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Broken Government

The Republican Quandary over Immigration

January 28th 2015

Republican leaders in the House and Senate are boxed in on immigration and searching for a way out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are struggling to find a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security while meeting conservative demands to unwind President Obama’s executive actions giving legal status to millions of immigrants who would otherwise face deportation.

Congress is only scheduled to be in session for three weeks in February, giving lawmakers little time to craft a funding bill that would prevent an embarrassing shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Feb. 28.

On Tuesday, the two began wiggling their way out of the tight spot:

• Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do “everything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,” adding, “you don’t know how these legislative battles go if you don’t have them, and we intend to have this one.” Read more ..


The Battle for the Ukraine

Rocket Fire Could Signal New Offensive on Mariupol

January 24th 2015

Russian T 72 tank in Ukraine

Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.

Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol have been widely reported, with the death toll rising to 27 people. Mariupol has been shelled in the past, notably in early September, but as the cease-fire took affect separatist forces generally conducted attacks only outside of the city. It is not clear whether this is simply an intensification of relatively static fighting along the front between Russian and pro-Russian forces on the one side, and Ukrainians, or the beginning of a Russian-led offensive to widen the pocket, or the opening move in a broader strategic offensive to link up with Crimea, 200 miles to the west of the pocket. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Democrats Hope to Win Millenial Vote

January 22nd 2015

House Democrats think the GOP’s agenda has given them a new opportunity to win over millennials ahead of 2016.

Even though younger voters tend to vote Democratic, the group turned out in low numbers amid the party’s midterm drubbing last November.

But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion — bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress — Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.

“It’s almost as though they’re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.

A recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News has fueled the Democrats’ optimism, finding that President Obama’s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Obama to Discuss Cyber-Terror Threat in State of the Union Address

January 19th 2015

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama is expected to focus on several new cybersecurity and privacy proposals recently announced by the White House. The measures call for greater information sharing between the federal government and private companies, and new security initiatives to prevent high-profile hacks.

At a White House meeting recently with Congressional leaders, President Obama said both parties could agree to strengthen cybersecurity. The recent attack at Sony pictures and a hack of a Pentagon twitter feed by supporters of the Islamic State group, he said, underscore the need to act. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Turkey-Hamas Nexus

January 16th 2015

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal

Last week, Israel’s Foreign Ministry praised Qatar for purportedly expelling Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal from Doha. The announcement came shortly after CNN cited reports from a Hamas news agency indicating that Meshaal was to be expelled and was probably headed to Turkey. Within hours, however, CNN changed its story, issuing a correction on Twitter that read “sources close to Hamas—not news agency—say Qatar expelled Khaled Meshaal; Hamas official denies it.”

In actuality, Hamas issued multiple denials. Izzat Risheq, Hamas politburo member who reports to Meshaal and is believed to reside in Qatar, declared that “there is no basis of truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal leaving Doha.” He even asked CNN for an apology. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson also believed to reside in Qatar, stated that “there is no truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal. And his place of residence. This is an attempt to stir up confusion, nothing more.” Read more ..


The War on Terror

Israel Honors the Victims of Terror Siege at Paris Kosher Supermarket

January 13th 2015

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The four Jewish victims of last Friday’s terror siege in a Paris kosher supermarket were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Tuesday at a state ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and other dignitaries.

“I stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation,” President Rivlin said in his eulogy at the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, standing before the four biers upon which lay the bodies, wrapped in prayer shawls, of Yoav Hattab, 21; Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 40; and François-Michel Saada, 55.

“Yoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life,” Rivlin said. Read more ..


Broken Government

Immigration Proves to be a Wedge among Republicans

January 13th 2015

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A push by House Republicans to reverse President Obama’s executive action on immigration has put their vulnerable Senate counterparts in a tough electoral spot.

The GOP faces a much tougher 2016 map, and Hispanic groups are warning of political fallout over the issue of deportations at a time when the party is trying to win the White House and defend its new Senate majority.

Worried about their party’s political fate, centrist Senate Republicans are balking at the prospect of a messy fight with the president.

“I would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Another way to challenge the president might be in court.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

White House Criticized for Absence at French Rally

January 12th 2015

Obama and bright lights

The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week.

Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.

The absence of top American leaders was felt as countries from around the world sent their own premiers. In addition to French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all took part in the rally. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Following Paris Massacre, Reforming the NSA is a Hard-Sell

January 11th 2015

The push to reform the National Security Agency isn’t getting any easier.

After a reform bill was narrowly blocked on the Senate floor late last year, civil libertarians hoped that an upcoming deadline to reauthorize some of the spy agency’s controversial powers would give them another opportunity to force changes.

But the attacks in Paris last week, where gunmen killed 12 at a satirical newspaper and 4 at a kosher market, is making that job harder, and strengthening the resolve of the NSA's backers. “I hope the effect of that is that people realize ... the pendulum has swung way too far after [leaker Edward Snowden],” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Thursday.

“Hopefully people realize that the NSA plays a very, very important role in keeping Americans safe, and my guess there will be less of a desire to hamstring them unnecessarily,” he added. Read more ..


Edge of Intolerance

After Terror Strikes, France is on the Edge of a "Seething Volcano"

January 9th 2015

For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - most prominent synagogue in the French capital - was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorist seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution.

According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.” The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said “Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims… The scenes are out of a war movie.”
Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Islamic Terrorists Mass Murder Paris Magazine Staffers

January 7th 2015

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French police say at least 12 people are dead after an attack at the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo.

Media reports say at least two gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles and a rocket launcher inside the building housing the newspaper's offices.  The suspects are believed to have fled in two vehicles. Local media reports say the newspaper staff was holding an editorial meeting when the shooting occurred.

​​Calling it a terrorist attack, French President Francois Hollande defended the media. "No act of barbarity will ever extinguish freedom of the press," he said.

France has raised its terrorism alert to the highest level following the shooting.

Known for its irreverent tone, the left-wing magazine frequently comments on religion and culture.

It published a satirical cartoon Wednesday on social media depicting Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a new year well-wisher.  

Thousands of people took to Facebook and Twitter in support of the publication and the cartoon, saying freedom of expression must be defended.

The newspaper's office was fire bombed in 2011 after it published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed on its cover.

The White House has condemned the attack.

Read more ..

Congressional Edge

Speaker Boehner Consolidates His Base among Fellow Republicans

January 6th 2015

Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday is seeking to stamp out a rebellion from a vocal group of Tea Party insurgents who are determined to deny him a third term with the gavel.

While the conservatives don’t appear to have the numbers they need to force a second ballot for Speaker, they are working to send a message to the Ohio Republican: Don’t count on us.

At least 10 conservative lawmakers have vowed to vote against Boehner when the House convenes at noon, according to a whip count by The Hill, and as many as 20 could ultimately cast their vote for another candidate.
The last revolt against Boehner in 2012 saw 12 Republicans either abstain or vote for someone else. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

War Crimes Charges Being Readied Against Palestinian Authority and Hamas

January 5th 2015

Hamas terrorists in balaclavas

NGO Shurat Hadin went into high gear Sunday preparing war crimes complaints against a range of Palestinians, following the Palestinian Authority's move to join the International Criminal Court last Wednesday.

Israeli officials were widely quoted as saying they would make sure to launch a counterattack of new war crimes complaints against Palestinians using third-party NGOs like Shurat Hadin (though no specific ones were named) as proxies.

This past November, the NGO had already filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC prosecutor against PA President Mahmoud Abbas and in September it similar complaints against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. Since at the time the PA had not yet signed the Rome Statute, both complaints were filed against Abbas and Mashaal as Jordanian citizens. Read more ..


Broken Government

Republicans are Agnostic about Climate Change

January 3rd 2015

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High-profile Republicans converged this year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: “I’m not a scientist.” Party leaders and candidates for office repeated variations of the theme throughout the year when asked whether manmade climate change is happening and what should be done about it.

“What I have said repeatedly is I’m not a scientist,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told a Kentucky sports radio show. “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) said of the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants.

“I’d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a contender for the White House in 2016, said when asked how much human activity is changing the planet’s climate. Read more ..


Broken Government

Democrats are Circumspect about Republican Whip Steve Scalise

December 31st 2014

Democrats are taking a strikingly cautious approach to the controversy surrounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his speech to a white supremacist group in 2002.

The vast majority of Democrats are not calling for Scalise to resign, or for leadership to drop him. But they are tying Scalise to other Republicans and arguing the issue is emblematic of a party Democrats argue is at odds with minority groups on a range of policies.

Strategists say the approach reflects a few factors.

Democrats don’t want to get too far in front of the story, particularly since it is unclear whether Scalise’s 2002 address to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization is an isolated incident. Read more ..


Campus Jihad

Anti-Jewish Bullying at Brandeis

December 30th 2014

Brandeis

Khadija Lynch, the Brandeis University student whose obscene tweets about the recent murder of two New York City police officers have become a national scandal, won the backing of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP,) a violently anti-Semitic group, when she ran for election as a student senator in 2013.

Lynch’s tweets about the murdered officers were highlighted by Daniel Mael, a leading pro-Israel activist on the Brandeis campus, in an article for the Truth Revolt website that subsequently went viral. Mael, who has energetically countered SJP’s activities on campus, is presently facing harassment and calls for his expulsion from university radicals who have decried him as a “white supremacist” for the offense of drawing attention to Lynch’s extraordinary online rant, which included such missives as “i just really dont have sympathy for the cops who were shot. i hate this racist f**king country” and “amerikkka needs an intifada. enough is enough.” Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Jeb Bush Takes Lead as Republican Presidential Front-Runner

December 29th 2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is suddenly leading the pack of 2016 presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party. A CNN/ORC poll released on Sunday found Bush with the support of 23 percent of Republicans, 10 percentage points higher than his nearest rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Cristie. The poll provided further evidence of how Bush has shaken up the field since his announcement he's "actively exploring" a presidential bid, an aggressive early move that thrilled the donor class.

The field is in a state of flux, however, with rivals such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also raising their profiles and courting support. Here’s how the candidates stack up as 2014 draws to a close. Read more ..


Broken Government

Cyber-Security in U.S. Congress is in Hackers' Crosshairs

December 27th 2014

Government agencies and congressional offices are vulnerable to the same kind of cyberattack that hit Sony Pictures, experts say.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are well aware of the growing threat online, and many tell staff to act as if everything they write in email could one day become public.

“I try to inspire my staff often that when they write an email, they write it as if it should be right on the front page of your newspaper,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), whose district includes Hollywood, in an interview with The Hill.
The assault on Sony exposed humiliating internal conversations, unveiled secretive plans and caused the studio to temporarily press pause on a multi-million dollar motion picture.

During a recent congressional hearing, an FBI official estimated the tactics used in the Sony hack would have evaded 90 percent of the American government’s cyber defenses. Security researchers backed the assessment. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Reinvigorated Economy Fills Obama's Sails

December 25th 2014

Democrats on Tuesday received a gift high on their wish list — an invigorated economy that they believe will give President Obama much-needed clout when he faces off with a Republican Congress next year.

Current and former Obama aides say they expect the White House to get a year-end boost from the 5 percent expansion rate of the economy in the third quarter, and expect the president to aggressively talk up the gains in the months to come.

The growth figures also could give the White House new leverage as it seeks common ground with Republicans on a range of policy areas, such as trade and taxes, and as it prepares for battle in others, like changing the healthcare law.
"The proof is in the pudding," one former senior Obama administration official said. "There's really nothing else to say." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama at Center of National Imbroglio over Race and Police

December 23rd 2014

President Obama’s Hawaii vacation had barely begun when the news broke that two New York City police officers had been shot dead by a lone assailant who posted anti-police screeds on social media.

The shocking story returned Obama to the center of a raging national debate over race and police tactics that he has repeatedly sought to manage with care — just as that debate had started to cool.

The targeted killings of the two officers also put those who in recent weeks had criticized police tactics on defense, with some politicians blaming the rhetoric by Obama, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others for inciting violence.
That’s made the situation more difficult for Obama.

“It’s a tough balance,” said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer. “Politically, it’s very explosive, and there are heated passions on all sides.”

Obama has taken a cautious approach to the latest story, and has yet to appear on-camera to discuss the killings of the two New York cops. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Republicans Seek Obscure Budget Rule to Scuttle Obamacare

December 21st 2014

Republicans on and off Capitol Hill are rallying behind using a rarely-deployed budget tool next year to dismantle ObamaCare.

But the issue of how to use “budget reconciliation” has divided Republicans, with some calling for it to be implemented to overhaul the tax code or to push through major energy reforms.

The tool is useful because it could allow newly-empowered Senate Republicans to pass legislation with a 51-vote simple majority rather than the usual 60, greatly increasing the chances of moving legislation to President Obama’s desk.

And while Obama is certain to veto anything that tries to roll back his landmark healthcare law, Republicans increasingly see reconciliation as an important messaging tool to help paint a contrast with Democrats on Obamacare ahead of 2016. Read more ..


National Security

Hack of Sony Reveals Wide Open National Cyber Vulnerability

December 20th 2014

The Sony Pictures hack has forced Americans to confront an aspect of cyber warfare common overseas but rarely discussed domestically — psychological cyberattacks.

When U.S. policymakers discuss the threat of cyberattacks, the focus is often on their destructive potential — overheating a nuclear power plant’s core reactor, or eliminating essential financial records.

But the apparent success of the Sony hit has exposed the effectiveness of psychological cyber attacks. The attack prompted the studio to pull the movie, costing millions of dollars, damaging Sony’s reputation and reportedly leaving its top executives on the ropes.

“Where cyber can probably be successful is in these psychological operations,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which monitors critical infrastructure attacks. “Cyber is not necessarily extremely useful in conducting physically destructive attacks.”

That raises the question: Has the U.S. been miscalculating a major looming cyber threat? Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The United States and Cuba Begin Restoring Relations

December 18th 2014

Cuban Capitol

The United States and Cuba on Dec. 17 took their most assertive step in several decades toward normalizing relations. The most important announcements concerned the resumption of high-level political discussions focused on renewing formal diplomatic ties between the countries, which have been nonexistent since 1961. Cuban and U.S. officials will hold high-level meetings in the coming months, and the two countries will work toward establishing embassies in Havana and Washington. The United States will also immediately relax some sanctions on trade and travel to Cuba. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would loosen certain restrictions on financial transactions with Cuba, remove some restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, and authorize the export of certain goods to the Cuban private sector.

Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement in the Offing

December 17th 2014

Alan Gross and Judy Gross

President Obama will announce Wednesday that the U.S. is beginning talks with Havana to normalize full diplomatic relations with Cuba following the release of a U.S. prisoner jailed for five years by the country. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a press release hailed the decision to seek a normalization of relations with Cuba, while The Associated Press reported the U.S. would use the talks to open an embassy in the island nation. “Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel, and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not achieve,” Durbin said in his release.

Obama is expected to deliver a statement at noon from the White House. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

White House insists that Relations Between Obama and Warren are Still Good

December 15th 2014

The White House says President Obama has a good relationship with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is battling Obama on a host of high-profile issues.

Warren, picked by Obama to be a special assistant to the president in his first term, led a liberal insurrection to the Obama-backed $1.1 trillion government-funding bill last week.

Warren has also rallied opposition to Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss to the Treasury Department. Warren has slammed Weiss, the head of global investment banking firm Lazard, for his company’s role in facilitating so-called “inversions,” where companies merge with international partners in a bid to avoid U.S. taxes. Read more ..


Broken Government

Senate Passes $1.1 Stopgap Spending Bill in the Nick of Time

December 14th 2014

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The Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday evening to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package that funds most of the government through next September.

The vote culminates a week of acrimonious sniping and sends the spending bill to President Obama’s desk for a signature.

The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015.
Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership.

Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) Read more ..


Broken Government

Senate Democratic Leader foresees Government Shutdown

December 13th 2014

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused a small group of Senate Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), of risking a government shutdown by playing politics with the year-end spending omnibus.

“Regrettably a small group of Senate republicans has determined it’s in their political interests to hold this legislation hostage,” Reid fumed on the Senate floor shortly after noon Saturday.

Reid warned that a government shutdown is looming because Republicans objected to passing a five-day stopgap funding measure by unanimous consent on Friday.
Government funding expires at midnight Saturday unless the Senate approves with unanimous consent a House-passed measure to keep federal agencies open through Wednesday. Read more ..


Broken Government

House Approves $1.1 Trillion Budget and Avoids Government Shutdown

December 12th 2014

The House on Thursday approved a $1.1 trillion bill funding most of the government through September despite an outcry from Democrats and significant defections in both parties.

By a vote of 219-206, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where a similar debate may break out between liberal Democrats and the White House.

The vote split Democratic leaders, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposing the bill and criticizing the White House, but Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) backing it. Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, while 139 opposed it. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Obama Won't Stop for a Government Shut-Down to Move on Immigration

December 11th 2014

Even if Republicans shut down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) next year, President Obama could still carry out his executive actions giving legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders have punted the funding fight over Obama’s immigration action to February, arguing their new majority will have more leverage to stop the plan dead in its tracks.

But it’s unclear how much weight the threat of withholding funding would carry. Eighty-five percent of DHS employees continued to work during last year’s 16-day shutdown because they were funded with mandatory funds or deemed “essential” to national security or public safety, according to figures the Congressional Research Service (CRS) tracked down for GOP lawmakers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Surprises Coming in the $1.014 Trillion Federal Spending Bill

December 8th 2014

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Outside groups are bracing for surprises in the massive government-funding bill the Congress is expected to consider next week.

The $1.014 trillion bill funding most of the government through September 2015 is one of the last trains out of the station, as the 113th Congress is set to close shop on Friday.

That means it could be a final chance for lobbyists and lawmakers alike to find a vehicle for their priorities. “We’re ready to be surprised,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, which regularly highlights hidden measures included in funding bills.

Appropriators preparing the bill are keeping a tight lid on its contents. They are expected to release the legislation on Monday. The government will shutdown on Dec. 12 if Congress does not approve a new funding measure by then. Read more ..


After Ferguson

'Racism is Deeply Rooted' says Obama before Television Interview Tonight

December 7th 2014

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President Obama will sit down with BET Networks to discuss calls for criminal justice reform after two controversial grand jury decisions cleared white officers in the death of black men.

In a special segment, "BET News Presents: A Conversation with President Barack Obama," the president will help find meaningful solutions to unrest after the deaths of Michael and Eric Garner sparked nationwide protests.

"This isn't going to be solved overnight," Obama said in an excerpt of the interview to air Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. The interview, hosted by BET host and TV journalist Jeff Johnson, marks the president's first network discussion outlining his strategy to investigate the incidents and ways the country can unify during this time. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama is Upset about Decapitation in Yemen

December 6th 2014

President Obama on Saturday condemned the "barbaric murder" by al Qaeda of U.S. hostage Luke Somers in Yemen during a rescue attempt by U.S. forces. "On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones," he said in a statement.

"As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice," he continued. The president said he authorized a raid Friday to rescue Somers and other U.S. hostages held in the same location as the photojournalist, who was captured 15 months ago in Yemen's capital Sanaa. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine Not Worried about Nuclear Accident and Blackouts

December 4th 2014

Ukraine's new energy minister says an accident at a nuclear power plant in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya last week did not involve a nuclear reactor and caused no radiation leakage.

Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn told reporters in Kyiv on December 3 that the accident on November 28 occurred in the energy transfer system of the plant's No. 3 power-generating unit, not a reactor.

"There is no radiation leakage," he said, and nobody was hurt.

Demchyshyn's statement followed reports that Ukraine had introduced rolling blackouts across the country -- including in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March -- due to shortages in the power grid.

Media reports said the shortages were caused in part by the shutdown of the 1,000-megawatt power generating unit at the Zaporizhzhya plant. Demchyshyn says it is expected to resume operations by December 5.  Read more ..


Broken Borders

Today is the Day for Republican Immigration Reform

December 2nd 2014

When Speaker John Boehner steps before House GOP lawmakers in a private meeting Tuesday, he’ll try to rally his conference to both fight President Obama’s immigration order and stave off another government shutdown.

But the Ohio Republican will also have to contend with another threat: a handful of conservative rebels who have refused to commit to backing the Speaker in a formal vote on the House floor in January.

In a closed-door election last month, Boehner easily won another two years as Speaker. And no one on Capitol Hill believes he will have trouble securing the 218 Republican votes he needs to hang onto his gavel — especially given the GOP’s historic gains at the ballot box in the November midterm elections. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Republicans in a Muddle over Alternatives to Obama Immigration Initiative

December 1st 2014

Republicans in and out of Congress are urging GOP leaders to move quickly on immigration reform in response to President Obama’s executive actions.

The GOP voices say Republican lawmakers should take the reins of the immigration debate with new legislation, both to bolster their party ahead of the 2016 elections and to push back against Obama. “The best way to criticize governing through fiat is to offer an alternative,” said Republican activist Grover Norquist.

“What appears to be the smart move, and what they’re going to do, is do immigration reform through normal legislative [channels],” said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Do it in a way that Republicans find acceptable, meaning take the border seriously [and] think of America’s economic needs. Move forward on that and let him [Obama] be over in the corner stamping his feet.” Read more ..


America on Edge

UN Committee Against Torture Condemns American Police Brutality

November 29th 2014

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The U.N. Committee Against Torture has condemned reported police brutality and excessive use of force in the United States, especially against minority groups.

The 10-member watchdog committee's report, released Friday, urged U.S. authorities to crack down on perpetrators and punish those suspected of torture or ill treatment.

The Committee Against Torture did not examine the August killing of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. While calling Brown’s death a tragedy, the panel said it could not comment on the case because it had to respect the judicial decision that exonerated the officer, Darren Wilson. Read more ..


America on Edge

What to Watch as the Ferguson Drama Continues to Unfold

November 27th 2014

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The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend is going to be dominated by one story: Ferguson and its aftermath.

Protests are likely to quiet as families gather around the table to celebrate the holiday - with many discussing the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo., to not bring an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American. The political world has taken notice of Ferguson, particularly with demonstrations spreading across the country. The degree to which the story continues to dominate discussions may depend on five factors.

Will President Obama go to Ferguson?

Obama, the nation’s first black president, has already addressed the racially-charged Ferguson decision twice. The president is unlikely to make a trip on Thanksgiving, and the Secret Service would surely want to make sure any presidential visit is safe. Read more ..


Supreme Leader says Iran will continue Support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad

November 26th 2014

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that his country will continue to support the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza as well as rival Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

The three terror organizations have collectively fired many thousands of rockets at Israel.

“We are not bound by religious differences; we equally supported Shiite #Hezbollah along w/#Hamas & #IslamicJihad and will keep doing that,” he posted on a Twitter account widely believed to be operated by his office, adding, “We strengthened our Palestinian brothers’ fist in #Gaza & other areas & will do so. As I already said #WestBank should also be armed like Gaza.” Read more ..


America on Edge

Ferguson Verdict means 'Black Lives hold no Value' says Congressional Black Caucus Leader

November 25th 2014

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager last summer sends the message that "black lives hold no value."

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the CBC's leader, called the decision a "miscarriage of justice" in a written statement.

"It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail," she added. "This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America," Fudge said. Read more ..


I'm No Lame Duck, Says President Obama

November 24th 2014

President Obama is governing like a man with nothing left to lose.

After being dealt a stinging midterm rebuke at the ballot box, Obama has gone on offense — most notably with executive action on immigration that could shield 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

The White House is winning news cycles and setting the national agenda, despite a Republican Congress that felt emboldened after their electoral gains. And the shift is infusing confidence into the White House and a Democratic base disheartened after the midterms. “We feel good on how the last two and a half weeks have gone here,” senior presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Friday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Read more ..



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