Frankel: Trump “locker room” tape could be a pivot moment

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Frankel
Trump with actress Arianne Zucker and "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush in 2005.
Trump with actress Arianne Zucker and “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush in 2005.

Thursday night, soon after the Donald Trump  “locker room” tape surfaced, author Kelly Oxford tweeted out, “Women: tweet me your first assaults.”

Oxford expected a handful of replies, but according to the New York Times, by Monday afternoon, the number of people responding or at least visiting her twitter page was up to a staggering 27 million.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, is vice chair, and presumptive incoming chair, of the bipartisan Congressional Women’s Caucus (the selection is in November).

On Tuesday, Frankel, who faces two opponents for reelection, visited the editorial board of The Palm Beach Post. She was asked if the furor Trump’s comments generated is a pivot point in exposing both the extent of sexual harassment and people’s perception of it or if the attention will fade.

“One good thing that’s come out of all this nastiness is a highlight on an issue that’s been very hush-hush,” Frankel said.

She said the Congressional Women’s Caucus plans to soon hold a discussion on sexual assault in high schools. And she said assault on college campuses “has been rampant.”

Frankel said the caucus also will focus on the military. And, she said, she’s separately working on bills to remove into the civilian sector investigations of, and punishment for, sexual harassment within the military, especially cases where superiors intimidate female subordinates into taking part in liaisons and use threats to keep them from reporting anything.

Local woman whose son died in Afghanistan to speak at Republican convention

A podium microphone and teleprompters stand ready on stage ahead of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena on July 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The RNC is set to begin on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A podium microphone and teleprompters stand ready on stage ahead of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena on July 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The RNC is set to begin on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Nearly five years to the day since her son was killed when the Chinook helicopter he and 29 other U.S. service members were on crashed in Afghanistan, Stuart resident Karen Vaughn will take her message of support for the military to the Republican National Convention.

Vaughn is one of dozens of speakers slated for primetime during the four-day-long convention, which begins Monday.

And she’s set to speak on opening night.

This undated family photo, provided by the US Navy shows Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class, Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart. Vaughn was killed on Aug. 6, 2011. (US Navy)
This undated family photo, provided by the US Navy shows Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class, Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart. Vaughn was killed on Aug. 6, 2011. (US Navy)

“It’s very emotional to think of everything that’s transpired in that amount of time,” Vaughn said. “It’s very overwhelming.”

Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn was 30 years old when he was killed on Aug. 6, 2011. In addition to Vaughn and the 29 other U.S. troops killed when the helicopter crashed, eight Afghans and a U.S. military dog also died. Aaron Vaughn left behind a wife, Kimberly, and two children, now 7 and 5 years old.

Since her son’s death, Vaughn and her husband, Billy, have spoken on national and international talk shows and written as contributors for conservative news outlets Breitbart and The Blaze.

Together, they’ve spearheaded efforts to call attention to the conditions under which troops are fighting in Afghanistan. And Vaughn said that will be the focus of her speech Monday night.

With the theme of the night being “Make America Strong Again,” Vaughn said she’ll speak about “defending those who defend us.”

Vaughn also said she wants people to know about the nonprofit she and her husband started in memory of her son, Operation 300, where children whose fathers were killed in action come from across the country to spend a weekend in Martin County.

“They just get to be kids, spending time with father-aged mentors,” she said. The program brings in six groups of 30 children each year, with the next camp coming up at the end of July.

Vaughn said she was asked to speak by the convention several weeks ago. The convention’s organizers were looking for “everyday Americans with stories,” she said, and the RNC press secretary, who worked with Vaughn at an organization where she volunteers, mentioned her name.

“It’s surreal,” she said, “to be able to share our story at such an important moment.”

When to watch: Karen Vaughn will speak at the Republican National Convention at 9:44 p.m. Monday.

Cerabino: Who pays for billion-dollar bomber? Florida retirees

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By Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post columnist

The big economic news for Florida this week is that Northrop Grumman got awarded the contract for the Air Force’s new long range strike bomber.

Florida taxpayers have been paying corporate welfare, er … I mean, participating in economic partnerships … with Northrop Grumman in Melbourne in the hopes that the defense contractor would win the bomber project, and then be grateful enough to drop some of the golden crumbs on us.

So the news that Northrop Grumman beat out the team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin for a contract that’s expected to be about $55 billion was greeted as a kind of victory for Florida by lawmakers, who are already tallying the hypothetical 1,500 high-paying jobs coming to Florida’s Space Coast because of it.

And funding the program for a new bat-wing bomber to replace the B-2 stealth bomber was made more secure this week by a budget deal that would jettison the military’s mandatory spending cuts as part of the so-called sequester and raise the cap on military spending by $25 billion for each of the next two years.

So good news all around, right? Well, maybe not.

Not if you’re a Florida retiree. Your part in freeing up more military spending for the multi-billion-dollar bomber project is to accept some modest cuts in Medicare and Social Security. And you probably won’t be around when, and if, this new bomber ever gets airborne.

Just look at the bomber it’s replacing, the B-2 stealth bomber, which was built by Northrop Grumman in the mid-1980s for an advertised price of $441 million per plane. We were supposed to get 132 of the B-2s, but ended up with 21 of them, due in part, to cost overruns that quickly made the price tag of each plane $2 billion.

The B-2 was conceived as a nuclear-capable bomber able to evade radar detection and destroy targets well inside the borders of distant countries.

It turned out to be a temperamental aircraft that couldn’t be left out in the rain, and each one required so much maintenance, 50 maintenance workers per plane, that at any given time more than half of the B-2s are grounded.

When they do fly, it costs $135,000 for every flight hour. And now it has come time to replace the under-used and over-priced B-2 with another stealth bomber also capable of bombing distant lands.

You’d think that our misadventures in the Middle East has made it abundantly clear that bombing people we don’t like in distant lands is a futile, and ultimately, harmful way to conduct foreign policy.

And we’re certainly not going to nuke China. (Who’s going to make our iPhone?)

The roll out of the new bomber sounds like a rerun of the B-2 sales pitch. We’re supposed to get 100 of the yet-to-be-named new bombers at a cost of $550 million per plane. But I wouldn’t count on it.

These defense contracts tend to start out as wishful thinking.

Take the F-35 fighter jet, a project that is $200 billion over budget and 15 years in the making. And yet, the jet it produced has been unable to outperform in mock dogfights the F-16 it is replacing, even with the F-35 pilots wearing high-tech $400,000 helmets.

The F-35’s got funded by spreading the subcontracting work to Florida and 45 other states. Legislators, more interested in creating jobs in their own districts, kept going along for the ride and demonstrating their fiscal conservatism in other areas.

Lockheed Martin hails the F-35 for creating 133,000 jobs both directly and indirectly, calling it “the single largest job generator in the Department of Defense program budget.”

But if you do the math, those 133,000 jobs for a $400 billion project comes out to about $3 million taxpayer dollars per job. That’s a tremendous opportunity cost for a glitchy new weapon that may not pan out.

And if we’ve got that kind of money to throw around, it makes it all the more obscene to consider squeezing Medicare recipients — half of whom live on $24,150 a year or less — or reducing Social Security benefits for the disabled.