together and toes pointed, lift your top foot up toward the sky.
3. Extend you leg upward in the direction of your foot.
4. Bend your knee, bringing your top leg in to meet the bottom leg again, and repeat this sequence 10 times.
5. Next, come back to starting position for clamshells. This time, keep your toes together and open your knees.
6. Slowly and with control, raise and lower your top leg 10 times. (Note: If you want to make this more challenging, you can raise your feet and hover the bottom leg as well.)
7. Repeat the whole sequence three times, and switch legs.

Anti-gravity glute lift
1. Start on your hands and knees, in tabletop position, with hips over knees and shoulders over wrists.
2. Keeping your hips square and your foot flexed, press one leg up toward the sky, knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
3. Raise and lower your leg 12 times.
4. Next, maintain the same form, but open your leg to the side. Do this 12 times.
5. Repeat the whole sequence three times on each leg.

Core balance bicycles
1. Start sitting up straight with your hands and feet on the ground, knees bent, arms slightly behind you, and fingers facing inward.
2. Raise your whole body up, lifting your chest toward the sky. Keep your core engaged and your arms straight (but not locked), and hold this pose for a few breaths.
3. Lower down and raise your legs to tabletop position.
4. Lean back slightly to fire up your core, and extend your legs straight out.
5. Alternate bicycling out your legs for one minute, and repeat. (Note: For a more advanced sequence, balance without the support of your arms on the ground.)

And don’t forget to grab a crease-free hair tie to keep your hair out of the way during this power Pilates workout.

Get the latest celebrity beauty news, runway trends, health and fitness tips, as well as product suggestions from the experts at

(c)2015, Clique Media Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Expert Tips For Buying The Right Bicycle For You

Expert Tips For Buying The Right Bicycle For You

By Selene Yeager, (TNS)

So you’ve learned what bike is best for you. Now the question is how to go about buying it. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as stressful as the experience you have at car dealerships. But there are still a few tips to know.

Know the basics
A bike shop can help you narrow down your selection to the perfect bike if you can answer basic bike-buying questions. You should be prepared to answer the following questions and commit the answers to memory before you go.

  • What will you (or do you) use your bike for?
  • When, where, and how often will you ride?
  • How much can you spend?

This exercise should help you — and the shop staff — focus on your needs, whether you’re buying your first bike, or new pedals or bar tape for your existing ride.

Ride bikes
If you’re buying a bicycle, you should test-ride a few. (If the shop doesn’t allow this, go to one that does.) Touch and feel accessories so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Be assertive
It’s easy to feel put off by shop employees who rattle off jargon. Even helpful, friendly staff can unwittingly talk over your head, making you feel dumb when that’s not their intention. “Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and speak in language you understand,” said bicycle retail consultant Ray Keener. “Remember that you are in control of the situation.”

Play fair
Your local bike shop is not the place to haggle. With so many online outlets competing with their business, brick-and-mortar retailers must keep their prices competitive. Profit margins on bike sales are razor thin. It’s not uncommon for a shop to net more money on the extras _ helmet, pedals, computer, and so on _ than on the bike sale itself. For this reason, dealers are often more willing to throw in a free seat bag or bottle cage than to give you a deal on the bike. Service is an area where you can seek out value: It’s common for shops to provide a year of free basic adjustments on your new bike, so it’s worth asking for this if your shop offers less.

Another way to potentially save some cash is by joining your local advocacy group. Many shops discount their prices for members. If you really don’t like the deal offered by a shop, then quietly go elsewhere. You may find a better price in a nearby town, but remember, it’s not always worth driving an hour to save a few bucks. In the end, having a good local bike shop will save you time and money on service and any warranty issues. Shops tend to go the extra mile for you if they know you bought the bike there.

Finally, eBay is good for many purchases, but bikes aren’t one of them. Yes, it’s possible to buy a bike online but it’s not recommend. And many reputable sellers offer new and used bikes online, if that’s the way you really want to go. But steer clear of ads that are vague or downright shady, like one on eBay that read, “not recommended for the Pittsburgh area,” presumably because that’s where the bike had been stolen.

When you venture online, you’re on your own. If you know your preferred frame angles, top tube length, and stem and handlebar sizes, you might find a barely used dream ride and save hundreds. It’s happened. But if those measurement terms mean nothing to you, visit a bike shop for help. Otherwise, you’ll get a bargain online but spend twice the savings trying to make the bike fit, and it may never feel right.

Shop Smart
Just because you shouldn’t haggle with your shop doesn’t mean you can’t get a good bargain on a new bike. Like shoes, cars, and clothing, bikes are seasonal. New models arrive on the bike shop sales floor each year, typically in the fall, as the riding season winds down.

This is the best time to look for deals, because shops don’t want soon-to-be-year-old inventory lingering through the slower winter months. While hot models in popular sizes will sell out over the summer, you may get lucky and find last year’s model at a discount, but do your homework before buying: Models often get dramatic redesigns only every few years, so if the new model just has different paint and minor parts tweaks, you’ll save on last year’s bike.

But if the new model has big frame changes or parts upgrades, then it can be worth paying for the new model. Beware of bikes that are more than a few seasons old. Advances in frame materials and component technology happen quickly, so a seemingly great deal may be only an average one.

(Excerpted from The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women.)

(This story originally appeared on Rodale Wellness, formerly known as (c)2015 Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A man rides his bicycle through the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

I’ve Hit A Workout Wall, So Now What?

I’ve Hit A Workout Wall, So Now What?

By Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

MILWAUKEE — I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I have hit a wall I can’t climb over or run around.

I am in this netherworld right now, amid fighting for my health and fitness, battling my sugar addiction and getting in my exercise _ and just accepting that I’m always going to tip the scale in a direction I don’t like.

I swing on that pendulum pretty regularly, but I almost always try to pick myself up, dust myself off and fight for another day.

Right now I’m stuck. Doldrums. Neither here nor there.

I recently completed a 12-week weight loss program at my gym where I actually gained weight. I am a little worried that the next time I go back, the trainers will pull my membership card and tell me to go to Planet Fitness.

My struggles are even more frustrating because I write this health and fitness column, for crying out loud, and when I set up my interviews, I have to warn people in advance to not expect someone skinny when they meet me.

I even have my lines rehearsed: “I like working out _ as much as I like chocolate.”

And: “I lost 40 pounds with Weight Watchers. And I kept 30 of them off.”

Here’s the deal: Three years ago I joined a weight loss program at my gym, added a lot more strength training to my existing cardio routine, dropped two pants sizes and got to a weight that was good for my height and age, even if I didn’t appreciate that at the time since I thought I still had more to lose.

It was not my first dive into our culture of weight loss.

Ever since it’s been a battle to hold my ground, especially in the winters, when I always gain around 5-10 pounds. Last summer I dropped them in training for the Spartan Sprint. This summer they’re still here.

Instead of going to the gym five or six times a week, I go three. Instead of going for a six-mile jog, I take a three-mile walk.

My MP3 player and my Fitbit One died in the same week, and so did all the motivation I had to resist the naughties at the Wisconsin State Fair and the brownies at the PGA Championship. MyFitnessPal has unfriended me.

If you think 5 or 10 pounds isn’t something to freak out about, just ask anyone who has ever lost significant amounts of weight. They know that 5 can turn to 10 on one long vacation and 10 can turn to 15 by the Super Bowl.

So I start each day at my closet; one side has the skinny clothes, the other side has the baggy ones. These twins fight every day.

I’m mostly burned out from tracking what I eat in my food journals. Dieters know how important this accountability is _ “If you bite it, you write it” _ but my food diaries feel like another form of punishment, not an educational tool.

And now my failings and imperfections have turned me in to a head case. So, when I skip a day at the gym, I feel guilty, not rested. When I eat something unhealthy, I feel guilty, not treated. It leaves me stuck in the middle, not winning, not fighting, nothing.

You can imagine what a treat I am to be around to my family and closest circle of friends. One of them even wondered if we had anything to talk about other than food and working out.

I’ve always wondered if there’s an obsessive compulsive nature about dieting, but right now the line for me is blurred between self-awareness and self-absorption.

These are unchartered waters for me. I am active. I have made monumental lifestyle changes that I still practice. I am trying to do the right things.

But in some ways, I am tired. I am weary. And I am taking a break. I wrote this sitting on the couch with a big bowl of chips, watching the Jim Gaffigan Show (I think we’re related).

What that means, exactly? I don’t know. The elite athletes I cover all have their own ways to fight off a slump. But what about the rest of us?

From the expert

“Everybody deals with this,” said Corey Paszkiewicz, the owner and head trainer at CrossFit Oak Creek. He’s a weightlifter, bodybuilder and credentialed personal trainer. “I struggle with this all the time, too. Here are a couple of things I do:

“One. Write down your goals. They have to be written down in order for it to work. If they are not written down, then they really do not exist.

“Two. I am a big believer in setting big goals. Often times people do not set goals big enough. They set small goals, reach it and then have nothing else to look forward to or train for. Set goals that seem slightly out of reach. Even if you fall short you will still be further ahead than you would be if you set a smaller goal.

“Three. Make them realistic. This is not to be confused with setting goals out of reach. What I mean by realistic is setting something that you can physically commit to that would be realistic. For example, an unrealistic goal is to lose 50 pounds in 30 days. While it could be possible for someone who has a few hundred pounds to lose, it is not realistic for most people. Another example of an unrealistic goal would be to start a workout program of training six to seven days a week when you have never worked out before. Be realistic.

“Four. Also set small frequent goals, for each day, week, month, and then in three months, six months and a year. Setting the smaller goals help stay on track and you can celebrate the ‘wins’ each day and week. With the end in mind, that will help people stay on track.

“Five. When those do not work and you are still in a slump, I re-write-down my goals and re-evaluate them. I ask myself if what I am doing will move me closer or further away from my goals. If it is going to move me further away from my goals, I do not do that.

“Six. Find a coach and a mentor. At CrossFit Oak Creek we have a great support system where we help and teach people to be accountable. Every successful person has a coach and mentor. All professional athletes train and work out with other people as well. It’s all about the accountability. You can only get so far by yourself and most people are not self-motivated. Even though I am very self motivated and knowledgeable in fitness, I have made most of my gains and successes working in groups and finding accountability partners. I network with other professionals and surround myself with others that are more successful. It holds me to a higher standard and helps me push myself and stay on track.”

(c)2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Thousands Mourn Slain Illinois Police Officer

Thousands Mourn Slain Illinois Police Officer

By Dawn Rhodes, Lauren Zumbach and Amanda Marrazzo, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

CHICAGO — Under a perfect powder-blue sky, police officers from across the country came Monday to give a final salute to a fallen comrade killed in the small boating community of Fox Lake.

Swarms of law enforcement in starched blue uniforms and badges wrapped in black mourning bands converged on Antioch Community High School for the visitation and funeral service for Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.

“He’s one of our fellow brothers,” said officer Nate Troyer, who traveled from Tremont, near Peoria, to help out with traffic.

Thousands of mourners, including police from as far away as New York and California, packed the school to overflowing. Flags flew at half-staff. Sidewalks were dotted with more flags and blue ribbon-tied trees.

His funeral service began shortly after 1:30 p.m. after thousands paid their respects at the visitation. Former Fox Lake police Chief Michael Behan read “The Policeman’s Prayer” and told Gliniewicz’s wife and four sons they were not only loved by their community but also are now part of “the nation’s family.” Others eulogized Gliniewicz as a stand-up man, one who rose early, labored hard and loved his work, community and, most of all, his family.

His brother, Michael Gliniewicz, described him as “reasonable, fair and just.”

“When we were growing up, we all knew he was a hero,” he told the packed auditorium. “But now the nation knows he is a hero. We are Gliniewicz strong. I love you, brother. You will always be a part of my life.”

After the funeral concludes, a hearse carrying his casket will leave for an 18-mile procession through Antioch and Fox Lake and back to Antioch for burial at Hillside East Cemetery.

Maria Mikula Helm, who said she knew Gliniewicz back in high school but had long ago lost touch, came to honor a man whose broad smile remained etched in her memory.

“I’m proud,” said Helm, of Bannockburn. “It’s clear his heart was really in his job and he believed in paying it forward with the kids.”

Joan and Ken Church, of Antioch, sat outside the school holding blue signs that read “Thank you to all who serve.”

“Police have gotten a bad rap across the country,” Ken Church said, “but he gave so much, and so many give so much.”

Aurora police Lt. Bill Hull also lamented the anti-police sentiment that he says has grown this past year around the country in light of highly publicized use-of-force fatalities. Despite the melancholy occasion, the camaraderie they shared Monday was evident.

“It’s something officers deal with 24/7,” said Hull, who in 28 years of attending funerals for fallen officers said he had “never seen this type of turnout.”

Before the 9 a.m. viewing began, the flag-draped casket of the U.S. Army veteran, attended by honor guards, made its way into the high school. A slide show of photographs of Gliniewicz, at work and play, projected on large screens throughout the building, which was filled with blue and black bunting and flowers.

Known to many as “G.I. Joe,” the trim, muscular Gliniewicz was well known and liked in the community of more than 10,000 that is nestled among three large lakes about 50 miles north of Chicago.

As she waited in the long line outside the school that slowly inched its way into the auditorium where Gliniewicz’s body, clad in his dress uniform, was on view in an open casket, Brenda Belcher of Antioch recalled how much her three sons looked up to him when he served as their Boy Scout leader.

“He really was G.I. Joe,” she said, recalling his fondness for mud and obstacle runs and his large camouflage pickup truck her sons loved. “He was like a kid’s fantasy. They all looked up to him.”

Gliniewicz, 52, had been on patrol about 8 a.m. last Tuesday when he radioed that he was responding to suspicious activity, according to the Lake County sheriff’s office. He reported that he was starting a foot pursuit of three subjects, but no one heard from him after that, authorities said.

His colleagues responded and found him shot in a marshy area near U.S. Highway 12, a main road through town.

Gliniewicz died at the scene, and police said his gun was recovered nearby. Police continued their investigation through the long Labor Day weekend analyzing evidence from the crime scene, including Gliniewicz’s gun, and videos provided by area residents and businesses, while appealing to the public for tips.

Gliniewicz, who became a Fox Lake police officer in 1985, had a military bearing and a devotion to police work so deep that he had tattoos of his badges. His assignments included canine officer, field training officer and a member of the SWAT team. He was promoted to sergeant and, in his final role, a lieutenant. He died within weeks of retirement.

(Dawn Rhodes is a Chicago Tribune reporter. Lauren Zumbach is a News-Sun reporter. Amanda Marrazzo is a freelance reporter.)

(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Jeff Jacobs of the Illinois State Police and Leroy Pugesek of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office hug outside the funeral of slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Why Is Gitmo Still Open?

Why Is Gitmo Still Open?

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, July 24:

One of President Barack Obama’s first acts in office was to promise that he would close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in order to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.” Six years later, the facility is still open, although the population has dwindled to 116, 52 of whom have been cleared for transfer if security conditions can be satisfied.

Part of the problem has been congressional obstructionism, but Obama also is to blame. Rather than veto defense authorization bills that limited his ability to transfer inmates, he has signed them, while raising questions about whether they intruded on his constitutional authority. And he hasn’t pressed the Defense Department hard enough to approve the release and resettlement of detainees who aren’t deemed a threat.

Now the White House says it is preparing to present Congress with a new plan to close the facility. That effort is welcome, but it will fully succeed only if the administration recognizes that the problem with Guantanamo isn’t just its location, but that the prison has become a symbol of a denial of due process.

Opposition to closing Guantanamo involves two issues. One is whether even “low-risk” detainees should be released to their homelands or to some other country. The other is whether inmates — including dozens of more dangerous detainees the administration says it can neither release nor try — should be moved to the United States. The administration argues persuasively that “supermax” prisons in this country provide adequate protection for public safety.

We agree with Obama that Guantanamo has been a stain on America’s reputation and a recruiting tool for terrorists. The administration should make good on its threat to veto a new National Defense Authorization Act if it makes it harder to release detainees or to shut down the prison. But even if the administration wins congressional support for closing the facility and accelerating the release of some detainees, it shouldn’t be content with simply relocating the rest and continuing to hold them without charge or trial.

In a 2013 speech, Obama acknowledged that indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists without a trial was a problem but said it could be resolved “consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” The way to do so is to urgently revisit the question of whether supposedly high-risk detainees really pose a danger if they are released. The government should also take a fresh look at whether it really is impossible to prosecute some detainees because of missing or compromised evidence.

In the same speech, Obama warned that “history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it.” The way to forestall such a judgment is to close Guantanamo and not reconstitute it elsewhere.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A guard tower of Camp Delta is seen at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba September 4, 2007. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Bobbi Kristina Brown, Daughter Of The Late Whitney Houston, Dies At 22

Bobbi Kristina Brown, Daughter Of The Late Whitney Houston, Dies At 22

By Christie D’Zurilla, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Bobbi Kristina Brown, the only daughter of the late Whitney Houston and entertainer Bobby Brown, died Sunday in Peachtree Christian Hospice in Atlanta, nearly six months after being found face-down and unresponsive in a bathtub at the Atlanta-area town home she shared with partner Nick Gordon. She was 22.

“She is finally at peace in the arms of God,” a rep for the Houston family said in a statement Sunday. “We want to again thank everyone for their tremendous amount of love and support during these last few months.”

Bobbi Kristina “made her transition peacefully,” according to a family statement sent out by Legacy Recordings, which handles her mother’s catalog.

The New Jersey native was thrust into the spotlight as an 18-year-old when her mother was found dead in a hotel bathroom in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2012, the night before that year’s Grammy Awards.

She was in the hotel lobby when her mother’s body was found and then made headlines of her own when she was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles that night and the next morning for stress and anxiety.

History appeared to repeat itself to a degree on Jan. 31, when Bobbi Kristina, nicknamed Krissi, was also found in a bathtub, unresponsive but alive. Over the weeks and months that followed, she went from being hospitalized on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma to breathing on her own in a rehab facility, but never regained consciousness.

Grandmother Cissy Houston said in April that her granddaughter had suffered “global and irreversible brain damage.” On June 24, Bobbi Kristina was moved to hospice care, and friends and family members began saying their goodbyes.

Gordon, her quasi-brother — Whitney Houston had raised him from age 12 along with her daughter — wasn’t among those visiting, however.

In the wake of Houston’s death, he and Bobbi Kristina had become romantically involved, even saying they were married, though it would turn out they hadn’t been. The Houston family’s disapproval of their new relationship was a plot point in the 12-part docu-series The Houstons: On Our Own, which ran in the second half of 2012.

Despite his pleas, Gordon didn’t see Krissi again after she was taken from their home Jan. 31. An existing restraining order keeping him away from Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and the executor of Bobbi Kristina’s trust fund, kept him from away from the hospital as well.

Though the Brown and Houston families had been at odds repeatedly while Bobbi Kristina was being cared for, Bobby Brown and Pat Houston were made co-guardians in May with regard to decisions about her care and medical needs. At the same time, attorney Bedelia Hargrove was appointed legal conservator, with responsibility for Bobbi Kristina Brown’s assets, including likeness, rights and legal claims.

The day Brown was moved to hospice, Hargrove filed a civil lawsuit against Gordon on his girlfriend’s behalf, alleging he’d physically abused her — including knocking out teeth and dragging her up stairs — had controlled her and had taken a significant amount of money from her without permission, $11,000 of it after she had been hospitalized.

The conservator’s lawsuit alleges that after Whitney Houston’s death, Gordon had maneuvered himself into a boyfriend role and then fraudulently represented himself as Bobbi Kristina’s husband to access the multimillion-dollar estate she had inherited.

Authorities announced June 25 that the results of a months-long police investigation into the events of Jan. 31 had been handed over to the Fulton County (Ga.) district attorney’s office, which would determine whether any criminal charges would be filed.

Since then, Gordon’s legal team has grown to include an attorney who successfully represented Casey Anthony and an investigator who worked on the Natalee Holloway disappearance.

Bobbi Kristina Brown was born March 2, 1993, seven months after her parents — who met in 1989 — got married. In 2005, she appeared occasionally on her parents’ reality series, Being Bobby Brown.

When Whitney and Bobby’s tumultuous marriage ended in a divorce that was finalized in April 2007, Houston was awarded physical and legal custody of her daughter. Bobby Brown, who had visitation rights but no custody, challenged the decision months later but was a no-show in court and lost his appeal.

Photo: Fabricio Bolonini via Wikimedia Commons.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Bars Inspections Of Military Sites

Iran’s Supreme Leader Bars Inspections Of Military Sites


TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday banned a key component of a pending nuclear deal with the West: inspections of military sites by the international nuclear watchdog.

“No permit will be issued for that,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would also not be allowed to conduct interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists.

Khamenei has the last word in all strategic matters according to the Iranian constitution.

His “red line” could make negotiations with West countries on a comprehensive nuclear deal much more complicated and calls into question the conclusion of a deal by the end of June as planned.
The Vienna-based IAEA has been trying for years to get a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear projects, which it said were conducted in an apparent effort to develop key components of a nuclear warhead. Tehran has denied having any plans to obtain such a weapon.

In particular, the IAEA has been wanting to inspect the Parchin military base, southeast of Tehran. President Hassan Rowhani’s nuclear team is believed to have agreed to this demand but only for a viewing of the site. For Khamenei and the influential Revolutionary Guards, the country’s military elite, inspections remain taboo.

Suspicions over weapons development lie at the heart of the efforts by six world powers to reach a deal with Tehran that would curb Iran’s civilian nuclear program and would allow intrusive IAEA inspections to prevent the technology from being used for weapons.

The group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany plan to lift economic sanctions in return.

Because this latest point of contention could lead to a further delay in the signing of a nuclear deal, Iran has said that it is willing to extend the deadline beyond June 30 as previously agreed.

“For us the content of the agreement is more important than holding to the deadline,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Wednesday.

There are still many gaps in the draft document, which the Iranian team would try to fill in intensive discussions before the end of next month, she said.

If they do not succeed, an extension in the talks could not be ruled out, she said.

A new round of talks dedicated to drafting the text of the agreement started Wednesday in Vienna as the German Foreign Ministry rejected the idea of an extension.

Giving up the deadline already now was not a sensible approach, ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said in Berlin, vowing that negotiations would be conducted “with the greatest vigor and intensity.”

The process could be made more complicated by developments in the U.S. Congress or in Tehran “if we kick it further into the long grass,” he said.

Photo credit: Aslan Media via Flickr

(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.