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Analysis: A Conundrum for Texas Capitol Gatekeepers
by ROSS RAMSEY, The Texas Tribune
Jul 28, 2014 | 87 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Analysis: A Conundrum for Texas Capitol Gatekeepers

Texas lawmakers are going to have to figure out what a reporter is.

You have no reason to care about this, unless you want to keep up with what is being done in your name at the Texas Capitol, and you think having reporters on the floor of the House and Senate increases your chances of finding out.

On the flip side, there is the legitimate concern that a news reporter who might also be a lobbyist and campaign activist could be prowling the floor next session with a media pass dangling from a lanyard, talking to lawmakers as they consider bills.

This month, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Michael Quinn Sullivan $10,000 for failing to register as a lobbyist in spite of evidence “that part of Sullivan’s regular employment involved making direct contact with members of the Texas Legislature and their staffs to influence the outcome of bills, nominations, and other matters that were subject to legislative action.” It disregarded what it called “baseless arguments” that he is a member of a news organization not required to register.

The Sullivan case is not about news media credentials for access to lawmakers, but about the purpose of that access. Sullivan’s lawyer argued (Sullivan did not testify) that Empower Texans, the group he heads, is a media organization and suggested the state has to prove that it is not one. Sullivan will appeal the commission’s ruling and the fine that came with it, according to the lawyer, Joe Nixon.

“The obligation of the state in this case is to tell us why Empower Texans is not a media organization,” he said. “Its next task will be to explain why its rules let media organizations enjoy speech protections that other Texans do not.”

These are blurry lines, and not just in Texas. The rise of digital media — and, more to the point, the ability of anybody with a computer to go into the news business — has obliterated established definitions.

It might seem a bit weird, given what gets written about legislators on a regular basis, that the Texas House and the Texas Senate allow credentialed reporters and photographers into their chambers while they are in session. News people have to remain outside the brass rails that encircle those two rooms, but like the attendants around the edges of a bullfighting arena, they are right down there where the action is.

Questions pile up quickly. Should publications or blogs with an ideological point of view be allowed? Writers from newspaper editorial boards who regularly opine about legislation and urge lawmakers to vote in a particular way? Organizations that publish news but that have other divisions or operations that lobby? News organizations that are subsidized by taxpayers?

Reporters are allowed special access not because legislators want reporters to be happy — it is because the lawmakers want access to the people who write about them.

Lobbyists, however, are kept at bay. They stand outside, in the lobbies for which they are named, or sit in the galleries overlooking the arenas they are not allowed to enter. Increasingly, they watch the proceedings online or on cable TV and go to the Capitol only to meet legislators in their offices or to watch committee meetings. The same technologies that have made everyone a potential journalist have also made access to government easier. You no longer need to be in the fishbowl to watch the fish.

Nothing prevents lawmakers from inviting anyone onto the floor other than rules and laws that those legislators could change.

They have decided to keep some out, barring those who — whatever else they might be doing — are being paid to persuade lawmakers to vote in a particular way or to take a particular position.

Credentials are more about privileges than First Amendment protections, but the definitions of who is and who is not in the news media are dated. Legislators will not have to follow the court decision in the Empower Texans case, whatever it turns out to be. They will have to do something, though, and they might find some guidance when the courts rule.

Whether Sullivan gets in or not, some outlet that has never had news media credentials during a legislative session will ask for them, and the state will have to decide what makes a reporter a reporter.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/07/28/analysis-conundrum-texas-capitol-gatekeepers/.

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Obamacarrion
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July 28, 2014
The Halbig/King question is actually pretty easy to understand: making a state exchange is a big commitment and a permanent expense to operate. One simple question clarifies the whole issue. "Why would any state create and operate what is essentially a front-office and staff for the federal government, if they could do nothing and get the same thing for free?" They wouldn't. If the subsidies were available in both exchanges, no sensible state would've spent the hundreds of millions to establish and operate an exchange for the Feds. Congress knew that, obviously, which is why they put the subsidies in the state exchanges, and not in the federal version. Gruber admits this straight-out in his videoed comments. Democrats thought that design would lure all the states. That was the Democrats' big bet, and it failed.
Pioneer Technology Group Announces Addition of Tim Nemethy to Business Development Group
Jul 28, 2014 | 104 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Pioneer Technology Group Announces Addition of Tim Nemethy to Business Development Group

Industry veteran will assist with National expansion.

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Tim is well known and highly regarded throughout the industry and has built excellent relationships with Counties, Clerks and Recorders around the country.

Sanford, FL (PRWEB) July 28, 2014

Pioneer Technology Group, a leading provider of Official Records Systems and Court Case Management Technology, announced today that Tim Nemethy has joined the company as a Director of Business Development. Mr. Nemethy has over 15 years of experience in land records and court systems and will work in multiple national markets assisting in the company’s rapid national expansion.

“We’re excited to have Tim join our team” said Steve Rumsey, President of Pioneer. “Tim is well known and highly regarded throughout the industry and has built excellent relationships with Counties, Clerks and Recorders around the country. Tim was instrumental in the national adoption of scan-first recording and is truly committed to the customer - we’re glad to be working together again.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida, Mr. Nemethy has held several key business development posts in the industry, including Vice President of Sales at Aptitude Solutions, Inc. He most recently served as Director of Business Development for AMCAD.

About Pioneer Technology Group (PTG) 
Pioneer Technology Group (PTG) is a leading developer of software solutions and services to Governments and the private sector. The company develops and supports official records systems, court systems and tax systems for counties and municipalities. Through its subsidiary, Pioneer Records Management, PTG also provides a scanning services bureau for converting paper to digital images, and YourDox, a secure document platform for the real estate and title insurance industries. For more information about the company, please visit PTG’s website at http://www.ptghome.com

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Dinosaurs Fell Victim to Perfect Storm of Events, Study Shows
Jul 28, 2014 | 206 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dinosaurs Fell Victim to Perfect Storm of Events, Study Shows

 

WACO, Texas (July 28, 2014) — Dinosaurs might have survived the asteroid strike that wiped them out if it had taken place slightly earlier or later in history, scientists say.

A new study using up-to-date fossil records and improved analytical tools has helped paleontologists to build a new narrative of the prehistoric creatures’ demise, some 66 million years ago.

The international team of researchers found that in the few million years before an approximately 6 mile wide asteroid struck what is now Mexico, Earth was experiencing environmental upheaval. This included extensive volcanic activity, changing sea levels and varying temperatures. The study is available online.

At this time, the dinosaurs’ food chain was weakened by a lack of diversity among the large plant-eating dinosaurs on which others preyed. This was probably because of changes in the climate and environment. This created a perfect storm in which dinosaurs were vulnerable and unlikely to survive the aftermath of the asteroid strike.

(Find this story on our website at http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=145031.)

“There have been debates within the scientific community as to the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs. Our study synthesized a huge body of literature on the different explanations,” said Daniel Peppe, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in Baylor’s College of Arts. “Our findings suggest that other factors such as sea level, changes in temperature and lack of species diversity made dinosaurs susceptible to extinction, but were not the cause. The asteroid strike ultimately decimated the dinosaur population and caused their extinction.”

The impact would have caused tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires, sudden temperature swings and other environmental changes. As food chains collapsed, this would have wiped out the dinosaur kingdom one species after another. The only dinosaurs to survive were those who could fly, which evolved to become the birds of today.

Researchers suggest that if the asteroid had struck a few million years earlier, when the range of dinosaur species was more diverse and food chains were more robust, or later, when new species had time to evolve, then they very likely would have survived.

“The dinosaurs were victims of colossal bad luck. Not only did a giant asteroid strike, but it happened at the worst possible time, when their ecosystems were vulnerable. Our new findings help clarify one of the enduring mysteries of science,”  said Steve Brusatte, Ph.D., of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and corresponding author of the study.

An international team of paleontologists and geologists led by the University of Edinburgh studied an updated catalogue of dinosaur fossils, mostly from North America, to create a picture of how dinosaurs changed over the few million years before the asteroid hit. They hope that ongoing studies in Spain and China will aid even better understanding of what occurred.

Their study, published in Biological Reviews, was supported by the U.S.  National Science Foundation and the European Commission. It was led by the Universities of Edinburgh and Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Baylor University and University College London. The world’s top dinosaur museums – The Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Royal Ontario Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science - also took part.

“Although our research suggests that dinosaur communities were particularly vulnerable at the time the asteroid hit, there is nothing to suggest that dinosaurs were doomed to extinction. Without that asteroid, the dinosaurs would probably still be here, and we very probably would not,” said Richard Butler, Ph.D., of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

Other contributing authors to the study include: Stephen L. Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh; Richard J. Butler of the University of Birmingham;  Paul M. Barrett of the Natural History Museum; London; Matthew T. Carrano of the Smithsonian Institution;  David C. Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum;  Graeme T. Lloyd of the University of Oxford; Philip D. Mannion of Imperial College London; Mark A. Norell of the American Museum of Natural History; Paul Upchurch of the University College London and Thomas E. Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The College of Arts and Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 24 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visitwww.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.

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