This Spunky College Intern Is the Face of the New Republican Ground Game

Josh Siegel /

RALEIGH, N.C. – An app on his cracked iPhone has directed the new face of the Republican ground game to Currituck Street.

Rhett Johnson parks his SUV stuffed with Chick-fil-A wrappers alongside a curb.

His neon-orange running shoes touch ground.

“I can’t do phone calls,” says Johnson, a 21-year-old political science student at North Carolina State University and former trombone scholar. “I’m a happy-go-lucky guy. I’d rather be boots on the ground.”

“I’d rather be boots on the ground,” says @RhettLeeJohnson.

Before he knocks on the first door, Johnson checks his fluffy hair in the car window.

He brushes curly brown strands into and out of place, but this is as good as it’s going to get.

“I haven’t had time to get a haircut since I started doing this,” Johnson says.

Clutching only a clipboard, fliers for Senate candidate Thom Tillis and his phone, Johnson jogs up a hill to the first house, his white quads exposed because he wears short shorts.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he says, noting he has gained six pounds of leg muscle since May, when he started out as a volunteer for the North Carolina Republican Party.

“I’ll jog house to house.”

To stay fit, Johnson jogs from house-to-house when he political administers surveys.

To stay fit, Rhett Johnson jogs from house to house while surveying voters. (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

Because his phone app told him so, Johnson already knows that the owners of these houses are registered Republican.

Based on their voting history, logged in a database on the phone, Johnson knows the homeowners are low-propensity voters who generally vote in presidential elections but not midterms like the one coming up.

Johnson wants these homeowners to vote Nov. 4 for Tillis, the Republican challenger in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.

If Tillis unseats Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, credit can go in part to Johnson, the high-socked, high-energy face of the GOP’s newly tech-driven ground game — an art long dominated by Democrats.

“Seeing this liberal wave has emboldened our base,” Johnson says.

Emulating the Obama Strategy

Republicans in North Carolina and across the country are copying the all-in, efficient ground game that famously helped President Obama win two elections.

Johnson, elevated to a paid intern, works out of state party headquarters in Raleigh.

The get-out-the-vote effort in Raleigh is a result of Victory 365, a project launched after Republicans lost the presidential race in 2012.

For his shift on this Saturday, Johnson wears a grey and red T-shirt with the Victory 365 logo.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, initiated the voter outreach strategy as a way to target elusive groups such as women, young people and Hispanics.

>>> On the Campaign Trail: ‘Ground Zero’ in North Carolina and the GOP Chase for College Kids

Preibus, campaigning Saturday with Tillis at state party headquarters — the GOP calls it “victory center” — concedes past failures during his speech.

“This is a total revamp of our national party,” Priebus says. “It can’t be where we are a U-Haul trailer of cash for the presidential nominee. We know this will be won right here at the victory center.”

“This is a total revamp of our national party,” says @Reince.

Preibus proceeds to name-drop Rhett Johnson for reaching the homes of more than 10,000 potential voters in recent months, the most of the volunteers, interns and staffers working at party headquarters.

Johnson has knocked on more than 10,000 doors in an effort to get Thom Tillis elected. Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal

Johnson has knocked on more than 10,000 doors in an effort to get Thom Tillis elected. (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

Mindy Moorman, the state party’s Greensboro regional field director, says that until this election cycle, workers doing voter outreach would write survey data by hand in paper “walk books.”

“It took a lot of time and a lot of data to get that back to our data collector,” Moorman says.

The new phone app, Advantage Mobile, feeds back information from the field to a database managed by county and state party officials at the office.

“We have to do the same as the Democrats; otherwise, what are we doing?” says Moorman, smiling Saturday as 25 of her volunteers at Guilford County Republican Party headquarters take to the streets.

An Afternoon of Knocking

“I really don’t want to share,” the grumpy old man declares, preferring to keep his voting plans to himself.

But Johnson’s pitch is relentlessly upbeat. He often stands on tiptoe as he waits for responses to his questions, as if staying tall will project hope.

Johnson often deals in denial, though. Out of about two dozen homes he visits on this Saturday, only three residents answer his questions.

It feels like a bad trick-or-treat outing. Most people don’t come to the door.

Knocking on doors takes a lot of patience, because most don't answer. Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal

Knocking on doors takes patience, because most residents don’t answer. (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

Sweating under a cloudless sky, Johnson doesn’t mind.

“We’ve all been there,” he says, explaining:

You’re busy in the morning. You don’t want to take a survey. I totally understand. You just gotta move on. People are living their lives. I’m just trying to do what I can for the Republican party. That’s all you can ask for. I’m lucky to spend my days outdoors.

“You just gotta move on” if people won’t take a survey, says @RhettLeeJohnson.

For those who do answer, the questions are straightforward.

First, Johnson asks who the person would vote for if the election were that day.

He plugs the reply into his phone.

If the answer is Tillis, Johnson asks when the person will vote. He wants supporters to vote early.

If they plan to do so, the state GOP will mail the voter a reminder.

The last question: “If the election for Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate in your district or the Republican candidate in your district?”

This day, Johnson already knows the answers to his questions because he is targeting “hard Republicans,” a sought-after demographic captured by the data on his phone.

But normally, he will knock on the doors of people with varied political identities, such as “soft Democrats” or independents.

One respondent bucks the norm.  She answers the door. In pajama pants.

“I’m in the middle of my cereal; it’s going to get yucky,” the woman says, hesitating, before revealing she is undecided about who to elect.

The next respondent better fits the target profile.

Asked who he would vote for, an older man stands on his front porch and replies, “You gotta be kidding me.”

Why vote Tillis?

“Two words: Harry Reid,” the man says.

On this day, Johnson targets "hard Republicans," like this man, who says he will vote for Tillis. Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal

On this day, Johnson targets “hard Republicans” such as this man. (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

‘Sad It’s Going to End’

After driving 3,500 miles to canvass homes, devoting 25 hours a week to his duties, Johnson isn’t ready for the semester of his life to end.

“There are two weeks left,” Johnson says. “I’m sad it’s going to end.”

His shoes have aged.

He’s been chased by a dog.

But the people keep him coming back.

Mailmen know his name.

One time, on a hot day, a black couple invited him into their home, Johnson recalls.

They made him bacon and eggs.

The survey said they were Democrats.

“I love talking to everyone,” Johnson says. “I’ve exchanged business cards. I’m not selling anything. I’m just getting your civic opinion.”

>>> Make Conservatism Cooler, College Students Advise GOP Candidates

When the knocking ends, and the election passes, Johnson’s engagement with the Republican Party will remain.

It will have to.

For all the data he collects about other voters, Johnson is the voter Republicans can’t afford to lose.

Like the phone app he carries, Johnson is the present — and the future.

Johnson, energetic and open-minded, is the type of voter Republicans must reach. Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal

Rhett Johnson is also the type of voter Republicans must reach. (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

The son of a Texas Republican father and a Massachusetts Democrat mother, he has an evolving political philosophy.

His hometown, in north Raleigh, is changing too. Once mostly farmland, it has become one of the “hottest areas for construction,” Johnson says.

At 21, Johnson — like the college-aged interns he works with — thinks often about the GOP’s direction.

“We can be just as passionate as the next guy,” Johnson says.

“But we have to be open-minded. We want a sound economy. We are concerned about our college and our homes. We’re all just young guys starting our lives. It’s really exciting.”

Government Spends $1 Million to Study ‘Subversive Propaganda’ Online - Daily Signal

Government Spends $1 Million to Study ‘Subversive Propaganda’ Online

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez /

Should the same federal government that improperly denied conservatives tax-exempt status and sought to investigate newsrooms now be tracking the Twitter hashtag #teaparty? Should it be the arbiter of what constitutes “misinformation” online or attempt to reduce “subversive propaganda”?

Well, the bureaucracy thinks the answer to all those questions should be yes–and it has already sunk $1 million in the effort.

This latest attempt by the federal bureaucracy to limit free speech comes courtesy of a powerful independent agency. Though not a household name, the National Science Foundation is a major source of funding for university researchers, accounting for about a quarter of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

The research project seeks to “to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” in social media.

In fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, the NSF is the major source of direct federal funding. Congress just raised its budget to $7.4 billion, with which it grants about 11,000 awards a year “to fund specific research proposals that have been judged the most promising by a rigorous and objective merit-review system,” according to the NSF’s own website.

We will let you be the judge, however, of whether Grant No. CCF-1101743, “Meme Diffusion Through Mass Social Media,” meets these high standards.

Nicknamed Truthy—tellingly, that’s a term borrowed from the liberal comedian Stephen Colbert—the research project seeks to “to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” in social media. According to the NSF, “this service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

Truthy also aims to track which Twitter accounts are using the #teaparty and #drudgereport hashtags, although also liberal ones such as #p2. Interestingly, the Truthy pages on tracking Drudge and #teaparty went dead within 48 hours of Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai blowing the whistle on the NSF study in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post this past Saturday.

Worse yet, the NSF has handed the money to a team of Indiana University researchers who already claimed in a 2012 paper that conservatives enjoy a “a basic structural advantage with respect to the challenge of efficiently spreading political information on the Twitter platform” and that there is a “highly-active, densely-interconnected constituency of right leaning users using this important social media platform to further their political views.”

Truthy also aims to track which Twitter accounts are using the #teaparty and #drudgereport hashtags, although also liberal ones such as #p2.

How might conservatives use this advantage? The Truthy researchers leave little doubt when they maintain that this supposed conservative advantage on Twitter is “especially important in the context of the complex contagion hypothesis, which posits that repeated exposures to controversial behaviors are essential to the adoption of these behaviors.” In other words, the more people are exposed to conservatives on Twitter, the more likely they adopt conservative views themselves, which the authors view as “controversial”.

Such observations become chilling when the NSF points out that the Truthy project, for which it has already awarded $919,917 in grants, could help “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

All this was too much for Pai, who wrote in the Washington Post:

Truthy’s entire premise is false. In the United States, the government has no business entering the marketplace of ideas to establish an arbiter of what is false, misleading or a political smear. Nor should the government be involved in any effort to squint for and squelch what is deemed to be ‘subversive propaganda.’ Instead, the merits of a viewpoint should be determined by the public through robust debate.

Given how much money the NSF throws around, it is hardly surprising that many people have come to its defense since Pai’s op-ed was published, insisting that Truthy is anything but scary. This latest controversy, however, will do nothing to enhance the NFS’s reputation with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which has accused the agency of wasting taxpayers’ money on frivolous research and is demanding that the NFS justify each award.

Alas, this NSF study is not the first time that the federal bureaucracy appears to target conservatives and stifle their views. In the IRS scandal, Internal Revenue Service officials have admitted that groups with conservative leanings, especially with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, were targeted for special scrutiny and that their applications for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)4 of the Internal Revenue Code were delayed on purpose.

And after a public outcry, the FCC itself also had to back off from an attempt to ask news media organizations intrusive questions about how they gathered news and how they reached their editorial decisions. Pai was, once again, also the whistle blower in that decision.

As it was with the IRS and FCC scandals, the American people need to be vocal in their condemnation of this challenge to our freedoms and Congress must intervene.

But because this has now become a disturbing pattern, we need to start thinking of this problem holistically. Rather than playing Whack-A-Mole every time a bureaucrat tries to stifle debate, the Heritage Foundation today is calling on Congress to look into whether the civil service has now become a political player that is abusing its authority and power.

We understand why bureaucrats who draw a government salary may be supporters of Big Government, but that doesn’t give them a right to harass conservatives or violate the First Amendment.

3 Schoolgirls’ Attraction to ISIS Reveals 24/7 Security Concern - Daily Signal

3 Schoolgirls’ Attraction to ISIS Reveals 24/7 Security Concern

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel /

News that three teen-age schoolgirls from the Denver area skipped class and headed off to join the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria isn’t as surprising as it first appears, a national security expert says.

“This is something law enforcement officials are going to have to be on 24/7,” James Carafano, vice president of foreign and defense policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.  “It’s going to require robust international cooperation and the appropriate, prudent use of domestic law enforcement as well.”

In this case, German authorities arrested the girls–ages 15, 16 and 17–at Frankfurt airport and put them on a plane back to the United States. The trio, who apparently hoped to fly from Germany to Turkey and then make their way to Syria, were questioned by the FBI and released.

CNN reported that the three teens had researched the plan online before departing Friday, visiting websites where radical jihadists such as the Islamic State, or ISIS, discuss how to get to Syria.

Two of the girls are sisters, Americans of Somali descent, according to CNN. They stole $2,000 from their parents, who didn’t know of the plans. The third girl, an American of Sudanese descent, also kept her parents in the dark.

The girls’ families connected after realizing their daughters’ passports were missing. The two families called the FBI, and the agency flagged their passports.

The online activity had not caught the attention of the FBI, CNN reported.

“Islamists have been recruiting in the U.S. for years,” Carafano said today.

The Somali community has long been a target for recruiting by the al-Shabaab terrorist group.  U.S. citizens have been recruited to conduct suicide terrorist attacks in Somalia and Syria.

>>> Commentary: What ISIS Is Trying to Achieve With Slick Videos

James Phillips, an expert on the Middle East at The Heritage Foundation, said ISIS especially has become practiced at using propaganda to entice foreigners.

“ISIS has launched a global propaganda campaign that makes extensive use of slick, web-based videos that hold particular appeal for impressionable young Muslims,” Phillips told The Daily Signal.  He added:

ISIS seeks recruits by offering them the illusion that they can become heroic holy warriors, doing God’s work by creating heaven on earth. But ISIS instead has created a hell on earth in Syria and Iraq.

6 Outrageous Times VA Employees Did Wrong and Still Got Paid by You - Daily Signal

6 Outrageous Times VA Employees Did Wrong and Still Got Paid by You

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn /

The Department of Veterans Affairs remains embroiled in a scandal that resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans assigned to its medical facilities. Now, a report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., outlines the actions of numerous VA employees who were suspended for various offenses but continued to get a salary from taxpayers.

Coburn today released his annual Wastebook, which highlights “frivolous” projects backed by taxpayer dollars.

This year’s edition notes that taxpayers shelled out $19 million in compensation for government employees placed on administrative leave for a variety of transgressions.

When on administrative leave, Coburn writes, these federal workers are “essentially relieved of their duties including having to report to work or do work” but receive pay and benefits such as health insurance, life insurance and retirement.

The Oklahoma Republican points to 12 specific instances in which government workers were found to have engaged in “unacceptable and sometimes criminal conduct” yet continue to receive paychecks.

>>> Five Factors from the New CBO Report on Veterans’ Healthcare

Half of the examples involve VA employees:

1. Executives at VA clinics nationwide were found to have manipulated wait times for patients to secure bonuses.

Officials attempted to cover up months-long wait times encountered by many veterans before seeing doctors at the VA. More than 40 veterans at one clinic died during such manipulation.

Three officials at a VA clinic in Phoenix–including the director and associate director–were put on paid administrative leave in May as a result of the scandal. The director makes $170,000 a year.

2. A VA drug addiction treatment specialist brought a patient to a crack house and helped him pick up a prostitute.

An employee of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System in Montgomery, Ala., helped the patient, who was being treated for addiction, obtain illegal drugs and solicit a prostitute.

Besides exposing the veteran to a “dangerous environment” in March 2013, an investigation found the worker guilty of “patient abuse, misuse of government vehicles, filing false overtime requests and multiple ethics violations.”

>>> VA Spent Millions on Solar Panels as Veterans Awaited Care

3. Top VA officials in Alabama falsified appointment records.

The director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System oversaw a clinic that was rife with corruption, including falsifying appointment records and neglecting to read “hundreds of X-rays.”

Director James Talton and the  clinic’s chief of staff were put on paid administrative leave in August. Talton said employees who falsified records were fired, but actually they were “relieved of their duties” and continue to collect a government salary.

4. A “rehab specialist” for VA was indicted for homicide after a fatal car crash while driving drunk.

Also at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Center System, a vocational rehabilitation specialist in the mental health department caused a fatal car crash last year while driving drunk.

A grand jury indicted the worker in September for homicide by motor vehicle when a passenger died. The employee was off duty at the time, but his job requires him to operate a government vehicle. His case was sent to human resources, but as of last month he continued to work at the center.

5. A VA employee was charged with sexual assault.

An employee of the VA Southeast Network who worked in Tuskegee, Ala., was placed on administrative leave after he was charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a female patient in an incident in which he fondled the veteran’s breast.

His attorney delayed a preliminary hearing twice, but it was held in August. He will face charges only if indicted by a grand jury that meets next year, the Wastebook says.

>>> Veterans Warily Welcome Action in Congress to Cure VA’s Ills

6. A VA employee sent lewd messages from government computers, misused a government credit card, and unnecessarily traveled up and down the East Coast.

A February report details the “out of control” behavior of  a VA worker in Nashville who was put on paid leave in March. He resigned in July.

He was found to have sent sexually explicit messages to friends using VA computers, taken 34 trips to Washington, D.C., as well as Florida and New Jersey, and “worked at his own time and pace.” His travel cost taxpayers $109,000.

He also used a “government travel charge card” to:

From Africa to the US: Ebola in One Timeline - Daily Signal

From Africa to the US: Ebola in One Timeline

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann /

President Obama calls the Ebola virus a “serious disease.” The World Health Organization classifies the outbreak an “international health emergency.” Below are the facts, tracking the spread of the West African epidemic to the United States.

>>> Use the arrows to advance or jump to an event using the scrollbar at the bottom.

Attack in Ottawa: Facts Remain Scarce But Reality of Security Threat Remains - Daily Signal

Attack in Ottawa: Facts Remain Scarce But Reality of Security Threat Remains

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann / David Inserra /

Gunshots rang out at multiple locations across Ottawa this morning, including at the War Memorial and in the Parliament buildings. Much is unknown at the moment and the operation is ongoing.

As of right now, police are reporting that one Canadian soldier, who was guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier at the War Memorial, has died. He was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Other minor injuries also were reported.

One male suspect was confirmed dead, killed in a shootout inside the halls of Parliament. Police were searching for additional shooters. Much of Ottawa remained locked down and military bases and other public facilities across Canada were being closed to the public.

>>> Update: The suspected gunman has been identified by Canadian authorities  as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, a recent convert to Islam who had a history of drug abuse, U.S. officials told CNN. <<<

It remains unclear what the motive of this attack is. In recent days, an individual with known radical Islamist sympathies killed one military member in a hit and run attack in Quebec and injured another before being killed by police officers.

Additionally, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said that the security threat level in Canada had been raised in the days prior to these events based on “an increase in general chatter from radial Islamist organizations like ISIS, Al Qaida, Al Shabaab and other who pose a clear threat to Canadians.” That said, there is no concrete evidence at the time of this writing that links this shooting in Ottawa to any Islamist terrorism.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the soldier who has been killed as well as all who have been affected by this attack, including law enforcement officers who continue to remain on the lookout for other potential shooters.

While it is too early to know much definitively about this attack, it is important to keep in mind that the U.S. and Canada face similar threats, based on our shared geography, close alliance and cooperation on security and foreign policy issues and open societies. A threat within Canada could easily be a threat to the U.S. and vice versa.

Moving forward, the U.S. and Canada must continue to build their security and intelligence cooperation. The U.S. and Canada conducted a broad border threat assessment in 2010 and as part of the Beyond the Border program starting in 2011, Canada and the U.S. agreed to work on broader “joint intelligence assessments and strengthened analytic collaboration to enhance our shared understanding of the threats our countries face.”

It isn’t clear how far these assessments went but this incident in Ottawa should redouble both our nations’ efforts to share threat information and conduct comprehensive and regularly updated threat assessments.

Majority of Delawareans Support Education Savings Accounts - Daily Signal

Majority of Delawareans Support Education Savings Accounts

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann / David Inserra / Chris McNutt /

A majority of Delawareans support education savings accounts (ESAs), according to a new study released by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

The study used a randomly selected sample of Delaware voters to measure public opinion on a variety of education-related issues, including the direction of K–12 education, education spending, school choice options, and standardized testing.

It found 50 percent of Delaware voters think that K–12 education is on the “wrong track,” while only 35 percent believe it is headed in the “right direction.” Most notable is the high support for education savings accounts.

According to the survey, “[N]early six out of 10 Delawareans (59 percent) said they support an ‘education savings account’ system.” The Friedman Foundation’s national Schooling in America Survey, released in June, yielded similar results, finding that 56 percent of Americans supported ESAs.

Arizona’s ESA Success

First signed into law in Arizona in 2011, ESAs enable parents to fully customize their child’s education with 90 percent of the state per-pupil funding that would have gone to their child in the public school. An ESA works like an education “debit card.” With this debit card, parents can tailor their child’s education to their child’s unique learning needs using a variety of preapproved services and providers, including private tutoring, textbooks, curricula, individual public school courses, online learning, and education therapies. Parents can even roll unused funds into a college savings account.

ESAs have been so successful in Arizona that the program has been expanded three times to include children with special needs, children from underperforming schools, children of active-duty military families, children in foster care, children of fallen soldiers, and incoming kindergarteners.

Florida

Florida became the second state to adopt ESAs in June, called Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) by the Sunshine State. Four months into operation, Florida’s PLSA program has more than 3,000 applicants and has distributed more than 1,000 scholarships.

Could Delaware Be Next?

In June, lawmakers in Delaware proposed an ESA option, the “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act.” Allowable uses of the funds would include private school tuition and fees, textbooks, private tutors, curricula, online learning tuition, Advanced Placement exams, and special needs services and therapies.

“I think parents need to know that there is a way for them to have more control over their child’s education, and right now they don’t have that option,” stated House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, a sponsor of the proposal.

Delawareans are already looking for alternatives within the public system. According to the Foundation for Excellence in Education senior fellow Matthew Ladner, Delaware’s charter school sector is in demand. “Delaware charter schools have been heading towards a 10 percent [share] of the market as well, and many Delaware charter schools have waiting lists,” writes Ladner.

Friedman’s study suggests that Delawareans—like most Americans— are not happy with the current direction of the K–12 system. They are looking for new options.

A Different Vision

With public education becoming increasingly homogenized—now through efforts to centralize education content by Common Core education standards—school choice represents a different vision of K–12 education. ESAs are the next generation of school choice, creating customizable, student-centered education options for children in Delaware and in any other state that wants to be at the forefront of school choice 2.0.

The Good News About Ebola - Daily Signal

The Good News About Ebola

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann / David Inserra / Chris McNutt / Alden Abbott /

As public health officials here and abroad take steps to cope with the Ebola virus disease outbreak, there are a few pieces of good news that merit highlighting.

Nigeria declared Ebola-free. The World Health Organization declares an Ebola disease outbreak has ended within a country once 42 days have passed since the last day any person in that nation had contact with a confirmed or probable Ebola victim.

On Monday, Nigeria reached that mark, and the WHO now considers it free from Ebola transmission. (Of course, future events will determine whether it remains Ebola-free.) In announcing Nigeria’s Ebola-free status, the WHO commended the Nigerian government’s rapid establishment of an Ebola emergency operations center after the first Nigerian Ebola case was confirmed in July 2014.

According to Reuters, on July 20, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian diplomat and a U.S. citizen, collapsed at the international airport in Lagos, Nigeria, the capital of Africa’s most populous country. Lagos alone has a population of more than 21 million. Sawyer was at first thought to have malaria and was taken to a Lagos hospital. Attending physicians quickly diagnosed him as having Ebola and prevented him from leaving, despite his demands to be set free, thereby preventing a possible serious outbreak. (Sawyer did infect several hospital workers before dying.)

The hospital promptly notified Nigerian government officials, who set up an isolation unit and called for international assistance. The WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and UNICEF provided the government with expertise for outbreak investigation, risk assessment, clinical care and contact tracing.

The Nigerian government used an existing health surveillance system for polio to trace Sawyer’s contacts and employed mobile technology in partnership with the private sector to update contact lists. Similar to the Country’s polio tracing program public health officials made more than 18,000 house visits in connection to the 900 individuals deemed high-risk contacts. The Ebola operations manager in Nigeria for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said this contact tracing system was key to preventing the disease from spreading into communities where it would have been harder to control. Senegal, another West African country was also declared Ebola-free on Oct. 17. Senegal shares a 330 km border with the country Guinea, one of the most Ebola-affected countries in the region.

Spanish Nurse’s Aid Free of Ebola. On Tuesday, Spanish physicians treating Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nurse’s aide who contracted Ebola after treating a virus-stricken patient in Madrid, determined she is free of the virus. Four separate tests found no indications of virus in her blood. Ramos, 44, was found to be infected after treating an Ebola-stricken missionary, who died in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital on Sept. 25. Ms. Romero was treated with an experimental drug and with blood plasma taken from people who had survived Ebola.

Work Proceeding Quickly on Ebola Treatments and Vaccines. On Tuesday, Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director for health systems and innovation, announced serum made from the blood of recovered Ebola patients could be available in Liberia within weeks. Dr. Kieny also indicated efforts have begun to get Ebola drugs and an Ebola vaccine ready for possible testing and use as early as January in the Ebola-stricken countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“There are partnerships which are starting to be put in place to have capacity in the three countries to safely extract plasma and make preparation that can be used for the treatment of infective patients,” Dr. Kieny said. “The partnership which is moving the quickest will be in Liberia where we hope that in the coming weeks there will be facilities set up to collect the blood, treat the blood and be able to process it for use.”

In addition, testing on one vaccine has begun at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and a trial for a second vaccine, initially developed in Canada, has started at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., according to the WHO.

In conclusion, the efforts of governments and international organizations to combat Ebola may be starting to bear fruit–as shown by the apparent success of contact tracing in preventing a substantial Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, and the ongoing initiatives to develop Ebola treatments and vaccines.

Top 7 Wackiest Examples of Wasteful Government Spending from Wastebook 2014 - Daily Signal

Top 7 Wackiest Examples of Wasteful Government Spending from Wastebook 2014

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann / David Inserra / Chris McNutt / Alden Abbott / Spencer Woody /

Rabbit massages, laughing classes, and watching the grass grow–these are just a few examples of where your tax dollars went this year.

During a time when many families have made financial sacrifices to make ends meet, the federal government continues to spend. Washington politicians continue to claim their levels of spending are necessary and that they have cut all of the nonessential spending they could find.

However, this could not be farther from the truth. Heritage budget expert Romina Boccia explains:

Special interest pressures and a lack of congressional oversight and interest in eliminating poorly functioning government programs are partly responsible for wasteful spending. A Government Waste Commission could help to break through the status quo to consolidate duplicative programs and eliminate inappropriate spending and waste to better prioritize federal dollars.

The following is our list of the top 7 examples of wasteful government spending from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s new “Wastebook 2014.”As our list shows, there are plenty of places to cut wasteful federal spending:

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1. The National Institute of Health’s Center for Alternative and Complimentary Medicine spent $387,000 to study the effects of Swedish massages on rabbits.

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2. The Department of Interior spent $10,000 to monitor the growth rate of saltmarsh grass. In other words, the government is paying people to watch grass grow. On the bright side, they have not started paying people to watch paint dry.

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3. The National Science Foundation has granted more than $200,000 to a research project that is trying to determine how and why Wikipedia is sexist. Wikipedia’s War on Woman?

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4. The National Institute of Health funded a study to see if mothers love dogs as much as they love kids. Regardless of the results, this experiment cost taxpayers $371,026.

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5. The federal government has granted $804,254 for the development of a smartphone game called “Kiddio: Food Fight.” The game is intended to teach parents how to convince their children to try and eat new healthier food choices.

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6. The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided $47,000 for undergraduate classes that teach students about laughing and humor.

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7.  The National Science Foundation spent $856,000 to teach mountain lions how to walk on treadmills as part of a research project whose aim was to better understand mountain lions’ instincts.

While some of these waste examples seem like a drop in the bucket, cutting wasteful spending is important to build momentum to tackle even more difficult and pressing issues, like entitlement spending.

Moreover, the national debt is currently $17.9 trillion–and growing. Waste reform is just one of many steps needed in order to bring down the national debt, and ensure a prosperous future for the next generation.

Liberals Most Likely to Defriend You on Facebook — and in Real Life - Daily Signal

Liberals Most Likely to Defriend You on Facebook — and in Real Life

Josh Siegel / Mike Gonzalez / Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Philip Wegmann / David Inserra / Chris McNutt / Alden Abbott / Spencer Woody / Kelsey Harkness /

If you’ve sensed over the years that your liberal friends are “unfriending” you on Facebook, you might be right.

A new Pew Research study concludes that “consistent liberals” are the most likely ideological group in America to block or defriend someone else because they disagree with that person’s politics.

“Roughly four-in-10 consistent liberals on Facebook have blocked or defriended someone because they disagreed with something that person posted about politics,”  write the authors of the study, titled “Political Polarization and Media Habits.”

Infographic by Pew Research Center

Infographic by Pew Research Center

“This compares with 31 percent of consistent conservatives and just 26 percent of all Facebook users who have done the same,” they add.

The analysis, released yesterday, is part of Pew’s yearlong effort to explain political polarization in America.

The study also finds that liberals are the most likely ideological group to end a personal friendship because of politics.

“Roughly a quarter (24 percent) have done so, compared with 16 percent of consistent conservatives and around 10 percent of those with more mixed political views,”   authors Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Jocelyn Kiley and Katerina Eva Matsa write.

Despite the differences, there is some common ground. Both consistent liberals and consistent conservatives—which Pew says accounts for about 20 percent of the American public—are more likely to closely follow government and political news.

“[They] are more likely to drive political discussion—that is—others turn to them, they lead rather than listen, and they talk about politics more overall,” the study concludes.

Where liberals and conservatives get their news is diverse, although notably 47 percent of conservatives cite Fox News Channel as their main news source for government and politics. Liberals are more splintered, citing a variety of outlets including National Public Radio and the New York Times.

Today, the authors say, “it is virtually impossible to live in an ideological bubble [and] … many consistent conservatives and liberals hear dissenting political views in their everyday lives.”

So, if you fall into one of those “consistent” categories, defriending someone might not stop you from hearing the other side.  It might, however, satisfy something else.

The study, “Political Polarization and Media Habits,” is based on an online survey conducted earlier this year with 2,901 participants recruited in a telephone survey of 10,013 adults. For more findings, see the infographic and read the complete analysis here.