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National Govt & Politics
Pulling back the curtain on Jamie Dupree 2.0
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Pulling back the curtain on Jamie Dupree 2.0

Pulling back the curtain on Jamie Dupree 2.0
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Pulling back the curtain on Jamie Dupree 2.0

Monday marks the start of a new effort to get my voice back on the radio for the first time in two years, by using a high tech solution, a computer generated voice, drawn from recordings of my old stories, as medical efforts to bring my voice back - to anything close to normal - have not been successful.

It was April 2016 when my voice began to falter, after I got sick on a family vacation; since then, my doctors have determined that I have a rare neurological disorder, in which the signals from the brain are getting mixed up somehow, causing my tongue to push out of my mouth when I speak - it's known as 'tongue protrusion dystonia.'

As it became obvious in the last year that my voice was not coming back, we searched for answers, and finally, high tech guru Mike Lupo at our Cox Media Group corporate headquarters contacted a company in Scotland, CereProc, which agreed to try to build what amounts to a Jamie Dupree voice app.

How does it work? How do I produce stories with it? Why is it even needed? Let's take a look.

1. Let's start with an explanation of what's wrong. Over the past two years, there have been no answers in the search for my voice. What I have is a neurological disorder, for which there really aren't specific treatments, known as tongue protrusion dystonia. When I try to talk, my tongue pops out of my mouth, my throat clenches, and it results in a strangled, unintelligible voice. I've been to Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, George Washington, the Cleveland Clinic, Emory University. The Mayo Clinic wouldn't take my case. Many doctors have frankly admitted my problems were above their expertise. At Easter of 2017, the head of the voice center at the Cleveland Clinic correctly diagnosed my problems, but had no names to offer me in terms of treatment. I have been seeing a doctor outside of D.C. who agreed to try to decipher my case, but we really haven't pushed any closer to a solution. In March, I saw Dr. Hyder Jinnah at the Emory University Brain Health Center in Atlanta - he gave me two Botox shots to my tongue in mid-May, to see if that would slow my tongue, and stop it from thrusting out of my mouth when I speak. It hasn't really helped, so we will try again in August, with a little more Botox. You can hear from my doctor in this report that was done by CNN's medical unit, thanks to producer Sandee LaMotte.

2. Building a voice from the Dupree archives. Since my voice isn't going to re-appear anytime soon, we started looking for high tech ways to get me back on the air. The first step was gathering years of recordings of my voice. I have shoe boxes filled with cassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, mini-discs, hard drives, and all sorts of different media storage devices from the first time I went on the radio in 1983, up through April of 2016 when my voice went out. But to build this voice, we focused on recordings from the last few years, which I had saved on our company computer system. Whether it was my reports from Capitol Hill, or from out on the campaign trail, I had hours and hours of material. But what the people at CereProc needed was audio that was only from me - so I spent several very late nights sorting through hundreds and hundreds of my stories to isolate those items which would help build a good voice. Going through all of that audio, it was like a trip down memory lane of what news stories that I had covered in the past few years, where I had been during my campaign coverage, what stories were big, and more. But that audio search was also a sobering personal reminder for me, that what was once normal - the mere act of speaking on the radio - was now impossible. Thus, the need for Jamie Dupree 2.0.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

3. CereProc then goes to work. Once I handed off hundreds of audio files to the folks at CereProc in Scotland, all I could do was wait to see what they were going to be able to produce. "The voice was harder to build as the audio data used to build the voice was not recorded for the purpose of building a text-to-speech voice," said Graham Leary, who was in charge of my voice development. "Normally we would record a phonetically-balanced script, optimized for coverage of the different sounds in English," he added. In other words - they would bring someone in to record 30 hours or more of material, to make sure they get all the right sounds. With me, they had to improvise, but Leary said it worked out okay. "The radio reports are high quality and a suitable alternative - they are studio-recorded, read in a measured, consistent style and don't have any interjections from other speakers, crowd noise, applause etc. that can make audio difficult to work with." Trust me, this is a complicated process.

4. Pairing the voice with a text-to-speech program. The folks at CereProc recommended downloading a freeware program called "Balabolka" to use with my Jamie Dupree 2.0 voice. While the name might be a tongue twister, the program is fairly straightforward. You load a specific voice to be used - in my case, the "CereVoice Jamiedupree - English (East Coast America)" voice. You type in some words. Then you hit the 'play' button. And it plays what you write. Hit another button, and it exports those written words into a computer generated audio file, either wav or mp3. Balabolka is a very powerful tool, and can probably do a lot more than I am using it for - but to see how it easy it was to hit Alt-W and generate an mp3 file with my new voice, it was really quite a surprise. So, when you hear me on the radio with this synthesized voice, it will just be me typing the words, and saving them into an audio file.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

5. How does the voice work? When I type words into the text-to-speech program, it doesn't go looking in an audio vault on my laptop for the exact words that I write, and then put those words together one-by-one. Instead, it searches out the sounds that would be made. So, this is not a question of having me on tape saying every word in the dictionary. Yes, it helps to have examples of me saying "President Trump" or "Congress." But I know there was no example in my stories of me saying "Rudy Giuliani," and yet, that popped out perfectly when I tried out the voice. How can that happen? CereProc uses "neural networks" to generate voices. "The neural networks, which contain between six to 10 layers each, work by slicing audio recordings of words down to phonetics," the BBC wrote in a technical story about my new computer generated voice. This allows the Jamie Dupree 2.0 voice - and other voices created by companies all over the world - to navigate through just about any piece of text.

6. Figuring out certain words and sounds. While I have great praise for CereProc, the Jamie Dupree 2.0 voice isn't perfect. One thing you run into immediately is that certain words and phrases don't sound right - either because they are not pronounced clearly enough, or they seem artificially shortened. So, I spend a lot of time going back and moving words around in my news copy to see if it will sound better. One other way to massage the voice is that there are also a series of XML commands which can be used to emphasize certain words, to change the pitch, or alter the speed. One thing I quickly noticed is that the voice cuts off a word rather sharply at the end of a sentence - I simply found a way to fix that by slowing down the speed of the last word (or syllable) by 1 or 2 notches, to make it sound more natural. But there are some words that just don't come out right, even if they are spelled correctly, so you have to be inventive. "Investigation" just doesn't come out right, no matter what I try. House Speaker Paul Ryan's last name didn't sound good at all - so I wrote "Rye Inn" instead - and that sounded just right. Let's take the word "denuclearize." It sounded awful when written that way - but I found a way to make it sound better, as shown in the graphic below, by making it D-nuclear-rise, and by slowing down the final syllable.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

7. What does Jamie Dupree 2.0 sound like? Listen to this extended 'interview' that I did with the BBC World Service. Some of the words and phrases sound natural and fairly normal - at other times, it gets a bit robotic. But to me, it's still pretty amazing. It is my voice in there. And to be on the BBC World Service was a treat - I got hooked on shortwave radio as a teenager, and loved listening to Alistair Cooke's 'Letter from America' each week. Will this voice solution work in the long run? That will be up to my bosses - and really, up to the listeners. If they can deal with the different sound - whether in a newscast, or a longer form appearance - then I will still be able to deliver the news from Capitol Hill. I fully expect to get a lot of people saying nice things, and I fully expect to get a lot of mean and nasty social media messages as well.

8. Comparing the old, the new, and 2.0 After two years of not having a voice that was ready for a trip to the grocery store - much less going on the radio - it is truly fantastic to have a way to get back on the radio. Yes, the voice is a bit robotic at times. But it is me. I can hear myself in these words. So, let's look at how I sounded before, what I sound like now, and what Jamie Dupree 2.0 is like.

This news report is from February 28, 2016, at a Trump rally in Alabama. It was a giant crowd, and was one of my favorite reports from the first three months of 2016, when I was chasing the candidates all over the country.

https://cmgwsbradiojamiedupree.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/trump-alabama2.mp3

What do I sound like now? I can get out words that sound okay, but not in any type of rapid fire way. If I am going to speak, it has to be very slow, and with a pen in my mouth to keep my tongue occupied (that is the source of my problem, a tongue which is not behaving properly, as it pops out of my mouth when I speak).

https://cmgwsbradiojamiedupree.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/jamie-dupree-now-voice.mp3

As you can tell from that audio, it is a struggle to say just about anything. So, we go to Jamie Dupree 2.0. It can say anything that I want (though four letter words don't come out very well, just in case you were wondering). But, all I really want is to find my real voice again. Version 1 was better. But Jamie Dupree 2.0 is here, and this is what it sounds like.

https://cmgwsbradiojamiedupree.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/dupree-immigration1.mp3

9. Thanks to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). I can't give any rundown on my voice without thanking Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. When she was elected after the death of Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL), one of my company's radio stations was in Miami, so I got to know her right away when she arrived in Congress in 1989. While Cox Media Group sold our news-talk station in Miami, I still kept in touch with Ros-Lehtinen in the hallways of the Capitol. She would hear me on the radio and happily chirp, "The most connected man in Washington!" When I told her of my voice problems late in 2017, she gave me a hug and said she would help. Her speech on the floor of the House in December drew attention to my problems, and spurred interest from news organizations. That's how CNN's medical unit got interested, and that's how I found my way to Dr. Jinnah at Emory. I can't thank Ros-Lehtinen, Speaker Ryan, and others for their help. It made a difference for me.

10. How do I feel about Jamie Dupree 2.0? Let's be honest. I want to be able to speak normally. Even just somewhat normally. A friend texted me to ask, was I nervous about the new voice? I guess, a little. But if there is one thing that I take from the last two years, it's that I never gave up. I kept working at my job. I kept searching for a medical answer. I'm still searching for that answer. The outlook was admittedly bleak at times, like in April 2017 when the doctor at the Cleveland Clinic told me that no one could even treat my neurological/voice disorder. Early on, I knew I couldn't give up. I have kids who are only 9, 11, and 14. "I think everyone saw how passionate and how badly/deeply you wanted this," my boss told me the other day. "He never let anyone see him sweat," said my friend and colleague Dorey Scheimer.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to come down to our company's headquarters in Atlanta - our CEO Alex Taylor wanted to see me. It turned out to be an event with several hundred people, where I was presented with the "Governor Cox Award," named after our company's founder, Taylor's great-grandfather, James M. Cox. Taylor told the audience that because of my voice problems, I could have given up, I could have gone on disability, I could have quit my job. But I didn't. His words meant a lot to me, and they have been echoed by many inside our company in recent weeks. I want to thank him, and many others for their support.

Finally, I want to thank all the listeners, viewers, readers, and fellow ham radio operators who have sent me expressions of support over the past two years. Your words of encouragement were a great source of strength.

I would also thank those of you who sent me nasty emails, and celebrated my voice troubles. I know you will be back to criticize my new voice.

But you know what? Those jabs make me work even harder to stay in the news arena.

And now, we go onward - with Jamie Dupree 2.0.

Read More
  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • The mayors of OKlahoma's two largest cities have announced they will expand and more closely enforce “stay at home” measures for the general public as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum enacted a 'Shelter in Place' order on Saturday for all age groups in the city to last from March 28 to April 16.  The 'Safer at Home' order mirrors the executive order made by Governor Stitt on Tuesday.   Mayor Bynum's order was announced hours after 7 more COVID-19 deaths were reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • It was a scary day on Friday for Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who sent a message on Twitter that his son Jim took a bad fall while playing with his brothers at the family's ranch and hit his head. “He was unconscious and his vitals were very weak.  They had to life-flight him to Tulsa,” Mullin said in a video clip that he posted to Twitter as he was on his way back to Tulsa from Washington D.C. Since he first got word about the accident from his wife, he says his son has improved and was due released soon, Mullin citing the need to free up beds at the hospital for the Covid-19 crisis. He also voiced his appreciation for the prayers that were sent to him by friends and supporters.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Washington Insider

  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
  • As Congress pushes ahead with a landmark economic stimulus plan to offset the negative impact of the Coronavirus, lawmakers not only put in provisions to funnel money to Americans and help businesses stay afloat, but also structured oversight for the billions in loans going to big businesses, and helped out a few specific players along the way. First, if you want to read through the text of the bill as approved by the Senate on Wednesday night, you can find the 880 page bill here. For those who want the short version, the table of contents for the bill gives you a good preview of what's to come. Now let's jump in and find a few interesting items in the bill. + 1. Restrictions aimed squarely at President Trump and his family. Section 4019 of the bill is titled, 'Conflicts of Interest,' and is intended to prohibit top government officials from benefiting in any way from the emergency aid being delivered in this bill. It lists the President, Vice President, member of Congress, top Executive Branch officials as people covered by this prohibition. But it goes further - adding, 'spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law' as well. One GOP Senator pointed out the 'son-in-law' provision. 'I wonder who that could be targeted towards,' said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in a mocking tone, referring to Jared Kushner, as Lankford said Democrats were wrong to pursue such provisions. 'A lot of this fight that we've had over the last three days is because they were demanding that there was no way the President, or any member of his family could get any benefit from this loan program at all,' Lankford said. Democrats won those provisions. + 2. Temporary tax break for makers of hand sanitizer. With various alcohol producers switching over some of their production in recent weeks to make hand sanitizer, this bill also provides a temporary exception to the excise tax on the alcohol used to make hand sanitizer products. To an outsider, it shouldn't be any big deal for a liquor producer to shift into production of hand sanitizer, but in reality - it can have pretty big tax implications in how the federal government deals with the process. For example, after a company makes over 100,000 gallons of alcohol, the tax goes from $2.70 per gallon to over $13 per gallon. This provision on page 212 would allow those hand sanitizer products to be made without being hit by those higher taxes. Here was the social media appeal from one company in Maryland. 3. Special oversight for economic recovery spending. As part of provisions providing public insight into what companies get what kind of aid from the federal government, this bill sets up a special Inspector General inside the Treasury Department dealing with the 'Pandemic Recovery.' The internal watchdog would be charged with 'audits and investigations of the making, purchase, management, and sale of loans, loan guarantees, and other investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under any program established by the Secretary under this Act.' There is also a new 'Congressional Oversight Commission,' with members appointed by various parts of the government, to oversee the operations of this economic recovery effort - all to guide against favoritism, and any questionable financial awards - much like there was with the Obama stimulus in 2009. 4. Postal Service gets special loan help. Just like after the anthrax attacks following Nine Eleven, the U.S. Postal Service finds itself in a crunch with the Coronavirus. Not only are some employees getting sick, but mail volume is going down - and that's leading to an even bleaker financial outlook. The Coronavirus rescue bill does not give a blank check to the Postal Service, but instead allows it to borrow up to $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury. Page 607 of the bill specifically says the money can only be used to pay for operating expenses - and not any outstanding debt of the Postal Service. The bill also orders the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of medical products related to the Coronavirus, and also gives the Postal Service the right to establish 'temporary delivery points' during the outbreak, in order to shield employees from the virus. 5. Miscellaneous Provisions. Any reporter who has gone through Congressional spending bills starts to get a little excited when you get to the section labeled 'Miscellaneous Provisions' - and this bill does not disappoint. Starting on page 609, there is a laundry list of extra money sent to various government agencies to deal with the Coronavirus. Some, like money for food safety won't raise any eyebrows. But others were quickly getting the thumbs down from some GOP lawmakers who actually read their way through the details of the bill. 6. There is no Congressional Pay Raise. Let me say it again. There is no pay raise for members of the House and Senate, no matter what you read on Twitter or Facebook. The troublemakers on Twitter didn't take long in spreading fake news about the details of this bill, accusing lawmakers of voting themselves a pay raise. Let me be very clear - that did *not* happen in this bill. There is no reference to the underlying federal code which governs the pay of lawmakers (section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 4501)).  Is there extra money for Congress in this bill? Yes, there is. The Senate gets $10 million, and the House gets $25 million. Where would that money go? It doesn't take too much imagination to come up with items like extra medical, safety, and security precautions for 435 members of the House. Expanded telework with laptops, servers, and more. Cleaning crews to deal with any outbreaks that might touch Congressional offices or the Capitol complex. And finally, even if lawmakers voted themselves a pay raise, they would not be allowed to get any extra money until the new Congress. That's not a law - that's in the Constitution.
  • The morning after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an unprecedented $2 trillion economic rescue package to confront the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that she was already thinking ahead to the next Congressional move to spur economic growth. 'We have to do more,' the Speaker said at a U.S. Capitol news conference, as she told reporters about a phone conversation with Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. 'The Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Powell said to me, interest rates are low, think big,'  'There's no question that more money will be needed,' Pelosi added, as she indicated there would be support to funnel more money directly to Americans. 'I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments,' the Speaker said. Pelosi said the House would vote Friday to approve the $2 trillion economic package, most likely by a voice vote. 'We will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers. If somebody has a different point of view they can put that in the record,' the Speaker said.