Thursday, May 30, 2013

APNewsBreak: Tillis says he'll run for US Senate

Thom Tillis commits to Senate bid

Verne Strickland USA DOT COM May 24, 2013



By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press
North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan next year, making him the first high-profile Republican to announce a bid.
Tillis, a four-term legislator from suburban Charlotte who has led the chamber since 2011, told The Associated Press in an interview he will file campaign committee paperwork in Washington early next week.
Tillis, who had been considered a potential candidate for months, said he's seeking the GOP nomination because he's proved he can work with Democrats to get things done in Raleigh. He said he can do the same thing in Washington, even as a first-termer, should he win in November 2014.
"I see a government that's broken. They're not making any progress and the president is taking us in the wrong direction," Tillis told the AP. Tillis said wresting the seat from Hagan is needed to help create a Republican majority in the chamber and help "turn the country in the right direction."
Hagan has sounded the clarion for bipartisanship, meeting frequently with Senate Republicans to find consensus. But Tillis said gridlock in Washington continues. Tillis said he proved with the passage of state budgets in 2011 and 2012 — approved over Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto objections with the help of House Democrats — that he can make significant changes in government.
"The difference between Sen. Hagan and me is that she has tried and failed, and I have tried and succeeded," he said.
Several well-known Republicans are eyeing the race, including state Senate leader Phil Berger; U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx and Renee Ellmers. So is Southern Baptist leader the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte. Only tea party favorite and physician Greg Brannon of Cary had publicly joined the race.
Tillis, 52, was one of the architects of the 2010 campaign that gave Republicans control of both chambers of the state legislature simultaneously for the first time since 1870.
A prolific fundraiser for legislative races, the former IBM consultant traveled the state for more than a year recruiting candidates, bringing with it loyalty and his election as speaker in 2011. He held dozens of town hall meetings statewide in late 2011 and early 2012, which raised his own profile among grassroots Republicans.
Tillis is viewed as a moderate within his party, someone more aligned with North Carolina's business community than social conservatives. But he won allies by working with conservative Democrats and Republicans to pass abortion restrictions in 2011 and place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions. Voters passed the amendment by a wide margin in May 2012.
"I'm a free market, 'limited government first' conservative," Tillis said, but "I embrace social conservative values. I'm pro-family. I'm pro-life."
Democrats and liberal-leaning advocates have blamed Tillis and other Republican legislative leaders for policies they say have eroded public education and moved North Carolina far to the right. They also point to the General Assembly's refusal to, mostly with federal dollars, expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of uninsured people through the Affordable Care Act.
Tillis criticized Hagan on Thursday for her 2010 vote for the federal health care overhaul.
The House speaker "has made a mess in Raleigh — imagine what he'd do in Washington," state Democratic Party spokesman Ben Ray said in a release. "Tillis has ignored North Carolina job creation and the middle class."
For weeks, the state NAACP has been leading protests in Raleigh against what it considers the legislature's extreme conservatism. Tillis called such accusations "predictable political theater" from opponents about legislation that received bipartisan support.
Hagan, a former state senator from Greensboro, received 53 percent of the vote in 2008 in unseating Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, an upset attributed in part to the strong showing of then-candidate Barack Obama in North Carolina. Hagan's seat is one of four held by Democrats in states that Republican Mitt Romney won last year that national GOP leaders are aiming to pick up to take control of the Senate in 2015.
It's likely to take more than $10 million of fundraising by a successful candidate to win next year. A super PAC already has been organized by Tillis' supporters.
Tillis said Thursday he will remain in his House seat and the speaker's post for the rest of his two-year term through 2014. He had already announced this term would be his last in the chamber. Paul Shumaker, a consultant for Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, will serve in the same capacity for Tillis.
Tillis, who is married with two adult children, spent two or three months examining a potential bid. Tillis said he finalized his decision over the Memorial Day weekend.

A Letter to Michelle Obama . . . about that guy you married? He's now our president.

Verne Strickland USA DOT COM May 30, 2013

Michelle Obama Jobs Stork SC A Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle,
On the day that your husband was elected, you said that you had never been proud of the United States until that day. For the last three and a half years, I have been observing your husband and you, and I feel that it is time I share my thoughts with you. The day your husband was elected was the first time I was ever ashamed of this country, and today I am even more ashamed.
I was ashamed then because your husband was not elected because he was the best qualified to do the job, or because he was the most intelligent, or even because anyone really thought he could get anything worthwhile done. The reason your husband was elected, the only reason, is because of the color of his skin. Your husband was chosen by the Democratic Party to be their “token black”, and that is the shame of the American public. We deserve better than a community organizer who seems to look down on his fellow Americans while bowing to an Arab leader. We deserve a president who was thoroughly vetted by his party and the media, not someone whom the DNC now admits was never even eligible for the job. There are many other men, Black, Hispanic, of Asian descent, Native American, and even Caucasian who are many times more qualified and eligible to be the president. If he had even a shred of self respect, Barack would resign and convince Joe Biden to do so as well, so that someone with a backbone could fix the mess your husband (NOT George Bush) has made much worse.
Your husband said he would bring unity to the country; instead, he has brought class warfare and fanned the flames of racism by saying that his son would look like Travon Martin. When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” “This is the greatest foremost commandment.” “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”(Matt.22:37-40 NAS). Notice that there is no modifying clause in the second commandment “You shall love thy neighbor as yourself.” NOT “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, so long as his skin is the same color as yours or he does not make more money than you.” In our home, race is not an issue; everyone is welcome and treated respectfully. My mother raised me right; she taught me these verses and the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I have lived this way all my life and never judge others; it is God’s job to judge, not mine. There is a big difference between loving the person and accepting the sin; I can love the person and still hate the things they do. The media was quick to condemn Sarah Palin’s daughter for getting pregnant (or was it because she chose to have the baby?), but at least she owned up and took responsibility for her actions, which is something your husband has said publicly he would not make his daughters do in that same situation. No, he would rather have them murder their baby should they be so shortsighted as to get pregnant before they were ready.
Make no mistake here, please; through Christ, I love you and your family, but I hate what Barack has done to this wonderful country of ours. He has no need to apologize for an accidental burning of the Quran anymore than they would apologize for a deliberate burning of the Bible or our Constitution. In fact, as a nation, there is nothing he needs to apologize for on our behalf, but instead much he needs to apologize to us for. He needs to apologize to us for his blatant disregard for the Constitution, the very foundation of our government, and the freedoms guaranteed to us by that document. I have family members who fought to protect that document and what it stands for; yet you and your husband treat it like toilet paper for all the respect you show.
You are fond of quoting the Scripture in Luke that tells us that “To those to whom much has been given, from them much shall also be expected”, but then you take it out of context and tell us that means that the federal government has the right to take what one man earns and give it to the man who sits on his butt all day doing nothing. Sorry, but I do not think that is what Christ meant when he said “take care of the widows and orphans.” He also told us that God loves a cheerful (or willing) giver. He did not want to force us to do what we so willingly do out of love. In case you had not noticed, when there is a crisis (i.e. Katrina) the American people pull together to help each other faster and better than the government (i.e. FEMA) could.
The recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the individual mandate of the “Affordable” Care Act was equally shameful and has added one hundred-fold to the stress of my daily life. Stress that was not a part of my life until Barack took the office that by rights does not belong to him. My husband has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the treatments are expensive, and how long now before the committee decides that because he is not a “productive citizen” he cannot access the treatments he needs to stay alive? I clench my teeth at night wondering if he will be here when our daughter (now fifteen) walks down the aisle on her wedding day. When I had a heart attack last year, it was a Catholic-run hospital that picked up the greatest portion of the cost, allowing us to make payments on the rest when we could, not the government. Through the contraception mandate, Obamacare will shut down that hospital and hundreds like it, leaving people like me to fall between the cracks of your “perfect healthcare”.
I am also ashamed that the first family sees the Presidency as a lottery they won (how many vacations do you need in a year, really?) I have not had a job in two years, and our family would love to have a vacation in Europe, just one, someday. Yet your family has taken over seventeen vacations, at my last count, on the taxes people like me have paid. So, in effect, the middle class of America has been paying for you and your entourage of secretaries and secret service personnel to run around the world, shopping and sightseeing, when we cannot afford to go visit relatives who live in another state. Your husband’s policies have not created any jobs worth talking about, but they have kept businesses from creating jobs. Even a low-paying job would allow us the luxury of going to visit family.
So tell me Michelle, just what are you proud of? Are you proud of the fact that you are living in the White House because people did not want to be called racist? Or perhaps you are proud that your husband has chipped away at the civil liberties of the American taxpayers? Or perhaps you are proud of the race riots your husband instigated when he said that if he had a son he would look like Travon Martin, instead of keeping his mouth shut and letting the police handle the situation? The truth (whatever it is) will come out. I do not think there is anything that your husband has “accomplished” while in office that you should be proud of. Oh wait, I forgot all that golfing he has done that must have improved his game; I guess you can be proud of that.
In Christ Always,
Becky Smith

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

UPDATE : U.S. senators aim for bill to replace Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Verne Strickland USA DOT COM May 30, 2013

Wed May 29, 2013 6:03pm EDT
* Bipartisan group wants to shutter Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
* Government-run firms are largest mortgage finance sources
* Some investors speculate firms could be re-privatized
By Margaret Chadbourn

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators hopes to introduce a bill in the coming weeks to overhaul the housing finance system and wind down government-run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, people familiar with the matter said.
The plan being crafted by Senators Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, and Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, would seek to build a single entity to guarantee mortgages, according to these sources.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken over by the government in 2008 as they teetered on the brink of insolvency, own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages. Given the dominant role they play in the mortgage market, it could take years for Congress to settle on how best to replace them.
A Corker-Warner bill could mark the beginning of that effort, if the senators are able to piece together a large enough political coalition. While Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to shrink the government's housing finance role, they are divided over where a new line should be drawn.
"What Senators Corker and Warner are doing is laudable. They are wading into a highly partisan fight and trying to put forward an initial approach," said Jaret Seiberg, a senior policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities. "They are looking at a problem and coming up with a practical solution. It is not going to be the solution that is finally enacted into law, but it will be the solution that gets the reform process moving."
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge lenders a fee in return for guaranteeing principal and interest on mortgages, a system designed to boost lending by banks and home ownership.
Since being placed into government conservatorship, they have draw almost $190 billion in taxpayer aid. But both of the so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, have returned to profitability, and the swing in their financial fortunes has intensified the debate over how much of the risk of mortgage lending taxpayers should ultimately bear.
"There seems to be an increasing desire in Congress to do something bipartisan and to take action on the GSEs," said David Stevens, president and chief executive officer of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "If it is bipartisan, that would make it unique. Clearly, the broader the coalition, the better chance a reform bill will be heard and considered."
The Senate group, which is being led by Corker, is expected to propose a newly chartered institution that guarantees principal and interest payments on mortgage-backed securities. Lawmakers would likely create an explicit federal guarantee or employ a government insurance structure.
Corker's office declined to offer details. "Discussing specifics of legislation would be premature at this point, but we hope to find something that materially improves from the past system where gains were privatized, losses were left for the taxpayer to clean up, and the system was way too thinly capitalized against downturns," said Laura Herzog, Corker's communications director.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are congressionally chartered. While they operated without explicit government before they were taken over in 2008, investors assumed the government would make good on their guarantees if they ran into trouble.
"Corker and Warner are signaling the Senate is going to tackle this issue. That is why their effort is significant and material, even if the ultimate solution will not exactly mirror their bill," Seiberg said.
Many conservative Republicans want the private sector to absorb the roles Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play, while a few moderate Republicans and most Democrats argue a government backstop is needed for the mortgage market.
When the government took over the companies, the U.S. Treasury received an 80 percent stake in each. They have also been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and their stock now trades over the counter.
The improvement in their financial fortunes has led some investors to speculate that they could be re-established as private firms, even though the terms of their bailout do not allow them to buy out the government stake and future congressional action could wipe out the existing equity.
Fund manager Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Capital Management is among firms that have invested in the preferred stock of the companies, according to CNBC. The cable network reported on Thursday that Berkowitz had taken a roughly $500 million stake.
Berkowitz, who was named Morningstar's domestic-stock fund manager of the decade in 2010 and is best known for betting on financial stocks, was not available for comment on the report.
Fairholme is the latest among several investment firms and hedge funds that have been accumulating either the common or preferred stock of Fannie and Freddie. Some hedge funds have also been lobbying Congress to let the companies return to private hands.
Until a roughly 30 percent pullback on Wednesday, the common shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had risen for seven straight days.
Investors have also bid up several issues of their junior preferred shares. Fannie Mae preferred Series S shares have risen from a 2012 low of 46 cents on August 17 to $6.55 on Wednesday. Freddie Mac's preferred series Z shares have risen from a 2012 low of 42 cents on August 17 to $6.66.


Verne Strickland USA DOT COM  May 30, 2013

Steve Mensing, Editor

 ♦Rowan County 5–Your prayers and the prayers of countless millions across North Carolina and the entire United States were heard on High.  The Almighty saw fit to provide the prayer issue its rightful hearing before the United States Supreme Court.  It has been announced that the United State Supreme Court will review the prayer issue.

The nations highest court agreed to examine whether offering prayer prior to a town’s meeting violates the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.  At issue is the town of Galloway, NY’s prayer practices prior to meetings.  Greece is a suburb of Rochester, NY.  The case being reviewed is Greece v. Galloway (12-696) and whether their town officials violated the First Amendment’s ban on a government’s endorsement of a particular religion when it permitted local volunteers to offer a prayer prior to the town’s monthly meetings.

 The challenge is that while non-Christians delivered a few prayers, the overwhelming majority of volunteers delivered pre-meeting prayers with Christian references.  The prayers have been going on for over 11 years.  Susan Galloway, a practicing Jew, is one of the two who objected.

 Arguments will be heard in the Fall.

Rowan County will likely be spared having to spend a penny on this great undertaking or field its battery of high-profile Christian attorneys as the prayer issue being heard is a pre-existing parallel case.  Money was never an issue for the Rowan County 5 as an organization was in place to take in millions in donations should the need arise.

Rowan County Commissioner Jim Sides told the RFP: “This is great moment for our First Amendment rights and the forward progress for prayer at government meetings.  So glad to be living in Rowan County and have our nation’s highest court to review this very important issue.  Its in God’s hands now and the Supreme Court.  I can’t think of two better places.”

Tim Wilkes

Tim Wilkes's photo.


Verne Strickland USA DOT COM May 28, 2013

 Some may not fully understand or appreciate just how much this move will elevate the situation between the Obama White House and Congress regarding the ongoing Benghazi Massacre cover up.  A formal subpoena of the Obama State Department, specifically calling for cooperation from current Secretary of State John Kerry, is a bold move by Congressman Darrell Issa.  It appears the gloves are truly coming off…

(Issa wants answers while Barack Obama continues to cover them up.) 
(via HotAir:)

Issa subpoenas State Department for withheld Benghazi talking point documents

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have been insisting that, despite their indignant insistence to the contrary, the Obama administration still has plenty of explaining to do and needs to release more documents relating to the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi last September and the subsequent talking-point shenanigans.

Last week, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry reminding him of his promise to run “an accountable and open State Department” and asking that he make available for questioning a list of State employees that have yet to be thoroughly cross-examined, so to speak –  and on Tuesday, Issa straight-up subpoenaed the State Department for all of the documents and communications relating to the Benghazi talking points.

In the letter, Issa states that the department’s release of 100 emails earlier this month was “incomplete.” Issa demands that Kerry produce “relevant documents through subpoena. The enclosed subpoena covers documents and the communications related to talking points prepared for members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and used by Ambassador Susan Rice during her September 16th, 2012, appearances on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and CNN.”

Issa said that the documents released on May 20th did not answer “critical” questions posed by the committee as it investigates what happened during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the aftermath of that terror attack that killed former U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stephens and three other U.S. officials.   LINK


Issa’s move is certainly good news.  That said, as some of you are likely already  considering, even with the subpoena the Obama  White House could simply swamp Issa’s investigation with piles of redacted papers as it did with the Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation.  In that case, even when Eric Holder was found in Contempt of Congress, Holder and the Obama administration simply shrugged and ignored the investigation.
What differs now though is that the media is not quite so willing to fully cover 100% for this administration.
Second, a looming midterm election is threatening to remove many Democrats from Congress.  Do they want to be caught on the wrong side of history here?

Lastly, as the scandals swirl around Barack Obama, more Americans (not nearly enough – YET) are questioning if this president has lost the moral authority of not only his own administration, but the entire government. (Of course many of you knew from the very beginning he never had it.)  If more people demand answers, sooner or later, even Democrat politicians will at the very least, have to step aside and allow those answers to be found.   

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blacks and Jesus Are No-Shows at Memorial Day Service Aboard USS North Carolina

Under clear blue skies, with a brisk breeze causing flags to snap, martial music from a military brass band, and a crowd of patriots on board, the U.S.S. North Carolina hosted Memorial Day events in Wilmington, NC. It seemed so perfect. But something just wasn't right.

Large crowd intently watches Memorial Day proceedings on sun-washed deck of "Show Boat" on
Cape Fear River  (Photo Matt Born)

By Verne Strickland, Tuesday, May 28

The sun shone brilliantly, warming a respectful crowd on hand to celebrate and mourn those who died in battle so that freedom would live on in America. A military band kept the air alive with inspiring martial music, pomp and circumstance. Flags flew above us, snapping smartly in the brisk breeze. Speakers spoke, and a respectful gathering applauded with appreciation. It was, all in all, a solemn but grand occasion.

But -- I don't know. For me, I found some things missing that I thought should be there.

Black citizens, for one thing. If there was one black face on the ship's deck, or several, I didn't spot them. It was disappointing. The wars we fought through the years -- the Civil War, World War II, Korean War, Viet Nam War, the recent battles in the Gulf Region and others -- were not fought only for and by white Americans.

The costly conflicts also belonged to our African American citizens. They fought and died valiantly in many battles alongside their white countrymen in uniform. They contributed to victories. Some came home. Home, where their families and friends awaited. They were blessed by, and indebted to, those who lost their lives in combat. Some gesture of appreciation would have been expected. And welcomed.

Somehow I had believed that only by the color of our skin did we differ, and in almost everything else on this day, we felt the same sympathies, fostered the same loyalties, thrilled with the same pride in America, the greatest country in the world.

But maybe not. Certainly I was not aware of any such kinship aboard the U.S.S. North Carolina on Memorial Day 2013. And that baffles me, because, while we often are told that black people are excluded from some gatherings, every American -- regardless of race, color, creed, national origin or religious preference -- was invited to this wonderful event.

But for whatever reason or reasons, this time our African Americans were welcome to the party, but decided not to come. Maybe they just had other places to be. Baffling. But we missed them.

Now to Jesus Christ. I am a proud Christian American. I bow at His throne. I know I am saved by His sacrifice, resurrection, mercy and grace. While I am surely aware that the curious phrase "separation of Church and State" causes almost fanatical fervor, although it appears in no official document penned by our Founding Fathers, who are identified as largely Judeo-Christian, yet I am saddened that Christians should be singled out for pointed derision and exclusion by our liberal governments -- federal and state alike.

Of course, let me hasten to add that there are few people anywhere in the world who have been more cruelly persecuted than the Jewish people.

Still, my wife Durrene and I, seated on the deck of our proud battleship, later admitted that our spirits seemed to hang in mid-air as the lone prayer offered in the official invocation by Rabbi Paul Sidlovski, ended abruptly with one word we all understand -- "Amen". We agreed that -- to us -- it seemed that there had been no prayer at all. Call us creatures of habit, but we somehow feel that if there are no "Jesus" stamps on that prayer, it winds up in a dead letter box and goes nowhere. We miss our Lord in a prayer like that.

I know some of what our Jewish brothers and sisters believe and don't believe. So I don't need to be reminded that, whereas we Christians look forward joyously to the Second Coming of Christ, Jews still await the First Coming, so to speak. That chasm has not kept millions of U.S. Christian, however, from supporting Israel without reservation -- at the command of, well . . . Jesus Christ. Someday these and all other issues will be divinely resolved. 

And so, on a truly dazzling North Carolina afternoon, many of us in attendance missed some who should have been there -- blacks in the audience, and Jesus Christ in prayer.

Anyway, God bless America.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Refusing sex survey costing Georgia federal funds. Stand your ground, Governor!

Verne Strickland May 26, 2013
Yes, we need valid information on sexual subjects. No, we do not need more intimidation by the federal government, which is using extortion tactics to force compliance in this intrusive survey. The questions seem to be prurient in nature. And, given the on-going scandals about the government's inability to treat confidential information with respect, I back Georgia, Louisiana and Utah in their refusal to cooperate. Of course, "states' rights", following the second coronation of Barack Obama, have gone the way of the horse and buggy. But it should not be so. And it has not made a stronger, more representative government. Again, socialist Democratic Washington tries to bribe states into accepting a pig in a poke. Fight on, Governor Deal. You may be making enemies. But you're also forging friendships!

by Associated Press May 25, 2013

The Georgia Capitol.
The Georgia Capitol.
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia stands to lose $1.8 million in health-related funding because state officials refuse to participate in a federal survey that asks students from seventh grade through high school questions about their sexual histories.

The sex questions are part of a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Georgia hasn't allowed them to be asked in its public schools since the 1990s. Three other states — Louisiana, Utah and Virginia — joined Georgia in opting out of the teen sex survey last year.

But this year participation comes with money attached. For the first time the federal government has tied completing the questionnaires to $1.8 million in grants for programs aimed at preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

A spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal said the governor was uncomfortable about letting the government ask students as young as 12 about whether they use condoms and how many sexual partners they have had.

"Many Georgia parents would object to public schools asking their seventh-grade child these questions, and Governor Deal agrees with them," said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. "We don't think that federal funds for programs should be cut based on the use of these questions, but Governor Deal will refuse federal funds if they come (tied) to policies that run contrary to Georgia values."

The CDC survey is sent to students across the nation and asks questions on drug abuse, violence, alcohol use and suicidal behavior as well as sex. Students are instructed not to include their names.

Georgia students have long answered the questions on topics other than sex. Jeff Graham, executive director of the gay and lesbian advocacy group Georgia Equality, said state officials are being shortsighted by turning down funds because they're squeamish about children answering questions about sex. He noted Georgia reported more than 2,500 newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2011 — the fifth highest total among U.S. states.

"It's really unconscionable that the Department of Education would decide they wouldn't even apply for those funds," Graham said.

The survey asks high school students whether they have ever had a sexual encounter, how many partners they've had, whether they use condoms and whether they drank alcohol or used drugs before intercourse. Middle school students get a pared-down list that also asks them about condom use and their total number of sexual partners.

"There were some sensitive questions that many districts have not felt comfortable having students answer in the past, and we wanted to ensure we got reliable results," said Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for Georgia's Department of Education. "And there has always been concern that students would not take some of those questions seriously."