Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mike Nova's starred items - 12:39 PM 11/3/2012

12:39 PM 11/3/2012
via A List's Facebook Wall by A List on 11/3/12

I Heart Unpredictable Love
Why our brains push us toward unexpected affection and rewards.

via NYT > Arts by By BEN BRANTLEY on 11/2/12
A new staging of “The Heiress,” adapted from a Henry James novella, stars Jessica Chastain in a bluntly drawn outline of the title character.

Mitt Romney’s advance team has emerged one of the few consistently high-functioning arms of his campaign.

via NYT > Internet by By BRIAN STELTER and JENNIFER PRESTON on 11/2/12
Governors and others from North Carolina to Maine are using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach constituents unable to watch television.

via NYT > U.S. by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on 11/1/12
A federal audit of the authority that runs two of metropolitan Washington’s major airports has criticized how the agency is managed.

via NYT > U.S. by By ETHAN BRONNER on 11/2/12
Thousands of lawyers from both presidential campaigns will enter polling places next Tuesday with one central goal: tracking their opponents and, if need be, initiating legal action.

via NYT > U.S. by By JAMES RISEN on 11/2/12
One sergeant’s account of abuse suggests that more than 20 years after Tailhook, the infamous 1991 scandal involving Navy fighter pilots, little has changed in the insular fighter pilot culture.

via NYT > U.S. by on 11/2/12
About four days after Hurricane Sandy, long lines for gas and crowded commutes dominate daily life.

Residents of Long Beach, N.Y., begin the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy.

NYT: The Final Reckoning - By DAVID BROOKS - November 1, 2012

The New York Times

November 1, 2012

The Final Reckoning

Jan. 20, 2009, was an inspiring day. Barack Obama took the oath of office and argued that America was in a crisis caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
It was time, he said, to end the false choices between the orthodox left and the orthodox right. He called for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. ... In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
Obama acknowledged that some people questioned the scale of his ambitions, the scope of his grand plans. But, he continued, “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”
In some ways, President Obama has lived up to the promise of that day. In office, he has generally behaved with integrity and in a way befitting a man with his admirable character. Sure, he has sometimes stooped to the cynical maneuver. Contemptuous of his opponents, he has given himself permission to do the nasty and negative thing. But politics is a rough business and nobody comes out unsullied.
In moral terms, he hasn’t let us down. If he’s re-elected, his administration would probably remain scandal-free. Given the history of second terms, that is no small thing.
Moreover, Obama has been a prudent leader. He’s made no rash or disastrous decisions. He’s never acted out of some impetuous passion. His policies toward, say, China, Europe and Iran have had a sense of sober balance. If re-elected, he would probably commit no major blunders, which also is no small thing.
But the scope of Obama’s vision has contracted over the years. It has contracted politically. Four years ago, Obama won over many conservatives and independents. But he’s championed mostly conventional Democratic policies and is now mostly relying on members of his own party.
It has contracted managerially. Four years ago, Obama went to the White House with a Team of Rivals — big figures with big voices. Now the circle of trust is much smaller and political.
The mood has contracted. The atmosphere of expansive hope has often given way to a mood of aggrieved annoyance. He seems cagier, more hemmed in by the perceived limitations of his office. The man who ran on hope four years ago is now running one of the most negative campaigns in history, aimed at disqualifying his opponent.
Most of all, the vision has contracted. The arguments he made in his inaugural address were profoundly true. We are in the middle of an economic transition, a bit like the 1890s, with widening inequality, a corrupt and broken political system, an unsustainable welfare state, a dangerous level of family breakdown and broken social mobility.
The financial crisis exposed foundational problems and meant that we were going to have to live with a long period of slow growth, as the history of financial crises makes clear.
If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses. He would have said: Look, we’re not going to have booming growth soon, but we will use this period to lay the groundwork for a generation of prosperity — with plans to reform the tax code, get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth.
When people say they wish Obama had embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, they don’t mean the specific details of that proposal. They mean the largeness that Obama’s inauguration promised and the Simpson-Bowles moment afforded. They mean confronting the hard choices, instead of promising more bounty for everyone with no sacrifice ever.
But the president got sucked in by short-term things — the allure of managing the business cycle so that the economy would boom by re-election time. Instead of taking the midterm defeat as a sign he should move to the center, or confound the political categories, he seems to have hunkered down and become more political. Washington dysfunction now looks worse than ever.
Sure, House Republicans have been intransigent, but Obama could have isolated them, building a governing center-left majority with an unorthodox agenda. Instead he’s comforted the Democratic base and disappointed sympathizers who are not in it.
One final thing. No one is fair to President Obama. People grade him against tougher standards than any other politician. But his innate ability justifies that high standard. These are the standards he properly set for himself. If re-elected, he’d be free from politics. It’d be interesting to see if he returns to his earlier largeness.

via NYT > Global Opinion by By DAVID BROOKS on 11/2/12
President Obama began big but is ending small. If he’s re-elected, would he reach the high standards he once set for himself?

NYT: Secret Service Agent Who Hid Affair Kills Himself - via NYT > Home Page - By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on 11/2/12

The New York Times

via NYT > Home Page by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on 11/2/12
For nearly six years, a senior Secret Service agent kept his extramarital affair with a Mexican woman a secret from the agency responsible for protecting the president.

November 2, 2012

Secret Service Agent Who Hid Affair Kills Himself

WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly six years, a senior Secret Service agent kept his extramarital affair with a Mexican woman a secret from the agency responsible for protecting the president.
But in the wake of an embarrassing prostitution scandal involving 13 agents and officers, Rafael Prieto's secret was revealed by a fellow employee amid concerns the Secret Service wasn't enforcing its rules consistently. With an internal investigation ongoing, Prieto apparently committed suicide last week, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Prieto, a married father assigned to the security detail for President Barack Obama, admitted the years-long relationship with a woman from Mexico to U.S. investigators when confronted. Before his death, he was the subject of an investigation focused on whether he violated agency rules that require disclosing relationships with foreigners, those familiar with the matter said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Prieto's death or the investigation.
Secret Service rules require that employees with a security clearance notify the agency about any relationship with a foreign citizen to ensure that the person is not a risk to national security. There is no evidence that Prieto's relationship posed any security threat. Failing to disclose such a relationship would be not be a crime, but a violation of the agency's administrative rules.
Prieto was serving on the protective detail for Obama, though he was not on duty at the time of his death. As recently as 2009, he was identified as the resident agent in charge at the Secret Service's office in White Plains, N.Y. He had worked for the Secret Service for 22 years. He was 47, according to public records.
Prieto's apparent cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. He was found in his car with the engine running. His death was being investigated by Metropolitan Police in Washington and the medical examiner's office.
"Rafael Prieto had a distinguished 20-year career with the Secret Service that was marked by accomplishment, dedication and friendships," agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said in a statement. "The Secret Service is mourning the loss of a valued colleague."
The Secret Service protects the lives of the president, vice president and their families, and also investigates counterfeiting, bank fraud, computer hacking and other financial crimes.
The behavior of Secret Service agents and officers has come under scrutiny since 13 employees were implicated in a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April.
Those employees were in the Caribbean resort city in advance of Obama's arrival for a South American summit. After a night of heavy partying in some of Cartagena's bars and clubs, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, back to the where they were staying. The incident became public after one agent refused to pay a prostitute and argued with her in a hotel hallway. Prieto was never in Colombia during the scandal.
Eight of those Secret Service employees have been forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two are fighting to get their jobs back.
The scandal prompted Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that barred employees from drinking within 10 hours of the start of a shift or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.

via NYT > World by By NICK CUMMING-BRUCE and RICK GLADSTONE on 11/2/12
A new video that seems to show Syrian rebels summarily executing a group of captured soldiers or militiamen could, if verified, represent evidence of a war crime, the United Nations said on Friday.

via NYT > World by By MARTIN FACKLER on 11/2/12
Japanese leaders reacted angrily on Friday after the police on Okinawa said a United States Air Force serviceman was suspected of assaulting a 13-year-old boy. 

NYT - November 2, 2012 - Military Has Not Solved Problem of Sexual Assault, Women Say

The New York Times

via NYT > U.S. by By JAMES RISEN on 11/2/12
One sergeant’s account of abuse suggests that more than 20 years after Tailhook, the infamous 1991 scandal involving Navy fighter pilots, little has changed in the insular fighter pilot culture.

November 2, 2012

Military Has Not Solved Problem of Sexual Assault, Women Say

WASHINGTON — Jennifer Smith, an Air Force technical sergeant, walked into the office of a senior officer at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea with an armful of paperwork. Instead of signing the documents, she said, he insisted that she sit down. “He said to me, ‘It’s Friday afternoon, why don’t you take off your blouse and get comfortable?’ ” Sergeant Smith recalled.
In Germany, a master sergeant who offered to escort her home tried to sexually assault her, she said, and was deterred only when co-workers intervened. At Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where she eventually complained about pornography and other graphic material on her unit’s computers, a supervisor warned her to keep quiet, she said.
During her 17-year career as an enlisted woman performing administrative work for Air Force fighter squadrons, Sergeant Smith said, she has endured repeated sexual assaults and harassment. She said she has decided to speak out now after keeping silent for many years because senior officers were involved or appeared to tolerate improper behavior by fighter pilots, one of the military’s most elite groups.
“I learned quickly that the enlisted females who do well are the ones who keep their mouths shut,” said Sergeant Smith, who filed a formal complaint last month charging that the Air Force has turned a blind eye to pervasive sexual attacks and harassment against women. “It’s a career ender to come forward.”
The Air Force declined to comment on her allegations, citing privacy laws, but said it acts to combat such misconduct. “The goal for sexual assault in the United States Air Force is zero,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, said in a written statement. “If you’re a commander or a supervisor and you are not directly and aggressively involved in speaking up about this issue in your unit, then you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Faced with lawsuits and mounting evidence of widespread sexual abuse in the military, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged this year that the number of sexual assaults in the military is probably far higher than the official statistics show, because so many episodes are covered up. More than 3,000 sexual assault cases were reported in 2011 throughout all of the military services, but Mr. Panetta said that the actual figures could be as high as 19,000.
The Defense Department has found that about one in three women in the military has been sexually assaulted, compared with one in six civilian women. About 20 percent of female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced some form of sexual assault or related trauma, according to the Veterans Administration. “Despite the implementation of prevention programs and improved reporting mechanisms, female soldiers continue to experience sexual harassment and assault and are reluctant to report incidences,” a 2011 Labor Department report concluded.
Susan Burke, a Washington lawyer representing women who said they were victims of sexual assault or harassment and who have filed a series of lawsuits against the Pentagon beginning last year, said that since then more than 500 additional women, including Sergeant Smith, and a few men, have contacted her for help.
The Air Force and other services have instituted programs to deter abuses and discipline those who commit them. But Sergeant Smith, who is still on active duty with the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw, and others in the Air Force said that many women are skeptical.
Air Force Technical Sgt. Kimberly Davis, assigned to Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York, said that after she reported being raped, officers on the base, including one assigned to handle sexual assault cases, conspired to cover up the episode. “The sexual assault program in the Air Force is a joke,” she said.
Lola Miles, a former Air Force helicopter mechanic at Hurlburt Field in Florida, said that when she told senior officers that a male co-worker had repeatedly hit her at work and made vulgar remarks to her, they joked about it. Instead of taking action against her co-worker, she said, the leaders in her unit sought to discredit her and force her out of the Air Force. Both she and Sergeant Davis have filed lawsuits against the Air Force.
Sergeant Smith, 35, has worked with fighter squadrons inside the United States and overseas for most of her career. Her account of abuse suggests that more than 20 years after Tailhook, the infamous 1991 scandal involving Navy fighter pilots, little has changed in the insular fighter pilot culture.
“They can’t deal with women in fighter squadrons,” Sergeant Smith said. “The military is going ahead with getting rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but they still aren’t even ready to deal with women.
“The pilots know we think of them like our heroes,” she added. “It’s just a game to them, really.”
Sergeant Smith’s allegations could not be independently confirmed because she had not formally reported the episodes, many of which happened years ago, until now. Several other people in the Air Force who she said knew of some of the episodes, including her husband, who is an enlisted man in the 20th Fighter Wing, declined to be interviewed for this article, citing fears of retribution. Her wing commander, Col. Clay W. Hall, did not address any specifics, but said in a written statement: “We take these matters with utmost seriousness. All allegations of misconduct are investigated immediately and actions are taken appropriately.”
Sergeant Smith’s written administrative complaint filed with the Air Force notes that she has consistently received high marks in performance reviews. She joined the Air Force in 1995, out of high school in Salamanca, N.Y. The next year, during her first overseas temporary duty assignment at Sembach Air Base in Germany, she was assaulted by a master sergeant in his room after a night of drinking, she said. Male co-workers who came to the rescue warned that the sergeant had a reputation for preying on young enlisted women, she said.
At Kunsan in South Korea in 2001, Sergeant Smith said, she was walking in the America Town bar district near the base when a group of fighter pilots rushed out of a bar, carried her inside and threw her on top of a table. About 30 pilots crowded around. She had been caught up in a “sweep,” when fighter pilots grab women off the street for “naming ceremonies,” or drinking parties to celebrate a pilot’s new nickname. “Some of the pilots called Kunsan ‘the land of do as you please,’ ” Sergeant Smith said. “They could get away with anything.”
That same year, while attending a party at the base commander’s home at Kunsan, several pilots grabbed her and bound her and a pilot together with duct tape despite her resistance, she said. Twenty or more pilots gathered around, but nothing was done to stop it.
When she was transferred to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, Sergeant Smith, by then married to the enlisted man in her unit, attended a family event in 2003 with the squadron at the Arizona Diamondbacks stadium, where an Air Force pilot made sexual remarks to her in front of her husband. The couple went back to the base and complained to the operations director of their squadron about the harassment she endured, she said.
Nothing came of it, but when she arrived at her next assignment at Shaw, a supervisor pulled her aside and said she had a reputation for being too outspoken. “He said he wanted to make sure I understood my place in the world, and if not, things could be harder on me,” she recalled.
She said she finally got fed up and decided to go public after discovering large collections of pornography and other sexually graphic and offensive materials stored on the unit’s computers and in a vault supposedly reserved for classified documents at Shaw. She complained to senior officers, who promised they would get rid of the materials, but then did nothing.
“I’ve been able to serve my country, but I’ve also had to put up with a lot,” the sergeant said. “I want it to be changed.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 2, 2012
A picture caption with an earlier version of this article misstated who had just returned from Iraq. Jennifer Smith, an Air Force technical sergeant, had just returned, not her husband, who, as the article noted, is an enlisted man in the 20th Fighter Wing.


via NYT > U.S. by By JAMES RISEN on 11/2/12
One sergeant’s account of abuse suggests that more than 20 years after Tailhook, the infamous 1991 scandal involving Navy fighter pilots, little has changed in the insular fighter pilot culture.

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