TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Midterm Madness: Meany debates
  • U.S. ramps up Ebola screening
  • Ebola czar meets with Obama today
  • WaPo former editor Ben Bradlee dies at 93
  • ISIS seize U.S.-dropped weapons
  • Did Panetta violate CIA secrecy agreement?
  • Secret Service review will be secret
  • New govt report: Bizarre Secret Service mission
  • Mission: Dispute involved knocked out teeth!
  • Special commission for Ferguson
  • Charges against officer “very unlikely”
  • UN officials slam Detroit water shutoffs


Midterm Madness: Meany Debates
• Nasty, nasty! FL Gov Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist held their final debate Tuesday night. It was a mudfest. “Charlie, you grew up with money,” Scott told his predecessor. “I grew up with a family that struggled … The reason he doesn’t care is because he’s never experienced it,”  (Politico, me)

• Crist responded: “Listen, when I was a little kid, we lived in a small apartment in Atlanta … So you don’t know me, and you can’t tell my story. And I won’t tell yours, but I know that you’re worth about $100 or $200 million today, and you know, God bless you, you’ve done well, Rick. But the way you got it was pretty unsavory.”

• Meanwhile, Democratic Sen Jeanne Shaheen repeatedly accused GOP challenger Scott Brown of “fear-mongering” and “grandstanding” over immigration, ISIS and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during a contentious New Hampshire Senate debate Tuesday night

• Brown hit Shaheen – and President Obama – again and again on Ebola, ISIS and Obamacare in the first 30 minutes. But Shaheen found her groove after a commercial break and was much feistier in the second half – going after Brown’s residency. (if people stayed with it) Polls show the race tightening, with Brown edging closer to Shaheen

• The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released an enforcement advisory Tuesday, reminding political campaigns and calling services that there are clear limits on the use of robocalls. The bureau said it was monitoring and wouldn’t hesitate to act to protect consumer privacy “and their freedom from the nuisance of unwanted calls.” (sounds like someone’s been naughty)

• Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans imprisoned by North Korea, is on his way home after six months of captivity. Fowle entered the country on a tourist visa and was arrested after he left a Bible in a restaurant (NYT, Buzzfeed, TRNS)
U.S. Ramps Up Ebola Screening
• Anyone flying to the U.S. from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa must enter the country through one of five airports screening for the disease, Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson said Tuesday, as the Obama admin (under pressure) stepped up precautions to stop the spread of the virus (NYT, Hill, TRNS, BBC, NBC, me)

• New York Kennedy, Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Altanta Hartsfield-Jackson already account for 94% of all arrivals from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A fever is one symptom of the disease and an indication that the person could be infectious (a medical source tells me taking the temperature is a poor way to test for Ebola)

• Johnson said airlines were working to reroute passengers who had been scheduled to arrive at other airports. U.S. Travel Assn President Roger Dow said in a statement, “This is a substantive step in addressing an issue the public has understandably expressed a great deal of concern about, while avoiding a policy overreaction with harmful unintended consequences.”

• Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) called the move a “good and effective step” toward protecting Americans.”

• But Rep Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said, “President Obama has a real solution at his disposal under current law and can use it at any time to temporarily ban foreign nationals from entering the U.S. from Ebola-ravaged countries.”

• Graphic: How many Ebola cases are outside West Africa? (NYT)

• The DHS said Tuesday that 562 travelers had undergone screening at the five airports; none had tested positive for Ebola. Experts cautioned the temp checks almost certainly wouldn’t have detected that Thomas Eric Duncan had Ebola. The disease typically incubates for eight to 10 days before symptoms develop

• Officials in Dallas announced Monday that 43 of the people who had direct or indirect contact with Duncan were Ebola-free and could return to work and school. Another group is still being monitored, including dozens of nurses and hospital workers as well as passengers on airline flights that nurse Amber Vinson took before she was found to have Ebola

• On Tuesday in Dallas, Gov Rick Perry said two treatment centers had been designated for any future patients who test positive for Ebola. One will be the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston; the other will be in a now-empty intensive care unit on a satellite campus of Methodist Health System in Dallas (not Texas Health Presbyterian, though)

• Serum from the blood of recovered Ebola patients could be available within weeks in Liberia, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. Dr Marie Paule Kieny said work was also advancing quickly to get drugs and a vaccine ready for January 2015. Unclear how much will become available
• Sound: Rep Louis Gohmert (R-TX) said on Sean Hannity’s radio show, “This president, I guarantee you, we’re going to find out he has cut a deal with African leaders. They’re going to bring people in.” That’s the only reason President Obama won’t have a travel ban, Gohmert “reasoned” (Raw Story, me)

Ebola Czar Meets With Obama Today
• WH Ebola czar – sorry, Ebola response coordinator – Ron Klain starts his new job today. He’ll meet with President Obama and senior admin officials responsible for coordinating the federal response. Obama and Klein are also expected to give a brief statement to reporters (Hill, TRNS, me)

• Lawmakers at this week’s must-see Ebola hearing of the House Oversight Committee (popcorn, large drink, and thermometer) won’t hear from Dr Tom Frieden of the CDC or Dr Anthony Fauci of National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease – not invited. Lisa Monaco, WH counterterrorism adviser, declined to appear

• NBC News freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo has been declared Ebola-free. The House Judiciary Committee has given the Depts of State and Homeland Security a deadline of 25 October to say whether foreigners infected with Ebola will be treated in the U.S.

• Thomas Eric Duncan’s sister says the family believes Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is withholding lab results and medical records showing effects of an experimental drug treatment. They’ve obtained 1,450 pages of medical records but not the lab results. A spox said said the hospital will be providing the requested info

WaPo Former Editor Ben Bradlee Dies at 93
• Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon, has died aged 93. WaPo reports he died at his DC home of natural causes. As executive editor from 1968-1991, Bradlee was credited for transforming the Post into one of the most respected newspapers in America (WaPo, NYT, BBC, me)

• In 2013, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “A true newspaperman, he transformed the Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers,” President Obama said in a statement, “and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told.”

• Bradlee – who fought in the Navy during World War II – became a reporter in the 1950s. He soon became close friends with then senator and future President John F. Kennedy

• “From the moment he took over the Post newsroom in 1965, Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily,” WaPo wrote in its obit


• “He achieved that by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines.” In 1961, Bradlee decided to publish the so-called Pentagon Papers – a secret study of the Vietnam War broken by NYT

• Bradlee acted against the advice of lawyers and the entreaties of top govt officials. A legal battle then began, with the Supreme court upholding the right of newspapers to print the leaked papers. Bradlee played a key role in toppling President Richard Nixon in 1974

• He encouraged two journalists – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – to pursue relentlessly the unfolding story in which some of Nixon’s closest aides became involved in illegal activities, followed by a political cover-up in which the president himself was implicated

• Pic: Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the national conference for professional journalists in Washington DC

Journalists Remember Bradlee
• Donald Graham, who was the last of his family to own the Post, said in a statement, “The story of the modern WaPo starts the day Kay Graham made Ben Bradlee the editor of the paper. He was the best. He pushed as hard as an editor can push to print the Pentagon Papers; he led the team that broke the Watergate story. And he did much more.” (Politico, me)

• WaPo reporter Bob Woodward remembered the words that he most hated to hear from Bradlee: “You don’t have it yet, kid.”

• Leonard Downie Jr, who followed Bradlee in 1991 as exec editor, said that when he was a young investigative reporter in the 1960s, Bradlee stood by him as savings and loan assns threatened to pull their ads if Downie published a series of articles he was working on about the financial exploitation of black homeowners

• “I wasn’t able to breathe until he clapped my shoulder in his characteristic way and said, ‘Just get it right, kid.’ The Post published the series, and the savings and loans pulled all their ads for a year, but neither Ben nor anyone else told me that they did.”

• PBS Newshour anchor Gwen Ifill tweeted: “RIP, the only boss I ever had who was truly larger than life: the great Ben Bradlee.” NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted: “He was journalistic brilliance married to awesome charisma.”
• Staples is looking into a possible credit card information breach and has reached out to law enforcement. Unbelievable. Will Congress actually pass serious data breach legislation during the lame duck? (Hill, me)
ISIS Seize U.S.-Dropped Weapons
• ISIS fighters seized at least one cache of weapons airdropped by U.S.-led coalition forces that were meant to supply Kurdish militiamen battling the extremist group in embattled Syrian border town Kobane, activists said Tuesday, (AP, BBC, me)

• The cache of weapons included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a video showing ISIS militants going through boxes that was uploaded by a media group loyal to the militant group (grenade launchers??)

• The video appeared authentic and corresponded to AP’s reporting of the event. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which bases its info on a network of activists on the ground, said the militants had seized at least one cache

• The caches were airdropped early on Monday to Kurds in Kobane, which lies near the Turkish border. Tuesday, ISIS loyalists on social media posted sarcastic thank you notes to the U.S., including one image that said “Team USA.” Pentagon spox Rear Adm Kirby said, “We are very confident that the vast majority of the bundles did end up in the right hands.” (oh goody)

•The lost weapons drop was more an embarrassment than a great strategic loss. ISIS militants already possess millions of dollars-worth of U.S. weaponry that they captured from fleeing Iraqi soldiers when the group seized swaths of Iraq in a sudden sweep in June (ouch)


• ISIS supporters on Twitter are saying that today is the deadline for U.S. hostage Peter Kassig to be beheaded. Kassig went to Syria in 2013 to help Syrian refugees
Did Panetta Violate CIA Secrecy Agreement?
• Former CIA director Leon Panetta clashed with the agency over the contents of his recently published memoir and allowed his publisher to begin editing and making copies of the book before he had received final approval from the CIA, according to former U.S. officials and others familiar with the project (WaPo, me)

• Panetta’s decision appears to have put him in violation of the secrecy agreement that all CIA employees are required to sign and came amid a showdown with agency reviewers that could have derailed the release of “Worthy Fights” this month, people involved in the matter said

• The memoir, which is almost unfailingly complimentary toward the spy service, which he led from 2009 to 2011, was ultimately approved by the CIA’s Publications Review Board before it reached store shelves

• But preempting that panel – even temporarily – carried risks for Panetta and his publisher. Other former CIA employees have been sued for breach of contract and forced to surrender proceeds from sales of books that ran afoul of CIA rules

• People involved in the process said Panetta became so frustrated with CIA delays and demands for redactions that he appealed to CIA director John Brennan and threatened to proceed with publication without clearance from the agency. “It was contentious,” a former U.S. official said
• “Mr President, don’t touch my girlfriend!” Mike Jones said as he walked by the voting booths in Chicago. “I really wasn’t planning on it,” Obama replied. And what followed was one of the most surreal conversations of Obama’s presidency (TPM, me)
Secret Service Review Will be Secret
• A panel of outside experts brought it to review WH security in the wake of recent breaches will be exempted from a key federal transparency law, Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson announced in a notice made public Tuesday (Politico)

• Johnson said requiring the four-member commission to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act would slow down the panel’s work and make it difficult to discuss the sensitive security details at issue in the review (democracy can be slow and difficult)

• While FACA allows numerous exemptions, including the closure of meetings to discuss classified info or nearly any other subject protected by a Freedom of Information Act exemption, Johnson said it was impractical to apply FACA in this case (democracy can be impractical, too)

• “The information that will be discussed and reviewed by this panel will be deliberative in nature and will involve classified info that, if discussed in public, would result in the unauthorized disclosure of info that could reasonably be expected to result in threats or damage to national security,” Johnson wrote (we already had damage to national security, thank you)

• Johnson said in the notice that “the dept respects the principle of open govt,” but he determined that this panel should be permitted both to meet privately and to meet without public notice of its sessions. (whoa – unbelievable)) Compliance with the four-decade-old FACA has been spotty during the Obama admin

• WH fence jumper Omar Gonzalez appears not to be competent to stand trial, according to a preliminary mental health screening disclosed Tuesday at a court hearing. But the screening took place before it should have done, and the judge said it wasn’t a final determination. There will be another examination (Politico, me)

New Govt Investigation: Bizarre Secret Service Mission
• In a report out today, a new govt investigation by the Homeland Security’s IG questions a bizarre Secret Service mission that pulled agents from their assignment near the WH and sent them to the rural home of a HQ employee embroiled in a personal dispute with a neighbor (AP, me)

• The report calls the conduct “problematic” (understatement) and says that the employee’s friendship with high-level Secret Service officials creates the appearance it was motivated by personal relations “rather than furthering official govt functions.” (clearly)

• Although agency officials insisted that President Obama’s safety wasn’t compromised, the memo notes that Obama was at the WH on at least two days that the agents were “a 50-minute drive – without traffic – from the WH” checking on the headquarters employee

• The agents assigned to the task were from the agency’s so-called “Prowler” unit, a rotating team of two special agents who are supposed to respond to suspicious people and situations in and around the WH and national capital area

Dispute: Knocked Out Teeth
• A Secret Service employee who worked as asst to then-director Mark Sullivan was involved in a dispute with her neighbor, who was harassing her and assaulted her father. This “resulted in the loss of several of her father’s teeth,” the report says
• Local police arrested the neighbor, and the employee, ID’d by WaPo as Lisa Chopey, sought out a protective order. But it didn’t stop there. She told investigators that Keith Prewitt, then deputy director of the Secret Service, was a family friend. And when he heard her story, Prewitt told A.T. Smith, asst director for investigations, that Secret Service should help her out

• Smith directed one of his managers to have agents drive out to Chopey’s home in La Plata MD to check on her. The report says that Sullivan, the agency director who’s since retired, was made aware of that decision. Nobody was available for comment (ya think?)

• Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is leading investigations of the Secret Service as chair of an oversight subcommittee, said that Smith should be fired and that agency officials’ contention that the president’s safety wasn’t jeopardized by the mission was “hogwash.” “This is inexcusable,” Chaffetz said
• Toys R Us is pulling Breaking Bad dolls from its shelves after an online petition from a FL mother. The collectible action figures carried accessories including a detachable bag of money and a bag of methamphetamines (what could go wrong, right?) (BBC, me)


Special Commission for Ferguson
• Missouri Gov Jay Nixon said Tuesday he was setting up a special commission to examine the social and economic conditions in Ferguson that have fed ongoing race-related protests following the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on 9 August (Reuters, WSJ, me)

• “Our streets cannot be battlefields,” Nixon said in a presser. “If we do not act, and act now, the damage could be severe and long- lasting. The commission will be made up of leaders from business, education, public safety and religious communities as well as “ordinary citizens,” Nixon said

• Its task will be to examine concerns that include poverty, education, governance and law enforcement, and offer recommendations for making the region “a stronger, fairer place for everyone to live,” Nixon said

• Since the shooting and protests, the city of Ferguson has said it needs to do more to hire minority police officers and has pushed to change its courts system, which has been criticized for issuing a disproportionate number of citations to minority drivers and residents and then ratcheting up fines and charges when those tickets go unpaid


Ferguson: Charges Against Officer “Very Unlikely”
• Former St Louis Police Chief Tom Fitch talked with KMOX about the NYT article on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Fitch called the info coming out now to “coordinate leaks with the media, and to start getting some of the facts out there to kind of let people down slowly,” (CBS, KMOX, Reuters me)

• Fitch said he thinks the feds recognize that it’s “probably very unlikely” that there are going to be charges against Wilson. “Physical evidence has no reason to lie. It doesn’t see things differently,” he said, and it is that kind of evidence he thinks could make or break the case

• “If there was a struggle inside that car over a firearm, it sounds to me like Officer Wilson would have been justified in taking the action he did if he pulled the trigger and actually shot Michael brown in the vehicle area.” Then after they were out of the vehicle:

• “If Michael Brown was truly turned around and basically charging the officer, he already went for round one fighting for his handgun. Are you going to go for round two and take the chance of losing it this time?” (officials have been meeting for weeks, preparing for possible riots nationwide if no charges are brought against Wilson by the grand jury)
• The Mormon Church has released a video addressing the mystery that’s long surrounded undergarments worn by its faithful. It doesn’t hold back from slamming outsiders who have ridiculed the practice, either (AP, me)
UN Officials Slam Detroit Water Shutoffs
• UN human rights officials have called for Detroit to restore water service to poor customers in arrears on their bills, arguing the shutoffs discriminate against minorities. Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha say the shutoffs hurt “the most vulnerable and poorest.” (BBC, Fox, Metro Times, me)

• Detroit has closed the taps for more than 27,000 people this year. Under the city’s water policy, customers more than 60 days late in payments on their water bills run the risk of having their service shut off as the city attempts to reduce the utility’s millions of dollars in debt

• “It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills,” de Albuquerque wrote in a statement Monday. She said Detroit’s water utility had increased water rates by 8.7% in an effort to pass on the higher costs of leakage in aging pipes

• That, along with the city’s high unemployment rate and a decline in the overall number of customers as the city’s population shrinks, rendered water bills “increasingly unaffordable to thousands of residents in Detroit living under the poverty line,” de Albuquerque said

• Mayor Mike Duggan’s chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, said in a statement, “Hundreds of cities in Michigan and thousands nationwide shut off water to people who do not pay. It is a standard practice among utilities. Yet for some reason, the UN is focusing only on Detroit, apparently to the exclusion of all others.”
A rare – and high-speed – look at the press area of the WH. Our TRNS booth is in the basement on the right as you swoop past at the speed of light (NPR, me)

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ William McDonald, James Cullum and Celina Gore contributed to this report