Mitt Romney

10 Things You Need to Know Today: January 31, 2015

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Week

1.Mitt Romney will not run for president in 2016
In an 11 a.m. call on Friday with senior donors, Mitt Romney announced that despite heavy speculation that he would step into the 2016 race for president, he will not consider a bid after all. “I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” he said. The announcement prompted several top GOP donors to throw their support behind Jeb Bush instead.

Source: USA Today, The New York Times

2.African Union to send 7,500 troops to Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram
African Union leaders agreed during a two-day summit in Ethiopia to send 7,500 troops to help push back the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants have killed thousands in the five years that they have expanded their reach through northeast Nigeria; and, insurgents have increased the frequency of their attacks in the leadup to Nigeria’sFeb. 14 elections.

Source: The Associated Press

3.CDC: Disneyland measles outbreak likely came from overseas
Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that the measles outbreak that started in California’s Disneyland likely came from overseas, probably brought either by a foreign tourist or an American returning home. So far, 94 people in eight states have become infected with the measles, and 67 of those cases are linked to Disneyland. The outbreak is “a wake-up call to make sure we keep measles from regaining a foothold in our country,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said, adding that the outbreak is occurring because some people aren’t vaccinated against the disease.

Source: NBC News

4.South African apartheid death squad leader to be freed on parole
South African apartheid death-squad leader Eugene de Kock, also known as “Prime Evil,” was granted parole on Friday. The ex-cop will be released from prison after serving more than 20 years for the torture and murder of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s. South Africa justice minister Michael Masutha said in a news conference that de Kock was released “in the interests of nation-building and reconciliation.” He added that de Kock has expressed remorse and helped authorities recover the remains of some of his victims.

Source: The Guardian

5.U.S. economic growth slowed in fourth quarter of 2014
U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in 2014’s fourth quarter, a sharp decline from the third quarter, when the U.S. economy posted its strongest growth in more than a decade with a 5 percent GDP reading. Economists had estimated that America’s economy grew by 3 percent during the last three months of 2014. “The consumer did the heavy lifting, and I don’t think there is any reason to expect that to change in the first half of this year, because of the enormous tailwind from lower gasoline prices,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, said.

Source: Reuters

6.Serena Williams defeats Maria Sharapova to win 6th Australian Open
Notching her sixth Australian Open victory and 19th Grand Slam title, Serena Williams powered through a nagging cough to defeat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Saturday. The top-ranked tennis star’s victory makes her the oldest winner of the Australian Open women’s title, at 33 years old. The win also moves Williams into second place for most major wins; she is now just three major titles away from tying Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Most Americans support government action to stop climate change
A new poll from The New York Times found that a majority of Americans, including almost half of Republicans, support government action to stop climate change. Seventy-seven percent of Americans said the federal government “should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change.” The poll, conducted in conjunction with Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future, surveyed 1,006 adults and found that two-thirds of the respondents said they were more likely to vote for presidential candidates whose campaign platforms included fighting climate change.

Source: The New York Times

8.Russia unexpectedly cuts interest rates
Weeks after hiking interest rates to an 11-year high, Russia unexpectedly cut them again on Friday. The central bank lowered the benchmark rate from 17 percent to 15 percent, which spiked ruble sales, driving it down 4 percent against the dollar. In 2014, the central bank raised the rate six times, and officials and business leaders had warned that the economy would crash unless the rates came down. Earlier in January, an aide to President Vladimir Putin called doing business “impossible” at the current interest rate.

Source: Bloomberg Business

9. George Zimmerman’s ex-girlfriend recants story, assault charges dropped
Prosecutors announced on Friday that they won’t file a formal charge in an assault case against George Zimmerman because his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Brunelle, recanted her story. Florida State Attorney Phil Archer said there were no other eyewitnesses to the alleged event, in which Brunelle originally stated that Zimmerman threw a wine bottle at her and destroyed her cellphone. Zimmerman was arrested three weeks ago, but three days after his arrest, Brunelle asked in a statement that prosecutors not file charges, adding that she was “under no pressure and had been offered no money” to make the statement.

Source: The Associated Press

10.Jay Z to buy music streaming service Aspiro for $56 million
Jay Z has purchased Scandinavian music streaming service Aspiro for $56 million. Project Panther Bidco Ltd., a company Jay Z controls, announcedon Friday that it was purchasing Aspiro, “an innovative, high-quality company with strong future growth potential.” The Norwegian media group Schibsted, Aspiro’s main shareholder, said it had accepted the offer, and Aspiro’s board is “united in recommending the bid.”

Mitt Romney Won’t Run in 2016 Presidential Election

Mitt Romney had expressed renewed interest this month in another presidential run, but his flirtation prompted a fierce backlash across Republican circles. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, told a group of supporters on Friday that he would not seek his party’s nomination for president in 2016.

Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers.

In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”

Mr. Romney said he believed he could win the nomination, but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House. “I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said.

He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind.

Mr. Romney, who did not take questions and ended the call shortly after reading a prepared statement, said that his family had been gratified by the outpouring of support, but had decided that it was best for the Republican Party to step aside. Mr. Romney said he would have no leadership PAC and no exploratory committee.

By not pursuing a third White House bid, Mr. Romney frees up scores of donors and operatives who had been awaiting his decision, and creates space for other potential center-right candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Mr. Romney, 67, had expressed renewed interest in another presidential run to a group of donors earlier this month, roiling the nascent Republican race. Many of his loyal contributors, staff members and supporters had been reluctant to come out for one of his potential rivals until they knew Mr. Romney’s plans.

But his flirtation had also prompted a fierce backlash across Republican circles, and some of Mr. Romney’s former aides and donors have begun moving on to other candidates.

In a more than four-hour meeting last week, Mr. Romney’s top staff members and trusted advisers from 2012 relayed a sobering reality — they supported Mr. Romney and thought he would be the best president, but they did not necessarily encourage a third run.

One by one, loyal supporters talked about surveying their troops from 2012, and finding that the enthusiasm and support were just not there. Some Iowa precinct leaders were not coming back, and even in New Hampshire — where Mr. Romney had won the primary — the mood was described at best as “cautiously optimistic.” The situation with donors was also going to be an uphill climb.

Word of Mr. Romney’s decision sent waves through the Republican donor world early Friday, as Romney aides began to telegraph the news to donors and other staff members and strategists. Some donors immediately began calling representatives of other potential candidates, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, to discuss offering their support.

Mr. Romney’s announcement started a day of reckoning with his would-be rivals. He is scheduled to have dinner with Mr. Christie on Friday evening, according to two people with knowledge of his schedule, suggesting that Mr. Romney may be considering throwing his support, and that of his own political operation, to Mr. Christie. The two men are friendly, and Mr. Christie, along with Mr. Bush, was a main rival of Mr. Romney for the favor of the Republican establishment.

Mr. Bush offered his own warm words for Mr. Romney in a post on Facebook on Friday morning.

Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I look forward to working with him.”

At 11 on Thursday night, a blast email was sent from a address, alerting supporters about a conference call on Friday morning.

“Please join me for an update call tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. EST, 8:00 a.m. PST,” wrote Mr. Romney, adding the dial-in information and concluding, “All the best, Mitt.”

In an appearance at Mississippi State University on Wednesday, Mr. Romney sounded themes that could have shaped another campaign. But he also lamented the nature of the political process and offered a dose of barely veiled self-criticism, discussing some of the shortcomings of his 2012 campaign and the lessons he learned from his loss to President Obama.

Mr. Romney’s decision will almost certainly bring an end to his decade-long quest to become president. He lost in the Republican primary in 2008 before becoming his party’s standard-bearer four years later.

Friday’s conference call seemed bittersweet for the Romney family. At one point, Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, came on the line and thanked the former aides for their steadfast support.

But luck was clearly not with Mr. Romney this time, even as he shared the news with his former staff members on his morning call. Mr. Romney’s voice fell off the line as the connection was suddenly dropped.

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: January 30, 2015

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Week

1.Obama calls for ending automatic spending limits in new budget
President Obama is calling for a 7 percent increase in military and domestic spending in his new budget proposal, the White House said Thursday. The spending plan, to be unveiled Monday, calls for ending four-year-old congressionally mandated spending caps known as “sequestration” now that budget deficits have returned to pre-Great-Recession levels. Republicans criticized the plan, saying its mix of new taxes and an end to automatic spending cuts would do nothing to solve long-term budget problems.

Source: The Washington Post, Reuters

2.Mitt Romney will reportedly announce his 2016 decision today
Mitt Romney (R) will announce his plans for the 2016 elections on Friday morning, according to multiple reports. Supporters of Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign received an email Thursday inviting them to join a call with Romney on Friday morning for “an update.” Sources have confirmed to Bloomberg that Romney is ready to announce a decision about a potential presidential bid in 2016.

Source: Politico, Bloomberg

3.Keystone pipeline clears a big hurdle
The GOP-led Senate on Thursday passed a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but Republicans were just short of the votes needed to override President Obama’s threatened veto. The bill must now be reconciled with a similar one passed by the House. Supporters say the project will create jobs; opponents say it’s not worth the environmental risk. Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated Obama’s plan to veto the bill. The pipeline would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Source: The Huffington Post, Fox News

4.Sinai attacks leave 32 dead
Militants simultaneously hit more than a dozen army and police targets in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, killing at least 25 soldiers and one policeman and wounding more than 60. Egyptian health officials raised the death toll to 32 on Friday. At least one car bomb and numerous mortar shells destroyed buildings at a military base, burying soldiers with debris. An army spokesman blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, but before the attack the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt tweeted a photo of militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Google reports revenue growth, but not as much as expected
Google reported a 15 percent increase in revenue over the last quarter, falling shy of expectations. The average price for Google’s online ads fell by 3 percent, although some analysts had been hoping to see those prices rise. Google’s stock dipped on the news but rallied to close up by 0.1 percent, at $510.66 per share. Google has been battling to keep its advertising revenue strong as users of its online services shift to mobile devices, where ads sell for less.

Source: Reuters

6.McCain kicks out anti-war “scum” from Senate hearing
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain booted several protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink from a budget hearing after they approached a witness table and called former secretary of State Henry Kissinger a war criminal. “Get out of here, you low-life scum,” McCain told the protesters. Kissinger, who served under in the Nixon administration during the Vietnam war, was testifying along with his counterparts from the Clinton and Reagan administrations, Madeleine Albright and George P. Shultz.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Dartmouth bans drinking on campus
Dartmouth College on Thursday announced broad changes to cut down on dangerous behavior on campus, including bans on alcohol and pledging at fraternities and sororities. Students also will have to participate in a program aimed at preventing sexual violence. Dartmouth developed the plan, called Moving Dartmouth Forward, based on recommendations from a committee formed last spring. The initiative came after a former fraternity wrote an expose two years ago describing hazing and drinking at the Ivy League school.

Source: The Boston Globe

8.Jordan lets ISIS prisoner-swap deadline pass
Jordan let the Islamic State’s deadline for a prisoner exchange pass on Thursday, demanding proof that a captured Jordanian fighter pilot was alive before it would release imprisoned failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi. ISIS had said it would kill the pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and Japanese hostage Kenji Goto unless Jordan delivered al-Rishawi to the Syrian-Turkish border by sundown Thursday. “Rishawi is still in Jordan,” a government spokesman said, “and the exchange will happen once we receive the proof of life we ask for.”

Source: The New York Times

9. Texas executes killer with 67 IQ
Texas executed convicted murderer Robert Ladd on Thursday despite defense attorney’s claims that he shouldn’t be put to death because he was mentally disabled. “Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd’s IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death,” defense attorney Brian Stull said this week. Ladd was convicted for beating Vicki Ann Garner, 38, to death with a hammer and then setting her body on fire. At the time, he was on parole for a 1980 stabbing and arson that killed three people.

Source: MSNBC

10.Obama taps former Procter & Gamble chief to run Veterans Affair
Secretary of State John Kerry said after meeting with Iraqi leaders on Monday that embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had pledged to form a new government. [Fox News, Reuters]

Obama Mocks Mitt Romney For Being ‘Suddenly Deeply Concerned About Poverty’


US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the end of the third and final presidential debate October 22, 2012 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) | MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Thought the 2012 presidential campaign was over? Think again.

President Barack Obama didn’t have much to say about Mitt Romney’s rekindled aspirations for the White House when he delivered a flat, “No comment,” earlier this month. But apparently he couldn’t resist much longer, following reports that the former GOP candidate was weighing entering the ring in 2016 on a platform focused on lifting up the middle class and eliminating poverty.

Addressing House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Obama referred to one “former presidential candidate” who was “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”

“That’s great. Lets do something about it,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report.

Romney fired back on Twitter, by noting poverty levels under the Obama administration.

“Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy,” Romney said.

Obama also said in Philadelphia that he had heard a Republican senator, who he did not name, was “suddenly shocked, shocked, that the 1 percent” was doing much better than the vast majority of Americans.

“I consider imitation the highest form of flattery,” Obama said of Republicans’ sudden embrace of populist rhetoric.

Three Republican senators considering bids for president — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida — spoke about the need to address income inequality at a summit organized by the Koch Brothers on Sunday.

Romney: Hillary fights for the rich and she’s out of touch with poor Americans, so elect me instead

Mitt Romney | 2012 Campaign

Democratic Underground (via TPM)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the economy and foreign policy during a speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night.

According to speech excerpts obtained by NBC, Romney, who has indicated if he decides to run for president again one of the pillars of his campaign would be inequality, will ask “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”

“Short term, our economy is looking up,” Romney plans to say. “But it is a lot better for the few, and pretty darn discouraging for the many. Incomes haven’t gone up in decades.”

Romney’s last presidential campaign in 2008 suffered from repeated attacks related to Romney’s wealth and background as a CEO. One of the lowest points in his campaign came after he said that the 47 percent of the country who depend on government would not vote for him. The moment was caught on video, and circulated widely.


Romney targets Hillary Clinton as he considers presidential bid

(CNN) <…>

Those attacks build on comments his team made earlier Wednesday. As Romney heads to the nation’s poorest state, his political team is fighting back against perceptions that his wealth could be a political liability if he runs for president again, arguing that Clinton is no model for modest living, either.

“It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous,” a Romney aide said Wednesday.

“I’m normal, I promise!”: Mitt Romney’s unending quest to win over America

"I'm normal, I promise!": Mitt Romney's unending quest to win over America

Mitt Romney | (Credit: Jeff Malet,


Going into 2016, Mitt is “determined to re-brand himself as authentic” — which is indeed the very essence of Mitt

If you’re looking for the very stuff of Willard Mitt “Mitt” Romney, the pure essence that lies at the center of his political soul, it can be found in the fourth paragraph of Tuesday’sWashington Post story on the embryonic stages of Mitt’s 2016 presidential campaign (emphasis added):

If he runs again in 2016, Romney is determined to re-brand himself as authentic, warts and all, and central to that mission is making public what for so long he kept private. He rarely discussed his religious beliefs and practices in his failed 2008 and 2012 races, often confronting suspicion and bigotry with silence as his political consultants urged him to play down his Mormonism.

This is Mitt Romney’s burden – a never-ending struggle to convince the country that he’s a normal fellow who does normal fellow things. If only America knew the “real” Mitt Romney, if only they could just see Mitt being Mitt, well, by gosh and by golly, they’d make him president tomorrow! Apparently an important part of the strategy he’s settled on, per the Post, is to talk about being a Mormon, recite Scripture, and “crack jokes about Joseph Smith’s polygamy.” Then he’ll emerge from his custom-built “manse complete with a ‘secret door’ hideaway room and an outdoor spa off the master bath” to give a speech or two on poverty, which will be “a central theme of his next campaign.”

The problem for Romney is that he’s tried this “I’m authentic! Really!” routine so many times before, and it has obviously never worked. He foundered in the 2008 primaries against John McCain and Mike Huckabee because they came off as more genuine in their policy positions and more comfortable in their ideological skins than Romney, who desperately wanted Republican voters to believe that he was a true conservative and a real person. And so going into 2012, Romney and his advisers were committed to show the political world that Mitt was a conservative Average Joe.

They sent Mitt to NASCAR events, where he forged his link with the common man by talking about his wealthy friends who own NASCAR teams. They sent him down to the South, where we sampled the local cuisine and took a stab at speaking the regional dialect: “I’m learning to say ‘y’all’ and I like grits. Strange things are happening to me.” These are the ways Mitt Romney tries to connect with people. He’s not offensive and he’s not completely robotic – he just has no idea what people expect of him.

The Romney awkwardness finally came to a head in early October 2012. Behind in all the polls and not gaining traction on any issue, Mitt’s people fed to Politico the story of how Romney’s family usurped the campaign strategists and “pushed for a new message, putting an emphasis on a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee — a ‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew.” At the time the story ran, Romney was bouncing back in the polls owing to his stronger-than-expected performance in the first debate against Obama, and Team Romney was eager to paint the turnaround as a consequence of The Authentic Romney finally emerging. “When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga,” Politico reported at the time.

Of course, Mitt spent the entire month of October “being Mitt” and still lost handily – turns out you can’t erase multiple years of poor campaigning and quell voters’ long-standing suspicions with a few weeks of not-totally-incompetent messaging.

And now, after letting himself be himself and failing, Romney wants to rebrand as a still more authentic version of himself. There is no known limit to the depths of Romney’s authenticity. And that, again, gets to Romney’s problem of never knowing what people expect of him. He keeps promising us over and over that we still haven’t seen the “real” Mitt Romney. He probably thinks that’s what people want to hear, and doesn’t quite get that he’s just confirming to anyone who still cares that every Mitt Romney we’ve seen up to now has been fake.

10 things you need to know today – 1/26/2015


Secret Service Officers search south grounds of the White House on January 26, 2015 | (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

 The Week

(Via my email.  There is no longer access to the online version without a subscription.)

1. Radical Greek anti-austerity party wins parliamentary election

Greece’s radical left Syriza party, which is vowing to end the country’s tough austerity program, moved quickly to form a government Monday, a day after winning a decisive victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, at age 40 Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, said the vote gave the party a clear mandate to end “five years of humiliation and pain,” signaling a showdown with lenders over the terms of Greece’s $270 billion international bailout. Greek stocks fell by five percent early Monday. [The Washington Post]

2. New York and the rest of the Northeast brace for historic storm

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Monday ahead of a potentially historic winter storm headed into the Northeast. New Yorkers were expecting as much as 30 inches of snow to begin falling in early afternoon. New York City has only experienced two blizzards packing 26 inches of snow, one in 1947 and one in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.” [ABC News, PBS Newshour]

3. Sixteen die in protests marking anniversary of Egypt’s uprising

At least 16 people were killed in Egypt over the weekend in clashes between police and protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the country’s revolution. At least 15 people, including three police cadets, were killed on Sunday. One woman, Shaimaa El-Sabbagh of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was killed — shot by police, colleagues said — as she marched with a group heading to Tahrir Square. Police deny firing the shots, saying they only used tear gas. [CNN, BBC News]

4. New York Assembly Speaker Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

Longtime New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed Sunday to step aside temporarily as he fights federal corruption charges. Silver was under increasing pressure from Democrats to give up his duties. One person familiar with the deal said Silver, who was arrested on Thursday, would “not specifically step down, but step back.” Democrats will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon to consider the plan. [The New York Times]

5. Small aerial drone found on White House grounds

A device believed to be a small aerial drone, was found on the grounds of the White House on Sunday. Obama administration officials said Monday that the device posed no threat. The discovery came as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India, although their daughters, Sasha and Malia, did not travel with them. The news came as the Secret Service has been trying to regroup after several security breaches, including one in September when a man with a knife scaled a fence and ran into the White House. [The Miami Herald]

6. Christie forms PAC ahead of possible presidential bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee in what has been interpreted as an early step toward launching a bid for the presidency in 2016. The move made Christie the third high-profile Republican to consider launching a campaign, behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Launching the PAC, Leadership Matters for America, will let Christie recruit the staff and fundraisers he would need to start a campaign. [The Wall Street Journal]

7. Obama moves to expand protections in Alaska wilderness

The White House announced on Sunday that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness. The designation would make it illegal to drill for oil and gas, or build roads on the land. The news was met with excitement from environmental groups and anger by Republican opponents, including Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who called the proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.” [The New York Times]

8. Church of England consecrates its first female bishop

The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop on Monday. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, said her ordination as Bishop of Stockport is a “profound and remarkable moment,” as it ends an uninterrupted tradition of male-only leadership for the 500-year-old institution. The church announced Lane’s consecration last month after a divisive debate over whether to allow women to become bishops. Critics said Lane’s appointment was merely symbolic, but she said she may be “the first, but I won’t be the only.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

9. Birdman takes top prize at SAG Awards

Birdman took the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, winning for outstanding ensemble in a motion picture. The prize boosted the film’s Oscar hopes, although its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne, who took the best-actor award for his work in The Theory of Everything. Uzo Aduba took the prize for outstanding female actor for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Orange is the New Black. The series also won for best cast in a comedy. [CBS News, USA Today]

10. Duke’s Coach K gets his 1,000th win

The Duke men’s basketball team made a late-game comeback to beat St. Johns 77-68 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, giving the Blue Devils’ legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, the 1,000th win of his 40-year coaching career. Duke trailed by 10 with just over eight minutes remaining, then went on a 28-9 tear. Krzyzewski was already the winningest coach in Division I college men’s basketball. He won that distinction three seasons ago in the same arena with his 903rd win, surpassing his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. [Raleigh News & Observer, Sports Illustrated]

Poll: Most Americans Now Consider Romney a Stalker (Humor)


The New Yorker ~ Borowitz Report

In a possible setback for Mitt Romney’s latest Presidential ambitions, a new poll reveals that a majority of Americans now regard the former Massachusetts governor as a stalker.

The poll results suggest that Romney’s presence in every Presidential campaign in recent memory has taken its toll on the American people, who have expressed disbelief that he would return after being repeatedly told in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted.

Additionally, many of those surveyed said that they previously felt harassed by the Massachusetts governor’s relentless e-mails and phone calls, and favored some form of intervention to keep Romney from contacting them in the future.

In an indication of how much Romney’s serial candidacies have traumatized the American people, more than fifty per cent said that they would support a restraining order to keep the former nominee five hundred feet from the United States until the 2016 election had safely passed.

In an interview on Monday, Romney said that the inauspicious poll results would not discourage him from seeking the White House for a third time. “I know that I’m the right man for the American people, and nothing they say or do will stop me,” he said.

10 things you need to know today: January 10, 2015

People leave tributes near the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The Week

Three Paris terror suspects, four hostages dead following raids, prosecutors recommend felony charges against David Petraeus, and more

1. Three terror suspects, four hostages killed in France
Near-simultaneous raids on Friday night ended two hostage situations stemming from Wednesday’s terrorist attack on Paris satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Amedy Coulibaly, who shot a policewoman on Thursday, took over a Paris kosher market on Friday, killing four hostages. Coulibaly was linked to Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdoattacks and later entered a standoff with police at a printing plant. Both brothers, along with Coulibaly, were killed in the raids. Officials are still searching for Hayat Boumeddiene, the common-law wife of Coulibaly. [The Associated Press]


2. Federal prosecutors recommend felony charges against David Petraeus
Officials announced on Friday that FBI and Justice Department prosecutors will seek felony charges against David Petraeus. The retired general stepped down from his post at the CIA in 2012, after it was revealed that he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Prosecutors will reportedly recommend charges against him for revealing classified information to Broadwell while he was CIA director. An indictment could send Petraeus to jail. [The New York Times]


3. House of Representatives passes Keystone XL bill
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 266-153 to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. The bill next goes to the Senate, where Republicans now hold a majority. In November, the last Senate came up just one vote shy of approval on a similar bill. But, President Barack Obama has vowed that should a bill approving construction of the pipeline make it to his desk, he will veto it. The vote came after the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the legality of the pipeline’s route through that state earlier on Friday. [Bloomberg, Reuters]


4. Cuba releases imprisoned dissidents as part of U.S. deal
Cuban President Raul Castro’s administration released more than 30 political dissidents on Thursday, according to Cuban human rights sources and journalists. At least some of those freed are part of the 53 prisoners Cuba agreed to release in a deal with the Obama administration aimed at thawing relations with the Communist island nation. Neither the U.S. nor Cuba is releasing a list of the freed prisoners’ names, some of whom had been held since 2012. [The New York Times]


5. U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its December 2014 jobs numbers on Friday, and it showed that the American economy added 252,000 non-farm, private jobs over the course of the month. The December numbers beat the 230,000 new jobs economists were expecting. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent from 5.8 percent in November, although average hourly earnings fell by 5 cents. Still, the figures were strong enough to make 2014 America’s best year of job creation since 1999. [, CNNMoney]


6. China leads the pack in clean energy investments
Bloomberg released its annual report on clean energy investments on Friday, and it said China leads the pack. The country invested a record $89.5 billion in clean energy in 2014, while the U.S. invested $51.8 billion. Overall, investments in renewables, biofuels, and “energy-smart technologies” rose to $310 billion in 2014, up 16 percent from $268.1 billion in 2013. [Bloomberg ]


7. Police Commissioner Bratton confirms NYPD work slowdown
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton admitted on Friday that a work slowdown had occurred in New York City in recent weeks. “We’re coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity, the discretionary type of activity by and large,” Bratton said. Criminal summonses, along with traffic tickets, were down 90 percent compared to last year. The slowdown was viewed by many to be a protest against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — some officers who attended the recent funerals of two slain colleagues turned their backs on the mayor during his eulogies at each. [WNYC, The Washington Post]


8. Mitt Romney tells donors he may run for president in 2016
Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a group of donors on Friday that he is considering running for president in 2016. Romney had previously told reporters he would not run again. But he said unrest abroad and the health of the economy are issues that could force him to step into the race. [The Wall Street Journal]


9. SpaceX successfully launches Falcon rocket toward ISS
SpaceX successfully launched its unmanned Falcon rocket toward the International Space Station on Saturday. The first-of-its-kind attempt to recover the leftover booster, however, was a failure. “Close, but no cigar this time,” billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter. The company attempted to land the Falcon’s leftover booster on a floating platform off the coast of Jacksonville, but the rocket missed its target. Due to arrive on Monday at the ISS, the Falcon rocket is carrying $133 million of much-needed supplies to the astronauts aboard. [The Associated Press]


10. Exercise injury may have left Harry Reid blind in one eye
Senate minority leader Harry Reid announced on Friday that a New Year’s Day exercise accident may have blinded him in one eye. Reid, 75, broke three ribs and suffered a concussion after a resistance band he was using to exercise snapped. The band also hit him in the eye, which Reid said caused a blood accumulation that is currently making it “hard to see.” But, Reid added that the injury won’t stop him from running for reelection in 2016, and that “no one has to question my physical ability.” [USA Today]

Everything Is Awesome!

ARLINGTON, VA – DECEMBER 24: Dressed as Santa Claus, Kerry Nistel (R) holds an American flag after water-skiing along the Potomac River near the Washington Monument December 24, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. This is the 18th year Nistel has dressed as Santa and water-skied on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Politico Magazine ~ Michael Grunwald

Well, not everything. But America’s looking much better than you think

Good news! The U.S. economy grew at a rollicking 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oh, and it added 320,000 jobs in November, the best of its unprecedented 57 straight months of private-sector employment growth. Just in time for Christmas, the Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. You no longer hear much about the Ebola crisis that dominated the headlines in the fall, much less the border crisis that dominated the headlines over the summer. As Fox News host Andrea Tantaros proclaimed earlier this month: “The United States is awesome! We are awesome!”

OK, she was talking about the Senate torture report, not the state of the union, but things in the U.S. do look rather awesome. Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent in his first term; it’s already down to 5.8 percent, half the struggling eurozone’s rate. Newt Gingrich promised $2.50 gas; it’s down to $2.38. Crime, abortion, teen pregnancy and oil imports are also way down, while renewable power is way up and the American auto industry is booming again. You don’t have to give credit to President Barack Obama for “America’s resurgence,” as he has started calling it, but there’s overwhelming evidence the resurgence is real. The Chicken Littles who predicted a double-dip recession, runaway interest rates, Zimbabwe-style inflation, a Greece-style debt crisis, skyrocketing energy prices, health insurance “death spirals” and other horrors have been reliably wrong.

Come to think of it, the 62 percent of Americans who described the economy as “poor” in a CNN poll a week before the Republican landslide in the midterm elections were also wrong. I guess that sounds elitist. Second-guessing the wisdom of the public may be the last bastion of political correctness; if ordinary people don’t feel good about the economy, then the recovery isn’t supposed to be real. But aren’t the 11 million Americans who have landed new jobs since 2010 and the 10 million Americans who have gotten health insurance since 2013 ordinary Americans? It’s true that wage growth has remained slow, but the overall economic trends don’t jibe with the public’s lousy mood. And the public definitely does get stuff wrong. A Bloomberg poll this month found that 73 percent of Americans think the deficit is getting bigger, while 21 percent think it’s getting smaller and 6 percent aren’t sure. In fact, the deficit has dwindled from about $1.2 trillion in 2009 to less than $500 billion in 2014. My favorite part is the mere 6 percent who admitted ignorance; 73 percent are definitely sure the shrinking deficit is actually growing.

The point isn’t that the midterm election’s discontent was illegitimate. The point is that Americans should cheer up! Six years ago, the economy was contracting at an 8 percent annual rate and shedding 800,000 jobs a month. Those were Great Depression-type numbers. The government was pouring billions of dollars into busted banks, and experts like MIT’s Simon Johnson were predicting that the bailouts would cost taxpayers as much as $2 trillion. In reality, the bailouts not only quelled the worst financial panic since the Depression, they made money for taxpayers. Nevertheless, last week, after the government sold its stake in Ally Bank, its last major holding in a financial institution, Johnson complained to The New York Times about the “unfortunate and inappropriate message” being sent by people pointing out the bailouts were actually profitable. In this holiday season, can’t we be a little bit happy we didn’t have to waste the $2 trillion he thought we were going to waste?

This bah-humbug brand of moral superiority has flourished since the crisis: How dare you celebrate this or that piece of economic data when so many Americans are still hurting? It’s awkward to argue with that view, since many Americans are indeed still hurting. But the economic data keep showing that fewer Americans are hurting every month. No one is satisfied with 5.8 percent unemployment, but it’s way better than the 10 percent we had in 2010 or the 11 percent Europe has today. Declining child poverty and household debt and personal bankruptcies are also worth celebrating. Better is better than worse. Whether or not you think Obamacare had anything to do with the slowdown in medical cost growth, it’s a good thing that Medicare’s finances have improved dramatically, extending the solvency of its trust fund by an estimated 13 years. It’s a good thing that U.S. wind power has tripled and solar power has increased tenfold in five years. And while it’s true that the meteoric rise of the stock market since 2009 has produced windfalls for Wall Street, it has also replenished state pension funds and 401(k) retirement plans and labor union coffers. It definitely beats the alternative.

Let’s face it: The press has a problem reporting good news. Two Americans died of Ebola and cable TV flipped out; now we’re Ebola-free and no one seems to care. The same thing happened with the flood of migrant children across the Mexican border, which was a horrific crisis until it suddenly wasn’t. Nobody’s going to win a Pulitzer Prize for recognizing that we’re smoking less, driving less, wasting less electricity and committing less crime. Police are killing fewer civilians, and fewer police are getting killed, but understandably, after the tragedies in Ferguson and Brooklyn, nobody’s thinking about that these days. The media keep us in a perpetual state of panic about spectacular threats to our safety — Ebola, sharks, terrorism — but we’re much likelier to die in a car accident. Although, it ought to be said, much less likely than we used to be; highway fatalities are down 25 percent in a decade.

The other problem in acknowledging good news, not just for the press but for the public, is that it has come to feel partisan, like an endorsement of whoever occupies the White House. Republican leaders have exacerbated this problem by describing everything Obama has done — his 2009 stimulus package, his 2010 Wall Street reforms, his 2013 tax hikes on high earners, his various anti-pollution regulations aimed at coal-fired power plants, and most of all Obamacare — as “job-killing” catastrophes that would obliterate the economy. It’s hard to point out that the economy is humming along nicely without making those doom-and-gloom predictions sound ill-advised and over-the-top. Because they were. Liberals who predicted disaster when Obama refused to nationalize the banking system during the financial crisis and when Republicans insisted on the harsh budget cuts in the 2013 “sequester” were wrong, too. Disaster hasn’t happened.

As ideologically inconvenient as that may be for chronic complainers on the left and right — and for pundit types invested in their bad-year-for-Obama narrative — it’s wonderful for the country. You don’t have to endorse Obama’s economic philosophy to realize that it hasn’t wreaked short-term havoc, just as you don’t have to endorse the Obama or George W. Bush anti-terror philosophies to acknowledge that America hasn’t endured a rash of terror attacks since 2001. Last week, polls finally found a majority of Americans recognizing that the economy is improving, which is to say a majority of Americans are recognizing reality. It’s probably time for politicians to discover a new Ebola to scream about.

There is no shortage of candidates in this less-than-perfect union. The U.S. is still plagued by inadequate public schools, crumbling infrastructure, soaring college tuition costs, stark inequality. Many Americans want accountability for reckless bankers, torturers and fatal choke-holders. Washington is still almost as dysfunctional as everyone says it is. Congress this session really was the second least productive ever. And even though Obama is winding down the U.S. involvement in overseas wars, the world remains a scary place. There’s still plenty to worry about.

But for now be merry! And may the new year be as awesome as this year.

H/t: Don Babets