Daily Signal Story Inspires Social Media Action to Mend This Iraqi Boy Wounded in ISIS Attack

Josh Siegel /

Ali Albayati, a neurologist in Iraq, learned of a little boy wounded in deadly bombings by ISIS terrorists the old-fashioned way: through a written story.

Back-to-back car bomb attacks Aug. 7 struck a building in Kirkuk, Iraq, used by Shiite Muslims for religious purposes, reportedly killing and wounding scores of people. Among the severely injured was the 2-year-old boy, who had taken shelter there with his family.

Sam Billett, 31, a Briton who works in public relations, discovered the story the new-media way: through Twitter, after The Daily Signal published an article about the plight of the boy, whose name is Hasan Uday Albayati.

Hasan_bomb

Little Hasan was among those wounded or killed at the scene of this double car bombing Aug. 7 in Kirkuk, Iraq. (Photo courtesy Ali Albayati)

Through the kind of sharing allowed in a world connected through email and social media, Albayati (who is not related to Hasan) and Billett united to bring healing to Hasan.

Shrapnel had lodged deep into Hasan’s left eye, nearly blinding it. The boy also suffered a fractured arm and facial cuts and bruises.

>>> Iraqi Boy, 2, Loses Most of Family as ISIS Terrorists Target Town

With Albayati’s support on the ground, Billett raised $2,250 for Hasan’s medical treatment through a campaign called Aziz Legacy Children’s Fund. Albayati heads a small, Iraq-based humanitarian group, the Turkmen Saving Foundation.

The money raised by Billett’s organization — collected entirely online through a page on the website gofundme.com — paid for Hasan to fly to Tehran, Iran, where the boy underwent special eye surgery.

Hasan also had two operations on his left arm at a hospital in Iraq.

He is almost fully healed now, with only slight facial scarring. He lives a life as normal as can be in Iraq, at the home of his uncle and cousins in Iraq. (For security reasons, Billett asks that The Daily Signal not name the city.)

“It was beautiful,” Albayati says of his collaboration with Billett during a Skype interview with The Daily Signal from Baghdad.

Billett, in a separate Skype conversation from London, is more expansive:

We did this because we were moved to action. In today’s world of social media, doing nothing no longer applies. When we can, we should.

At the time of The Daily Signal’s first report on Hasan, intelligence indicated that the boy had lost his entire family in the bombings. (The story reflected that understanding, depicting the boy as the family’s sole survivor, and also misspelled his name as Hassan based on available information.)

However,  Billett and Albayati were able to confirm that Hasan’s mother and uncle survived.

Hassan now

Hasan (right), with a cousin, now lives at his uncle’s home. (Photo courtesy Ali Albayati)

Turkmen Helps His Own

The Sunni Muslim jihadists who make up the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have become notorious for their brutality to fellow Muslims as well as Christians and other those of other religions in Iraq and Syria.

What could have been just another mourned but quickly forgotten ISIS attack against Shiite Muslims became a world-spanning act of philanthropy in Hasan’s case.

Today, Hasan and his mother can’t return to their home village of Brauchelli because it was overrun by ISIS militants during the summer. Hasan’s father died in that attack.

Hasan and his family are Shiite Turkmen, as is Albayati, the neurologist who would come to play an important role in the boy’s life.

Ali Albayati, a neurologist from Baghdad, was instrumental in facilitating care for Hasan.

Ali Albayati, a neurologist from Baghdad, was instrumental in arranging care for Hasan. (Photo courtesy Ali Albayati)

In June, many Turkmen villages — clustered about 100 miles north of Baghdad — came under attack from ISIS.

The Turkmen, with linguistic and cultural ties to Turkey, have lived in northern Iraq for centuries. Some are Shiites, some are Sunnis. ISIS considers them infidels.

The plight of some 17,000 Shite Turkmen in the town of Amiri caught the world’s attention after the United Nations described the threat as similar to the one faced by the Yezidi minority, who were forced by the advance of ISIS to flee to Mount Sinjar in Iraq.

>>> For Yezidis Displaced by ISIS, a Long Way Home

In late August, a coalition of Iraqi and Iranian militias backed by American air support drove off the ISIS terrorists.

From the relative safety of his home in Baghdad, Albayati had tracked ISIS’s methodical destruction of villages all summer long, through firsthand accounts written by villagers.

A Turkmen from Hasan’s village wrote about the bomb attack in Kirkuk, detailing Hasan’s injuries.

Albayati saw the story, translated it to English, and sent it to U.S.-based Iraqi activists. One of those activists shared Hasan’s story with The Daily Signal, the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation, which published an article Aug. 28 featuring Hasan.

Albayati hoped attention to the story would bring action.

Three weeks after the bombing, when it ran, Hasan received limited medical treatment at Faruk Medical City in the Sulaymaniyah province of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Hasan lay in a hospital bed, bandages covering part of his face and his left eye, red scabs dotting his forehead and cheeks.

Hasan4.

Hasan’s facial scarring is expected to fade in time. (Photo courtesy Ali Albayati)

From Aziz to Hasan

In London, Billett’s desire to act actually began with failure.

On Aug. 16, Billet saw a story published by the BBC and The Daily Telegraph about another boy — a disabled, 4-year-old Yezidi who was deserted in Sinjar. Facing an ISIS assault on their village, the boy’s parents had left their weak son behind as they sought to save their five other children.

Billett, along with seven others from disparate places such as India, New Zealand, Croatia, Australia and the U.S., began using the hashtag #littleyazidiboy on Twitter to draw attention to the boy’s struggle.

Their Twitter movement turned into a campaign to raise money. Two weeks after the group’s work began, however, the boy died of dehydration.

His name was Aziz.

The Aziz Legacy Children’s Fund now had a name, and when Billett saw The Daily Signal’s story about Hasan, it had a new opportunity to bring help and healing to a child. Billett says:

Aziz was a defenseless little boy stranded in the desert because of ISIS. His struggle brought the world together, and now we are trying to live out his legacy.

Passage to Tehran

To help Hasan, Billett reached out to contacts in groups such as Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Those groups connected him with Kurdistan Save the Children, a charity with contacts in Iran.

Sam Billett, a public relations worker in London, helps children in Iraq get medical treatment.

Sam Billett, moved to action by The Daily Signal’s story about Hasan, is determined to help more Iraqi children. (Photo courtesy Sam Billett)

At Faruk Medical City, Hasan’s left eye was cleaned and protected with a lens.

He was referred to a second Iraq hospital, but it did not offer the specialized treatment his eye needed.

The biggest issue, however, was that Hasan had no identification or other personal documents. When his family fled their village because of ISIS, the suddenness of the terrorists’ advance forced them to leave nearly everything behind.

Working together, Albayati and Billett sent a message to the office of the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, explaining Hasan’s situation.

Hasan would have to leave Iraq to get the treatment he needed. The prime minister’s office provided passports so that Hasan, his mother and uncle could exit the country.

Kurdistan Save the Children arranged care for Hasan in Iran. The Iranian embassy in Iraq issued visas to the boy, his mother and uncle, and on Oct. 29 they flew to Tehran.

Save the Children representatives found a hospital to admit Hasan. After identifying more shrapnel in Hasan’s eye, doctors there removed the temporary lens and surgically repaired the eyelid.

For the first time since being wounded in the August bombings, the boy could close his eye all the way.

‘Really Something’

The Aziz Legacy Children’s Fund and Kurdistan Save the Children split the $3,500 cost for Hasan’s treatment and stay in Iran.

On Nov. 12, Hasan, his eye fully healed, returned with family members to Iraq on a flight paid for by Billett’s group.

Geoffrey Lysaught, publisher of The Daily Signal, said:

As a social, digital-first news organization, The Daily Signal has the power to connect the lives of people across the globe. We are so proud of the impact that our reporting has had on Hasan’s life. It really demonstrates that high-quality journalism that rises above the din of political partisanship is critical to making the world a better place.

The happy outcome likely will inspire similar action, if Billett’s charity has anything to say about it.

The Aziz Legacy Children’s Fund is working to arrange treatment for a 2-year-old Turkmen girl named Rawa who has tumors on her face, neck and throat. Rawa and her family fled Tal Afar in June when ISIS captured that city.

2-year-old Rawa needs to leave Iraq to get special treatment, but her family does not have the money.

Rawa, 2, will have to leave Iraq to get medical treatment that her family can’t afford. (Photo courtesy Ali Albayati)

Just before the terrorists ISIS came, Rawa was due to be treated there. After that appointment became impossible, a familiar doctor stepped in to treat Rawa as best he could.

His name is Ali Albayati.

“Dr. Ali really is something,” Billett says.  “I can’t say enough about him.”

As ISIS continues to rape, maim and kill, tearing apart families and wrecking infrastructure, Billett and Albayati promise to help give hope to children caught up in the violence. Billett says:

There is so much happening in Iraq with death and destruction, and children’s health care is slipping through the cracks. Things can’t move quickly enough for them. But the world can come together to support those children to show that they stand the right to life.

Note: To learn more about the Aziz Legacy Children’s Fund, visit http://www.gofundme.com/e6ggt0.

21 Photos Recap This Week’s News - Daily Signal

21 Photos Recap This Week’s News

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris /

This week was supposed to be a celebration of thanks and Americana. However, a grand jury decision in Ferguson shifted the nation’s focus to Ferguson, Mo. The unrest quickly spread across the country.

Hopefully, in between some turkey and stuffing, you were able to catch up with loved ones. The photos below feature those stories and other news about immigration, turkey pardons and possibly the best NFL catch ever.

A turkey named “Cheese” survived this year. Turkeys get this same pardon every year.

President Barack Obama pardons Cheese, the 2014 National Thanksgiving Turkey. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Newscom)

President Obama pardons “Cheese,” the 2014 National Thanksgiving Turkey. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Newscom)

Between a grand jury decision, riots in Ferguson, Mo., and protests around the country, the unrest has been felt by everyone. The best coverage of Ferguson lives here.

A business in Ferguson, Mo. ruined by the riots. (Photo: Newscom)

A business in Ferguson, Mo., ruined by the riots. (Photo: Newscom)

Michael Brown's stepfather, reacts after learning of a grand jury's decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Michael Brown’s stepfather, reacts after learning of a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Police form a line as protests begin post-jury decision. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Police form a line as protests begin following a grand jury’s decision. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Michael Brown's mother, cries after learning of a grand jury's decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Michael Brown’s mother cries after learning of a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson. (Photo: Timothy Tai/Newscom)

Angry protestors set police cars on fire in Ferguson. (Photo: Demotix/Newscom)

Angry protestors set police cars on fire in Ferguson. (Photo: Demotix/Newscom)

The. Catch. Of. The. Year.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham makes a 43-yard touchdown catch during a NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants on Nov. 23. (Photo: Newscom)

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham makes a 43-yard touchdown catch during a NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants on Nov. 23. (Photo: Newscom)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned Nov. 24 after less than two years in the post amid the struggles of President Obama’s national security team to respond to a slew of global crises.

Amid crises, Obama pushes out Hagel as Defense Secretary. (Photo: Newscom)

Amid crises, Obama pushed out Hagel as defense secretary. (Photo: Newscom)

President Obama and Hagela few weeks before his resignation. (Photo: Dennis Brack/Newscom)

Obama and Hagel a few weeks before his resignation. (Photo: Dennis Brack/Newscom)

Taylor Swift won the first-ever “Dick Clark Award for Excellence” at the American Music Awards. She also debuted the first live performance of her hit “Blank Space.”

Taylor Swift at the 2014 American Music Awards.  (Photo: Newscom)

Taylor Swift at the 2014 American Music Awards. (Photo: Newscom)

A week after President Obama announced his immigration executive order, Americans are split on the move.

Kasandra Palacios, 17, celebrates 'immigration reform' outside the White House following President Obama's speech. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris/Newscom)

Kasandra Palacios, 17, celebrates outside the White House following President Obama’s immigration speech. (Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris/Newscom)

A new report from the Congressional Research Service says that the House Appropriations Committee was incorrect last week in saying the government agency most responsible for implementing Obama’s action—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—cannot be defunded by Congress.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Newscom

President Obama meets with Sen. McConnel, R-Ky. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Newscom)

“Saturday Night Live” mocked Obama’s executive action to grant legal status to 5 million illegal immigrants by twisting a staple of the TV classic “Schoolhouse Rock!”

An image of the School House Rock parody from Saturday night's episode. (Photo: Saturday Night Live YouTube)

An image of the “School House Rock” parody from Saturday night’s episode. (Photo: Saturday Night Live YouTube)

Gross school lunch pictures went viral after students took to social media to protest first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy lunch ideas.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.44.54 PM

The campaign went viral when students took photos like this of their lunches and shared them on Twitter using the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama. (Photo: @huntwhitney4 via Twitter)

In year two, Obamacare is off to another bad start. Big challenges loom, including the administration of the law’s hideously complex insurance subsidy system, as well as coverage and cost problems.

Photo via Flickr user Tabitha Kaylee Hawk

The White House is justly relieved and celebrating the fact that the government website is not plagued with last year’s disasters. (Photo via Flickr user Tabitha Kaylee Hawk)

The Pope spoke to the European Parliament.

Pope Francis called for policies focused more on people than 'technicalities' during a speech to the European Parliament. (Photo: Patrick Seeger/Newscom)

Pope Francis called for policies focused more on people than “technicalities” during a speech to the European Parliament. (Photo: Patrick Seeger/Newscom)

The first phase of local elections in Kashmir began on Nov. 25.

Thousands of voters defied a boycott call given by separatists and militant groups and turned up to cast their votes during first phase of local elections in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (Photo: Xinhua/Javed Dar)

Thousands of voters defied a boycott call given by separatists and militant groups and turned up to cast their votes during first phase of local elections in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (Photo: Xinhua/Javed Dar)

With Black Friday deals creeping their way to Thanksgiving morning, more employees are speaking out. Some don’t mind, and some are very frustrated.

Holiday shoppers queue to make their purchases after braving the crowds in Target. (Photo: Getty Images)

Holiday shoppers queue to make their purchases after braving the crowds in Target. (Photo: Getty Images)

A picture of Christy McDermott, a Wal-Mart greeter who loves his job. (Photo: Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Newscom)

A picture of Christy McDermott, a Walmart greeter who loves his job. (Photo: Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Newscom)

Travelers encountered chaos this week. Several airlines canceled hundreds of flights as a snowstorm struck the Northeast.

Thanksgiving eve snowstorm in Middletown, New York. (Photo: Tom Bushey/ZUMA Wire/Newscom)

Thanksgiving eve snowstorm in Middletown, N.Y. (Photo: Tom Bushey/ZUMA Wire/Newscom)

Progressives Seem Unaware the Election Results Proved Their Policies Aren’t Popular - Daily Signal

Progressives Seem Unaware the Election Results Proved Their Policies Aren’t Popular

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler /

I listened to progressive leaders for a full day last week—and learned they’ve got no new ideas to offer.

The speakers at the 2014 Policy Summit, hosted by the Center for American Progress, included Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Cory Booker, D- N.J., United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro explain their plans for a progressive future.

After the widespread Democratic defeats in the recent midterm elections, had these liberals learned anything? Would they propose any new policies?

The short answer: no.

No one suggested that the midterm losses should prompt new policies, let alone a fundamental change in direction. Progressive sacred cows like climate change and income inequality dominated the discussion. Six years after Obama’s election, the progressive agenda does not appear to have progressed much at all.

A climate change panel included much consternation about why voters don’t care about climate change. Consensus emerged that progressives should begin framing the issue creatively. Indeed, billionaire investor Tom Steyer and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy contorted themselves trying to explain climate change as about everything except the environment. McCarthy even made the bold claim that climate change represents “the biggest public health and economic challenge of our time.”

This should not be confused with “the crisis of our time,” which is how CAP President Neera Tanden described the struggles of the middle-class. Yet progressive prescriptions for helping the middle-class were decidedly superficial. Warren delivered an impassioned speech in favor of the same tired policies which failed to interest voters two weeks ago. How should we save the middle-class? Warren repeated her calls for more regulation and higher taxes on the wealthy.

She was not the only speaker to believe that passion, rather than policy, was key. If Democrats had only been more proudly progressive, de Blasio insisted, voters would have supported them. Yet his own ideas suggest otherwise. When an audience member asked de Blasio for policy recommendations, he reiterated the same stale lines as Warren. Neither offered a new proposal that would directly ease the burden of middle-class families.

Most surprising were the topics that went undiscussed. Major issues like the collapse of the family among the poor and serious policy proposals like school choice, retirement savings accounts and expanded child-tax credits did not receive any substantial mention.

These topics have all gained currency the past few years and should at least enter our public policy debates. To ignore their existence, and instead offer vague platitudes about challenging ”wealthy interests,” appeared tone deaf, especially coming from an ambitious progressive roster which almost certainly included several future presidential hopefuls. Folksy metaphors about Main Street and Wall Street can take a party only so far.

The event was not entirely without its moments, however. Castro made the curious claim that he “think[s] of [Department of Housing and Urban Development] as the Department of Opportunity.” One wonders how he would describe other wasteful bureaucratic agencies. Would the Department of Energy be the Department of Possibility, perhaps?

The most revealing exchange occurred at the end of the sole panel devoted to foreign policy. Former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle interviewed Samantha Power. With threats gathering upon the horizon, this was an opportunity for progressives to mobilize around a renewed message.

After 30 minutes discussing Ebola and the minutiae of multilateral negotiations, Daschle pointed out that they had run out of time to discuss ISIL, Syria or Ukraine. Never mind Iran, Russia or China. “Sorry for that,” Power replied. Three words have seldom captured an administration’s foreign policy so well.

How the Government’s Decision to Declare This Species Threatened May Hurt Its Survival - Daily Signal

How the Government’s Decision to Declare This Species Threatened May Hurt Its Survival

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee /

No good deed goes unpunished. Or at least, such was the case earlier this month when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Gunnison sage grouse as a “threatened” species.

Threats to the bird resulting from drought, disease, and habitat moved the states and particularly Gunnison County, Colo., to find creative solutions to protect and re-establish the bird.

Over the past 20 years, Utah’s and Colorado’s ranchers, conservationists and state and local leaders have worked to protect the Gunnison sage grouse. Utah, Colorado and the citizens of Gunnison County have spent more than $50 million during the past 20 years to conserve the Gunnison sage grouse.

Their mistake? They thought that a stable population in the Gunnison Valley would prevent the bird from being federally listed.

Yet the Fish and Wildlife Service did exactly that.

Despite Coloradans’ efforts, the Wild Earth Guardians—an environmental extremist lobbying organization—pressured the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the bird as endangered under the Endangered Species Act by Nov. 12 in an out-of-court settlement. The Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision to list the bird as “threatened” and to designate more than 1.4 million acres of potential habitat.

The decision has been met with bipartisan displeasure.

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said it was “further evidence that the administration is more interested in meeting arbitrary settlement deadlines than basing decisions on actual science and data.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, responded that “this sends a discouraging message to communities willing to take significant actions to protect species and complicates our good-faith efforts to work with local stakeholders on locally driven approaches.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, called the decision a step backward for conservation and the economy.

Obama repeatedly has said we don’t need to choose between the environment and stewarding our natural resources, but the administration’s decision dangerously assumes the exact opposite.

The Endangered Species Act, under which the Fish and Wildlife Service acted, perversely incentivizes the endangerment of vulnerable species by pitting landowners—the bird’s most immediate and natural caretakers—against vulnerable species by inviting heavy-handed federal intervention that often completely devalues property.

Property owners wanting to take action to protect a threatened species on their property invite federal intervention.

Given the way the Endangered Species Act works now, federal bureaucrats too often attempt to solve the problem by simply stopping development. For many, that risk is too costly and, as a result, these species suffer. For example, in the 1980s, one North Carolina landowner was arrested for cutting down pine trees on his property because the trees were a potential habitat for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Or consider this example from 2012. The Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians filed suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service to require Texas game ranchers to get a “take permit” from the federal government before hunting animals raised on their own private property. The addax, Dama gazelle and scimitar-horned oryx (affectionately known as the “three amigos”) are endangered in their native Africa, but Texas game ranches had begun raising and building up herds. They funded their efforts by offering select hunts.

Before the “environmentalists” won their lawsuit, ranchers pre-emptively offered inexpensive hunts to capitalize on their investment before regulations were finalized and devalued the hunts. As a result, the Exotic Wildlife Association estimated that the “three amigos” numbers in Texas are now at one-half to one-third of their 2010 levels.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gunnison sage grouse decision also may have a similar chilling effect on existing efforts to conserve the species. Of course this doesn’t matter to some extremists groups already promising to sue Fish and Wildlife Service for anything short of an “endangered” listing for the grouse.

Listing the Gunnison sage grouse disempowers and alienates rural landowners and ignores the concerted efforts of states and communities to protect the grouse. Species conservation efforts should be conducted on a situation-specific basis where the respect of private property and personal liberty are recognized as some of the most important tools to protecting America’s threatened species.

Did Dubious Ads Doom This Democrat’s Re-Election? - Daily Signal

Did Dubious Ads Doom This Democrat’s Re-Election?

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser /

It has been more than three weeks since Election Day and Democrats in North Carolina have mulled and analyzed the reasons for their failures—from the drag on the ticket by President Obama to Republican gerrymandering to events beyond their control such as ISIS and Ebola.

And now, former Democrat political consultant and current communications adviser Thomas Mills has made a frank assessment in a post on his PoliticsNC blog. He says easily debunked campaign ads may have hurt his party’s candidates.

Media coverage and analysis focused on money spent on TV ads in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. But Mills says many—if not most—voters looked elsewhere to find accurate information about the candidates.

He sees a trend in which citizens don’t just accept what they’re spoon-fed in relentless, contradictory TV ads, but they instead explore for themselves candidates’ positions on the issues.

“In the Walmart moms focus group in Charlotte in mid-October, a group of mainly undecided women voters knew very little about Tillis or Hagan despite almost $100 million in ads,” Mills says. “Several women said they would go online to learn more about the candidates before they voted.”

Mills cited three examples that Republicans repeatedly refuted throughout the campaign season.

The first was the charge in a Hagan ad that Tillis, as speaker of the North Carolina House, cut $500 million from the state’s education budget. That claim was found to be “mostly false” in a “truth check” by TV station WYFF in Greenville, S.C., which also covers western North Carolina.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Politifact said the ad was “literally false,” but rated Hagan’s claim as “half true,” because Republicans allegedly didn’t increase education spending enough to maintain the status quo.

The second example was the allegation Republicans would allow Duke Energy to pass the costs of cleaning up the Dan River coal ash spill to its ratepayers instead of to its shareholders. WRAL in Raleigh determined an ad by NC Families First against state Sen. Chad Barefoot was false and said another ad that targeted Tillis had problems, too.

The third Democrat campaign falsehood Mills said was a problem was the claim Republicans raised taxes on 80 percent of North Carolinians as they implemented reforms. That one was debunked as untrue by the Washington Post, FactCheck.org and WRAL.

Read more at Watchdog.org.

Cartoon: Taxpayers Are Always on the Hook - Daily Signal

Cartoon: Taxpayers Are Always on the Hook

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser / Glenn Foden /

141125_Cartoon

 

From Rachel Greszler’s piece published Nov. 24:

If you’re a worker and you have a pension, there’s a government agency that will pay that pension if your company is unable to fulfill the financial promises made to you and your colleagues.

There’s just one catch: That government agency has a massive deficit right now.

According to the recently released 2014 annual report from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, the deficit in PBGC’s multiemployer program increased from $8.6 billion in 2013 to $42.4 billion in 2014.

This massive deficit is problematic for the millions of workers who stand to receive mere pennies on the dollar in promised pension benefits.

It’s also a problem for taxpayers, who could be charged with bailing out private-sector pensions that were never intended to be public liabilities.

Although the impending insolvency of certain large multiemployer (or union) pension plans has been known to PBGC for quite some time, it was not until 2014 that those plans’ expected insolvency was recorded in PBGC’s budget. As the PBGC report noted, the expected insolvency within 10 years of two very large plans added $26.3 billion to expected liabilities in PBGC’s multiemployer program, and  the expected insolvency of another 14 plans added another $9.0 billion to liabilities.

Although not specifically cited in the report, the two large plans are elsewhere identified as the Central States Teamsters and United Mineworkers. According to testimony from the Government Accountability Office, the insolvency of one of these very large pension funds would quickly bankrupt PBGC’s multiemployer program, leaving many PBGC beneficiaries with mere pennies on the dollar in promised benefits.

Read the rest here.

How a Former Governor’s Conviction Is Reverberating in Virginia - Daily Signal

How a Former Governor’s Conviction Is Reverberating in Virginia

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser / Glenn Foden / Kathryn Watson /

A Virginia Republican’s forthcoming retirement after three-and-a-half decades in the General Assembly could give Democrats a better shot at regaining control of the state Senate next year.

Earlier this year, Republicans took control of the Virginia Senate and halted hopes of Medicaid expansion when Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett abruptly resigned.

Now, moderate Republican state Sen. John Watkins has announced he won’t seek reelection, giving Democrats a shot at capturing his swing district west of Richmond.

Watkins said he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren. But he also told CBS 6 in Richmond he is worried about the increased scrutiny in the wake of the indictment and conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Watkins told the station he had been considering retirement ever since McDonnell’s September conviction.

“I’ve been thinking of it since this whole thing with Bob McDonnell. It will make it very difficult for someone like myself,” Watkins told CBS 6. “I would always be called into question.”

Increased scrutiny and tougher ethics and disclosure laws are bound to come, thanks to public pressure. It just depends what kind of laws the General Assembly can agree upon this spring.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has set up a commission that’s already suggesting legislation to give an ethics panel the ability to launch investigations.

Come next year, state lawmakers will have to go on the record with whether they’d vote to criminalize any ethical violations within their own ranks.

State Sens. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland County, are raising the stakes with a bill that bans state employees, candidates for office and elected officials from accepting any tangible gift over $100, prohibits them from taking official action because of a gift and requires an ethics panel to review any intangible gift—like airfare—over $100.

The bill adds some “teeth” to the Virginia Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council, as Petersen put it.

Read more at Watchdog.org.

Putting the Life of Her Unborn Baby First, Mother Dies After Giving Birth - Daily Signal

Putting the Life of Her Unborn Baby First, Mother Dies After Giving Birth

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser / Glenn Foden / Kathryn Watson / Kelsey Harkness /

In a selfless act, a mother from Aurora, Colo., made a decision during childbirth that put the life of her unborn baby son before her own. That decision ultimately ended her life while saving her seven-pound, four-ounce “miracle.”

“How do I explain to him that his mom is gone giving birth to him?” the woman’s husband, Wes Bugal, asked in an interview with NBC 9 News in Aurora. “I think about that all the time. How do I explain when he asks where’s Mommy?”

Karisa Bugal died Nov. 4, hours after giving birth the day before to the couple’s second child, a son named Declan. She had developed a rare complication called amniotic fluid embolism, which causes protective fluids around a baby to escape into the mother’s body, resulting in a breakdown of her organs.

After medical staff informed Bugal of the danger the embolism posed, she had two options: undergo surgery that could save her life but endanger Declan, whose heart rate had begun to dip, or get a Caesarean section to save her unborn baby’s life but put her own at risk.

Bugal chose the second option, a decision that a few hours later resulted in her death.

Friends set up a fundraiser page to help Wes Bugal raise the couple’s two children. In just one day, the site surpassed its goal of $20,000.

Watch This Unemployed Army Veteran Get the Surprise of His Life - Daily Signal

Watch This Unemployed Army Veteran Get the Surprise of His Life

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser / Glenn Foden / Kathryn Watson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness /

After three years in the Army and deployment to Iraq, this soldier, like many others, struggled to pay the bills and find a job. So “Pranking It Forward,” a charity campaign that does “pranks for good,” teamed up with “Extra” host Mario Lopez and first lady Michelle Obama to bring him the surprise of his life.

The veteran, identified only as Jon, thought he was walking into just another job interview. What unfolded was a series of life-changing opportunities.

Skip to minute six for the emotional reveal.

>>> Commentary: America’s Veterans Deserve Better: 5 Priorities to Fix the VA

Storm-Smacked Governor Makes Sunny Forecast for State-Run Weather Service - Daily Signal

Storm-Smacked Governor Makes Sunny Forecast for State-Run Weather Service

Josh Siegel / Kelsey Harris / Thomas Tyler / Katie Tubb / Thomas Lee / Paul Chesser / Glenn Foden / Kathryn Watson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness /

It’s time New York had its own state-run weather service to predict severe storms such as the one that has battered Buffalo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says.

Cuomo called for a system of Empire State weather stations even as he issued an apology for accusing forecasters of not sufficiently warning of the impending snowstorm that would slam Buffalo.

Explaining the state government’s lack of preparedness for the historic storm that left 13 dead, the Democratic governor blamed the National Weather Service and its forecasters in a Saturday press conference in Alden, N.Y.:

On the first phase of the snowfall, no one had an idea that it was going to be that much snow that fast. Snow coming down at the rate of about five inches per hour; no one had an idea.

Problem is, the federally funded weather forecasters in Buffalo had begun issuing warnings of the severe snowstorm as early as Sunday, Nov. 16, two days before it hit.

Meteorologists are not happy that Cuomo blamed them for the Buffalo snow disaster: http://t.co/WqepYAQrTw pic.twitter.com/MGDLGe5RTp

— Daily Intelligencer (@intelligencer) November 24, 2014

By Nov. 17, meteorologists were predicting what they called an “historic” lake-effect snow event, with snowfall at rates of three to five inches per hour.

The Weather Channel’s Sam Champion addressed the governor’s comments on his “AMHQ” show by compiling the National Weather Service’s advisories into a segment.

Monday, following a backlash from meteorologists, Cuomo apologized.

“To the extent any forecaster felt that they were criticized, that was not the intention,” Cuomo told reporters in Cheektowaga, N.Y., adding:

It’s not that the National Weather Service failed us. It’s that the NWS has a certain number of weather stations and they get that information from those weather stations, and they perform the best they can with the information that they have.

Cuomo used the crisis to pitch a multimillion-dollar, state-run weather service network, which he first announced in January.

“If you want to have a more accurate prediction of weather, you need more weather stations. You need more centers that are detecting changes in weather and communicating it,” he said.

The project, headed by SUNY Albany and the state Homeland Security Office, is estimated to cost more than $23 million.

Cuomo predicted a state-run service would be “the most sophisticated weather detection system, where we have hundreds of weather-detection stations all in one state.”