Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversees the branch of the agency that allegedly targeted conservative groups, has been placed on administrative leave a day after she refused to answer questions in a congressional probe of the scandal.
Lerner, who invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify at a House hearing on Wednesday, is effectively suspended from her job as head of the exempt organizations division in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to a congressional aide who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, Lerner made a statement before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee saying she'd done nothing wrong and had broken no laws, but otherwise declined to answer lawmakers' questions.
The AP reports that the new IRS acting commissioner, Danny Werfel, sent an email to agency employees saying he'd selected a new acting head of the tax exempt division.
He said Ken Corbin would be the acting director of the division that Lerner had overseen.
Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) says he will leave Congress effective in August in order to take a senior position at the University of Alabama.
Bonner, who has represented Alabama's First District for six terms since 2003, will become vice chancellor of government relations and economic development at Alabama. His sister, Judy Bonner, serves as president of the university.
USA Today says:
"Bonner has been best known in Congress for helping his constituent service and his work on the Appropriations Committee, the panel that allocates most federal funds. Through that committee, Bonner worked to get federal aid to states hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Beyond Alabama, however, Bonner may best be remembered for service on the Ethics Committee when [New York Democrat Charles] Rangel was censured — the toughest form of punishment short of expulsion. Serving on the ethics committee has long been a thankless task for members of Congress because of its role in policing lawmakers. Bonner took the unusual step of criticizing then-Ethics Committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., for not scheduling Rangel's trial ahead of the November elections in 2010."
The Washington Post reports that potential Republican candidates for the vacant seat would "include state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Sen. Trip Pittman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne, who lost a runoff to [Gov. Robert] Bentley. The district is strongly Republican, giving Mitt Romney more than 60 percent of the vote in 2012."
Quite a few medical school students have something against obese people, and most of those who have such a bias are unaware of it.
That's the conclusion of study appearing in the July issue of Academic Medicine. It was conducted at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The study's author says the subconscious judgments could affect how patients are treated.
Here's how the study was done: Researchers gave third-year medical students Harvard's Implicit Association Test on weight. The test is designed to get at people's subconscious biases by measuring how long it takes for them to associate a positive word, such as "love," "laughter" or "pleasure," with a drawing of a person who is either thin or obese.
Psychologists have shown that people's subconscious biases affect how fast they can associate a positive trait with someone they think poorly of.
More than one-third of the students had a moderate to strong bias against obese people, as measured by the test, whereas only 17 percent had an anti-thin bias. Two-thirds of the students were unaware of their anti-fat bias.
Since this study was only done with students in North Carolina, the researchers can't say for sure these attitudes apply to medical school students elsewhere. But given the fact that previous studies have shown that doctors have a similar subconscious bias against overweight patients, it's likely the Wake Forest students are fairly typical.
The researchers for the North Carolina study say medical education should include strategies for recognizing these subconscious biases and guarding against their affecting medical judgments.
How would bias affect the way doctors take care of obese patients? Several ways, study author David Miller told me in an email.
"If doctors assume obese patients are lazy or lack willpower, they will be less likely to spend time counseling patients about lifestyle changes they could make," he said. "Doctors also may be less likely to recommend formal weight loss programs if they assume their patient is unlikely to follow through. "
Miller said bias might also make doctors less effective. "If a patient senses his or her doctor doesn't like them or doesn't respect them," he said, "that will damage the trust that is key to an effective patient-physician relationship."
Current-events buffs probably think they know the tale of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney may have thought the same when he began researching his film We Steal Secrets. But this engrossing documentary soon diverges from the expected.
Even the movie's title, or rather the source of it, is a surprise. Not to spoil the fun, but it's neither Assange nor one of his allies who nonchalantly acknowledges that "we steal secrets."
Assange himself, currently in self-imposed exile at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, didn't speak to Gibney. Neither did prominent WikiLeaker Bradley Manning, who's been behind bars since early 2012. But Gibney's reliance on archival footage of these two doesn't hobble the movie, and the writer-director did locate some seriously conflicted people who were once close to either Assange or Manning.
The narrative begins in 1989, when Australian computer hackers hit NASA to protest the launch of a plutonium-powered Jupiter probe. The anonymous attackers, who called themselves WANK ("worms against nuclear killers") probably included one Mendax, an alias used by a then-teenage Assange.
The nom de hack comes from the term "splendide mendax," Latin for "nobly untruthful," and in clips unearthed by Gibney and his team, the grown-up Assange retains the adolescent grandiosity such a choice suggests. He says he likes "crushing bastards" and calls WikiLeaks "an intelligence agency of the people." Like many a maximum leader, it seems, Assange can't always distinguish between "the people" and himself.
Two decades after WANK, the peripatetic "transparency radical" used his skills and connections to expose the Icelandic bankers whose schemes crashed that small country's big economy. Then he turned to the American military and State Department, using material provided by Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst under intense psychological pressure. (Among other things, Manning was reportedly beginning to identify as a woman.)
One of the mysteries We Steal Secrets explains is Manning's access to so much intel. After the Sept. 11 attacks, barriers between U.S. agencies and databases were lowered, to increase the likelihood that someone in the loop somewhere might recognize a pattern pointing to another catastrophic assault.
Seeking approval for his actions, Manning began an online dialogue with hacker Adrian Lamo. It was a ruinous choice; Lamo revealed Manning's identity to the FBI. Interviewed by Gibney, Lamo seems remorseful — and no more emotionally stable than Manning.
Although he has yet to come to trial, the ex-analyst has already paid heavily for his leakage. Assange hasn't, at least not directly. But he did fall out with such important allies as former German WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Guardian reporter James Ball — who speak on-camera in the film — and has become a fugitive from extradition after two Swedish women accused him of sexual assault.
Assange's supporters were quick to dismiss those allegations as part of a conspiracy against him, perhaps organized by the U.S. government. We Steal Secrets makes a strong case to the contrary, suggesting that they are neither bogus nor part of a conspiracy. This involves a detour into Assange's sexual history, which is among the movie's stranger episodes.
As is typical of Gibney's style, the movie includes some jokey bits and animated asides. There's a Star Trek clip, as well as attempts to visualize the flow of digital information; they're less compelling than the interviews the director conducted and the clips he unearthed.
Before its commercial release, We Steal Secrets was already being denounced by WikiLeaks supporters — and reportedly by Assange, despite his onetime insistence that all information is good information. Even for a transparency radical, that turns out to be a difficult standard to uphold. (Recommended)
During his time as the first black president in the White House, President Obama has occasionally been criticized by a group he once belonged to as a U.S. senator, the Congressional Black Caucus, for not doing more to ameliorate the difficult lives of many African Americans.
But Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat who was elected in November to head the CBC, doesn't see why criticism should be surprising. In a Thursday interview with NPR's Michel Martin, host of Tell Me More, Fudge said the CBC has often found itself at odds with presidents; Obama is no different.
Meanwhile, because of the solid support that black voters have shown the Democratic Party, African Americans as represented by the CBC and others, not only had earned the right to criticize but to be inside the rooms where decisions are made.
"We have been critical and disagreed with almost every president on some issue..." Fudge said. "I think that there is not any group of people in this country who do not believe that they should be a part of the process.
"We want a seat at the table just as everyone else and we believe we deserve a seat at the table...," she continued. "We are voting in higher numbers than we ever have. We are a political power base in this country. We are one of the most loyal groups of people to the Democratic Party and we believe we should be involved in the process.
"I am certainly pleased that the President has appointed both Mel Watt [a CBC member who Obama nominated to oversee mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] and to the cabinet Mayor [Anthony] Foxx [of Charlotte]. I believe they are both highly qualified. I certainly do hope that they will be confirmed but we are always going to have issues that are different than what the president wants, whoever the president may be."
In another part of the discussion in which Michel and Fudge discussed congressional immigration efforts, Fudge made a point that could have far-reaching implications if and when an immigration bill moves through the House. (The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week passed legislation largely resembling that created by a bipartisan group of eight senators known as the Gang of Eight.)
Fudge conveyed the CBC's concern with the Senate bill provision, supported by the high-tech industry, to expand the H-1B visa program to allow into the U.S. higher numbers of highly skilled immigrants to fill jobs for which companies in Silicon Valley and beyond say there aren't enough qualified U.S. workers.
The CBC worries that making more of those visas available will have an adverse impact on blacks aspiring to such jobs.
Any House immigration legislation similar to the Senate's is likely to need the votes of Democrats since it's expected that many Republicans won't vote for a bill with a path to citizenship for immigrants now in the U.S. illegally. That means the votes of the 42 members of the CBC take on greater importance.
"We are concerned about how we build capacity within this country," Fudge told Michel. "When you talk about H-1B visas or high-skilled visas, we know for a fact that in this country there are African Americans who are already prepared to do this work.
"We know that [historically black colleges and universities] graduate more people in science, technology, engineering, and math than almost any other collective group of schools. We want our people not only to have these jobs but to build capacity, K through 12, to prepare young people for these jobs. But if you say you're going to have as many as 100,000 high-skilled visas come into this country every year, then that is saying to my children, 'You know what? Don't even go into that field because there's not going to be a place for you.' "
How this particular issue plays out in the House, especially given the CBC's position, is a key issue to keep an eye on.