Ukraine Agitators ID’d As Russian Military – Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia

The New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across easternUkraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

And Ukraine’s state security service has identified one Russian reported to be active among the green men as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence operative in his mid- to late 50s. He is said to have a long résumé of undercover service with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian general staff, most recently in Crimea in February and March and now in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

“There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this, which is why U.S. officials have continued to make that case,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Sunday.

The question of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine has a critical bearing on the agreement reached Thursday in Geneva among Russian, Ukrainian, American and European diplomats to ease the crisis. American officials have said that Russia would be held responsible for ensuring that the Ukrainian government buildings were vacated, and that it could face new sanctions if the terms were not met.

Ukraine Provides Evidence of Russian Military in Civil Unrest

The Ukrainian government provided these photographs last week to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. Ukraine says the photographs document that the armed men who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine are Russian combatants. The State Department, which has also alleged Russian interference, says that the Ukrainian evidence is convincing.

The Kremlin insists that Russian forces are in no way involved, and that Mr. Strelkov does not even exist, at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble. “It’s all nonsense,” PresidentVladimir V. Putin said Thursday during a four-hour question-and-answer session on Russian television. “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in at least 10 towns across eastern Ukraine also deny getting help from professional Russian soldiers or intelligence agents.

But masking the identity of its forces, and clouding the possibilities for international denunciation, is a central part of the Russian strategy, developed over years of conflict in the former Soviet sphere, Ukrainian and American officials say.

John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer who now teaches at the Naval War College, calls it “special war”: “an amalgam of espionage, subversion, even forms of terrorism to attain political ends without actually going to war in any conventional sense.”

And one country, Mr. Schindler noted in an article last year in which he coined the term, that particularly excels at special war is Russia, which carried out its first post-Soviet war to regain control of rebellious Chechnya back in 1994 by sending in a column of armored vehicles filled with Russian soldiers masquerading as pro-Moscow Chechens.

Russia’s flair for “maskirovka” — disguised warfare — has become even more evident under Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer whose closest advisers are mostly from that same Soviet intelligence agency.

For nearly two months now, the shaky new Ukrainian government has been left to battle phantoms, first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine, where previously fringe pro-Russian political activists have had their fortunes lifted by small but heavily armed groups of masked men.

In the eastern city of Slovyansk, under the control of pro-Russian insurgents for more than a week now, the green men have worked hard to blend in with locals but have occasionally let the mask slip, apparently to send a clear message that any push to regain control by Ukrainian forces would risk bringing down the wrath of the Russian military.

A gradation of forces control the city and other areas now in the hands of separatist rebels, ranging from clearly professional masked soldiers and unruly groups of local men in camouflage, rifles slung over their shoulders, to teenage boys in sweatpants carrying baseball bats or hunting knives. At most times, only the local toughs are visible on the streets.

But when a woman sidled up to one of the masked gunmen in the city’s central square last week and asked where he was from, she got an answer that summed up Russia’s bedeviling and constantly shifting disguises. The gunman initially said he was “from Russia,” but when pressed, said coyly that he was “from New Russia,” a long-forgotten czarist-era term revived last week by Mr. Putin to describe a large section of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Asked by the woman what would happen if the Ukrainian Army attacked, he replied, “We have to stand for only 24 hours, to tend the fire, and after that, a one million man army will be here.”

When a Ukrainian armored column approached the town last Wednesday and then swiftly surrendered, a group of disciplined green men suddenly appeared on the scene and stood guard. Over the course of several hours, several of them told bystanders in the sympathetic crowd that they were Russians. They allowed themselves to be photographed with local girls, and drove an armored personnel carrier in circles to please the crowd.


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There’s A Hidden Timebomb In The Senate Rules That Will Go Off If A Supreme Court Justice Retires

Obama and SCOTUS | CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/COLLECTION OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, STEVE PETTEWAY)

With the possibility of Justices Ginsberg or Stevens retiring during President Obama’s term, this piece is quite relevant…

Think Progress

As Jonathan Chait notes, only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and three of those senators — Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe — are no longer in the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, there is a very real possibility that no one President Obama nominates to a Supreme Court vacancy, no matter what their record or qualifications, could be confirmed to the Court.

We made a similar point in 2012, when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar in a Republican Senate primary after he attacked Lugar for his support of Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As we wrote then, “[i]n light of this incident, it is unlikely that any of the few remaining Republicans who backed an Obama Supreme Court appointee will be willing to risk their careers by doing the same again.”

Indeed, under the Senate’s current rules, Republicans could block a Supreme Court appointment right now, if they chose to, even though Democrats effectively control 55 percent of the Senate. Last November, when Senate Democrats voted to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and end the GOP’s ability to require a supermajority to vote to confirm most nominees, they left in place the 60 supermajority requirement for Supreme Court confirmations. As a result, unless at least five Republicans oppose a GOP filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, the current rules allow the GOP to keep that nominee from being confirmed.

Of course, if the vacancy were to arise right now, when Democrats control a solid majority of the Senate’s seats, it would be a simple matter to invoke the “nuclear option” again — a procedure that allows the Senate’s rules to be changed by a simple majority vote. But that assumes that a majority of the Senate is willing to support such a rules change.

Although Republicans have not, to say the least, been particularly cooperative when it comes to confirming President Obama’s judges, the truth is that there are some GOP senators who have been less obstructionist than others. Earlier this month, for example, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted with Democrats on Michelle Friedland’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Friedland, by virtue of the fact that she once clerked on the Supreme Court and that she is a relatively young 41 years-old, is a plausible Supreme Court nominee in a Democratic administration.

The nightmare scenario for Democrats under the current Senate rules arises if Republicans take over the Senate but Collins and Murkowski break with their party to support President Obama’s future Supreme Court nominee. This November, Democrats must defend their gains from the 2008 wave election year where they won seats in states like Alaska and Arkansas where Democrats typically do not fare particularly well. It is easy to imagine Republicans emerging with a slight majority — maybe 51 seats — once all the votes are counted.

Under that scenario, an Obama nominee is still likely to be supported by all 49 of the remaining members of the Democratic caucus, and that nominee could be supported by a handful of Republicans as well. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any Republican would vote at that particular moment to change the Senate’s rules in order to allow a Supreme Court nominee to clear the Senate by a simple majority vote. To do so would likely be political suicide.

The Senate Democrats’ decision to cut Supreme Court nominees out of the nuclear option last November, in other words, could prove deadly for any nomination President Obama sends to the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, we may need to get used to seeing an empty seat on the Supreme Court for a very long time.

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10 things you need to know today: April 21, 2014

Runners get set. 

Runners get set. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Week

A huge field gathers to run the Boston Marathon, Biden heads to Ukraine, and more

1. Huge field lines up to run the Boston Marathon
About 36,000 athletes converged to run in the 118th Boston Marathon under tight security on Monday, part of the storied race’s emotional return a year after a deadly bombing at the finish line. The field is the event’s second largest ever — race organizers expanded it so roughly 5,000 runners prevented from finishing after last year’s blast could run again. “We’re taking back our finish line,” a runner from California said. [The Boston GlobeReuters]

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2. Biden heads to Ukraine as diplomatic deal falters
Vice President Joe Biden began a two-day trip to meet with Ukrainian leaders on Monday as violence frayed a diplomatic deal calling for separatists to give back occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine. At least three people died Sunday in a gunfight reportedly between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russia separatists. New photographic evidence appears to confirm some of the “green men” occupying government facilities are Russian special forces. [USA Today,The New York Times]

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3. Al Qaeda suspects targeted in unprecedented Yemen operation
A “massive and unprecedented” combination of drone strikes and raids by Yemeni commandos is underway against suspected al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, a Yemeni official told CNN early Monday. At least 30 militants reportedly have been killed. Strikes a day earlier killed at least a dozen. The attacks targeted a mountain ridge where Nasir al-Wuhayshi, leader of the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch, met with followers in a video released recently. [CNN]

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4. South Korean president harshly criticizes ferry captain
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the actions of the captain and some crew of the sunken ferry Sewol were “akin to murder.” Capt. Lee Joon-seok is facing several charges in connection with the sinking and botched evacuation last week. A crew member said in a radio transcript released Sunday that the ship rolled over so fast passengers couldn’t reach lifeboats. Sixty-four people are confirmed dead; 238 remain missing. [CNN]

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5. Teen survives flight to Hawaii in jet’s wheel well
A 16-year-old stowaway survived a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet. FBI investigators said the teen was “lucky to be alive” after facing severe cold and a lack of oxygen at 38,000 feet for several hours. “Doesn’t even remember the flight,” said Tom Simon, FBI spokesman in Honolulu. “It’s amazing he survived that.” A 16-year-old died after stowing away on a 2010 Charlotte, N.C., flight to Boston. [The Associated Press]

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6. Crowd gathers for Colorado marijuana celebration
Tens of thousands of people turned out on Sunday to celebrate the once-underground 4/20 marijuana holiday in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational pot use. The celebration, long observed by diehard pot smokers, culminated this year with a massive smoke-out in a Denver park. “It feels good not to be persecuted anymore,” said Joe Garramone, puffing on a joint while his 3-year-old daughter played in the park. [The Associated Press]

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7. Malaysia Airlines flight makes an emergency landing after tire bursts
A Malaysia Airlines flight was forced to turn back during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangalore, India on Sunday after a tire in its landing gear burst on take-off. The plane made an emergency landing back in Kuala Lumpur after about four hours in the air. None of the 159 passengers and seven crew members were injured. Search crews are still looking for another Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished on March 8. [CBS News]

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8. Economy set to bounce back from chill of winter storms
A harsh winter hurt the U.S. economy’s growth in the first three months of 2014, but warm spring weather should trigger a rebound, according to a quarterly survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. A series of brutal snow and ice storms probably dragged first-quarter growth below the 2.6 percent rate of the last quarter of 2013, but forecasters expect a rate as high as 3.6 percent in the second quarter. [CNBC]

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9. Afghan presidential frontrunner appears unlikely to avoid a run-off
Figures released Sunday suggested that Afghanistan’s presidential election is headed for a run-off. With half the votes cast on April 5 counted, frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah widened his lead, but still appeared unlikely to take the 50 percent of the vote needed to win without a second round. Abdullah, who finished second behind Hamid Karzai in 2009, had 44.4 percent of the vote, ahead of Karzai adviser Ashraf Ghani, who had 33.2 percent. [The New York Times]

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10. Wrongfully convicted former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter dies
One-time middleweight boxing contender Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who spent 19 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted for a triple murder at a Paterson, N.J. bar, died in Toronto Sunday of complications from prostate cancer. He was 76. Carter, who was black, was convicted twice by all-white juries. He became a cause celebre, with his case inspiring a song by Bob Dylan before a judge set aside his conviction in 1985. [Los Angeles Times]

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Cardinal defending Hobby Lobby tells female reporter: Women can get birth control at 7-11

Cardinal Timothy Dolan speaks to CBS News

Cardinal Timothy Dolan speaks to CBS News

The Raw Story

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says that Christian businesses like Hobby Lobby should not be forced to obey government rules that require all health care insurance plans provide access to contraceptives because women can already buy birth control at 7-11.

In a interview that aired Sunday on CBS, host Norah O’Donnell asked Dolan where he stood on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

“I would be inspired by the Hobby Lobby [owners],” Dolan said. “I think they’re just true Americans. They’re saying, look, the genius of America is that religious convictions affect the way we act… They sure have my admiration.”

“But doesn’t that set a dangerous precedent?” O’Donnell wondered. “If a private company can use religion to deny benefits to its employees?”

Dolan acknowledged that it could be dangerous in extreme circumstances, but he doubted that the Hobby Lobby argument was a detriment to the common good.

“Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?”

See video here…

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11 Things That Are Weirdly Missing In Hawaii… And What They Can Teach You

SEARCHING BEACH

rzdeb via Getty Images

 

H/t:  Ted for this awesome piece on the 50th State…

The Huffington Post

We often define a destination by the traits, characteristics and features that it has. But equally — if not more — telling is what you won’t find in a particular place.

You may not even realize it when you’re there, but oftentimes, a destination can be better understood by what it lacks than what it boasts. The below 11 things, for example, are virtually nonexistent in Hawaii, which may tell you a lot more about the Aloha state’s quirks and charms than its beautiful beaches and gorgeous sunsets ever will.

1. An ethnic majority 
If the U.S. is a melting pot, Hawaii is its boiling point. Demographically, Hawaii hasthe highest percentage of multiracial-Americans (23.6%), as well as the lowest percentage of white Americans (24.7%) of any state. The next most prevalent ethnicities are Filipinos (14.5%), Japanese (13.6%), and native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders (10%).

The lack of a clear ethnic majority contributes a great deal to the cosmopolitan diversity of the Aloha state. It is, after all, where East meets West, and everything from the food (SPAM musubi) to the clothing (slippahs and aloha shirts) to cultural norms (removing your shoes before entering a home) are influenced by the unique demographic makeup.

hawaii diverse

2. Jaywalking
Jaywalking is technically illegal in a lot of places, but Honolulu’s devotion to the law is especially stringent. With so many vacationers — their heads in the dreamy skies — the city saw an “alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities” a few years ago, prompting the Honolulu Police Department to crack down with a Pedestrian Safety Task Force.

Now, with a fine of $130, not even tourists are immune from jaywalking tickets, and you’ll often see people obediently and patiently waiting at empty intersections.

3. Billboards
Only four states — Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine — have outlawed billboards, and Hawaii’s ban has been on the books the longest. You may not realize this small perk while stuck in Honolulu, the nation’s second-worst traffic city, but you will notice that many of the state’s roadside views are uncluttered and gorgeous — a testament to how much the Aloha state values its ʻaina (land) and preserving its beauty.

hawaii highway

4. Snakes
Need proof that Hawaii is paradise? You won’t find any snakes on the islands. “As an isolated archipelago,” Discover.com reminds us, “the only way for wildlife species to get to the Hawaiian Islands is to fly or swim across the Pacific Ocean.” While anillegal interloper is discovered every so often, Hawaii is largely snake-free, underscoring the islands’ unique geographic and evolutionary history as well as solidifying its stature as a hiker’s paradise.

5. License plates from other states
At a full 2,400 miles from the next closest landmass, Hawaii is the world’s most isolated population center, a fact hammered home by the almost total lack of out-of-state license plates. Newcomers have to register their vehicles within 30 days of arrival, which means it is pretty rare to see anything but the state’s iconic rainbow plates.

Weirdly enough, Hawaii does have interstate highways, but all those rainbows on the road remind you that no one is just driving through Hawaii.

hawaii license plate

6. Day light savings time
Hawaii eschews the practice for one simple reason: because of its latitude, there isn’t much of a difference in daylight between winter and summer. The latest the sun will set this year, for instance, is 7:18pm; the earliest was 5:48pm — a difference of an hour and a half. New York City’s latest sunset, by contrast, will be 8:31pm this year, while its earliest was 4:28pm — a difference of more than four hours!

The Aloha state’s daylight monotony only adds to its overall climate monotony. With the weather and the daylight fairly consistent throughout the year, days, weeks and seasons can begin to blur together. No wonder time seems to slow down in the islands.

7. Voter turnout
For a number of reasons that are very specific to Hawaii, the Aloha state has the worst voter turnout in the country. After fewer than half of the eligible population cast ballots in 2008, CNN laid out eight reasons for the state’s poor turnout, many of which can tell you a lot about the islands. Among them: the laid-back surfer lifestyle (one official said that if the swell is good, he knows turnout will be especially low); the sense of apathy due to the physical distance to and time difference with D.C.; the poor public education not encouraging civil engagement; the fact that it’s a one-party stateoften means elections appear meaningless; and the state’s contentious history with the U.S. leaves many in Hawaii resentful of America’s “unlawful” takeover of the island nation.

beach relaxation

8. Mosquitoes
OK, OK, mosquitoes do exist in Hawaii, but compared with many other tropical destinations, mosquitoes are amazingly absent here. While you may get bites while hiking near a river or when the trade winds die down, Hawaii’s strong breezes make beach-side, sunset enjoyment largely hassle-free. No wonder so many people have beachside weddings here.

9. Car horns
Despite the aforementioned traffic, it is almost unheard of to use your horn in Hawaii. The absence of car noise, even in the big city of Honolulu, is a constant reminder of the aloha lifestyle. Buses boast that they are “Driven with aloha” and the slow island lifestyle means drivers are more apt to let you in rather than honk when you’re forced to cut them off. Like the absence of billboards, the absence of car horns also says a great deal about how people in Hawaii view pollution, whether it be audible, visual or environmental. Why tar the beauty of the islands?

car horn

10. RVs and Mobile Homes
While there’s no actual ban on RVs or mobile homes, you’d be hard pressed to find either in Hawaii. This is largely due to the exorbitant cost of shipping such large vehicles over from the mainland. Think about it: anything that isn’t produced or manufactured in Hawaii, has to be shipped over, making many costs skyrocket.

Moreover, if you decide you just can’t part with your RV, you’ll soon realize there are limited highway miles on each of the islands, thus kind of defeating the point. Just another reminder that, in Hawaii, there’s no real need to rush from place to place — the point is to appreciate the view you already have.

11. Megabanks
Not a single one of the country’s ten biggest banks, including Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo, has a retail location in Hawaii. The cost of doing business (the high price of real estate, manning call centers for a separate time zone, and the cost of shipping equipment like ATM machines) apparently isn’t worth it for large banks, especially since Hawaii is a relatively small market. This doesn’t really affect people who live in Hawaii — they remain fiercely loyal to local banks like First Hawaiian and Bank of Hawaii — but it does affect tourists who may not being able to withdraw money from an ATM without paying exorbitant fees.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren Rips Tea Party ‘Magical Thinking’

ELIZABETH WARREN

The upcoming book from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rips the tea party’s “magical thinking.” | Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

Elizabeth Warren’s new book isn’t just a memoir — it’s a full-throated endorsement of modern, populist liberalism and a scathing indictment of anti-government “magical thinking” by the tea party.

While the Democratic Massachusetts senator structures her new volume, A Fighting Chance, as a chronological tale of her life, she also uses her experiences to make strategic points and arguments about her political philosophy, which embraces government and the labor movement as forces for good.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that if ‘big government’ disappears, so will society’s toughest problems. That’s just magical thinking — and it’s also dangerous thinking,” Warren writes. “Our problems are getting bigger by the day and we need to develop some hardheaded, realistic responses. Instead of trying to starve the government or drown it in the bathtub, we need to tackle our problems head-on, and that will require better government.”

She recounts in the book, which is due out next week, that she believed she was doing that as she put together the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help protect regular people from the sorts of financial chicanery the banking industry was guilty of before the mortgage market meltdown.

And sometimes she ran headlong into those very people she feels are guilty of magical thinking, such as Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who won election in 2010 as a tea party candidate from Staten Island.

Warren met Grimm early in his first term. She figured that as an ex-Marine, former FBI man who investigated Wall Street crime and graduate of a public university, he’d be someone on the GOP side who would understand her focus on making government work better and holding giant financial institutions accountable for breaking the rules.

He didn’t.

“When I launched into an enthusiastic description of what we were trying to get done at the agency, the congressman looked surprised,” Warren writes. “After a bit, he cut me off so he could make one thing clear: He didn’t believe in government.”

A stunned Warren asked him if that included the FBI. He allowed that he believed in the Bureau, “but not other forms of ‘big government’ and certainly not a consumer protection agency.”

Warren found that more than a little ironic for a guy who had spent most of his adult life working for or benefiting from government institutions. And he still was.

“Heck, he had even been quoted as saying that he wanted the government-paid health insurance when he joined Congress, because ‘God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That could happen to anyone,’” Warren writes, citing a New York Daily News interview Grimm gave.

The “could happen to anyone” remark actually is one of the larger themes in Warren’s book, whether its about health problems or financial ruin.

And she thinks it’s government’s job — as her book title suggests — to help give a theoretically injured Michael Grimm or anyone else a fighting chance.

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Baltimore Will Stop Automatically Detaining Immigrants, Maryland Governor Says

baltimore

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Think Progress

The Baltimore City Detention Center will start scrutinizing federal orders to hold immigrants for deportation instead of automatically granting these requests, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced Friday. The policy change adds Baltimore to the growing number of cities in the U.S. resisting federal immigration policy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents often ask local jails to hold immigrants for deportation. Baltimore will now only grant these requests if the immigrant has been charged with or convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. “We will focus our efforts on complying with ICE detainers when there is an actual threat to the public’s safety,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley’s move comes on the heels of a Baltimore Sun investigation that found more than 40 percent of Maryland’s deportees had no criminal record at all, one of the highest percentages of any state in the nation.

The federal program Secure Communities was intended to catch and deport dangerous criminals by coordinating with local jails. In reality, the vast majority of “convicted criminals” deported through Secure Communities were guilty only of traffic violations or civil immigration offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or overstaying a visa. Just 12 percent of deportees in 2013 were convicted of serious crimes like murder, sexual assault, or drug trafficking.

While deporting mainly harmless immigrants, Secure Communities has also seriously damaged immigrant neighborhoods’ relationships with law enforcement. Immigrants areafraid to report crimes or come forward as witnesses for fear of being deported or getting a family member deported.

Because of this, California and Connecticut have passed laws to prohibit police officers from honoring ICE hold requests except in cases of serious crimes. Several cities, includingChicagoSanta Clara, and New York City, have adopted policies to defy ICE. Most recently, Philadelphia’s mayor signed an executive order to forbid police cooperation with ICE unless the federal government gets a warrant, making it one of the most progressive cities for immigrants.

As immigration reform continues to languish in the House, President Obama is coming under pressure from activists and members of his own party to end deportations nationwide for those who would be eligible for citizenship under the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform plan. In the meantime, states and municipalities all over the country arestarting to take action to protect their immigrants from restrictive federal policies.

 

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Rush Limbaugh: Bad News Coming From Everywhere – Even The Right

rush-limbaugh-hed-2012

There have been rumors of Rush Limbaugh’s radio career demise for a few years now.  The following article should shed some light on the progress thusfar…

Liberals Unite

It’s been a very bad week for talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, and a very rewarding week for the millions of Americans who have protested his extreme hate speech for decades. Two years ago, newer groups like BoycottRush, FlushRush and StopRush, began a massive national boycott movement that is exposing Limbaugh and crushing his career. Here are four new recent developments:

1. Politico published an article revealing that Tea Party organizations (some created by the Koch brothers) have contributed millions to Rush Limbaugh. What does this mean? For Rush it means they helped sustain him while thousands of sponsors pulled their ads. It means this may lead to an investigation to see if the funding was done legally. According to the FCC, if you receive money from an organization that pays you to promote their propaganda, without telling your audience, it may be considered ‘payola’  - and it may be illegal.

Politico:

“The Heritage Foundation at the end of January ended its five-year sponsorship of El Rushbo’s show, for which it had paid more than $2 million in some years and more than $9.5 million overall. In 2012, FreedomWorks paid at least $1.4 million to make him an endorser, though it’s not clear that the sponsorship is ongoing.”

2. Forbes Senior Political Contributor and regular on Forbes On Fox, Rick Ungar, believes Rush Limbaugh has become a joke. He also shows, via FrontPageMag.com data, that Limbaugh has outlived his audience. Ungar, also known as Forbes ‘token lefty’ implies Rush is now in the, toss out the old – bring in the new, demographic category. The median age of his dwindling audience (as well as the aforementioned sponsor boycott) no longer appeal to advertisers.

Rick Ungar:

“At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam. I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return.”

FrontPageMag.com:

“Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand. The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.”

3. Speaking of advertisers, Rush Limbaugh can’t seem to hold on to them, without doling out heavy discounts and/or free ad space. After his notorious on-air verbal attack of then unknown, Sandra Fluke, the national protests was set into motion. Hardworking FlushRush volunteers now monitor The Rush Limbaugh Show nationwide. They document the sponsor ads they hear on his show, into the StopRush Database, along with contact and ad details. The sponsor data is then posted back into the FlushRush private Facebook group, and onto the BoycottRush Facebook page for public use. There have been hundreds of articles written about Rush Limbaugh and the boycotts against him, that have appeared in at least a dozen political online news groups, including Liberals Unite and Daily Kos, and have been viewed by millions. The result? Limbaugh and the radio stations that carry him have lost millions in ad revenue. Very few took the Limbaugh boycott seriously two years ago. It reminds me of the Gandhi quote:

Mahatma Gandhi:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

4. And lastly; Ed Shultz interviewed Holland Cook this week. Cook believes Limbaugh’s business is over, for good, due to the various organized boycotts mentioned above. Each does their own part. The protests have been supported by many big and small Liberal organizations, websites, Facebook pages/groups, and Twitter.

Holland Cooke: (via Daily Kos)

“Hundreds of blue-chip national advertisers basically have not only wandered away from Rush Limbaugh and some of the other righties, they’ve abandoned the format entirely. They are afraid to be heard on a news talk station because this man’s use of his free speech triggered the opposing viewpoint exercising THEIR right to free speech. The boycotters are speaking and using the marketplace to say, ‘ENOUGH!’”

Here is an audio clip of the Ed Shultz/Holland Cook interview:

So now, we’re not only hearing from consumers, we are hearing from industry experts on the left and right, many of whom know the business better than anyone and would not risk their reputations on merely gossip. Yes, yes, the public has had enough.  Limbaugh’s self-proclaimed ‘Dittohead’ fans have demanded that Rush’s right to free speech, also gives him the right to spew misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, and racism on public radio. He’s been getting away with it for over 25 years. After the Sandra Fluke attack, the general public soon realized that neither his radio affiliates, nor the FCC, planned to do anything about his hate speech, so American consumers decided to use their own version of free speech via petitions, boycotts, and their consumer dollars, to bring Limbaugh down by way of his sponsors. It’s reported 3,100 companies have pulled their ads from Limbaugh, and the protestors and boycotters have never been closer to pulling Limbaugh off the air. When he has moved on, this country will be all the better, and the public will prove once again, it can be done. We can eliminate hate speech from the media, if takes one host at a time.

You see, you can toss  Americans some Limbaugh, Fox News, Bush/Cheney, Koch brothers, even some Supreme Court corruption, but when push comes to shove, Americans will stand up, show up, take charge, and demand a return to democracy and common decency. Salute to all the many boycotters and volunteers.

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Filed under Rush Limbaugh

BarackNRoll: Obama Hangs Out With Pittsburgh Band After They Serenade His Motorcade

comfort tech

Honestly, how cool is our POTUS?

PoliticusUSA

What do you do if President Obama and Vice President Biden roll into your town outside of Pittsburgh, to the Community College just a stones throw away from your house? If you’re the band Comfort Tech, you turn the driveway into a stage and play an original song, Lumberjack, as the POTUS motorcade rolls by and hope he notices.

He did.

Watch here:

Comfort Tech is comprised of “Sean Conner and Eric DiFiore on guitars and vocals, Kevin Stripp/ Dan Morgan on drums, and Brett White on bass and vocals”, per their FB page. In their video of the event, they were deeply appreciative of the courtesy extended to them, “Serenading Mr. President Obama as he arrives with his motorcade. Most appreciative of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and their kind staff for their outstanding courtesy…”

Watch the Motorcade Serenade here:

Lexi Belculfine at the The Post Gazette reported:

When singer and guitarist Sean Conner, 24, realized POTUS and VPOTUS would be in their back yard, he said he knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But how to get the attention of the leaders of the free world?

They made a red, white and blue banner reading “Welcome Mr. President!” and hung it on their porch, above the driveway-turned-stage. The plan was to be respectful and not disruptive, he said.

It worked! The Secret Service wouldn’t let the President stop to hear the band, so Obama had the Secret Service ask the band to come and meet him, which they did. They noted on theirFacebook Page that they heard the President asking, “Where’s Comfort Tech?”

The President told them to send their CD over when it was done, and then offered to pose for a picture.

Bass player and singer Brett White told the Post Gazette, “I did not touch him until he put his arm around me.”

The band was then invited to stay for the speech, during which the President gave them a shout out. All in all, a tremendously cool outcome from their plan to serenade the motorcade.

The White House followed up, reminding the band to send over their next album:

It’s really difficult to imagine any previous Presidents other than Bill Clinton doing this, and certainly not getting praised for their courtesy.

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Filed under President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden

Why Would Anyone Vote Republican? Let’s See…

4.Allen West Makes Up A Top 10 List To Vote Democrat - Let Us Return The Favor On Republicans

When Republican Allen West made his “Top 10 Reasons To Vote Democrat In 2014″ he relied upon misrepresentations and lies. We thought to return the favor, but with a heavy dose of truthiness – Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

Addicting Info

Tea Party lunatic Allen West, who lost his bid for reelection  in 2012, is also somewhat of a comedian. On his personal page, allenbwest.com, West posted a rather funny article called the ‘Top 10 Reasons to Vote Democrat in 2014.” The article lays out just what you would expect: liberals are taking your money, liberals want to take your guns, liberals elect activist judges to “rewrite the Constitution”, etc. etc. Very funny, coming from the guy who nearly has a 3:1 lie-to-truth ratio on Politifact. West, who does not shy away from controversy, told his readers that they would “get a kick” out of it. So to our readers, you’ll certainly get a kick, and a sucker punch with this.

10. I’ll vote Republican because even though I’m a woman, I love being told that I shouldn’t be paid equally because of the “free-market.” I also love being told that I’m not allowed contraception, or my legal right to an abortion (but a man can have Viagra and penis pumps no problem).

9. I’ll vote Republican because we must suffer the deaths of 31,000 men, women and children a year in order to preserve the option of assassinating our democratically elected politicians with our guns we bought at Walmart.

8. I’ll vote Republican because I work hard for my money, and nothing makes me happier than my tax dollars going to subsidize Big Oil and the major banks that crashed our economy in 2008. I also love that the Republicans are blaming the “lazy” minority for my economic woes.

7. I’ll vote Republican because I believe a President who gives Americans healthcare is a “terrorist dictator” but a tax-evading rancher in Nevada who uses women as human shields is a “patriot.”

6. I’ll vote Republican because we are the “pro-life” party, even though our deepest cuts go to feeding, housing, clothing, educating and medically treating low-income children, elderly and returning veterans.

5. I’ll vote Republican because rather than admitting our world’s climate is changing, I’ll sit around with my thumb up my butt and deny science so billionaires like the Koch Brothers can pollute the Earth and give more to my campaign.

4. I’ll vote Republican because even though our Founding Fathers have claimed we are not a “Christian Nation,” I still want my Christian faith to dictate who can and cannot get married, what children may learn in public schools, and what holidays may and may not be celebrated in public.

3. I’ll vote Republican because every judge who upholds the right to get married, to get an abortion, or be treated like a decent human being is an “activist judge,” but the judges who allow dirty money to pollute our elections are “freedom-loving.”

2. I’ll vote Republican because I support the gap between the richest and the middle class to widen because our policies only pander to the rich, and then complain that there is “class warfare” against us.

And finally, the number 1 reason I’ll be voting Republican:

1. I’ll vote Republican because I can’t get over the fact that President Obama was democratically elected twice, so I’ll make up a barrage of fake scandals like voter fraud, IRS, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, FEMA camps, to dumb down and inject fear into the GOP base so they don’t see how destructive our policies are.

These are the top 10 reasons why we MUST let the GOP take back the Senate and keep control of the House!

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Filed under Republicans