Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||February 7th 2015|
Times of Israel
Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3-7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to specific terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.
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Thousands of documents, newly obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the PA government or the military. Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has explained, â€œWe are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.â€ Nonetheless, in response to the international furor, the Palestinian Authority announced it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.
The PA is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About ten percent of the PA budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The US and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism. The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts. These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Ahmad. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and Barghouti was sentenced to 13 life sentences. Read more ..
|Sarah Ferris||February 5th 2015|
Administration officials are refusing to say whether they have an ObamaCare backup plan if the Supreme Court torpedoes the law.
But Republicans donâ€™t believe them.
GOP lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee repeatedly pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on the issue. But Burwell on Wednesday did not budge during a tense back-and-forth, with a half-dozen Republicans claiming that the administration must have a â€œplan B.â€
â€œIâ€™m asking, is there a contingency plan? Not what is the plan, but is there a plan?â€ Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked.
The case, which begins oral arguments next month, could make billions of dollars of healthcare subsidies disappear in 37 states. And with such high stakes, two former HHS officials said they are confident the administration is preparing a backup plan.
â€œOf course, they have one, they should all resign if they donâ€™t,â€ said Tom Scully, an HHS official under former President George W. Bush. â€œAnd they certainly should not discuss it either.â€ Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Ben Kamisar||February 1st 2015|
Peyton Manning for president?
While it might seem far-fetched, a number of former NFL players have parlayed their fame on the gridiron into support at the ballot box.
Former NFL players who have been elected to Congress include Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent, Washington Redskins quarterback Health Shuler and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle John Runyan, to name just a few.
With the Super Bowl dominating Americaâ€™s attention this weekend, hereâ€™s a look at five players who could seek public office once they hang up their cleats.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos
A lock for the Hall of Fame, Manning seems to have the perfect platform for entering politics thanks to his affable personality, visibility and history of donating to charities. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton ||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 Obamaâ€™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:
â€¢ Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do â€œeverything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,â€ adding, â€œyou donâ€™t know how these legislative battles go if you donâ€™t have them, and we intend to have this one.â€ Read more ..
The Battle for the Ukraine
|George Friedman||January 24th 2015|
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
|Mike Lillis ||January 22nd 2015|
House Democrats think the GOPâ€™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 partyâ€™s midterm drubbing last November.
But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion â€” bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress â€” Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.
â€œItâ€™s almost as though theyâ€™re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,â€ 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 Democratsâ€™ optimism, finding that President Obamaâ€™s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Doug Bernard||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
|Jonathan Schanzer and David Andrew Weinberg ||January 16th 2015|
Last week, Israelâ€™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 â€œsources close to Hamasâ€”not news agencyâ€”say Qatar expelled Khaled Meshaal; Hamas official denies it.â€
In actuality, Hamas issued multiple denials. Izzat Risheq, Hamas politburo member who reports to Meshaal and is believed to reside in Qatar, declared that â€œthere is no basis of truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal leaving Doha.â€ He even asked CNN for an apology. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson also believed to reside in Qatar, stated that â€œthere 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.â€ Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Dave Bender||January 13th 2015|
The four Jewish victims of last Fridayâ€™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.
â€œI stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation,â€ 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 FranÃ§ois-Michel Saada, 55.
â€œYoav, 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,â€ Rivlin said. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton||January 13th 2015|
A push by House Republicans to reverse President Obamaâ€™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 partyâ€™s political fate, centrist Senate Republicans are balking at the prospect of a messy fight with the president.
â€œI would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,â€ said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). â€œAnother way to challenge the president might be in court.â€ Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Elise Viebeck||January 12th 2015|
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
|Julian Hattem||January 11th 2015|
The push to reform the National Security Agency isnâ€™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 agencyâ€™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. â€œI hope the effect of that is that people realize ... the pendulum has swung way too far after [leaker Edward Snowden],â€ Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Thursday.
â€œHopefully 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,â€ he added. Read more ..
Edge of Intolerance
|Martin Barillas||January 9th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
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, â€œThe Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.â€ 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 â€œHostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victimsâ€¦ The scenes are out of a war movie.â€
Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||January 7th 2015|
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.
â€‹â€‹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 ..
|Scott Wong||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 donâ€™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: Donâ€™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
|Yonah Jeremy Bob||January 5th 2015|
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 ..
|Timothy Cama ||January 3rd 2015|
High-profile Republicans converged this year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: â€œIâ€™m not a scientist.â€ 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.
â€œWhat I have said repeatedly is Iâ€™m not a scientist,â€ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told a Kentucky sports radio show. â€œIâ€™m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,â€ Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) said of the Obama administrationâ€™s climate rule for power plants.
â€œIâ€™d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are,â€ Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a contender for the White House in 2016, said when asked how much human activity is changing the planetâ€™s climate. Read more ..
|Ben Kamisar ||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 donâ€™t want to get too far in front of the story, particularly since it is unclear whether Scaliseâ€™s 2002 address to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization is an isolated incident. Read more ..
|Ben Cohen||December 30th 2014|
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.
Lynchâ€™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 SJPâ€™s activities on campus, is presently facing harassment and calls for his expulsion from university radicals who have decried him as a â€œwhite supremacistâ€ for the offense of drawing attention to Lynchâ€™s extraordinary online rant, which included such missives as â€œi just really dont have sympathy for the cops who were shot. i hate this racist f**king countryâ€ and â€œamerikkka needs an intifada. enough is enough.â€ Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Cameron Joseph||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. Hereâ€™s how the candidates stack up as 2014 draws to a close. Read more ..
|Cory Bennett ||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.
â€œI 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,â€ 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 governmentâ€™s cyber defenses. Security researchers backed the assessment. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Bernie Becker and Amie Parnes ||December 25th 2014|
Democrats on Tuesday received a gift high on their wish list â€” 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
|Justin Sink||December 23rd 2014|
President Obamaâ€™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 â€” 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.
Thatâ€™s made the situation more difficult for Obama.
â€œItâ€™s a tough balance,â€ said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer. â€œPolitically, itâ€™s very explosive, and there are heated passions on all sides.â€
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
|Scott Wong||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 â€œbudget reconciliationâ€ 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 Obamaâ€™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 ..
|Cory Bennett ||December 20th 2014|
The Sony Pictures hack has forced Americans to confront an aspect of cyber warfare common overseas but rarely discussed domestically â€” psychological cyberattacks.
When U.S. policymakers discuss the threat of cyberattacks, the focus is often on their destructive potential â€” overheating a nuclear power plantâ€™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 Sonyâ€™s reputation and reportedly leaving its top executives on the ropes.
â€œWhere cyber can probably be successful is in these psychological operations,â€ said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which monitors critical infrastructure attacks. â€œCyber is not necessarily extremely useful in conducting physically destructive attacks.â€
That raises the question: Has the U.S. been miscalculating a major looming cyber threat? Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|George Friedman||December 18th 2014|
Read more ..
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.
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink ||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. â€œOpening 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,â€ Durbin said in his release.
Obama is expected to deliver a statement at noon from the White House. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink ||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 Obamaâ€™s nomination of Antonio Weiss to the Treasury Department. Warren has slammed Weiss, the head of global investment banking firm Lazard, for his companyâ€™s role in facilitating so-called â€œinversions,â€ where companies merge with international partners in a bid to avoid U.S. taxes. Read more ..
|Rebecca Shabad and Alexander Bolton||December 14th 2014|
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 Obamaâ€™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 ..
|Alexander Bolton||December 13th 2014|
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.
â€œRegrettably a small group of Senate republicans has determined itâ€™s in their political interests to hold this legislation hostage,â€ 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 ..
|Rebecca Shabad, Cristina Marcos and Mike Lillis ||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 ..
|Scott Wong||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 Obamaâ€™s immigration action to February, arguing their new majority will have more leverage to stop the plan dead in its tracks.
But itâ€™s unclear how much weight the threat of withholding funding would carry. Eighty-five percent of DHS employees continued to work during last yearâ€™s 16-day shutdown because they were funded with mandatory funds or deemed â€œessentialâ€ 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
|Rebecca Shabad||December 8th 2014|
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. â€œWeâ€™re ready to be surprised,â€ 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 ..
|Rachel Huggins||December 7th 2014|
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 ..
|Rachel Huggins||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 Lukeâ€™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
|Martin Barillas||December 4th 2014|
Cutting Edge Contributor
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 ..
|Scott Wong||December 2nd 2014|
When Speaker John Boehner steps before House GOP lawmakers in a private meeting Tuesday, heâ€™ll try to rally his conference to both fight President Obamaâ€™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 â€” especially given the GOPâ€™s historic gains at the ballot box in the November midterm elections. Read more ..
|Mike Lillis||December 1st 2014|
Republicans in and out of Congress are urging GOP leaders to move quickly on immigration reform in response to President Obamaâ€™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. â€œThe best way to criticize governing through fiat is to offer an alternative,â€ said Republican activist Grover Norquist.
â€œWhat appears to be the smart move, and what theyâ€™re going to do, is do immigration reform through normal legislative [channels],â€ said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. â€œDo it in a way that Republicans find acceptable, meaning take the border seriously [and] think of Americaâ€™s economic needs. Move forward on that and let him [Obama] be over in the corner stamping his feet.â€ Read more ..
America on Edge
|Lisa Schlein||November 29th 2014|
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 Brownâ€™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
|Peter Sullivan||November 27th 2014|
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 juryâ€™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 nationâ€™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 ..
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