Tennesseans stand to benefit from trade with Cuba
Tennessee Reduces Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits, Sets New Rules For Police
Rep. Faison proposes to legalize medical marijuana, but only for military veterans
Sunday column: On Santa Bill and the surplus
The Tennessee House Republicans are to be commended for taking the issue of his behavior seriously, by convening a House caucus meeting on Jan. 12, the first day of the 2016 General Assembly, where Durham faces a no-confidence vote.
He has reacted to the public scrutiny with defiance, insults, bullying on social media and emails to journalists demanding not to be contacted ever again.
There are clearly deeper issues there.
Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, who sent House Caucus Chairman Glen Casada a letter requesting the caucus meeting, said he would support Durham’s ouster as Republican whip.
"As the majority whip, one of the responsibilities he would have is to assist your incumbent representatives in their re-election campaigns next year. When I think about that, I want somebody with maturity and judgement to be doing that," Alexander told The Tennessean. "And I believe, what I have seen calls his judgement into question for me."
Durham’s maturity and judgment have, indeed, been lacking. He should do well to take the hint and step down from his post to avoid becoming a distraction as lawmakers work to do the people’s business.
Casada has discussed the option of resignation with Durham.
On Thursday Speaker Beth Harwell confirmed that she had asked a House human resource professional to “speak to the representative regarding appropriate behavior.” Tennessean (Subscription.)
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Rep. Faison proposes to legalize medical marijuana, but only for military veterans
While most Tennessee Republican leaders have indicated opposition to any steps toward legalization of marijuana, state Rep. Jeremy Faison says he is hopeful they will make an exception for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Faison, R-Cosby, said he is drafting legislation that would “decriminalize” possession of marijuana by veterans diagnosed with PTSD, motivated by conversations with several veterans who believe that the medicinal properties of marijuana would help them far more than prescription medications.
“Pills have side effects. … The No. 1 side effect is suicide,” said Faison in an interview last week. “Twenty-eight veterans a day in America are committing suicide.”
“For most ailments man has, God has a remedy,” Faison said, quoting his wife, who has a master’s degree in nutrition. In many cases, the legislator said he believes that is marijuana.
Faison said he personally has never consumed alcohol, marijuana or any other intoxicants — a decision made as a youngster after his sister was killed by a drunken driver a week before her 16th birthday. But he would use marijuana if suffering from a debilitating illness since it has “no side effects” as does alcohol. Humphrey on the Hill
Tennessee Reduces Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits, Sets New Rules For PoliceTennessee police departments have dramatically reduced their numbers of untested rape kits since a new state requirement took effect this year. Now a set of new written standards, finalized this week, will also govern how police take care of sexual assault survivors.
A backlog of more than 9,000 untested rape kits counted in 2014 — mostly in Memphis — prompted the new state law. It requires forensic sex assault evidence to be sent for testing within 60 days.
Along with grant money, the law has helped get more than 75 percent of the old kits tested, down to about 2,100 as of September, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Some departments had reduced or eliminated backlogs since then, according to The Tennessean.
“Hopefully, we will catch more offenders,” said Kathy Walsh, who directs the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic And Sexual Violence.
She said that even when a case doesn’t lead to an immediate arrest, it helps police to add evidence into the national DNA database known as CODIS.
“They are getting hits on that DNA that maybe this perpetrator has committed other rapes,” she said.
While it’s still difficult for victims to come forward, Walsh said the law helps there as well. WPLN
Tennesseans stand to benefit from trade with CubaSome of Tennessee's top business leaders are looking forward to the days of a deeper relationship with Cuba.
They can envision more agriculture exports, health-care investments and building roads in the communist island nation, which lacks modern infrastructure — a result of the 56-year-old Castro regime's policies.
It has been a year since the Obama administration announced that the United States was re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and while that has allowed for embassies to open in both nations, full trade relations cannot start anew unless Congress lifts the decades-old economic embargo.
A recent poll released by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank that "promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs," showed that a strong majority of Americans in four states, including Tennessee, favors lifting the embargo (58 percent) and removing travel restrictions (67 percent).
Poll results were publicly released at a panel discussion called "U.S.-Cuba Engagement: What's in it for Tennessee?" held Dec. 7 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. Tennessean (Subscription)
Breach and OverreachThe media, as well as the DNC, has characterized this as a ‘breach’ of data. I think that overstates what actually happened.
Sanders’ campaign was able to access Clinton’s data housed on NGP servers.
Breach, meaning ‘a hole or opening in something (such as a wall) made by breaking through it’ gives the impression that the Sanders camp hacked into something or intentionally set out to gain access in a fraudulent manner.
While they should not have accessed the data, that they had access doesn’t constitute a ‘data breach’ on their part, akin to a hack or some other mischievous activity.
Having access is a breach of contract on the part of the vendor. A campaign accessing unauthorized data is a breach of contract, on the part of the Sanders campaign. But the use of the word ‘breach’ as in a ‘hack’ is either intentionally misleading or just plain ignorant and lazy, depending on how tightly you’re wearing your tin foil hat.
Breach is certainly a more damning word than access and download, which, to my understanding of the situation, is what actually happened.
The Clinton campaign’s contention that the data was ‘stolen’ is just using the situation to a political advantage…which is unfortunate, but pretty par for the course.
Unethical BehaviorSanders’ former data director, Josh Uretsky acted unethically when he directed four people in the campaign to access Clinton’s data.
Uretsky has been subsequently fired by the Sanders camp, and rightfully so.
Uretsky previously stated they looked at the Clinton data to ‘prove to the DNC that their data had been breached’.
But this isn’t the way to handle a problem. Rather than rooting around in Clinton’s data, Uretsky could have simply called NGP or the DNC or both, to report the issue and issued a halt on data work until the issue was resolved.
Had Uretsky acted in this way, he would have kept the Sanders campaign safe from the 24 hour bar that kept them from their voter file.
Buggy but powerfulI’ve been a VAN user off and on since 2008. In fact, the VAN is the tool Dr. Joe Weinberg and I used to identify the over 3000 voters who got incorrect ballots in the 2012 Shelby County primary election.
I can tell you that over the years I’ve been able to see other campaign’s data profiles from time to time, though I never intentionally accessed it nor attempted to.
In one instance I found that after logging in and running some searches, the results of which were inconsistent with the kind of search I was trying to perform, I discovered that I was in someone else’s profile. I’m not sure how it happened, but I quickly logged out and then back in, checked to make sure I was correctly in my profile, and went about my business. While I know my way around, I would never intentionally access someone else’s stuff, if for no other reason than fear of accidentally breaking something.
This highlights both the power and the potential pitfalls of such a massive integrated system. This instance may have an element of intention, in that the data director instructed people to use their unauthorized access, but people need to understand that access to other people’s data is not as uncommon as NGP would like you to believe.
Crime and PunishmentI believe a 24 hour hold on the Sanders campaign’s access to the VAN is an appropriate response to the use of unauthorized access that the campaign admits happened.
However, there are some problems with the DNC response:
First, the DNC really let NGP off the hook with their response. There has been no public rebuke of NGP for their failure to adequately secure data, mistake or not. In the high stakes world of the national nominating process, NGP’s failure to ensure the safety of client data should be a huge concern for all involved. That the DNC basically gave NGP a pass is troubling.
Second, the Sanders campaign did the right thing in firing the manager who ordered the unauthorized searches. But instead of the DNC acknowledging this correct response, they have used this to impugn the Sanders campaign in total. That’s just not fair. I don’t know when the dude got fired. I don’t know all the folks involved. But I do know that getting rid of someone who acts unethically is the correct response. Vibinc
Sunday column: On Santa Bill and the surplusIn state government circles, what many folks want for Christmas is a promised piece of that big revenue surplus — more than a half-billion dollars sitting in state bank accounts with more likely to come — and they look to Gov. Bill Haslam as Santa Claus.
Santa Bill has been making a list, checking it twice, aware that the Legislature ultimately gets to decide whether any included item is naughty or nice. But as governor, he does get to make the list and everyone understands that being excluded from his gifting scheme is tantamount to an empty stocking when the next state budget is enacted.
So departmental bureaucrats lined up to present their gift certificate wishes to Santa Bill at recent budget hearings, legislators have been sending him letters, lobbyists are passing along their suggestions through staff elves, public relations people are churning out press releases on the needs of worthy clients. And so on.
In budget hearings, the most remarkable wish came from General Services Commissioner Robert Oglesby, who proposed spending $523 million next year to patch up state buildings that have been deteriorating steadily over past decades as Haslam and other gubernatorial Santas put other things on their priority list for receipt of state funding gifts.
According to a Chattanooga Times-Free Press report, Oglesby figures there’s actually a $1.8 billion backlog of things that need to be done in state building and maintenance upkeep. But he not asking for all of that, just to spend entire current surplus as a down payment. Humphrey on the Hill
Crockett Policy Institute