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BE Thankful always

Norman Rockwells Freedom From WantThe Hypnotized never lie”
– Pete Townsend “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It has none of the trappings of the LSD-induced imagery of Christmas or the Meth-induced imagery of Halloween – let alone the opioid-induced imagery of chickens laying chocolate eggs you get at Easter.
It’s just a time home with friends, family and those who matter. If you can watch football without feeling guilty about the head injuries or angry someone is or isn’t taking a knee, then you’ve got the makings of a great extended weekend enjoying those you love.
Losing a loved one at this time is bitter and remembering them becomes bittersweet.
But I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be the most heartfelt time to remember those we’ve lost and to enjoy those still with us. It is a time to celebrate our shared experiences and to remember the things that divide us are not as consequential as those which bind us together.

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It is time for a Shield Law

constitution quill penFor the reporter in the street, help is at hand. According to Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Jim Jordan (OH-04) the help is in the form of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2017 (H.R.4382), a bipartisan federal shield law that would protect the public’s right to know by safeguarding a free and independent press. The legislation would establish a federal statutory privilege that would protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources and ensure that they can do their jobs without fear of imprisonment or intimidation.
The legislation was introduced after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee refused to commit to not jailing journalists for doing their jobs.
Although many states have shield laws or some sort of reporter’s privilege, no such protection exists at the federal level. Dozens of journalists have served jail time, including former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who served more than 80 days in jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source in 2005 – and me.

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Two SUVs avoid typical family-friendly focus

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee cropped for webThe 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV that blends off-road capability and on-road luxury. COURTESY PHOTO  While sport utility vehicles were once designed to focus on off-road capabilities, Most of today's market-leading SUVs and crossovers are built as family cars that tend to prioritize the more everyday qualities of interior volume, gas mileage and value for the money.
Such vehicles often look and feel as dull as that description sounds. While the Honda Pilot, for instance, is often a terrific family car, such smooth, quiet, spacious minivan-like family-haulers offers little verve or personality to attract someone without plans to shuttle a carload of kids.
But a few larger SUVs – the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee and the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe – manage an appeal that transcends the norms of their market segments.
Neither stands out as a family car. While both are decently spacious, to be sure, they’re far from the market leaders in that regard.
But the Tahoe and Grand Cherokee make up for those deficiencies by boasting uncommon levels of heavy-duty capability with the looks to match.

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Facebookin' on the Hill

Down with Hillary rallyI have covered several Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill for the Montgomery County Sentinel. That is what I do. However the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on social media influence in the 2016 U.S. election held on November 1st was like no other.
The usual Congressional hearings I have attended are like the hearing during which former CIA Director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Russian influence in our 2016 presidential election. During that hearing it was difficult to tell if the Republican members and the Democrat members were there for the same purpose. While the Democrat questions dealt with Russian interaction with the Trump campaign, the Republican questions dealt primarily with Hillary Clinton's emails.
No such variation in questioning during the social media hearing on November 1st. During this hearing, to my surprise, both Republicans and Democrats were for the most part on the same page. Quite simply, their questions focused on the extent of the Russian use of social media to attempt to influence the outcome of the election, what is being done to prevent any recurrence of that improper use of social media AND why was nothing done earlier!

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Hybrid van saves gas while Miata adds hardtop

 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid cropped for webThe 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan can travel 33 miles per electric charge and then operates as an efficient gas-electric hybrid. COURTESY PHOTO  Imagine a vehicle that can carry you and six other adults from Rockville to downtown Washington and back without using a drop of gasoline — or do the trip solo in I-270's HOV lanes.
There are two vehicles that can pull off this achievement, both using electric motors and Maryland's perks to drivers of electric cars. One is the Tesla Model X, an all-electric luxury crossover with a base price of around $80,000. The other is the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid version of Chrysler's popular minivan.
The EPA estimates that the Pacifica Hybrid can go 33 miles on an all-electric charge and then switch over to its gas-electric operation, which manages 32 mpg. Both figures are impressive.

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Reasons for activism

GovernorBillSigning 1bLife is very much like a box; you can keep taking from it but there comes a time when you have to start putting things back into it or else be faced with an empty box or, to extend the analogy, a possibly less-fulfilled life.
That is where activism and advocacy come into play. Advocacy is a means of putting something back into that box of life by doing something that benefits the many and not just the individual, contrary to the Ayn Rand teachings.
My road to becoming an activist came rather late in life. During my rather lengthy federal career I focused on the many challenging issues I was involved in. These included such issues as addressing the security threat created by moving cargo under bond across the nation, especially in the post 9/11 environment, during my time at U.S. Customs.
It included implementing programs designed to more fully unify the more than 22 disparate entities comprising the newly-created umbrella known as the Department of Homeland Security while serving in that department. It included, while at FEMA post Katrina, estimating the needs and identifying the capabilities and resources at the local, state and federal levels prior to the advent of the next great disaster to, thereby, ensure a more effective response and recovery to avoid what is currently happening in Puerto Rico.
It wasn't until I left federal service that I became much more interested in public policy and community service leading to my becoming much more active in raising my voice to influence that public policy. This, to me, is the very definition of the word activism.

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Enough with the prayers already

MC DC Trump on Gun Violence in America 1bSomewhere in the United States right now, as you read this, the next victims of a mass murder are going about their business of life and have no idea what’s in store for them.
They don’t know they’ll soon be victims – perhaps before the ink dries on our newspaper.
They have no way of knowing how they’ll die, or when; whether they’ll die next to their loved ones or die running for safety.
They will just be dead and the dead can’t do anything about it.

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Kia returns to its roots, while Toyota offers options

2018 Kia Rio EX hatchback cropped for webThe redesigned 2018 Kia Rio doesn't have exciting looks or sporty driving dynamics. COURTESY PHOTO  When gas was expensive, most automakers rushed to make their smallest, cheapest cars more appealing. From extra-roomy interiors to sporty handling to more elegant styling, these subcompacts were a way of saying that small cars don't have to be basic.
One model that followed this path was the 2012 Kia Rio. Its impressive interior build quality, surprisingly hushed cabin, European-inspired design and long list of available features made it clear that this little sedan or hatchback could be selected for its merits — not just its price.

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A look back at history through clear glasses

17972 miscellaneous nuclear explosion explosionI am a child of the 1950's and 1960's and have also witnessed the challenges of the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and where we are now in the 21st century. I experienced the Cold War first-hand and remember quite vividly practicing shelter drills in P.S. 213 by taking cover under my desk in case we were attacked with an atomic bomb. Even at that age I questioned the effectiveness of that particular strategy.
As a student in J.H.S. 166, I remember the anxiety of the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the leadership provided by our young president in addressing the threat to our nation. I remember quite vividly, while in Brooklyn College, the feeling of panic when the student deferment was pulled during the height of the Vietnam War as well as the relief I felt when my lottery number was 272.

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Japan’s big pickups challenge the domestic brands

2017 Nissan Titan cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Nissan Titan is spacious and relatively affordable for a full-size truck, but it's heavy and lacks some modern tech features. COURTESY PHOTO  Although Japanese vehicles are among the bestsellers in almost every market segment, there's one that the nation's automakers have utterly failed to crack: the full-size pickup truck. There, Ford's F Series, General Motors' Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and Chrysler's Ram remain dominant on the sales charts.
Toyota, Nissan and Honda all have pickup trucks — they just haven't resonated with buyers the same way. Toyota has had the most luck, which is ironic given that its Tundra hasn't received a major redesign in more than a decade. The newly-overhauled Nissan Titan and Honda Ridgeline sell at a fraction of the Tundra's pace, and the Tundra itself significantly trails pickups from the American “Big Three” automakers.
Are the current sales figures of big pickups the result of buyers' reluctance to stray from familiar brands? Or are the Japanese trucks just not as good as their American counterparts?

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