Jackie in the News

Dem plans bill to combat college sexual harassment

The Hill

By Cristina Marcos

January 12, 2016, 01:54 pm

A House Democrat says she will introduce legislation to keep track of university professors who sexually harass students.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) took to the House floor on Tuesday to express shock over a previously sealed University of Arizona report about an astrophysics professor who serially harassed his female students, saying it reflected a pattern of sexism in science fields.

Speier compared the report, which was completed in 2005 and kept confidential, to the Catholic Church trying to hide child abuse allegations against priests.

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“This example shows why so few women continue careers in science and engineering. Some universities protect predatory professors with slaps on the wrist and secrecy, just like the Catholic Church sheltered child-molesting priests for many decades,” Speier said.

Speier said she plans to file a bill that would require universities to inform new professors’ employers of the final results of disciplinary proceedings. Earlier this week, Speier sent a letter to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights calling for clarification on universities informing each other of disciplinary proceeding results about transferring students, faculty and staff.

Universities are allowed, but not required, to share information about students found to have violated rules through the disciplinary process who transfer to other institutions.

“However, no similar guidance exists for faculty or staff,” Speier wrote, calling the existing policy “vastly insufficient.”

Allegations in the University of Arizona report concerning a tenured professor include “stopping in his tracks” upon seeing a woman in a short skirt to “take in the scene,” as well as suggesting to a graduate student that she would “teach better” if she didn’t wear underwear. However, none of the witnesses interviewed for the internal report chose to formally file complaints, citing a fear of retribution.

The professor in question admitted to giving a female graduate student a cucumber-shaped vibrator at a party and described himself as a “flirtatious” person.

In concluding her floor speech, Speier invoked a “Star Wars” reference.

“Students enter astronomy to study the stars, not the professor’s sex life,” she said. “It’s time to stop pretending sexual harassment in science happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

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Robert Flick dies at 84; NBC news producer survived Jonestown attack

LA Times
By Jill Leovy

January 5, 2016

Robert Flick was a newsman who could have passed for a barroom bouncer.

And standing on the tarmac of an airfield in Port Kaituma, Guyana, on Nov. 18, 1978, moments after a massacre-style shooting by followers of cult leader Jim Jones, he appeared the image of toughness:

"I don't think he would have moved if a tank had come down that airstrip," recalled journalist Ron Javers, another survivor, describing the scene in his later book about Jonestown.

But the episode — an early chapter in what would prove to be one of the most horrifying news events in modern history — did not leave Flick feeling tough.

He lost two of his colleagues — NBC news correspondent Don Harris and cameraman Robert Brown — in the attack that also killed U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and two others. After surveying the wounded and helping those he could to safety — one called him a "guardian angel" — Flick hid in the jungle and was able to get a plane out the next day.

He made it to Puerto Rico, where he filed one of the earliest first-hand reports on the now notorious Jonestown episode. Then he went home to endure the aftermath.

At the time of his escape, there were only vague news reports suggesting that perhaps 200 of Jones' followers had committed suicide at his Guyana commune. Observers assumed that hundreds of others who were missing must have run away.

The chilling truth would emerge later: More than 900 Americans died in the mass murder-suicide of Jones followers.

Flick was deeply affected by the tragedy, and it changed the course of what had been a soaring career. Within a few years, he left NBC "Nightly News," where he had been West Coast producer and took a job that seemed a strange fit for a hard-news veteran.

He became coordinating producer of a new show, "Entertainment Tonight." Along with director Steve Hirsen, Flick played a founding role in a new kind of celebrity-tabloid journalism just gathering steam. "Both of us came out of hard news and went to the devil," Hirsen recalled.

Flick died Dec. 31 at a Pasadena hospital after injuring his head in a fall, said his wife, Shirley Flick. He was 84.

He was "a legendary character," among journalists, said Joe Saltzman, a USC professor and former colleague. "I'd been to USC and Columbia Journalism School, but I never learned as much there as I did from Bob Flick."

Robert White Flick was born Sept. 5, 1931, in Indianapolis to Lucile White and Corb Flick, a career Air Force man. He attended college but never graduated. He married Shirley in 1956.

In the late 1950s, Pete Noyes, a longtime local journalist, gave Flick his first reporting job with City News Service. "He impressed me as a guy who could come in and ask tough questions and wasn't intimidated by anyone," Noyes said.

Flick was quickly distinguished for brash wit. Noyes recalled learning while at dinner one night that his young hire had written an entire story in Shakespearean English and sent it out on the wire.

Noyes was furious. But shortly after, he said, the piece was read verbatim on a local news-radio station.

Flick went on to work at United Press International, the local NBC affiliate and then for the network. He specialized in tough assignments few others wanted. He was struck on the head covering riots in Watts and Berkeley in the 1960s. His wife said he covered the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and the seizure of a school bus full of children and a driver in Chowchilla in 1976. He traveled frequently.

Then in 1978, he joined a large group of journalists, officials and family members accompanying Ryan to Guyana to investigate reports that Jones' followers were being abused. The visit grew tense as Jones denied the allegations.

It became frightening as a number of Jonestown residents attempted to escape and return with Ryan to the United States.

As the group converged on the airfield on Nov. 18, 1978, people assumed to be Jones' followers attacked from a flatbed truck, shooting scores of rounds and killing some victims execution-style, witnesses said. Flick saw Ryan killed; his two colleagues kept filming. They and San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson were killed.

Flick later said he was standing by the nose of a plane when shots rang out and he ran, dived "and just rolled away." The wounded included a fourth NBC colleague and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), who was then an aide to Ryan.

"Bob was my guardian angel in the aftermath of the Jonestown shooting at the airstrip," Speier said Tuesday in an email forwarded from her office. "A number of times during the night he brought me a bottle of Guyanese rum to dull the pain. He didn't have to do that. He was a consummate journalist — curious, cynical, tough and driven."

Flick testified at the federal trial of one man charged in connection with the massacre and attended various memorials. But the experience left him disenchanted. Times writer Howard Rosenberg, who compared Flick to a bouncer, called him "an action man, a big commanding burly bear of a guy" but also detailed the toll Jonestown had taken on him. He wrote that Flick suffered depression and no longer wanted to cover far-flung stories of tragedy.

"He was so totally beaten, so devastated by what happened," Saltzman recalled. "This experience had just taken the heart and soul out of him."

Saltzman helped him get the job at "Entertainment Tonight" in 1981 where he remained until 1997. His sharp wit and news skills were a natural fit for the show, and "he enjoyed doing this very trivial kind of journalism. It didn't push him into these dark areas," Saltzman said.

Despite the light nature of the job, Hirsen said Flick remained "a true old-school journalist" who "told it like it is" and worried about upholding journalistic values. He was also an unfailingly kind and generous colleague behind a gruff demeanor, Hirsen said.

Besides his wife, Flick is survived by sons Robert Flick Jr. and Michael Flick of Montrose; daughter Shelley McMahon of Altadena; and two granddaughters. He was preceded in death by grandson Joe McMahon, who was shot and killed in Pasadena last year.




California members among congressional Democrats seeking to disband Planned Parenthood panel

LA Times
Sarah D. Wire

December1, 2015

House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, called on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) Tuesday to disband the select committee investigating Planned Parenthood.

The organization has been a focus of heated criticism by conservatives since the release last summer of several videos in which Planned Parenthood officials in California and Colorado appeared to discuss using tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research. The videos were filmed by anti-abortion activists posing as biotechnology workers.

Congressional Democrats contend that inflammatory rhetoric about the videos, including a comment by the chairwoman of the select committee, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), about the sale of "baby body parts," has contributed to a hostile atmosphere toward abortion providers.

Since the videos were made public in July, there has been a string of arsons at abortion clinics across the country, including one in Thousand Oaks. On Friday, a gunman killed three people in a rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Both California senators called for cooler rhetoric Monday, and Sen. Barbara Boxer asked Ryan to disband the committee.

House Democrats seconded that demand on Tuesday.

“The incendiary language and rhetoric being used associated with this committee is disgusting,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) told reporters. “It is time for us to take down this committee and take down the vitriolic comments being made by so many against what is a legally provided service.”

Speier and the five other Democrats serving on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives sent Ryan a letter saying the barbed rhetoric has endangered women and their access to healthcare.

Ryan’s office said there is no plan to dismantle the committee. In a news conference early in the day, the speaker talked about Friday's shootings and said the country needs to do more to address mental health issues.

"What happened is appalling and justice should be swift," he said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) dismissed the idea that rhetoric played a role in Friday’s shooting.

“The thing that drove him most was he was a very evil, crazy man. If you want to talk rhetoric, I see rhetoric from all different issues if they want to make that argument,” he said Monday.

McCarthy also told reporters the select committee was necessary to "get to the bottom" of the statements captured on the videos.

“You’ve got a bipartisan [committee], so you can get the truth out and everybody will have the ability to put their ideas in, but at the end you’ll be able to get the truth," McCarthy said.

The highest ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), said Democrats would continue to participate on the panel if it is not disbanded.

“We’re going to be in the room to protect American women, their access to healthcare, their right to abortion, their right to birth control and their right to choose the provider they want and to do it in safety,” she said.

Pelosi noted that during the moment of silence on the House floor for the shooting victims, Republican leaders didn’t acknowledge where the shooting had occurred.

“Why couldn’t they utter the words Planned Parenthood?” she said.

The videos show Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the amount the organization would be paid for removing and storing fetal tissue. The anti-abortion group that made the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, says they are evidence that the abortion provider sells human tissue, which is banned under federal law.

Planned Parenthood says it was reimbursed for the cost of storing and preparing fetal tissue for medical research, which is legal.

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Pentagon Memo: U.S. Weapons Open to Cyberattacks

Daily Beast
By Shane Harris
 
Dec. 16, 2015
 
The military can’t afford to pay top hackers to seal up its systems. That’s nothing but good news for those looking to penetrate America’s defenses.
The U.S. military’s computer networks and weapons systems are open to attack from hackers. But there aren’t enough skilled experts to help shore up defenses and prepare the military to fight a war in cyberspace, according to U.S. officials.
 
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers worry that the military is facing a dangerous shortfall in so-called “red team” operators, who specialize in simulating the kinds of attacks and techniques that an enemy would use. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of members of Congress called on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to intervene, noting that military networks, including those used by the Joint Staff, have come under increasing attack in recent months. Hackers in Russia who targeted the White House and State Department have also turned their sites on the Defense Department.
 
A big reason the Pentagon is so-short staffed: The people with the skills to work on red teams are being poached by companies, where they earn far more than they would ever get on a government salary.
 
 
In the past three years, several senior red team member have bolted for better paying jobs outside the military, and those left behind “are not keeping pace” with sophisticated adversaries getting better at overcoming U.S. defenses, according to an Pentagon memo obtained by The Daily Beast.
 
“This trend must be reversed if the DOD [Department of Defense] is to retain the ability to effectively assess DOD systems and train service members against realistic cyber threats,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for the department's operational test and evaluation office, told The Daily Beast.
 
One former U.S. intelligence officer, who was in charge of a red team trained to find vulnerabilities in military and intelligence agency networks, recently told The Daily Beast that he is earning more than $300,000 per year helping a U.S. bank improve its defenses from hackers. That’s more than triple his military salary, said the former officer, who asked that he and his company not be identified by name.
 
Right now, the Defense Department employs only about 50 red team operators to test military systems and weapons, or one-third of the total number of red team operators that it needs, according to the Pentagon memo. The flaws and weaknesses that those operators find help the military better understand where it’s vulnerable.
 
The year 2015 saw an “almost non-stop pace of events for all cyber teams,” Rankine-Galloway said, and that frenetic pace “limited the red teams' ability to study the adversary's cyber attack techniques.”
 
Lawmakers seem to have gotten the message. "As the number and severity of the cyberthreats against the United States continues to mount, realistic cybertesting must become a critical priority that cannot be accomplished without adequate and skilled personnel to do the testing," Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and 25 of her fellow lawmakers wrote to Carter, in a letter obtained by The Daily Beast. "We strongly urge you to adopt enhanced measures to attract, train, and retain such personnel."
 
“Such cyberattacks could result in significant damage to the weapons systems and information networks that we rely on for our national security,” the lawmakers said, calling on Carter to find “innovative” ways to hire and retain skilled employees, which could involve paying them more money or offering other incentives to stay in their jobs.
 
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Federal reps call for crab season help: Fishery stunted by hazardous toxin, lawmakers seek support for industry

San Mateo Daily Journal
By Samantha Weigel

November 25, 2015

As commercial crabbers across the state anxiously await word on whether a hazardous toxin could halt the industry that reels in $60 million annually, lawmakers are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to consider calling this year’s fishery a disaster and assist the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on a prosperous season.

As dozens of fishermen out of Pillar Point Harbor have already been shaken by several years of lousy salmon seasons at the hands of California’s long-standing drought, many were relying on commercial crab season that was supposed to have begun Nov. 15. But tests recently revealed some crabs were tainted with a potentially fatal neurotoxin linked to a large algae bloom exacerbated by warmer waters.

On Tuesday, U.S. representatives Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Monterey; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, penned a letter to Brown urging him to closely monitor the levels of domoic acid attributed to the bloom stretching along the West Coast.

If the crabs don’t flush out in time to allow fishermen to provide for a hungry holiday market, the representatives urge Brown to ask the U.S. commerce secretary to declare a fishery disaster and quickly mobilize federal and state resources, according to the letter.

“After being financially punished by a dismal salmon season this year, these same fishermen are now looking at no income from crab — traditionally 50 percent of their income — yet having to pay for their licenses and boat maintenance. If the season doesn’t open soon, these men and women deserve a financial lifeline. I urge the governor to start preparing for a disaster declaration now,” Speier said in a press release.

Commercial fisherman Jim Anderson, who works out of Pillar Point Harbor and sits on the state’s Dungeness Crab Task Force, said operations throughout the state are struggling. With drought-stricken streams and rivers providing little leeway for salmon to make the journey out to sea, Anderson said between 70 percent and 80 percent of his business now relies on the holiday crab catch.

“If we don’t go fishing or if people are afraid to eat the crab because of the toxicity, it could be extremely helpful to have them declare an [emergency,]” Anderson said. “We’ve been surviving on crab season for a number of years with the bad salmon season because there’s drought-related issues.”

Anderson said crews plan to head out this weekend to bring back Half Moon Bay crabs to test as legislators will meet Thursday and review the results of statewide tests for the acid — which accumulates in shellfish and can cause nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, short-term memory loss, seizures and even in some cases be fatal to humans, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

While no firm decisions have been solidified, Anderson said it seems unlikely the fishery will open unless the entire state tests clean. During last week’s tests, crabs pulled from Half Moon Bay and San Francisco showed safe levels of the toxin and only one crab from Monterey had unsafe levels, Anderson said.

Yet because the crustaceans move where they might, it would be difficult if not unsafe to only open portions of the state for crabbing. Furthermore, if only one district opened, then it’s likely fishermen from afar would voyage to and overharvest the region, Anderson said.

Another factor leading to numerous unanswered questions is the lack of data on how long it takes crabs from certain areas to naturally flush out the neurotoxin. Typically, crabs that eat snails or plants take longer to clean out the acid while ones that survive on anchovies flush out quicker, Anderson said.

Lawmakers note closing the entire fishery for the season would be nearly unprecedented and devastating to a critical California industry.

“The bloom is the largest and longest lasting in at least 15 years, and concentrations of domoic acid in seawater, some forage fish and crab samples have been among the highest ever reported for this region,” according to the letter.

Although Californians’ Thanksgiving celebrations may not feature crab this year, “we can at least provide assurance that federal disaster relief will be available to fishermen and affected communities and businesses if we lose the fishery,” Huffman, who represents fishermen in Marin County, including Bodega Bay, said in a press release. “We are keeping our fingers crossed for improved conditions next month, but in the meantime we will be working closely with our state and federal partners — from the governor’s office to the White House — so that we can respond quickly in the event of a total closure.”

Anderson said they’re trying to remain hopeful that crab will continue to flush out and that they get even a sliver of the holiday season. But ultimately, everyone wants to ensure the fishery is reopened properly and only after several weeks of clean tests.

“We truly don’t know right this minute. We’ll run the tests over the weekend and that pretty much will give us a scenario of what we’re looking at,” Anderson said. “But for the majority of the fleet, it’s just going to be a very tough year if we either don’t have a decent fishery or if it’s closed.”

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