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    I was offered a job on Wall Street by my uncle. But I wanted to get out. Make it on my own kinda thing,' George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), the 41st President of the United States to his biographer.
  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!' Benjamin Franklin, (1706-1790), American founding father, author, inventor and philosopher. Ben Franklin was not a fan of pure Democracy. U.S. citizens of that day had no vote or direct voice in the Declaration of Independence, nor later the U.S. Constitution which is the basis on which our constitutional republic is formed. Few amendments to our Constitution were ratified by the states, versus adopted by Congress.  In close election contests, hard feelings often emerge and sometimes linger. It is however quite important at these times to remember that one of our greatest strengths as a nation is the time-proven, peaceful transition of power. That of course also means coming to terms with and accepting outcomes not of our preference or choosing, once the voters have spoken.  And it is also important to note that we are far from alone in this world experiencing these divides. Across the pond in Britain, a Prime Minister is battling her own party to deliver a Brexit deal which other EU countries will swallow, all while her own party plans a divorce from their PM. In Germany, Angela Merkel's ruling majority shrinks with each election, in part fueled by another splinter party and fears that Muslim immigrants are fomenting unrest and economic injury to the Rhineland.  And here, a President who shines brightest (in his mind) during the swings of battle, finds building the divide among his primary comfort zones. But he is still our President.  It has been four Presidential elections since someone I voted for has occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I also choose to still wish every President success and that they find the will and their best ways to serve and improve the lives of the American people. Some of course do that job better than others.  But these times too shall pass. And just as the Presidential Election of 2000 ended with 532 votes in Florida, with hanging chads and a U.S. Supreme Court intervention, our republic and people are strong enough to weather differences of preference, candidate and opinion. And now is time for healing.  There will be voices who will continue to foment the division. Given the First Amendment, those voices cannot be silenced, but they can and should be countered and responded to. Our nation can suffer fools, divides and strong differences of opinion, as long as the American people do not begin to heedlessly attack one and other. We are not above or beyond mob rule, rioting or even the occasional need for curfews and Marshall Law, but on the whole, we are a more mindful, tolerant and respecting people than that.  This President has flaws, but he did not create this divide, nor is he the anti-Christ. We the voters just selected and voted in a split Congress. As typically happens during a mid-term election, the 'in' party lost more than they won, but it was not the Blue Tsunami which many forecast. The GOP retained the U.S. Senate, a strong majority of Governor's office and state legislatures and will likely further their re-shaping of the federal judiciary.  Democrats in the U.S. House will first fight an early battle among themselves, over their own leadership team, then over the progressive bent of their agenda and then over just how hard to attempt to make life miserable for this President. It will not be pretty, and neither is democracy. Making laws while also building support and public opinion, while finding consensus are each messy, but necessary. As adults, we have examples to set, for our children, as well as our neighbors, co-workers and peers. We can disagree without being disagreeable.  We voters may have tossed or lost the elected moderates in both parties, but just like the well-armed lamb in Franklin's quote, we can still have the will to fight for common sense, compromise and solutions which land in the middle. Yes, democracy is messy, and making the right choices to lead us in a republic are also never guaranteed. But our experiment in self-governance has now survived nearing 250 years, and though I won't be here when we hit 500, I do expect we will get there.  'Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.' Winston Churchill, from a speech by the former British Prime Minister, November 11, 1947.
  • It was a frigid January morning in Washington, D.C., January 2001, I am attending and covering the Inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush, following the longest and most contested Presidential election in U.S. history. Vice-President Al Gore withdrew his early concession after projections and vote totals began to foreshadow a potentially different outcome in Florida. Dozens of lawyers and protests later, and statewide recounts including the 'interpretation of voter intent' and hanging chads, and the U.S. Supreme Court halts the Florida recounts, effectively giving Bush the win and Florida's Electoral College votes, by a margin of 532 ballots. At the White House that Inauguration morn, the Clinton, Gore and Bush families shared a cordial but restrained brunch, and later the stage and front rows of the Inauguration ceremony fronting the steps of our nation's Capitol. While a blizzard paralyzed the federal district, frigid temps did not stop the crowds from attending, nor warm the frosty air between the Bush and Clinton/Gore VIPs on-stage. And yet again, without the nicety of a concession, America completed yet another peaceful transition of power.  Here and now in Georgia, following several acts of litigation and a statewide re-tabulation of absentee ballots not including the required date of birth or matching signatures, the victory margin also narrowed slightly in our hotly contested Governor's race. Both candidates gained votes, and State Representative Stacey Abrams increased her total by 120 votes.  Ms. Abrams made clear, in her press briefing acknowledging that the state and this process would result in the certification of former Secretary of State Brian Kemp as Georgia's next Governor, that she would also not offer a concession, nor her congratulations, due to her belief that the contest was flawed, and the results perhaps gamed, or at best impacted by a wide variety of acts of voter suppression.  Admittedly, this election was not without mistakes and glitches at polling places, long lines and not all of several thousand poll workers being equally knowledgeable and well-trained. As with any day or event involving several million people, doing the same thing, during approximately the same time, played out across a large and geographically diverse canvass...there will be delays, human errors and some poor decision making along the way. Imagine the joy of return travel for your own family this Sunday after Thanksgiving.  That said, a statewide election has thousands of moving parts, more than 3,300 precincts, 159 voter Registrars and county boards of election as well as one Secretary of State. The office of the latter trains registrars (county and municipal), updates those officials on changes in election law, reviews and investigates any irregularities or accusations of ballot tampering/voter fraud and distributes the sample ballot templates. Local registrars and their boards of election manage precinct map lines, distribution of voting machines, staff and ballot tabulations and maintain voter registration rolls. Most of these registrars are career local government employees, some don't even vote, and though I have met hundreds of them over three decades, very few are decided partisans, even when they work in jurisdictions where the local politics are well known and leaning.  The most vulnerable part of our voting system are admittedly absentee ballots. The only requirements of identification are on the application form which includes your date of birth and signature. There is no space on the form to indicate race.  If part of Governor-elect Kemp's campaign strategy and tactics were to in fact suppress the votes of minorities and Democrats during an election which featured record voter registration (more than 1,000,000 new voters and more than 250,000 new registrants since April), record mid-term election turn-out, record votes for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee (more than ANY other Democrat ever running for Governor in Georgia), and minority voter participation surpassing the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections of Barack Obama,...then he certainly did a really crappy job on that front.  By 2020, Georgia most likely will have new voting machines and technology in place, providing a paper trail and poll workers freshly re-trained. Georgia was first with statewide electronic voting in 2004, under a Republican Governor and Democratic Secretary of State.  Georgia has another statewide election in just a few weeks, on Tuesday, December 4th, featuring run-off races for Secretary of State, as well as a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission. Please demonstrate that interest and turn-out in this last election wasn't a fluke. Do your research, choose and support your candidates, state and local run-offs will be taking place, and go vote.
  • It is November 3, 1992, following a long night of tabulating, and all four major news networks calling the election for incumbent U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler (D-Georgia), when it becomes apparent that none of three candidates have received the required majority of 50 percent, plus one vote Fowler has just over 49 percent, his opponent, former U.S. Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (R) is at 48 percent, and the Libertarian nominee, Jim Hudson is slightly above 3 percent. Public polls by the AJC had placed the race in a landslide re-election for Fowler, by as much as 22 percent just weeks ahead of Election Day. But voters decided otherwise, and though most of the state's rural areas and secondary population centers went Blue and for Fowler as well as Democratic Presidential nominee Bill Clinton, the metro Atlanta suburbs were then decidedly Red and went heavily for Coverdell. Three weeks later, Coverdell wins Georgia's first U.S. Senate run-off, and the U.S. Senate Majority for the GOP by 16,344 votes, and a margin of 1.3%, which was even closer on Election Night. Senator Fowler chooses not to concede, nor congratulate, and Coverdell is later sworn in as Senator during the next Congress. Ballot tabulations are first completed at the precinct level, and those results are reported to the County Registrar. Georgia has 159 counties and well over 3,300 precincts, so even with computer tabulation and electronic tally submission this takes time. At the county elections office, advance votes are often tabulated first, as these do not come from precinct captains, as soon as the polls close, and paper absentee, overseas military absentee and provisional ballots are counted last. In the case of provisional ballots, also on paper, a voter did not have required identification present, was not on registration rolls, appeared to not have reached the age of majority, or could not demonstrate citizenship. There have been plenty of instances in the past of voter fraud, and voters casting ballots in more than one jurisdiction, this is part of ballot and election security, not voter suppression.  Absentee and provisional ballots contain no space to indicate race. A tabulating poll worker would have to access county or precinct registration files manually to even cross reference that data point. Not easy to do on Election Night while tabulating or days later in an election offices while certifying or recounting without plenty of poll watchers and witnesses present. In the most recent statewide elections of November 6, 2018, Georgia had record registration, turnout and ballots cast for a mid-term election. Minority voter registration and participation also set records, and Democratic Party nominee, State Representative Stacey Abrams, received only 500,000 less than the ENTIRE voter turnout during the 2014 race for Governor. However with tabulations still underway, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp's margin of victory remains slightly in excess of 59-thousand ballots, and roughly 1.3 percent.  No one questions the importance of each ballot and eventual tabulation of every vote, even when those ballots won't change the outcome of a particular race. But as an example with overseas military ballots, there is no way to predict how many will be received, or by which county, and though absentee ballots did set records this cycle, there are not 25,000 or more still outstanding. State law requires the Secretary of State to certify final results by Tuesday, November 20th. There will be a statewide run-off on December 4th for the office of Secretary of State, and other down-ballot contests, but chances are negligible and shrinking at this point that there will be a run-off for Governor.  During the 2000 Presidential election, perhaps the most suspenseful/long term, recount in our nation's history, deciding the Electoral College and ultimately the Presidency really came down to a split among the 9 votes on the U.S. Supreme Court, ending the ongoing Florida recount (with Bush leading Gore by 536 votes), resulting in then Texas Governor George W. Bush winning Florida's electoral votes, and the Electoral College by a one vote margin. Many said our deeply divided nation would never unify again, until the horrific tragedy of 9/11 came to our shores a short 11 months later. Whatever the outcome of these individual contests, as Georgians, Floridians and Americans, we will survive this. Let's not wait on another act of war, weather or God be required to bring us together. One of America's historic and greatest strengths has been the peaceful transition of power. That strength comes from our people, and not just from the top.
  • Our state capital, Atlanta, has remained in the running with two sites, each with its own strengths, the long under-developed railroad Gulch, south of Five Points in downtown Atlanta, currently a 40-acre mish-mash of railroad tracks, parking lots and under-utilized older buildings.
  • If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power...' President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919).Teddy Roosevelt, or as he often preferred, 'T.R.' is my favorite president by far. The former 'boy Governor of New York' became President in 1901, ascending from the Vice-Presidency, following the fall 1900 assassination of President William H. McKinley.
  • Here in Georgia, with thousands of our residents eligible for these treatments, only several hundred have registered as the products are not cultivated here and must be brought into Georgia in effect illegally to reach patients.
  • I'll just say this...when you are known everywhere, simply by your first name, that say's you are special,' said Georgia State Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), speaking of former DeKalb County CEO and State Senator Liane Levetan.There almost is not a time in my life that I can't recall Liane, pronounced, Lee Ah Nu. At first, she was part of a well-organized neighborhood car pool, dropping us off at elementary school. Even then I could tell she was somehow different than the other moms...though I wasn't quite sure exactly how.
  • We wonder, what's wrong with him? How does he feel about women? Is he anti-social, homosexual, misogynistic, immature or just plain dweeby?' asked the Orlando Sentinel in a 1990 editorial about Supreme Court nominee, Judge and later Justice David Souter. When President George H. W. Bush nominated confirmed bachelor, Judge David Souter to the Supreme Court in 1990, there were dueling sets of hostile rumors and innuendos flying all over Washington, intended to derail his nomination.    Protesters, primarily women, wore buttons that if Souter was confirmed, 'Women Will Die,' in reference to beliefs that Souter was pro-life and would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Instead, in 1992, and the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Souter wrote Roe v. Wade should not be overturned because it would be a 'surrender to political pressure'... In Souter’s opinion, to overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to re-examine a watershed decision would subvert the Court's legitimacy beyond any serious question. The case was decided by a vote of 5-4, and was a divided and plurality opinion, with Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor (all three appointed by Republican presidents) writing the opinion upholding the precedential weight of Roe v. Wade. Other parts of the decision did strike down several more restrictive statutes by the state of Pennsylvania but did uphold state's rights to place 'reasonable' restrictions on access to abortion, such as spousal notification, parental notification for minors, etc... President Dwight Eisenhower appointed five judges to the Supreme Court during his eight years, including a hand-picked conservative in Justice Earl Warren, to lead the court in a directional shift from the 20 plus years of the New Deal and federal government expansion under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. A bit of Googling will show you that appointment did not quite work out as planned. In the wake of Watergate, President Gerald Ford appointed Justice John Paul Stevens, a former Republican, who became among the most consistently liberal voices on the court until his retirement in 2010. I'm clear that there are larger and unsettled issues framing the Kavanaugh nomination and confirmation hearings, but regardless of whom you believe, is it really fair to hold Justice Brett Kavanaugh literally accountable for all the sins of man over decades and generations? Does it make sense for a body as flawed as the United State Senate and Congress, with members admittedly currently 'guilty' of many of the wrongs being charged against Kavanaugh decades ago, in any position to judge and hold up to scrutiny, without first looking in a mirror? This nation survived a break with its founders (the United Kingdom), the Civil War, the civil unrest on numerous fronts of the 1960s and later the domestic attacks on three different fronts on 9/11, ending the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. Yes we are a divided nation, but staying that way is an individual choice, not just a political tactic of our leadership. Let's see how Justice Brett Kavanaugh decides and behaves as a jurist on that bench. Let's perhaps start asking those who are selected to lead not to treat every policy or issue difference like the brinksmenship of a nuclear war, even using terminology like 'the nuclear option,' to reconstruct the confirmation process fueling this division. And let's ask our news media and members of the fourth and fifth estates to consider not pouring gasoline on that fire with headlines like 'Kavanaugh War to Continue.' This isn't a war. There have so far been no fatalities or casualties. It is a significant difference of opinion, priorities and assessment of whose truth can be better documented. But this is not the first time nor will it be the last that undisputed facts are murky and very few and far between. We will pass through this valley as American always has. Let's hope it does not require a natural or man-made disaster such as 9/11 to bring us back together. Start by appealing to your own best instincts. Reach out to a neighbor, colleague or family member with whom you have recently argued or disagreed and simply state the obvious...our relationship, family bond, friendship or work relationship means more to me than our differences of opinion. I apologize for over-reacting. The last time I checked you did not have a vote, one way or the other, in the Kavanaugh hearings. Let's all take a deep breath, spend a day taking the high road, and move on.
  • No longer able to rely on traditional cost sharing techniques to manage costs, a growing number of employers are taking an activist role in shaking up how care is delivered and paid for,' said Brain Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, as reported by CNN. Healthcare remains the only major economic sector and consumer of roughly 20 percent of the GDP, where the customer generally has no idea on costs, particularly on an insured procedure, medical appointment or prescription drug until AFTER they place the order or receive the service.  Many employers, large and small, who want healthy employees and want to provide benefits have found the current service and funding model to be irreparably broken, and an increasing number of larger companies are employing direct service plans, ranging from onsite medical clinics to incentivizing wellness and Health Saving Account options (HSA), which are particularly popular among younger/healthier employees.  In an odd twist of irony, well over 24,000 GM salaried employees across southeast Michigan will next year be able to select such a less expensive service delivery model (with significantly lower premiums) with care provided exclusively by the Henry Ford Healthcare System. Ford Healthcare will provide all medical services, surgeries, and E.R. visits, as well as prescription and pharmaceutical products via its network of six hospitals, 3000 doctors and health care providers through GM's new 'Connected Care' plan. GM's thousands of hourly workers and Union employees will continue to receive health care via a contracted benefits plan and more traditional service model. Connected Care will also provide wellness exams, chronic care monitoring and preventative screenings, in addition to prompt appointments with providers and virtual visit options delivered via telemedicine.  Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider and owner of NBC networks as well as Universal Parks & Resorts, is turning its $169-billion behemoth ship as well as holding the annual increase in its health care costs to roughly 1 percent a year. Comcast spends roughly $1.3 billion a year on health care for its 225,000 employees and their families. But instead of charging their employees higher premiums, Comcast has instead selected a flat up front deductible expense (subtracted from payroll) of on average $250.00 per employee. That is an ANNUAL figure.  Instead of handing this massive headcount to any leading insurer, Comcast is directly contracting with a handful of highly specialized service providers. Comcast uses several technology start-ups, one of them called Accolade (in which Comcast is also an investor) providing employees with health care Navigators to help them understand, as well as guide them through the host of service and treatment options. The focus is on keeping the employee healthy, without requiring them to become expert at managing co-pays, deductibles, generic drug costs or nearly requiring a medical certification or training if a member of their family is chronically ill.  Another Comcast system provider, Grand Rounds, is available for more complicated health care challenges, serving as both a check on costs and charges, and a referral network of skilled practitioners for more complex surgical and related treatment needs. Insurers hardly love this delivery model, which treats them like an expensive middle-man, providing little or no real value or return on investment.  Some insurers are receiving that message and also responding in the marketplace. Following a raft of research which demonstrates that health care costs decline when a consumer’s basic social and well-being needs are met, WellCare Health Plans of Tampa, Florida opened a call center for customers needing assistance with housing, transportation and other social concerns...now being connected to community and social service organizations, in addition to health care providers.  Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, is investing $200-million in projects to protect and preserve affordable housing in the Bay area, to revitalize challenged neighborhoods as well as improve overall community health. United Health Care has partnered with another start-up called Healthify to use software in pre-screening new insured clients to better assist them with identifying social service and community support groups in addition to better coordinated care among their network of service providers to help insure better patient outcomes.  Our traditional health insurance/government hybrid service delivery model has long been in need of a check-up and some surgical upgrades. Unfortunately our state and federal government leadership typically lacks the courage or stomach for touching this proverbial 'third rail' of American politics...leaving the private sector once again to try and shine a light and lead the way. More power, and more innovation to them.

News

  • A hiker walking in the woods in Windham, Maine, this month spotted a rare albino porcupine and managed to capture it on video. >> Read more trending news  Greg Strand told WCSH-TV that he heard a commotion and quickly hid to see what was coming. Strand said he saw a large adult porcupine and then was surprised to discover a smaller beast following it. He said the smaller animal practically blended in with the snow on the ground as it moved behind the larger animal. It was a rare albino porcupine. Stand’s wife posted the video of the encounter on Facebook. An official with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife told WCSH that it’s very unusual to see an albino animal in the state. >> Related: Rare white baby reindeer captured in photos in Norway Albino animals, regardless of species, are pretty rare,” agency official Ryan Robicheau said.       
  • A co-founder of the Shepherd Center died “peacefully” Monday morning, the hospital confirmed. James Harold Shepherd Sr., 90, was a fourth-generation Atlantan who helped found the private nonprofit hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury treatment and research, hospital spokeswoman Jane Sanders said in a news release. Shepherd, who had five siblings, started Shepherd Construction Company with his brothers, and his family oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of interstate highways in Georgia and several surrounding states in addition to thousands of miles of city and county streets since 1949, the release said. In 1973, Shepherd sustained a spinal cord injury in a bodysurfing accident, which helped motivate him to found the Shepherd Center along with his wife, Alana, their son, James, and Dr. David F. Apple Jr., the release said. The center opened in 1975.  “He wanted to be here, talk to people, to be around the hospital and watch as it grew,” said Julie Shepherd, his granddaughter, who is a case manager at Shepherd Center. “He often talked about how proud he was of Shepherd Center. His construction career had been rewarding in one way, but he was even prouder of what they’d done here (at the hospital) and the lives they’d changed.” The Georgia General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to designate a section of Peachtree Road in Buckhead to be renamed J. Harold Shepherd Parkway. A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church at 3434 Roswell Road. 
  • The cyber breach of the credit reporting agency Equifax that exposed the sensitive personal data of 148 million Americans last year was “entirely preventable” and due in part to outdated security systems and an unaccountable corporate management structure, according to a blistering report from congressional investigators. The Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Atlanta-based Equifax, one of three massive companies that collect and analyze reams of consumers’ information to sell to lenders, has a “heightened responsibility” to protect its data — and that it failed egregiously. “Equifax failed to fully appreciate and mitigate its cybersecurity risks,” the 96-page report states. “Had the company taken action to address its observable security issues prior to this cyberattack, the data breach could have been prevented.” The report, released Monday, caps off the committee’s 14-month investigation into the breach, which is one of the largest in U.S. history. It makes recommendations about ways that Congress, federal agencies and private companies can prevent future hacks, including moving away from Social Security numbers as the prime way to authenticate a person’s identity and studying ways to mitigate security risks. But much like everything Congress does, the analysis is not without controversy. The investigation was largely bipartisan, but the committee’s top Democrat, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said the final report did not incorporate suggestions from Democrats to prevent future breaches. And Equifax itself said it identified “significant inaccuracies” with the report’s factual findings, even as it said it agreed with many of its recommendations. “We are deeply disappointed that the Committee chose not to provide us with adequate time to review and respond to a 100-page report consisting of highly technical and important information,” company spokesman Jacob Hawkins said. “During the few hours we were given to conduct a preliminary review we identified significant inaccuracies and disagree with many of the factual findings.” ‘Failure to implement’ Equifax is a key cog in the global financial system, collecting consumer data such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and birthdates to help lenders verify a person’s identity and decide whether he or she is credit-worthy. The sensitive nature of that information is what made the news so dire when the company announced in September 2017 that a security flaw allowed hackers to access the data of more than half of American adults from mid-May through the end of July last year, when the company discovered the breach. The investigative report echoed testimony before Congress last year finding that Equifax was warned about the flaw in March 2017, but the company failed to make the fix before hackers could infiltrate the company’s systems. The new House Oversight report said two main internal factors allowed the breach to occur. First, it said the company grew too rapidly. As Equifax accelerated its acquisitions of smaller firms beginning in 2005, it couldn’t merge and streamline its information technology security programs fast enough, the report states. Second, the structure of the Equifax’s IT department allowed for a “lack of accountability and no clear lines of authority.” The chaos led to the company allowing more than 300 security certificates to expire, with one critical vulnerability going unpatched for 145 days. “The company’s failure to implement basic security protocols, including file integrity monitoring and network segmentation, allowed the attackers to access and remove large amounts of data,” according to the report. The House Oversight panel also blamed Equifax for being wildly unprepared once it informed the public of the breach. A new website and 1,500-person call center were immediately overwhelmed, and employees were not properly trained to help consumers protect their identity. And the company’s Twitter account directed consumers to a phishing website for nearly two weeks before being fixed. Consumer advocates have warned that victims could potentially be at risk for years because the pilfered information could be used to impersonate consumers and wreck their finances. New recommendations The report makes several recommendations to prevent future hacks, even as it did little to implicate Congress for failing to pass cybersecurity legislation before or after the breach.  The document said lawmakers should review the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to punish businesses for making false or misleading claims about security or failing to take reasonable preventive measures. It also calls on the executive branch to make recommendations to Congress about identification protection services and to work with the private sector to mitigate cybersecurity risks. In a separate report, Democrats called on Congress to pass a comprehensive law governing how and when the victims of data breaches should be notified and give the FTC power to levy stricter civil penalties when companies violate consumer data security rules. Equifax’s Hawkins said the company was “generally supportive” of many of the recommendations in the GOP report and that it has already “made significant strides in many of these areas.” “Since the incident, Equifax has moved forward, taking meaningful steps to enhance our technology and security programs and will continue to focus on consumers, customers and regaining trust with all stakeholders,” Hawkins said. But the tone of Equifax’s response did not satisfy Liz Coyle, the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch. “The tone was very much that Equifax was a victim, and that is just not the case,” she said. “Equifax uses consumer data to make money.” Paul Stephens, the director of policy and advocacy at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in California, commended Congress for “not trying to sweep it under the rug.” But he also said Congress has utterly failed to pass meaningful legislation — with steep financial penalties — to hold companies accountable for data security. “You need to create financial incentives either through penalties or other tactics to dissuade companies from being sloppy with personal data in the future,” Stephens said. “There need to be standards and companies need to be held accountable if they don’t meet those standards.” Coyle agreed, even as she said she agreed with some of the House Oversight panel’s specific recommendations on issues such as Social Security numbers. After the breach In addition to the congressional probe, a coalition of state attorneys general, including Georgia’s Chris Carr, launched an investigation into the hacking. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta is also leading a federal criminal probe into the breach as well as a criminal investigation into allegations of insider trading by Equifax employees. Two former Equifax employees were indicted on securities fraud charges earlier this year, and one pleaded guilty to trading his shares before the hacking was made public. The breach led to the downfall of then-CEO Rick Smith, who over his tenure transformed the company from a pure credit bureau into a mammoth data analysis machine. Other senior executives also left the company, including the chief information and chief security officers at the time of the breach. In the more than 14 months since the breach was disclosed, Equifax has also hired cybersecurity consultants and beefed up its data protections. The company also cleaned house, appointing a new executive leadership team. But mostly, Equifax has plowed ahead. The company reported $2.6 billion in revenue and $274.2 million in profit through the first nine months of 2018. In 2017, the company reported $113.3 million in pretax costs related to the hacking, and tens of millions more in costs related to providing a suite of credit protection services to consumers affected by the breach, according to securities filings. Equifax said in its latest quarterly filing that it expects “to incur significant professional services expenses associated with the 2017 cybersecurity incident in future periods,” as well as costs related to technology and security improvements.
  • President Donald Trump's intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Despite his brash stance, they believe the turmoil has left him increasingly vulnerable as he gears up for what is sure to be a nasty fight for re-election. Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a 'witch hunt' and insists he will survive the threats. But a shift began to unfold over the weekend after prosecutors in New York for the first time linked Trump to a federal crime of illegal hush payments. That left some of his associates fearful that his customary bravado is unwarranted. For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation, which would be a felony, could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship with him when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the Russia investigation. 'I'm sure there's going to be a lot more that's going to come out from the Southern District (of New York) and from, at some point, from the Mueller investigation as well,' Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber's incoming No. 2 Republican, said Monday. 'What they're implying there, obviously, is something I assume at some point the president will have an opportunity to respond to.' Thune continued: 'Campaign finance violations are something that ... they are serious matters, but obviously it depends a little bit on how it gets treated.' As the legal drama plays out, political challenges that could threaten Trump's re-election are piling up. Republicans are still coming to terms with their drubbing in last month's House elections and looking for someone to blame. The departure of John Kelly as White House chief of staff has set off a disorganized search for a replacement who could stay in the job through the 2020 campaign. After Trump's top choice, the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers, passed on the job, few of the remaining candidates have political experience. Also, Democrats will soon take control of the House of Representatives, wielding subpoena power and potentially exploring impeachment proceedings. Meanwhile, financial markets have been jittery, in part because of Trump's trade wars and concerns that higher borrowing costs could ultimately trigger a recession. Facing pressure from Mueller and an impending onslaught of Democratic investigations, Trump could hew even further to the right, catering exclusively to the base of voters he is concerned about losing, according to a Republican close to the White House who has consulted on the early re-election efforts. That instinct would echo the president's double-down, scorched-earth response to the crises that hit his 2016 campaign, including the Access Hollywood tape about forcing himself on women, and could make it harder to woo the independent voters or disaffected Democrats he may well need. Could Trump face a primary election challenge from within his own party? He doesn't seem concerned. The president is eager to unleash his re-election machinery and begin to collect pledges of loyalty from across the GOP to quell any hint of an insurrection, according to a campaign official and a Republican familiar with the inner workings of the campaign but not authorized to speak publicly. The Trump team has discussed the possibility of a challenge from someone such as outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. A week after the midterm elections, Kasich traveled to New Hampshire for a public speech and private meetings with prominent Republicans. Flake, who has tangled repeatedly with Trump, isn't making any personal commitment, but his feelings about a challenger are clear. 'Somebody needs to run' against Trump, he said Monday. 'I hope somebody does.' While some Democrats eying the White House are expected to announce campaigns in the first few weeks of 2019, a Republican challenger could move more slowly, according to two GOP operatives who have been involved in hypothetical discussions about taking on Trump. Waiting until early spring, for example, could give Republicans time to assess whether Trump will be weakened by Mueller's investigation or a downturn in the economy. One leading House Republican said the situation surrounding Trump remains volatile and has urged colleagues to wait for the Mueller report, which some believe could emerge early next year. That Republican, who demanded anonymity to assess the situation candidly, has urged fellow GOP lawmakers to not defend the indefensible but to also not believe every charge. The lawmaker expressed hope that the special counsel's findings come out sooner rather than later so there will be more time before the 2020 elections. For all the private and not-so-private party worries, many close to Trump predict he not only will survive the Russia investigation but will be re-elected in two years. They point to his remarkable ability to shake off scandal, the sway he continues to hold over his base of GOP voters, the fear his Twitter account has instilled among many Republican elected officials and what they believe is the lack of top-shelf talent among Democrats who could face him in 2020. Echoing the president, they contend the special counsel has come up empty-handed in his efforts to prove Russian collusion and is ready to settle for a campaign finance charge they believe is minor and will be ignored or not understood by most voters. The president has said the lesson of the 2018 midterms is that Republican candidates abandon him at their own peril. And the Republicans who remain in Congress after that election aren't likely to back away from him. 'Remember that the Republicans who are left have won in fairly solid Republican, Trump districts,' said moderate Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring. 'So he is very popular with the base. I would not think that they would want to distance themselves or have any fear of associating with him.' ___ Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Fram at http://twitter.com/@asfram
  • Officials from Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana are still figuring out how much damage an agitated naked man caused Sunday to its Dayton residential re-entry facility. >> Read more trending news   The naked man, who police haven’t identified, spent more than four hours on the roof of the organization’s Gettysburg Avenue facility after he disrobed and burned his clothing, officials said. The man, who was a resident at the center, also stabbed himself several times with a sharp object and wrote “Pig for Life” in his own blood on a wall, witnesses and police said. The man is expected to face criminal charges, possibly including felony vandalism after he damaged multiple cameras, windows and other equipment, police said. “This certainly was an unusual and very out-of-the-ordinary Sunday afternoon for us,” said Nicole Knowlton, vice president of communications for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana. At about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, staff at the Volunteers of America called police after a resident climbed a chain-link fence and managed to get onto the roof of the facility, located at 1931 S. Gettysburg Ave. The facility provides programming and treatment to help ex-offenders integrate back into the community, Knowlton said. The organization has four half-way houses in the state, including the Gettysburg facility, which can hold about 120 people. >> Related: Naked man on top of Dayton building causes disturbance for more than 4 hours The man shed and then burned his clothing, police said. He jumped from rooftop to rooftop while naked. He stabbed himself with a sharp object and smeared blood on the top of the one-story building, officials said. Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana locked down the facility and restricted where clients could go for their safety, Knowlton said. The man broke two security cameras, six windows, some wiring and the fans of the heating and cooling units, Knowlton said. Officers lined up mattresses on the sidewalk below the roof to try to cushion a potential fall. Authorities used a ladder truck to eventually retrieve the man. Knowlton said she believes he remains in the hospital.