Hundreds Of Protesters Hound McConnell In Anderson County Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

With hundreds of protesters assembled outside, Sen. Mitch McConnell held a contentious town hall-type event in Lawrenceburg on Tuesday.

The Senate Majority Leader refused to answer two questions from opponents in the audience, asking instead for inquiries from those “who maybe actually were interested in what I had to say.”

During a speech, McConnell said that opponents needed to get over the results of the election.

“They had their shot in the election, they certainly had their shot in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “I always remind people winners make policy and losers go home, that’s the way it works.

The event was the first of three town hall events McConnell is holding in Kentucky this week during Congress’ February recess.

Protesters amassed outside of the gates of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg, booing and chanting as his car entered the event.

During his speech, McConnell criticized Senate Democrats for slowing down the appointment process of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“I hope the fever’s going to break here at some point,” McConnell said at the event, sponsored by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s a lot of resistance, not just outside but in the country, largely based on an unprecedented decision to literally not accept the outcome of the election.”

McConnell said “it never occurred” to him to block or slow-down presidential cabinet appointments when he served as minority leader at the beginning of President Obama’s administration.

He defended his decision to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to be a Supreme Court justice, about 10 months before the end of his term.

“I made the call, myself, that we would not fill that vacancy in the middle of the presidential election year, in the 11th hour of the outgoing president,” McConnell said.

After the meeting, McConnell talked to reporters about the hundreds of protesters who showed up outside of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg.

“I can only speak for myself,” he said. “Protests in America are not unusual. We’ve had them for 240 years. I don’t think anybody should be alarmed about citizens expressing their point of view, it doesn’t bother me one bit.”

But during the event, McConnell passed on answering a question about coal jobs and another about whether a botched raid in Yemen constitutes grounds for impeaching President Trump.

“Thank you for your speech,” McConnell said in his answer to the Yemen question. “Is there anybody else with a question? Anybody up front who may be actually interested in what I had to say?”

McConnell’s response to the second question was shorter.

“Anybody interested in anything I had to say up here in front,” he asked.

Katricia Rogers drove from Whitesburg to attend the event. She said she wasn’t able to ask a question about education and the economy in Eastern Kentucky.

“I want to know what does he plan to do to bring education and other jobs into our area,” Rogers said. “Because that’s what we really need is more education for our public schools and more jobs that’s not coal related. We are educated enough to know that the coal jobs are not going to come back for other reasons rather than what he’s stating.”

In a press huddle after the meeting, McConnell said he likes “what the president’s doing,” but criticized his ongoing use of Twitter.

“I think the president would serve himself better by not having as many controversies surrounding his statements because it tends to take us off message,” McConnell said. “I would not be tweeting so often or I would be tweeting different things.”

McConnell also differed from the president’s characterization of journalists as “enemies of the state.”

“I think the press services an important function in our country,” McConnell said. “We need to have people looking at us and raising tough questions, that’s what all of you do and that’s what you do and I have no problem with it.”

Homeland Security Outlines New Rules Tightening Enforcement Of Immigration Law Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly unveiled new policies on Tuesday that are aimed at detaining and deporting more immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

The two memos, signed by Kelly, lay out a series of steps the department plans to take to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders from late January. Those orders called for increased border security and better enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

While the new policies call for a “surge” in the deployment of immigration judges and other personnel, DHS officials said the agency is not planning mass deportations and that many of the new policies would take time to implement.

“We don’t need a sense of panic necessarily in these communities,” one official said in a conference call with reporters.

Under the new rules, the department would greatly expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal. This includes unauthorized immigrants who may have committed a crime but not been charged, and anyone an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security. The policies also make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum.

Homeland Security officials said the policies would not affect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama administration policy that offered protection from deportation for people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The department is planning expedited deportation proceedings for unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country illegally for up to two years. Under the Obama administration, those expedited deportations had been limited to those in the country for two weeks or less.

In addition, the policies call for an expansion of a federal program that enlists state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.

That partnership program has come under fire from critics who allege it led to racial profiling. The federal government terminated one such agreement with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2011 after the Justice Department found that county officers unlawfully stopped and detained Latinos.

On Tuesday, DHS called the program “a highly successful force multiplier.” Officials said local officers go through extensive training and that racial profiling would not be tolerated.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

Who’s Who In The Race For DNC Chair — And Their Plans For Democrats To Win Again Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

Pictured in the featured image from left: Democrats Keith Ellison, Jamie Harrison, Tom Perez and Pete Buttigieg are competing to become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

Against a backdrop of turmoil and after big losses in November, the Democratic National Committee votes this week for its next leader. The winner of the DNC chair race will likely reflect whether the committee’s voting members think it prudent to align their party with the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama camp, the Bernie Sanders camp — or neither.

With the fast-moving developments of the Trump administration, Democrats have struggled to focus their efforts. But the coalescence of a grassroots resistance, seen in protests across the country, has generated new confidence and energy in those running.

The new chair will replace Donna Brazile, who took the job on an interim basis after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned the leadership in July, when WikiLeaks released emails that appeared to show DNC officials discussing how to hurt Sanders in the primaries.

To get on the ballot, a candidate needs the signatures of 20 out of 447 voting members. The ballot goes out on Tuesday, then members will vote during the party’s meeting in Atlanta on Saturday, in as many rounds as it takes for a candidate to garner 224 votes.

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez is trying to solidify front-runner status: Last week he contacted DNC members saying that he had locked in support from 180 voters. Rep. Keith Ellison, expected to be the main challenger to Perez, replied with a letter to members that said it was inappropriate for a candidate to try to “make the race sound like it is over,” adding, “We are very confident in our whip count and are in an excellent position to win.”

Here is a look at candidates Perez, Ellison, Jaime Harrison, Pete Buttigieg and Sally Boynton Brown. Highlights from interviews with NPR and others indicate where they want to take the party:


Tom Perez

Perez, 55, represents the Obama camp—he was secretary of Labor from 2013 until last month, and was considered the most liberal member of President Obama’s Cabinet. Before joining the Labor Department, he was head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

What went wrong in 2016

“What voters heard was ‘he’s feeling my pain, he’s feeling my anxiety. And what they heard all too frequently from the Clinton campaign was, ‘Vote for me because he’s crazy.’ I will stipulate to the accuracy of that statement, but that’s not an affirmative message,” Perez told the Washington Post.

How the DNC can be more useful

“We have to up our game,” Perez told NPR in January. “And the reason I’m running is because we have to make sure that we are providing help and partnership with the state parties. Organizing has to be a 12-month endeavor. You can’t show up at a church every fourth October and say, ‘vote for me,’ and call that persuasion. …

“What I want to do if I have the good fortune of being elected chair is build a party infrastructure in partnership with our state partners so that we have organizers in place in urban, suburban, and rural communities across America so that we are a force on important issues, whether it’s voting rights, whether it’s cybersecurity. And we need to have a director of cybersecurity at the DNC, which we currently don’t have.”

On whether Democrats should pursue obstruction or cooperation

“We need to take the fight to Donald Trump. If they’re talking about deporting children, we’re going to take the fight to Donald Trump. If Donald Trump wants to raise the minimum wage to $15, yes, I will work with Donald Trump. But you know what? If they are going to try to have a deportation task force and they’re going to try to continue to deny climate change, you’re damn right we need to fight. And we will continue that fight because this is a battle for the heart and soul of who we are as Americans,” he told NPR.

Key endorsements: former Vice President Joe Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius


Keith Ellison

Ellison, 53, represents Minnesota’s 5th District, which includes Minneapolis and some of its suburbs. In 2007, he became the first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress.

What went wrong in 2016

“The thing is that before 2008, we had the 50-state strategy, and that is in fact still pretty popular among DNC members,” told Vox in January. “As you notice, we did pretty well in 2006; we did pretty well in 2008. I think that’s because we still had enough connectivity in place from that 50-state strategy, but as time wore on, the tremendous popularity of Barack Obama, his amazing rhetorical skills, his just unparalleled ability to explain things and to inspire people really is the fuel that we lived on. Because of that, we lost a lot.”

What Democrats need to learn from Republicans

“I do not believe that Democrats have identified the fact that voter expansion has to be a strategic goal of ours, and yet Republicans clearly are aware that voter suppression must be a strategic goal of theirs,” he told Vox. “They’re actively suppressing the vote. They’re doing it in 50 states. They’re doing it with a PR program. They’re doing it with a state legislative program. They’re doing it with a city program, just simply not enough voting machines. They’re doing it with a legal program. What are we doing? We’re doing state by state. Oregon’s doing great work, but what about others? This should be 50 pieces of legislation introduced in all states that expand the vote. That’s clearly what we need to be doing. The DNC has to help do that.”

How the Democrats can win

“Voter turnout has got to be something that is on the mind of every rank-and-file Democrat, every Democratic officeholder. We must, in terms of turnout, think in terms of expanding the electorate beyond the people who are the likely voters in the swing states. Turnout has got to be key,” Ellison told Vox.

“When I was elected in 2006, my district had the lowest turnout in the state of Minnesota. Now it’s the highest, and it’s consistently the highest. … We don’t have no statewide Republicans. We used to. You remember Tim Pawlenty, who used to be the governor, and you remember Norm Coleman. Why can’t a Norm Coleman or a Tim Pawlenty get back into statewide office? Because in the Fifth Congressional District, we spike the vote so high they cannot get in.”

Key endorsements: Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, who dropped out of the DNC race over the weekend


Jaime Harrison

Harrison, 40, is chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. He was previously executive director of the House Democratic Caucus and worked for the lobbying firm the Podesta Group.

On what went wrong

“We got spoiled because we had the political phenom of Barack Obama. And we won in ’08, and we won in ’12, but we lost sight of it’s not just about 1600 Pennsylvania. It’s about also those folks who are working and representing people on Main Street,” Harrison told NPR.

Where party goes from here

“The people who are elected on local levels have just as much impact, if not more, on the day-to-day lives of citizens,” he told NPR. “And so we can’t just be focused on the White House. If we do what we have to do on a state level, then the White House is gravy. And that’s the focus. … And let me tell you this — look at the victories in 2006 and in 2008. Howard Dean started the 50-state strategy in 2006. I don’t know if folks remember. The 2004 election was probably just as sobering of election for Democrats. We lost everything. But what happened is Howard Dean came, enacted this 50-state strategy, and we won the House and the Senate back in ’06. And then based on that foundation, we grew the majorities in the House and the Senate and added the president.”

Why he should win

“If I become DNC chair at the age of 40, I’ll probably half the average age of Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C. … I bring a different perspective,” he told NPR. “I will probably be the — if elected chair — probably the only person that’s ever been on food stamps that’s been chairman of the Democrat Party, the only chair that will have over $160,000 of student loan debt. I mean, I can relate to the story of so many in this country who started behind the start line and now are trying to become successful.”

Key endorsements: Reps. James Clyburn, Tim Ryan, Marcia Fudge, and John Larson


Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg is the 35-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind. He’s an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and left office temporarily in 2014 to serve in Afghanistan.

Where the party needs to go

“One thing that I’ve noticed about the other side of the aisle is they are very patient in building their majorities. You know, you had organizations that started by running people for school board in the ’80s and are seeing dividends on that now. And we’ve got to have the same patience,” he told NPR. “We, as a party, can’t treat the next cycle like it’s the only one that matters. For example, you know, 2020 is a year that will have huge implications for redistricting. And so we’ve got to be looking at the statehouses, not treating the presidency like it’s the only office that matters.”

Why it’s crucial to have a message that’s more than anger

“There have been a lot of outrages coming from Washington in the last few weeks, and they rightly inspire a level of anger, but we can’t have that be the only thing anybody hears from us. We’ve got to be talking about what our values actually are and what the policies are that flow from them,” he told NPR. “When we’re talking about things like the deportation rates, we should also be talking about the importance of family, why we believe it’s important to keep families intact and allow families to stay together. Every time we’re saying no to something, we’ve got to be saying yes to something else. And I do think that we can have an energy that is at or above the level of what you saw with the tea party.”

On whether town hall protests are a good strategy

“I think the important thing right now is to really lift up our voices and speak to the values that make us Democrats. You know, one of the things that’s striking about the town halls is a lot of them are very specifically about issues like whether people are going to have their health care taken away,” he told NPR. “And the more we can have this discussion focus on how ordinary people are going to be affected by the decisions that are being made in Washington, then the better chance we have of reconnecting with a lot of parts of the country that didn’t really feel like they were in touch with the Democratic Party in the last go around. … Compromise is only possible when the other party is working in good faith. And if there’s one thing that Democrats in Congress in Washington learned the hard way about congressional Republicans it’s that there’s not a lot of people there in good faith.”

Why he should win

“We’re all saying that we’ve got to engage a new generation. We’ve all said that we need to get back to the state and local level. And so my contention is if we’re saying we want engage a new generation, bring in a leader from a new generation. If we’re saying we want to compete and win in red and purple states, find somebody who’s been competing and winning in as red a state as it gets, Mike Pence’s Indiana,” he told NPR. “And if we’re recognizing that the solutions are not going to come from Washington, D.C., put in somebody who doesn’t get up in the morning and go to an office in Washington, D.C., every day.”

Key endorsements: former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former DNC chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland


Sally Boynton Brown

Boynton Brown, in her early 40s, has been the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party since 2012.

On what went wrong

“Well, I really think that we have lost focus as a party. I don’t think we have any overarching identity message. We’ve let the Republicans frame the debate and frame our party for a really long time. And, frankly, I will say that in losing the amount of statehouses that we’ve lost, we’ve also allowed them to legislate. And what we know is that they’ve been passing really dangerous voter suppression laws, really stripping Americans of their rights and their freedoms,” she told NPR in January.

“And we have not had an organization who’s designed to fight back. We have 57 state parties who have been doing that to the best of their abilities. But it’s time that we had a DNC really designed to look at not just the president of the United States and that seat but every single seat all the way down to school board and city council and county commissioner seats.”

On what’s next

“Ultimately, I think the Democratic Party’s job is to save democracy and to be the fighters for freedom,” she told NPR. “Republicans have been stripping us of our freedoms. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that our constitutional rights can be under fire in this next administration. And we absolutely must be of powerful voice to push back on anything that potentially is going to come down the road.”

Key endorsements: California DNC member Christine Pelosi

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

Defense Secretary James Mattis: ‘We’re Not In Iraq To Seize Anybody’s Oil’ Monday, Feb 20 2017 

Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Iraq Monday on an unannounced visit that seemed aimed to reassure Iraqi allies. He told reporters that, despite President Trump’s earlier statements to the contrary, the U.S. does not plan to seize Iraqi oil.

“All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,” Mattis said. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”

The trip comes amidst an operation by Iraqi security forces to retake the western half of the Iraqi city of Mosul, the last major stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq. The U.S. and other international troops are there advising and assisting them, but there has been mixed messaging from the White House.

NPR’s Alice Fordham says Iraqi leaders have been rattled by Trump’s comments about seizing their oil, and by the president’s inclusion of Iraq in his executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Speaking at the CIA the day after his inauguration, Trump said that, after the war in Iraq, “We should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance.” Comments like these have also shaken the Iraqis.

Mattis is in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi leaders. Fordham says they are probably looking to him for reassurance — both of political alignment, and continued support for their battle against the Islamic State.

The statements from Mattis Monday are the latest in a series of reassurances from the new head of the Pentagon that Washington remains a reliable ally. Mattis spoke to European allies at the Munich Security Conference last week, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO, which Trump has said is “obsolete.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

House Education Chair Files New Charter School Bill Monday, Feb 20 2017 

A new bill that would create a system for charter schools to open up across Kentucky has been filed in the state House of Representatives. If approved, charters would be able to begin enrolling students in the 2018-19 academic year.

Unlike another bill that would allow school boards, universities, the state or the mayors of Lexington and Louisville to authorize charters, this legislation would allow only local school boards to review and approve charter school applications.

If denied, the requests could be appealed to the state board of education.

Rep. Bam Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville and chair of the House Education Committee, said in a statement that even if the bill passes, he believes traditional schools will continue to educate the vast majority of Kentucky students.

“I also believe that this bill will set Kentucky on a path toward providing more public school options for students and families,” Carney said. “For more than two decades, public charter schools have been making a difference for students in other states and it’s past time that Kentucky allow these proven, innovative public schools.”

Kentucky is one of seven states that don’t allow charters. The policy has been pushed by Gov. Matt Bevin and Hal Heiner, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Heiner has founded two charter school advocacy organizations in Kentucky over the years.

Under the bill, teachers, parents, school administrators, community residents, public organizations and nonprofit organizations could apply to form a charter school. The organizations could not be religiously affiliated.

Charter schools would receive state funding to educate students, though they would not receive transportation funds. A 3 percent “authorizer administrative fee” would be withheld from charter funding.

School districts would be obligated to provide transportation for local students to attend charters, though they would also keep transportation funding allotted to students who attend the schools.

Local school districts would be in charge of monitoring the academic and financial health of charter schools, which would operate under contracts lasting 3 to 5 years. Charters could be revoked immediately if the school district finds that the organizations threaten the health and safety of their own students.

Two charter school bills have already been filed in the legislature. One, filed by Louisville Republican Rep. Phil Moffett, would also allow charters to open up statewide but would enable more entities to authorize charters.

The other, filed by Louisville Democratic Rep. Gerald Neal, would allow the organizations to open up only in Lexington and Louisville.

Under Carney’s bill, charters would give enrollment preference to students residing in the school district around a charter, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and students attending low-achieving schools.

Preference would also be given to siblings of students already enrolled. The bill allows preference to be given to children of the charter school’s board of directors — as long as they don’t make up more than 10 percent of the school’s population.

Otherwise, students would be selected through a lottery.

Charter schools would be allowed to compete against traditional public schools in athletic events.

With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves From Alternative Facts To Alternative Language Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

Friday night, President Trump took to Twitter to deliver one of his favorite insults to journalists: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” he wrote.

It’s a phrase President Trump has now tweeted 15 times this month (10 times in all caps). He used the phrase seven times in his Thursday news conference.

Anyone who has followed the news knows this isn’t what “fake news” meant just a few months ago. Back then, it meant lies posing as news, made up by people from Macedonian teenagers to a dad in the Los Angeles suburbs. The stories impacted the election to some unmeasurable degree, and they also presented a tangible threat when a gunman inspired by false stories fired shots inside Washington pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong.

Now, Trump casts all unfavorable news coverage as fake news. In one tweet, he even went so far as to say that “any negative polls are fake news.” And many of his supporters have picked up and run with his new definition.

The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.

The danger of the word “fake”

As a linguist, University of California, Berkeley professor George Lakoff is one of the few people in the world who can truthfully say things like “I’ve studied the word ‘fake’ in some detail.”

Because of that expertise, he finds the term fake news uniquely troubling. He explained to NPR exactly what is so destabilizing about calling news “fake.”

To illustrate, he used the word “gun.” Putting the adjective “black” in front of it doesn’t negate that it’s a gun. It just specifies a kind of gun. That black gun still has the same primary function of any other gun — that is, it can shoot something.

But the word fake is entirely different, Lakoff said in an email to NPR:

“A fake does not have the primary function, but is intended to deceive you into thinking that it does have that function, and hence to serve the secondary function. A fake gun won’t shoot, but if you are deceived into thinking it is real, it can intimidate you.”

News’ primary function is to not be fake; it’s to pass along factual information that serves the public good, and the people who create it intend it to be factual and to serve the public good. By Lakoff’s logic, putting most modifiers in front of the word news — good, bad, unbiased, biased, liberal, conservative — still implies that the news is still somehow news. It is in some way tied to that main purpose, of being tethered to reality, with the intention of informing the public.

When Trump calls news fake, then, that word implies that the news isn’t serving its basic purposes: It means that the story is intended to serve something other than the public good, and that the author intended to falsify the story.

In other words, calling something fake news implies that it isn’t news at all. And using that phrase in the way that Trump uses it, said Lakoff, is dangerous:

“It is done to serve interests at odds with the public good. It also undermines the credibility of real news sources, that is, the press. Therefore it makes it harder for the press to serve the public good by revealing truths. And it threatens democracy, which requires that the press function to reveal real truths.”

It may seem like a lot of fuss over one little phrase, but to Lakoff, it’s an important fuss.

“Calling real news fake is an attempt to hide the truth and undermine the function of the truth in a democracy,” he said.

How Trump tries changing what fake news means

Technology has been a big aid in Trump’s quest to redefine fake news. With the help of Twitter and Facebook, language is, arguably, slipperier than ever.

“The speed of language adoption has never been as fast as it is now, and part of that is because of social media and the ability to touch people wherever they are, whenever you want, with no limits,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist who has helped the GOP choose the words it uses to sell its policies.

On top of that, Trump had a receptive crowd to begin with: Republicans in particular, along with some independents, hold journalists in low regard, according to several polls.

According to Luntz, though, it took Trump’s political skills to capitalize on those trends.

“I’ve never seen anyone in politics with the potential communication capability of Donald Trump,” said Luntz. He added, “He’s certainly not a unifier, but boy is he powerful and is he credible to a segment of the population that feels forgotten and left behind.”

Trump also arguably picked a great phrase to take advantage of: one that was both young (so perhaps more malleable) and powerful. The phrase “fake news” originally telegraphed a sense of danger about nefarious types intentionally sowing lies to influence the election. When Trump calls an unfavorable poll “fake news,” he’s borrowing some of the phrase’s original power, even as he dilutes that power by reusing the phrase.

The result is a dizzying dichotomy, as Lakoff pointed out in an interview with NPR: “real fake news” (stories about “pizzagate” and a made-up endorsement from the pope) and “fake fake news” (claims that legitimate stories are made up).

But the speed with which Trump’s messaging ricochets around the Internet worries Luntz, who fears that there is no accountability; technology helps unfiltered (and unchecked) ideas to spread quickly. That means that a phrase can be redefined in an entirely new way “within a matter of weeks,” he said.

“In the case of fake news, the problem is that we are actually undermining the core principles of a democracy,” he added, echoing Lakoff.

The phrase fake news itself is young, and Trump’s abilities may be unique, but the fact that he is spinning language to his advantage is nothing new.

“If you think about rhetorical strategies — and i think it’s something that Trump has been very good at — I think this is something that has happened time and again during presidencies,” said Adam Berinsky, a political science professor at MIT, pointing to the ongoing tug of war during Barack Obama’s presidency over what to call health care overhaul.

“Did we call health care reform ‘ACA’ or ‘Obamacare’?” Berinsky said. “Similarly, Donald Trump being able to take the term fake news and turn it into basically an epitaph for any media he doesn’t like — it’s a very effective strategy.”

“So it’s a new development, but it’s a very familiar pattern,” he concluded.

The definition changed … but only for some people

Trump has not succeeded at changing the definition of fake news for everyone. Google the phrase or search it on Twitter, and it is used in two ways (sarcastic uses aside). One is the original sense. The other is to slam mainstream media organizations, often on behalf of right-leaning organizations.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, for example, flung the phrase at CNN’s Jim Acosta, who criticized Trump for calling disproportionately on right-leaning outlets. It’s a valid disagreement, but it doesn’t mean Acosta’s remark is fake news.

Likewise, conservative website The Federalist recently listed 16 stories that it classified as fake news. But many do not even approach the term’s original meaning, as the Washington Post’s Callum Borchers wrote. The author classifies a story that required a correction as fake news, for example (though by definition, a fake-news writer intending to deceive wouldn’t try to correct a story). Other complaints are about perceived tone or framing. One can always argue that a story is poorly framed or biased. But that doesn’t make it fake news.

Luntz — who himself perceives a left-leaning bias in many media organizations — explains that having problems with tone isn’t the same as negating the truth.

“While I have differences from time to time with what people report and the tone that they take, I am an advocate of a vibrant, constructive media,” he said. “When you start to suggest that there are alternative facts and you start to criticize your opponents for fake news, you’re undermining the credibility of the one institution that holds all the others accountable.”

One language for the right; another, for the left

It’s not normally news when language shifts meanings — when the definitions of words like “decimate” or “literally” start to soften. Few (aside from copy editors and dictionary publishers) would call it a crisis.

But with fake news there are serious potential problems … problems that go even beyond disputes over what is fact and what is fiction. The shifting definition of fake news may be a sign of a broader gap between right and left. In July, author George Saunders painted a picture of that gap:

“Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems.”

If it is indeed true that the term fake news has come to mean something different for a conservative than a liberal, it could be one more sign that the LeftLandian and RightLandian languages — and the people who speak them — have moved one more inch apart, into increasingly different realities.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

Kentucky Politics Distilled: ‘Blue Lives Matter’ And Planned Parenthood Gets Dinged Friday, Feb 17 2017 

Controversial proposals like the “blue lives matter” bill and a scheme to defund Planned Parenthood advanced in the General Assembly this week. Legislation stiffening drug penalties and changing public education also made their way through the Republican-led legislature.

Listen to this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled in the audio player above.

To read more on the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, go here.

Scott Pruitt Confirmed To Lead Environmental Protection Agency Friday, Feb 17 2017 

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been confirmed as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency Pruitt has long criticized.

The Senate approved Pruitt on a 52-46 vote Friday afternoon, with two Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — voting for his nomination. Republican Susan Collins of Maine voted no.

The vote came after a failed Democratic attempt to delay the confirmation proceedings until after a new batch of documents from Pruitt’s state office are made public under court order. Those emails will be released beginning next week.

Pruitt has come under fire for coordinating closely with energy companies in his attempts to scale back and block federal environmental regulations. The New York Times reported that at times, Pruitt had simply copied and pasted suggested language from an energy company onto state letterhead, and then sent it to the EPA.

Pruitt will almost certainly take the EPA in a drastically new direction.

The agency aggressively drafted and enforced new environmental rules during the Obama administration, tightening federal standards for vehicle emissions, water quality and pollution at power plants. Pruitt is expected to slow or reverse much of that, scaling back regulations and deferring to states on environmental enforcement. That’s a process President Trump and Congress have already begun.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt led legal challenge after legal challenge against EPA regulations, even describing himself in his official biography as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

Pruitt argued during his confirmation hearing that he wasn’t against environmental quality standards — he just thinks that they are better enforced on the state level. “The states are not mere vessels of federal will,” Pruitt testified. “They don’t exist simply to carry out federal dictates from Washington, D.C. There are substantive requirements, obligations, authority, jurisdiction granted to the states under our environmental statutes. That needs to be respected.”

That’s a view shared by many Republicans. But former Bush administration EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told NPR she is worried Pruitt’s skepticism goes too far for him to be an effective head of the agency. “He seems to have a level of distrust that is unusual coming into an agency, because it doesn’t necessarily bode well for good relations with the career staff that are there, with whom you have to work and you need to get things done,” she said.

Whitman also questioned Pruitt’s belief in climate change. While Pruitt did tell senators during his confirmation hearing that “science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change,” he said “the extent of that [human] impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

Regardless of Pruitt’s personal beliefs on climate change, he is expected to dismantle the EPA’s main rule aimed at lowering the United States’ carbon footprint: the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The rule would lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by about 30 percent over the coming decades and is the linchpin of the United States’ plan to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

The Clean Power Plan is currently held up in federal court. President Trump campaigned on reversing it, and Pruitt was among the state attorneys general who sued to block the regulation from ever taking effect.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

Pension System’s Woes Could Be Worse Than Previously Thought Friday, Feb 17 2017 

Kentucky’s public pension system, which officially faces an $18.1 billion unfunded liability, might be in worse shape than previously thought.

The bigger potential problem for Kentucky Retirement Systems means taxpayers could be on the hook for much more money to honor pension commitments to about 365,000 public employees, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

KRS board chairman John Farris told fellow trustees Thursday that KRS made math errors in recent years. The state pension agency relied on overly optimistic assumptions about its investment returns, the growth of state and local government payrolls and the inflation rate, he said.

For example, KRS assumed it would earn an average of 6.75 percent to 7.5 percent on money it invested, but it earned an average of 4.75 percent, Farris said. KRS assumed that public payroll would grow by 4 percent a year through pay raises or more government hiring — a larger payroll means larger pension contributions by employees — but public payroll has dropped overall because of repeated budget cuts, he said.

By giving inaccurate numbers to its actuarial advisers, KRS got back inaccurate numbers concerning its liabilities and how much the state and local governments needed to contribute, Farris said. He called for a new analysis of KRS’ financial health so the next state budget, covering fiscal years 2019 and 2020, reflects the pensions’ true needs.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Farris, a Lexington economist whom Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to the KRS board last year. “We wonder why the plans are underfunded. It’s not all the legislature’s fault. It’s the board’s responsibility to give the correct numbers.”

Some of the other KRS trustees said they had thought the assumed numbers were correct because the agency’s actuarial adviser did not balk when it received them.

“I rely on the actuaries to, on some level, verify our assumptions,” trustee Joseph Hardesty said. “I’ve never heard our actuaries say that our assumptions were unrealistic.”

“Payroll growth was negative and you assumed 4 percent (growth)?” Farris asked. “Were any of you paying attention?”

In coming weeks, KRS will select a company to perform a more accurate assessment of its financial health so the board can decide by December what contribution rates to recommend to state and local governments. The next two-year state budget is scheduled to be adopted next spring.

The state and local governments paid $950 million to KRS last year for their contributions as employers; public employees matched that with $307 million from their paychecks. Those contributions will need to grow if KRS acknowledges that it used overly optimistic assumptions, KRS executive director David Eager told the board.

“It’s going to be an immediate impact on costs,” Eager said. “A big one. And the board shouldn’t shy away from this, in my opinion.”

In a statement Thursday, Bevin praised the KRS board for discarding the “alternative data” it previously used. Bevin rebuilt the board last year by removing its chairman and adding four more gubernatorial appointees. Several of the agency’s top employees since have been replaced.

In Louisville, Businesses Participate In ‘A Day Without Immigrants’ Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

Shoppers at La Tropicana, a grocery store on Preston Highway, were surprised to see that the store was closed on Thursday.

On this day, businesses, schools and other entities across the nation are observing “A Day Without Immigrants.” The goal of the strike is to highlight contributions of immigrants in America.

It’s also a reaction to President Trump holding onto his campaign promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, as well as his executive orders last month halting some immigrant and refugee entries. A federal court decision has placed the travel bans on hold.

During a news conference Thursday, Trump said he would issue a new executive order on travel bans next week.

Luis de León is a journalist who lives in Louisville. He came to the U.S. from Guatemala. He was at La Tropicana on Thursday, recording video reactions of would-be shoppers.

“The idea is, ‘okay, I’m living here, I’m working for my community. I’m working for my family,’” de León says.

He says participating in the boycott is a peaceful way to demonstrate that sentiment. And he says it’s also important to recognize that the word immigrant encompasses all types of people and not just Latinos.

Robin Garr, a local food writer, learned about the strike from friends and social media.

In a time when immigrants and refugees are under political attack — something that I consider wrong and unfair — it makes sense for them to choose a public action that reminds us how much their lives influence our lives,” Garr says. “​I think it’s admirable that a lot of tiny, immigrant-owned businesses are taking part. They have a lot to lose and are putting themselves on the line.”

The list of local businesses was shared on social media by Al Día en América, a Spanish language news outlet that covers issues in Kentuckiana. It’s also a news partner of WFPL.

But de León first heard of the national day from friends in Wisconsin. Earlier this week, immigrants in Milwaukee observed “A Day Without Latinos.” The Monday protest was in response to a crackdown on undocumented immigrants by the county sheriff there.

Elsewhere around the country, some businesses are closed for the day, while others have pledged to donate a portion of the day’s proceeds to nonprofits that benefit Latino communities, as reported by NPR:

In a number of cases, business owners are abiding by their staffs’ wishes, after holding votes to decide whether to open.

Several closures are high-profile: chef and entrepreneur José Andrés told NPR this week, “It was a very easy decision” to close his restaurants in Washington, D.C., saying he wants to support his employees who had planned not to work Thursday.

Celebrity chef Rick Bayless, who’s famous for popularizing the complex flavors of Mexico’s cuisine, says he closed four Chicago restaurants for the day out of respect for his staff’s vote.

Next Page »