Barack Obama

Obama Only Takes Female Reporters’ Questions In Last Press Conference Of The Year

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama | Credit: AP

Think Progress

In his annual end-of the-year press conference on Friday, Obama took questions from eight women and no men— a move that did not go unnoticed by journalists and others listening to his remarks.

The president started the conference by joking that White House Press Secretary “Josh [Earnest] gave me the list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” and then proceeded to call on eight women from various news organizations. CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter that TV reporters were advised in advance that Earnest wanted “other reporters not regularly called on to get to question the [president].” The strategy resulted in the likely unprecedented female question sweep in addition to leaving out the major news networks.

On Fox News, White House correspondent Ed Henry joked that he was “outraged for men everywhere” but then admitted seriously that he was not pleased with the questions the women asked.

“Frankly some of the questions just didn’t press him,” he said. “There’s so much going on right now and the questions were trailing off. The president was almost like, let me remember what you asked because it was so unmemorable.”

Watch it:

The eight female journalists asked Obama about Sony’s decision to pull The Interviewfollowing threats by North Korea, the deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the state of race relations in the country and the Keystone XL pipeline, which incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell said will be the first matter up for a vote when the new Congress returns from the recess. Notably missing were any questions about the CIA torture report released last week.

While Obama only formally called on women, two men were able to yell out their own questions during the conference. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” one asked, while a reporter called after Obama as he left the room. “Will you smoke a cigar Mr. President?”

Big Jobs Number Could Shake Up Political Storyline Again

Image: National Unemployment Rate Drops To 5.8 Percent

National Unemployment Rate Drops To 5.8 Percent | Getty Images

MSNBC

In the biggest number since early 2012, the latest data from the Labor Department shows a surge in job creation, with a way-bigger-than-expected 321,000 new positions. From NBCNews.com: “Job creation surged in November, with the U.S. economy adding a dazzling 321,000 positions, though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. Economists were expecting 230,000 new nonfarm payrolls jobs for November. The dramatic move was well above the previous average of 222,000 a month over the past year.” What’s more, per Bloomberg, the average hourly earnings are up too – a good data point as both parties grapple over how to address the electorate’s concern about wages. With the caveat we always offer – that these monthly numbers don’t move public opinion nearly as much as real savings in real wallets (like falling gas prices) – this could potentially be a big deal in the country’s economic storyline.

The White House seizes the moment on policing reform

President Barack Obama’s 2008 election as the first black president was hailed at the time as offering an unambiguous message on race in America: That it scrubbed, once and for all, the perception that the sky somehow wasn’t the limit for young African-Americans. But in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, the renewed notion that there are systematic hurdles to success for young black people, particularly young black men, is in danger of re-sowing the kind of cynicism that Obama wanted his legacy to disprove. That’s particularly true in the wake of the Eric Garner case, which has been remarkable for the united and reasoned bipartisan outcry for investigation and reform it’s prompted. (Check out, for example, this thoughtful piece from John Podhoretz on how the “broken-windows” philosophy of crime prevention may have to be revisited.) What’s motivating Obama and his administration’s response right now (see: Eric Holder’s strong remarks yesterday on “excessive force” in by police in Cleveland) is trying to quash that cynicism and distrust before it metastasizes into hopelessness.

This is far from an Acela corridor story

Plenty of political storiesget think-tank musings and policy prescriptions that barely register with the general public, but the current debate over policing reforms ain’t one of them. This story is playing out in its own way in communities around the country. Case in point: Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, announced plans for body cameras on all police as well as taped interrogations. Body camera legislation is being mulled in Florida, North Carolina and Mississippi, and pilot programs are gaining traction in Boston, New York City and Chicago. This is a local story as well as a national debate, which creates even more motivation for the D.C. crowd to get the response right. One thing worth noting here: Boehner’s openness to congressional hearings into the Brown and Garner deaths. “I think the American people want to understand more of what the facts were. There are a lot of unanswered questions that Americans have and, frankly, I have,” he said yesterday.

Did Obama win Round One of the immigration action fight?

Two weeks after announcing a sweeping executive order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, the White House has significant reasons to feel pretty good about how it’s played out so far. Per Gallup, the president’s approval rating among Latinos got a turbocharge, jumping 14 points since the announcement to a year-high of 68 percent. Another poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while the overall public is divided about the way Obama implemented the changes, seven in ten Americans support the underlying policy. And after the midterm walloping, Obama still managed to maintain his relevance in domestic affairs – though it’s unclear whether how much steam he’ll have behind him after the new Congress comes in. And so far, he’s only gotten a slap on the wrist from congressional Republicans in return for the executive action (more on that later). With the current trajectory on the Hill – and the just-launched 17-state lawsuit challenging the policy – this fight is sure to stretch well into next year. With both sides firing up their base, that seems to suit Republicans and Democrats alike just fine.

Conservatives get their immigration vote …

NBC’s Luke Russert reports that the House leadership plan to keep the government funded gained steam last night after the House passed a resolution by Tea Party conservative Ted Yoho (R-FL) called the “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014.” The protest vote – which received an unsurprising veto threat from the White House yesterday and won’t be taken up by the Senate before the new Congress – let conservatives voice some ire about the president’s executive actions on immigration before next week’s expected spending votes. The vote on the Yoho resolution was 291-197, with seven Republicans (mostly immigration moderates from districts with high Latino populations) voting no and three Tea Party backers voting present. Here’s the full breakdown, via NBC’s Alex Moe.

REPUBLICANS who voted AGAINST bill:

  • Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
  • Valadao (CA)
  • Diaz-Balart (FL)
  • Denham (CA)
  • Coffman (CO)
  • Gohmert (TX)
  • Stutzman (IN)

REPUBLICANS who voted PRESENT:

  • King (IA)
  • Gosar (AZ)
  • Labrador (ID)

DEMOCRATS who voted FOR the bill:

  • Barrow (GA)
  • Peterson (MN)
  • McIntyre (NC)

Worth noting: Colorado’s Cory Gardner, who’s headed for the United States Senate next year after defeating Democrat Mark Udall, voted FOR the Yoho bill. Gardner’s win in the state, which has a large Latino population, had been partly attributed to his moderation of some of his immigration positions during his campaign.

… And a spending deal looks promising

Per Russert, the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill, which passes 11 of 12 appropriations bills, is likely to get enough Democratic support to push it over the finish line, even if House Speaker John Boehner loses votes on his right flank. Despite some complaints from Dems who don’t like the short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security, this is a pretty good deal for the party: Democrats get to put their imprint on government funding through the rest of the fiscal year despite the big midterm loss, and the vast majority of the appropriators’ work actually sees the light of day. Of course, this is Congress and there’s always a chance of a monkey wrench (especially with the conservative radio crowd still calling for opponents to “melt the phones”). But most lawmakers are also eager not to extend a lame-duck fight into the holiday season, especially when both sides get to start the next round fresh in January.

Ashton Carter is Obama’s pick for Secretary of Defense

The president will announce today what’s been known in D.C. for days – that former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is his nominee to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel. Carter, who has served under 11 SecDefs and has won plenty of praise from both sides of the aisle, looks right now to be facing a smooth-sailing path to confirmation. Some big GOP names have endorsed him as a steady, competent leader (look for backing from one of his Republican predecessors today, too). The challenge is steep for Carter; he’s walking into a situation where two of three predecessors have put their gripes about the Obama administration IN PRINT, and the third – Hagel – was pretty unceremoniously ousted. But the White House is playing up the idea that he’s going to be unafraid to be confrontational with the national security team. More on Carter’s background -from one of us(!) ishere, by the way.

Republicans on verge of getting to 54 Senate seats

Tomorrow is the Senate runoff in Louisiana between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and GOP challenger Bill Cassidy. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball sets the scene. “Mary Landrieu is dead, and everyone knows it but Mary Landrieu.” But we repeat our question from earlier this week: Did national Democrats abandoning her create a self-fulfilling prophecy here? Consider this from the Center for Public Integrity: Dems groups aired just 100 TV ads after the Nov. 4 primary, while GOP groups ran about 6,000. Another way to look at this, per the AP: “In all, 97 cents of every dollar not spent directly by the two campaigns since Nov. 5 has been to help Cassidy.” Wow. Then again, national Democrats probably made the calculation that if they spent millions on Landrieu — in a race that she probably wasn’t going to win — that would be millions they couldn’t spend on the next cycle in places like Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin.

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: December 6, 2014

Luke Somers had been held hostage since September 2013.

Luke Somers had been held hostage since September 2013 | (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

The Week

A U.S. hostage was killed in a failed rescue attempt, Rolling Stone apologizes for its UVA rape story, and more

1. American hostage Luke Somers killed by al Qaeda in failed rescue attempt
American photojournalist Luke Somers, 33, was killed during a failed U.S.-led rescue attempt in Yemen, officials said on Saturday. South African hostage Pierre Korkie, who an aid group said was due to be released just one day later, on Sunday, was also killed. Al Qaeda militants had released an online video threatening to kill Somers, who was kidnapped in September 2013. That led President Barack Obama to authorize a rescue attempt for Somers, along with any other hostages being held at the same location. But a Yemeni official said the two men were shot either before or during the raid. [The Associated Press]

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2. Rolling Stone apologizes for ‘discrepancies’ in UVA rape story
Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, wrote an open letter on Friday saying the magazine may have “misplaced” its trust in the source of an article entitled “A rape on campus,” which described the brutal gang rape of University of Virginia student Jackie at a fraternity house. A new report in The Washington Post claims that there are a number of discrepancies in the details of Jackie’s rape account, such as whether Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity in question, held a party on Sept. 28, 2012, as the Rolling Stone article stated. [The Washington Post, Rolling Stone]

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3. Obama officially nominates Ashton Carter for defense secretary
President Barack Obama officially nominated former Pentagon official Ashton Carter for defense secretary on Friday. Carter, who would replace Chuck Hagel, has a degree in physics from Yale and has served in a number of roles at the Defense Department, focusing on areas such as budget and military acquisitions. Carter called the nomination an “honor and a privilege.” [NPR]

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4. France will pay reparations to American Holocaust survivors
Following a year’s worth of negotiations with the Obama administration, France has agreed to compensate American Holocaust survivors who were deported to Nazi death camps via French trains. The agreement will be signed on Monday. A $60 million lump sum payment will be distributed across survivors deemed eligible, or their heirs. Officials estimate that survivors who apply for compensation “could receive payment well over $100,000.” [The Washington Post]

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5. Chinese officials arrest former security chief for leaking secrets
Chinese officials have arrested ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang for crimes ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets, a national news agency reported around midnight on Friday. Zhou was expelled from the ruling Communist Party, and it is unclear whether he has a lawyer or will receive an open trial. One of China’s most powerful politicians of the past decade, Zhou is the latest in a string of high-profile figures charged in what President Xi Jingping says is a crackdown on corruption. [Reuters]

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6. United States adds 321,000 jobs in November
The U.S. economy added far more jobs than expected in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Non-farming payroll jobs increased by 321,000, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had estimated there would be just an additional 230,000 jobs added. And, the BLS noted that the job gains were “widespread,” across various fields, including growth in “professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.” [NBC News, Reuters]

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7. More than 20 people blind following cataract surgery in India
At least 24 people were blinded by cataract surgeries performed at a free medical clinic in India’s Punjab state last month, Indian authorities report. Officials have launched an investigation into the clinic, and they have already arrested at least one doctor. The clinic performed at least 130 cataract operations on patients in November, and the investigation comes just a month after 13 women died following sterilization surgeries in Chhattisgarh state. [The Associated Press]

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8. NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully finishes test flight
Flying faster and farther than any spacecraft meant for human passengers since the Apollo moon program, NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Friday. The capsule traveled twice around Earth in four-and-a-half hours, reaching a zenith of 3,604 miles. Intended to fly astronauts into space beginning as early as 2021, this journey was uncrewed, but NASA’s mission control commentator Rob Navias said it was “the most perfect flight you could ever imagine…There’s your new spacecraft, America.” [The Associated Press]

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9. Study finds obesity can decrease life expectancy by 8 years
A study from McGill University found that obesity can shorten a person’s life expectancy by as many as eight years. Young people who are obese are at the highest risk; the sooner a person becomes obese, the more health risks he or she has. The study, published on Thursday in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found obesity linked to an increased risk of heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes. Both reduce life expectancy and cause chronic illness. [Time]

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10. Beyonce becomes most Grammy-nominated woman
Slipping past Dolly Parton with just one more Grammy nomination, Beyonce is now the most-nominated woman in the award show’s 57-year history. Dolly Parton’s record was 46 Grammy nominations, which Beyonce surpassed on Friday thanks to her nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album for her eponymous disc. [Billboard]

Ted Cruz Wants To Fight Obama Over Immigration, But He Forgot About One Thing

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — 11-23-14 – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for congressional Republicans to fight back against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, saying they should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees until he reverses course.

“If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee — executive or judicial — outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists,” Cruz wrote in a recent Politico Magazine op-ed.

There is obviously some political risk in Republicans pursuing such a strategy, given the presidential election in two years and a Senate landscape that looks more favorable for Democrats to regain control in that election.

But during an interview with Cruz on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed out another potential downside to blocking Obama’s nominations: Attorney General Eric Holder, a constant source of irritation for Republicans, would get to stay in his job longer. Holder announced in late September that he planned to retire, and earlier this month, Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to take his place. Holder has stated that he will remain in his position until his successor’s nomination is confirmed by Congress.

“Are you saying that the Senate should refuse to confirm Loretta Lynch, the president’s new nominee for attorney general, and thereby leave Eric Holder, who you don’t like very much, in that position even longer?” asked Wallace.

Cruz largely avoided Wallace’s question, simply saying that Republicans “should use the constitutional checks and balances we have to rein in the executive.”

Wallace, however, persisted, and asked the question again. This time, Cruz still did not state directly that the Senate should block Lynch, but implied as much by saying that only positions of “vital national security” should get to the floor for a vote.

“In my view, the majority leader should decline to bring to the floor of the Senate any nomination other than vital national security positions,” the senator said. “Now, that is a serious and major step.”

In a prime-time address Thursday night, Obama announced that because Congress had failed to pass immigration reform, he would use his executive authority to bring deportation relief to 4 million or more undocumented immigrants.

The president’s executive action will protect undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, as well as immigrants who came to America as children and others with long-standing ties to the country, from being deported.

Obama defended his actions in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” that aired Sunday morning. “The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot,” he said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans.”

“But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration,” Obama added. “I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

Sunday Talk: ¡Ay, dios mio!

Daily Kos

Thursday night, in a nationally televised (sólo en español) address, President Obama totally #Grubered any chance of bipartisanship in our time, using only his bare hands.Contra the claims of his loyalist subjects, Obama’s so-called “executiveactions are without precedent in Real American history—which is not to say that they’re entirely unprecedented.

If not for the fact that Obama already shredded the Constitution, we’d probably just find ourselves in a constitutional crisis right now; but, instead, we’re faced with the prospect of widespread rioting and/or ethnic cleansing.

No me gusta.

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (9/11); Lawyer for Michael Brown’s Family Anthony Gray; Georgetown University Prof. Michael Eric Dyson; Former CEO of Shell Oil John Hofmeister; Author Daniel Yergin; Roundtable: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Jose Diaz-Balart (Telemundo), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report) and Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).Face The Nation: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL); Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID); Roundtable: Michael Gerson (Washington Post), David Ignatius(Washington Post), Susan Page (USA Today), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune) andMark Leibovich (New York Times Magazine).

This Week: President Barack Obama; Roundtable: “Brain Surgeon” Dr. Ben Carson, Democratic Strategist James Carville, Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd andKatrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation).

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Texas Gov.-Elect Greg Abbott (R); Roundtable: George Will (Washington Post), Julie Pace(Associated Press), Kimberly Strassel (Wall Street Journal) and Ron Fournier (National Journal).

State of the Union: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); Roundtable: Princeton University Prof. Cornel West,Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP), Jim Wallis (Sojourners) and LZ Granderson (ESPN)..

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on the critical condition of America’s infrastructure and why the problem persists (preview); a report on the current state of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (preview); and, a report on the use of modern technology to locate the remains of airmen missing in action in the waters off Palau, the site of costly World War II battles in the South Pacific (preview).

10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014

Obama's orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan.

Obama’s orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan | (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

President Obama expands U.S. role in Afghanistan, GOP-led committee concludes Benghazi investigation, and more

1. Obama quietly approves expanded U.S. role in Afghanistan
Over the past few weeks, President Barack Obama reportedly gave the go-ahead on new guidelinesfor U.S. missions in Afghanistan. The new orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops stationed in the country — total American forces in Afghanistan are expected to be lowered to 9,800 by the end of 2014 — but they will impact the scope of the remaining troops’ missions. Previous plans had limited troops to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida, but the new guidelines will allow U.S. forces to provide air support to Afghan operations and target Taliban members who “directly threaten the United States.” [The Associated Press]

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2. GOP-led panel finds no intelligence failure in Benghazi attacks
A Republican-led House Intelligence Committee concluded that both the CIA and U.S. military carried out appropriate responses to the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic quarters in Benghazi, Libya. While the committee did find that initial assessments on the motives behind the attack, along with the identity of the militants, resulted in “flawed” talking points by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, the overall findings agreed with the Obama administration’s description of events. [The Washington Post]

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3. Thailand’s justice minister: Martial law to continue ‘indefinitely’
Saying that martial law is “necessary” for the government and junta, Thai Justice Minister GeneralPaiboon Koomchaya said on Friday that Thailand will not lift it for the foreseeable future. The army imposed marital law nationwide following a military coup in May. All political protests are banned under the law, although some demonstrators have tested that. “We are not saying that martial law will stay in place for 50 years, no this is not it, we just ask that it remain in place for now, indefinitely,” Paiboon said. [Reuters]

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4. Rookie police officer fatally shoots unarmed Brooklyn man
A New York City police officer who had been on the force for less than 18 months fatally shot an unarmed Brooklyn man on Thursday night. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton called the shooting an accident during a press conference on Friday. Officer Peter Liang reportedly drew his flashlight and gun while patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York with his partner. The two were walking down an unlit stairwell when Akai Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, 27, entered the stairwell a floor below. Bratton says Liang’s weapon accidentally discharged at that time, and a single bullet struck Gurley in the chest. [The New York Times]

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5. Republicans officially file a lawsuit over ObamaCare
House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury Departments on Friday. The suit accuses the Obama administration of “unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties.” The White House originally deferred the requirement until 2015, and then delayed it until 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 employees. [The New York Times]

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6. U.S. stock markets see fifth-straight week of gains
The U.S. stock market closed out its fifth week of positive performance — its best stretch since 2011— on Friday. The People’s Bank of China announced an interest rate cut on Friday that nudged international markets higher, while the European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi, made comments about the bank’s plans to double down on boosting the eurozone economy. “It’s short-term good news, but the really good news is going to take longer to play out,” Tom Kolefas, of TIAA-CREF, said. “What we really need is real economic growth (outside the U.S.).” [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal]

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7. Global study qualifies violence against women as ‘epidemic’
A five-part series of studies presented in medical journal The Lancet reports that violence against women is a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions.” Entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” the series reports that 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation, 7 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and 70 million girls are married before turning 18 years old. The study’s authors said one problem is that much of the research and education on violence against women takes place almost exclusively in high-income countries. [Time]

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8. Hackers attack websites supporting Hong Kong Occupy Central protests
Apple Daily and PopVote, two independent news sites which have been covering and supporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests, are being “bombarded by attacks of unprecedented size.” The cyberattacks are “larger than any attack we’ve ever seen,” Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudfare, a company that protects websites from distributed denial of service attacks, said. The identify of the hackers remains unclear, although it’s likely the individual or group is against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. [Forbes, The International Business Times]

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9. Aereo files for bankruptcy following Supreme Court ruling
Streaming serviced Aereo announced in a statement on Friday that it is filing for bankruptcy. The Supreme Court ruled in the summer with Fox and CBS networks, which said that by allowing subscribers to view TV stations via the internet, Aereo was violating their copyright. “The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty,” Chet Kanojia, the company’s CEO, said. “Without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome.” [NPR]

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10. New study finds most heavy drinkers are not alcoholics
A survey of 138,100 adults in the United States found that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not alcoholics, and they could imbibe less with some encouragement. For men, five or more drinks on one occasion, or 15 drinks or more in a week qualifies as excessive drinking; for women, four per sitting, or eight drinks or more in a week qualifies. While about 29 percent of the population does drink excessively, 90 percent of those individuals do not fit the definition of an alcoholic. “We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much,” Dr. Robert Brewer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. [The New York Times]

4 Things You Should Know About The Democrat Who Has Just Kicked Off The 2016 Elections

Barack Obama, Jim Webb | CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER, FILE)

Think Progress

Hillary Clinton has been crowned by many as the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016, but there are other Democratic hopefuls out there. On Thursday one of them became the first potential candidate to form an exploratory committee, the first step in the long run for the presidency.

That man is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. You may remember him as the guy who served one term in Senate between 2007 and 2013, and chose not to seek re-election. Webb served in the Reagan administration as Secretary of the Navy but ran as a Democrat for senate in 2006. In his announcement video, Webb highlighted his bipartisan roots, his military history, and made a generally centrist argument as to why he is considering a run for the presidency. Here are a few more things you should know about Jim Webb, the guy who has officially kicked off the 2016 Presidential elections.

1. Webb is not a dove.

Webb opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. His stance on the issue has led to many people calling him a dove-ish democrat, but that characterization is not all that clear. Webb did not oppose the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, but rather because he believed it was a strategic error, arguing that the conflict would sap vital resources from military engagements in other parts of the world and strengthen Iran. “I am not against fighting when fighting is necessary,” he told Inside the Navy at the time. “What I am for is making sure you are fighting the right war.” A Vietnam veteran, Webb famously said in 2007 he still believed that the Vietnam War was a good idea, and partially blamed the “anti-war left” for the way things turned out. In his announcement video, he speaks vaguely of “ill-considered foreign ventures that have drained trillions from our economy and in some cases brought instability instead of deterrence,” but doesn’t name names. Webb was opposed to military intervention in Libya.

2. Webb only recently evolved to support marriage-equality.

Webb was against same-sex marriage during his time in the Senate, although he wasopposed to a Virginia constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Last month he told The Richmond Times that he was “comfortable with the evolution” the issue has seen over the past few years. “I think it has been a good thing for this country,” he said. Webb also voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell after having campaigned against it.

3. Webb didn’t want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses.

Webb has been less than progressive on the issue of climate change. In 2011, he voted for a bill that would’ve halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. He is a proponent of the Keystone pipeline and even called on Obama to open Virginia’s coast to oil and natural gas exploration.

4.Webb is big on prison reform.

If Webb for President is a long shot, at least his candidacy can serve to bring the important yet rarely discussed issue of prison reform into the spotlight. Webb is outspoken on the issue and introduced legislation in the senate that would’ve created a commission to recommend widespread reforms to the criminal justice system. The bill hoped to remedy racial disparities within the system, address the fact that there are four times as many mentally ill people in prisons than in mental hospitals, and probe into the causes of the U.S.’s extremely high incarceration rate. The bill had unanimous Democratic support but was filibustered by Republicans and did not pass.

And there you have it. The 2016 elections have officially begun.

The Coolest Find Ever – Barack Obama On PBS’ ‘Check Please’ In 2001 (VIDEO)

Addicting Info

In 2001, few people had heard of Barack Obama. He was an Illinois state senator, from the Chicago South Side Hyde Park neighborhood.

In 2001, the the fresh-faced, ebony haired future President was so unknown that he was a guest reviewer on the PBS restaurant review show called Check Please.

If you aren’t familiar with the format of the show, there is a host and three guests, who are typically just regular people from the area. Each of the guests recommends a restaurant and each of the three people review their experience at that restaurant. Obama chose Hyde Park’s Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop.

Unfortunately, the Hyde Park location of Dixie Kitchen no longer exists, but they have a location in the north of the city suburb of Evanston and in Lansing, Il.

The host joked that Dixie Kitchen served “liberal portions.” Obama let that joke go but he did call the restaurant a value and agreed that the portion sizes were large. The restaurant could probably best be described as very American Southern cooking.

Like any good politician, Obama didn’t want to play favorites so he ordered the southern sampler, “because (he) couldn’t make up (his) mind.”

“It’s not gourmet cuisine,” said Obama (take that, those who call him “elitist.”) What he wants is “food that tastes good for a good price.”

He did play favorites with a dessert, though. He loved the restaurant’s peach cobbler.

For the most part, the rest of the panel agreed with his assessment and boy do they now have a story to tell.

Here’s the video:

Mitt Romney Warns Obama Not To Get Too Uppity (VIDEO)

The so-called “Party of inclusion” or tolerance or [fill in the blank]” is apparently exasperated with America’s first African American president side-stepping them and taking other measures to pass urgent legislation.  They’ve tried everything within their power to derail both elections.  They’ve tried to block any meaningful legislation the POTUS tries to send to Congress for a vote, thus forcing him in very rare circumstances, to use or threaten to use executive action to get certain actions which are vitally needed done…without the political theater.

For some of us the president has not been “uppity” enough…

Addicting Info

Mitt Romney, a.k.a. the guy who lost the last election to the current President, took to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday to issue a racially coded warning to Barack Obama: that he should remember that “he lost” the midterm elections and that he should back off and let the real men govern.

For some inexplicable reason, host Bob Schieffer first asked Romney about ISIS and despite the fact that Romney has exactly zero foreign policy experience, he answered that Obama was “inept.”

Romney, who seems to be getting his foreign policy advice from his losing predecessor, John McCain, argued that we should have kept troops in Iraq (even though it was Bush who agreed to the withdrawal).

He also argued that Obama should engage Syrian moderates. Again, I stress that Romney has ZERO foreign policy experience and if he had some, he might be aware that Syrian President Assad is anything but trustworthy and that “There is no organized insurgency in Syria. Rebels fight with rebels who fight with rebels. There was no possible course of action that would have allowed moderate rebels to fight ISIS.”

McCain Romney then argued that we should maybe probably send “boots on the ground,” but we shouldn’t let ISIS know we’re sending boots on the ground, or something like that.

Then Schieffer turned the subject to immigration, asking Romney what his advice might be to Republicans on the issue. Romney skipped right over the Republicans into telling Obama what he should do.

What Obama should do, Romney argues, is sit back and let the Republicans drive. He should passively wait till the Boehner and McConnell hand him a bill on immigration reform and just sign it.

Romney refers to any action Obama might take from the executive level as “poking Republicans with a stick in the eye.”

“The President has got to learn that he lost this last election round,” Romney said, despite the fact that the President wasn’t on the ballot and that the Democrats who lost were the Democrats that ran away from the President.

Here’s the video via YouTube:


This is far from the first time the country club former presidential candidate has used coded racism in referring to Obama. Of course, Romney is far too cultured to use the “n” word or other obvious racial slurs, but his racism was clear, even on the campaign trial.

You can watch the full Face the Nation exchange above.

Why the FBI’s Suicide Note to MLK Still Matters

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. |  Express Newspapers/Getty

I had actually forgotten about this for a while. I first learned of it in a Black Studies class in College then on  a television documentary…

The Daily Beast ~ Nick Gillespie

A reminder that Washington has been toying with and lying to Americans for a long, long time.

The more we learn about the government these days, the less we can trust it. Forget about the simple incompetence that used to fire up libertarian critics of an expansive government—that’s a complaint that seems almost quaint given recent and ongoing revelations about official fraud and deception. It’s looking more and more like the government tends toward evil and mean-spiritedness, and it’s going to take real change to reverse eroding faith among citizens.

Though it was sent 50 long years ago, the FBI’s so-called suicide letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. is very much of a piece with today’s America, where fear of and anger toward the government casts a shadow over everything from web-surfing to starting a business. Historian Beverly Gage and The New York Times have just published an unredacted version of the anonymous November, 1964 letter almost certainly sent by the FBI to Martin Luther King, Jr. a few weeks before the civil rights leader was set to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

The typo-laden note pretends to be from a black American repulsed by King’s “psychotic” sexuality and warns that he will be unmasked as a “filthy, abnormal animal” unless he kills himself. “King you are done,” reads the letter, drawing on surveillance and wiretaps approved by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson. “There is but one way out for you,” the note continues. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

In the 21st century, we worry less about the government ratting out our sex lives and more about it tapping our phones, reading our emails, secretly dispatching drones abroad, sending “desperate and dumb” mash notes to Iranian fascists, and generally lying about its true goals and actions. “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles” announced theTimes in 2012, clearly uncomfortable with the implications of its own expose (“Secret ‘Kill List’ Reveals Obama’s Principles” would have been more accurate).

So it’s fitting that the letter to King, one of the government’s most despicable acts of domestic surveillance, has only fully come to light in the age of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and what Barack Obama promised was going to be the “most transparent administration” in U.S. history.

Alas, when it comes to openness, Barack Obama  neglected to mention that the most disturbing revelations would happen in spite of—not because of—his actions. We didn’t learn that  the president’s former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, former CIA director Keith Alexander, and current CIA director John Brennan all lied to Congress because the administration suddenly decided to come clean.

And it’s not just unseemly cloak-and-dagger stuff in an age of terrorism that’s causing trust issues. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped create the Affordable Care Act, has rightfully come under fire for admitting that the “lack of transparency” in Obamacare was a political strategy designed to take advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter.” Nancy Pelosi, who was speaker of the House when Obamacare passed, has carried the deception further still, falsely saying that “I don’t know who [Gruber] is” and that “he didn’t help write our bill” —claims that were immediately revealed as false after about 10 seconds of Googling.

A new survey by The Atlantic of 50 “Silicon Valley Insiders”—“executives, innovators, and thinkers”–asks respondents to name “the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States.” The top three answers are “government regulation/bureaucracy” (20 percent), “immigration policies” (16 percent), and “education” (14 percent). Given the role it plays in setting immigration policy and controlling education at all levels through a mix of money and mandates, that means government takes the gold, silver, and bronze medals at making life harder.

It’s not just tech gazillionaires who feel this way. Gallup annually asks jes’ plain folks, “Which of the following do you think is the biggest threat to the country in the future—big business, big labor, or big government?” Last December, a record-high 72 percent chose big government. That’s more than double the figure Gallup recorded when the FBI was listening to Martin Luther King’s heavy-breathing sessions. These days, says Pew Research, just 2 percent (!) of us trust the government “to just about always” do the right thing.

Fifty years ago—again, right around the time that the FBI was about to become the subject of a hagiographic hit TV show and trying to goad Martin Luther King, Jr. into killing himself—Richard Hofstadter was denouncing the “paranoid style in American politics,”. He lamented that, “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”

But today’s lack of trust and confidence in the government doesn’t seem all that angry. It’s more like we’re resigned to the fact that our rulers think little of us—that is, when they think of us at all. In gaining new knowledge about how people in power almost always behave, we are wiser and sadder and, one hopes, much less likely to put up with bullshit from the left, right, or center.

There’s a real opportunity to the politicians, the parties, and the causes that dare to embrace real transparency —about how legislation is being crafted, about our surveillance programs at home and abroad—as a core value and something other than a throwaway slogan. But as an unbroken thread of mendacity and mischief binds the present to the past, a future in which government can be trusted seems farther off than ever.

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