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  • The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter. “The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.” At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity. “Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.” In my opening statement to @LegBranch_OOC Executive Director Susan Grundmann, I emphasize the need for Congress to remedy workplace harassment on Capitol Hill. How can we expect others to follow our example if we're not willing to acknowledge and address this problem? pic.twitter.com/AHKtaPHVy9 — Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) April 18, 2018 Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past. “No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added. Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days. So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber. “The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senate has no more excuses. We must pass these reforms before our next recess. Members of BOTH parties, men and women, agree that it’s time to act. https://t.co/vSr7sew5KN — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 19, 2018 Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping. “So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked. “That’s correct,” replied Grundmann. “That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said. The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers. “We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.” “Fort Knox doesn’t talk about their cyber security,” she added, offering to brief members in private about the issue
  • A Tennessee man who dressed as Spider-Man when washing windows at a Nashville hospital was sentenced to 105 years in prison Monday for producing and distributing child pornography, WKRN reported. >> Read more trending news Jarratt A. Turner, 36, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, U.S. State Attorney Don Cochran said. Turner befriended families and then offered to babysit their children, Cochran told WKRN. Turner was charged with 16 counts of production of child pornography and transportation of child pornography on June 1, 2015. He pleaded guilty to all counts, WKRN reported. “The sentence imposed by the court should ensure that this defendant will never have another opportunity to inflict his perverted sexual desires upon another innocent child,” Cochran told WKRN.  Cochran said pictures and video Turner produced in his apartment included a toddler girl and an infant boy. Other material depicted Turner molesting children between the ages of 12 months and 2½ years, the state attorney said. According to court records, Turner tried to access young children by dressing as Spider-Man while he washed windows at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, WKRN reported. In a statement to WKRN, the hospital said patient safety was the facility’s first priority, adding that Turner “was never an employee” but “a contracted service provider washing windows.” “Children of this community are a little safer with this sexual predator behind bars,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigation operations in Tennessee, told WKRN. “The fact he would film, and then upload to the internet, videos of himself molesting an infant and toddler, then take elaborate steps to conceal his activities, represents the extreme danger he posed to the community.” 
  • Broken Arrow police were called to a home near S. 129th E. Ave and Kenosha shortly after 6:30 Wednesday morning for a domestic dispute. A witness told police the suspect was seen 'tazing' an adult female and had pulled a knife on her.  Officers surrounded the house.  The woman was then allowed to leave. She told police that the suspect 'zapped' her with a stun-gun in the chest and struck her on the head with the blunt end of a large knife.  The suspect refused to leave the house and told officers they would have to come in to get him.  Police were eventually able to get the man outside and handcuff him. The suspect is identified as 37-year-old Travis Jay Bayless.  He has been charged with Kidnapping, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Obstruction of Justice, and Resisting Arrest.  
  • Palm Beach publishing heir Peter Pulitzer, scion of two prominent American families, died Saturday at home, surrounded by his children. He was 88 and had been in excellent health until recently. >> Read more trending news “We always thought he would be eaten by a shark or killed by a bear in the woods or fall out of a seaplane,” said his daughter, Liza Calhoun, of the sportsman and adventurer. “We were all together on Easter Sunday when he suddenly got very tired. A few days later, hospice was called in.” A college dropout who turned $500,000 in family money into a wide-ranging business fortune, Pulitzer was perhaps best-known for his acrimonious divorce from his second wife, Roxanne Pulitzer. Lilly Pulitzer, his first wife, launched what would become a fashion empire of bright cotton dresses during their marriage. Born Herbert Peter Pulitzer on March 22, 1930, he was the son of Herbert Pulitzer, known as Tony, and Gladys Munn. His maternal grandparents were Charles and Carrie Louise Gurnee Munn. His paternal grandparents were newspaperman Joseph and Katherine Davidson Pulitzer. Like most children of wealthy Palm Beachers, he was raised primarily by nannies until he went off to St. Mark’s in Southborough, Massachusetts, a feeder school for the Ivy League. He went to college but soon became bored, using a half-million dollars of his family’s money to seed a career that began with a liquor store and bowling alley and grew to include citrus groves, cattle ranches, a popular Palm Beach restaurant, wide real estate holdings, and hotels. Along the way, he gained a reputation as a ladies man. Laura Clark, a friend of the woman who would become his first wife, described Peter Pulitzer to Vanity Fair as “very beautiful to look at” with “great personal charm, the kind of charm that you knew he was waiting all his life just to talk to you.” Society bandleader Peter Duchin said of Pulitzer: “He was racy -- I mean in the sense of just jumping into his plane and flying off. He eschewed the normal social crap.” In 1950, he met his sister Patsy’s friend, a prim Miss Porter’s alumna — from a Northeastern family as prominent, and certainly as rich, as his own — named Lillian McKim, known as Lilly. The two eloped, surprising everybody. “Peter was drop-dead gorgeous and very charming and a real turn-on,” Susannah Cutts, a friend of Lilly’s, said at the time. “She was raised in a very proper way, a very proper background, and I think he was the forbidden, the exciting someone who was encouraging her to take a romantic leap of faith, to run away from it all.” He helped her build her wildly successful fashion business as he continued building his own empire. In the late 1960s, with his friend, war hero Joseph Dryer, Pulitzer founded an international hotel group with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. “They said they might consider participating in a new hotel (in Amsterdam) if a business study proved positive and if a well-known American hotel chain would manage it,” Dryer would later tell a newspaper reporter. The pair had already built a Howard Johnson’s in Miami and were able to enlist the help of its founder. The new partnership purchased six old canal houses near Amsterdam’s Dam Square Royal Palace and, with architect Bart Van Kasteel, turned them into the Hotel Pulitzer. “The six houses we started with eventually turned into 25 houses, a five-star hotel, and the largest national historic monument of the Netherlands,” Pulitzer would later say. “This was the beginning of the Pulitzer empire.” It was also the end of the marriage. The couple divorced around the same time as the hotel opened. Lilly Pulitzer died in 2013. Pulitzer would marry twice more — to Roxanne Dixon in 1976 and to Hilary King in 1986. His divorce from Roxanne in 1982 became tabloid fodder when their 21-day divorce trial even drew coverage from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson of Rolling Stone, as each seemed to try to top the other in vicious accusations. Ultimately, he won custody of their twin sons. His marriage to Hilary has been his longest, at 32 years. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, grandchildren, and a wide circle of friends and extended family. Funeral services are pending.
  • On hold for months, President Donald Trump’s pick to head NASA was finally given the green light by a pair of GOP Senators, as the Senate voted 50-48 to overcome a possible filibuster, and advance the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next Administrator of NASA. A final vote to confirm Bridenstine’s nomination could come as early as Thursday in the full Senate. The key votes came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – Flake initially voted to filibuster Bridenstine, but after an extended wait, returned to change his vote for the final margin of victory. It wasn’t immediately clear why Flake – and then Rubio – had changed course on the President’s NASA nominee, as Bridenstine supporters had spent months trying to squeeze out a final vote in support of the President’s choice, who faced determined opposition from Democrats. Before the vote, Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the decision of the Florida Republican, who had repeatedly rebuffed the calls of fellow GOP lawmakers to support Bridenstine, a more conservative House GOP lawmaker who has not hesitated to make waves during his time on Capitol Hill. Sen Marco Rubio votes 'Yes' on cloture for Bridenstine – after months of opposing his nomination — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 18, 2018 Just before the vote, Bridenstine’s leading Democratic critic in the Senate wasn’t backing away from his stern criticism of the three-term Republican Congressman from Oklahoma. “The NASA Administrator should be a consummate space professional,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a speech on the Senate floor. “That’s what this Senator wants – a space professional – not a politician,” Nelson added. “Senators on both sides of the aisles have expressed doubts – both publicly and privately to me – about his qualifications for the job,” said Nelson, who was the only Senator to address the matter before the vote on cloture, a procedure to end debate in the Senate. Since Bridenstine was nominated for NASA Administrator in September, Rubio had sided with Nelson and other Democrats, raising questions about Bridenstine’s ability to run a federal agency in a nonpartisan manner. But that suddenly changed this week – and GOP leaders quickly moved to take the Bridenstine vote, moving the President a step closer to having his choice in the job as NASA chief. The procedural vote on Bridenstine’s nomination almost went awry, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted “No,” leaving the vote tied at 49-49. Ordinarily, the Vice President would be brought in to break the tie, but Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida with President Trump, hosting the Japanese Prime Minister. After a wait of over a half hour, Flake returned to the floor and voted “Yes,” allowing the Senate to force an end to debate.