President Obama

10 things you need to know today: February 26, 2015

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Week

1.GOP splits on Homeland Security funding as deadline nears
Republicans continued feuding over Homeland Security Department funding after the Senate advanced a “clean” bill to give the agency the money it needs through September, and prevent a shutdown when its current funding runs out Friday. The Senate removed a provision in the House version blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to hold two votes, one on DHS funding and another countering Obama on immigration, but House GOP leaders have refused to endorse it.

Source: The Washington Post

2.Three New York men accused of trying to aid ISIS
Federal authorities arrested three New York men Wednesday on charges that they plotted to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. One of them also allegedly spoke of attacking President Obama, and planting a bomb on Coney Island. One of the men, Akhror Saidakhmetov, was arrested at Kennedy Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey, Syria’s neighbor. Another man, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, was arrested in Brooklyn. He allegedly had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month. A third man, Abror Habibov, was arrested in Florida and accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov.

Source: The Associated Press

3.Rice calls Netanyahu’s U.S. visit “destructive” to relations
National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress next week, saying that his trip was “destructive” to the relationship between Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner without President Obama’s approval to argue against the Obama administration’s effort to negotiate a deal to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Source: The New York Times

4.Palestinians blame Jewish nationalists for West Bank mosque fire
Someone set a mosque near Bethlehem on fire Wednesday. Palestinian leaders blamed Jewish nationalists, calling the arson “a sign of the mounting violent extremism within Israeli society.” The attackers spray-painted the walls of the mosque with a Star of David, and slogans, such as, “We want the redemption of Zion,” and “Revenge.” The blaze was discovered when worshippers showed up for morning prayers at 4:30 a.m.Nobody was injured, but interior walls, as well as furniture and carpet were damaged.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Apple told to pay Texas tech company $533 million for violating patents
Apple was ordered to pay Texas-based technology company Smartflash $533 million after a federal jury on Wednesday found that the iPhone and iPad maker’s iTunes software infringed on three Smartflash patents. Smartflash had asked for $852 million. Apple tried to have the court throw out the case, arguing that it had never used Smartflash’s technology and that the company’s patents were invalid because they involved innovations already patented by other companies. Apple says it will fight to overturn the decision.

Source: PC World

6.French authorities detain three Al-Jazeera journalists over drone flight
Three Al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in France on Wednesday and charged with flying drones in Paris. The network said the journalists were working on a report on mysterious reports of drone flights near sensitive sites in the city, which have triggered an investigation. The drone sightings have heightened tensions in a city that has been under an elevated alert status since last month’s terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

Source: Fox News

7.17 injured in massive pile-up on I-95 in Maine
Seventeen people were injured Wednesday in a 75-car pile-up on a snow-covered stretch of Interstate 95 in Maine . The crashes began at around7:30 a.m. At first, several cars, a school bus, and a tractor-trailer were involved. By the time it was over, at least 50 vehicles were so damaged they had to be towed away. State police called it the largest accident they had seen in more than 15 years. The highway’s two northbound lanes were closed for more than five hours.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Avalanches kill 124 in northeastern Afghanistan
Avalanches killed at least 124 people in northeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging through debris and snow with their bare hands trying to reach buried survivors. The avalanches buried homes in four provinces. The hardest hit was Panjshir province 60 miles northeast of Kabul, where 100 homes were buried. The province’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Aziz Ghirat, said he expected the death toll to rise when rescuers resumed work early Thursday after heavy snowstorms passed.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Washington, D.C., legalizes home pot smoking over GOP threat
Home use of marijuana became legal for people age 21 or older in Washington, D.C., at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the voter-approved legalization measure would take effect as planned despite threats from House Republicans to send her to prison for violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. “I have a lot of things to do in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said in the televised conference. “Me being in jail wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Source: The Washington Post

10.“Jihadi John” identified in news reports
News outlets including BBC News and The Washington Post have published reports identifying the masked, British-accented Islamic State killer shown in videos beheading Western hostages. The terrorist, known as “Jihadi John,” is allegedly a Kuwaiti-born British man named Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi, now in his mid-20s, grew up in West London and became radicalized after graduating from college with a computer programming degree. He traveled to Syria in 2012. “I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” a close friend said.

Source: BBC News, The Washington Post

10 things you need to know today: February 25, 2015

The Week

1.DOJ decides no civil-rights charge against George Zimmerman
The Justice Department said Tuesday that investigators had found “insufficient evidence” to charge George Zimmerman in connection with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder said his department would not file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman because the evidence in the case did not satisfy the “high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution,” although he said the nation needs to “take concrete steps” to avoid more such incidents.

Source: USA Today

2.Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline legislation
President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans made passage of the bill a top priority after taking control of Congress in last year’s midterms, despite the Obama administration’s lingering concerns about the pipeline’s potential environmental impact. Republicans said they would try to override the president’s veto, although the legislation did not pass with enough “yes” votes to do the job.

Source: The Guardian

3.Routh gets life in prison in American Sniper murder case
Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty late Tuesday of killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the author of American Sniper, and his friend Chad Littlefield in 2013. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, but Texas State District Judge Jason Cashon sentenced him to life in prison, with no possibility of parole. Routh shot and killed Kyle and Littlefield in an outing to a gun range, where they had taken him to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: Fox News

4.Cuba honors five freed spies
The Cuban government on Tuesday honored five spies who were convicted in U.S. courts in 2001 and released in a prisoner exchange onDec. 17. Cuban President Raul Castro pinned medals on the so-called Cuban five, whose release was engineered under a plan to restore diplomatic relations between the two former Cold War enemies. Spy network leader Gerardo Hernandez, who had received a double life sentence, called on Cuba to “rise to the challenges facing the revolution,” including modernizing the communist nation’s economy and resuming ties with the U.S.

Source: Reuters

5.Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into reelection runoff
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fell short of the votes he needed to avoid an April runoff in his bid for reelection. Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, cruised to victory for his first term four years ago. He led the five-candidate field this time, with 45 percent of the vote, and had a big fundraising lead over his lesser known opponents. Now he heads into a riskier head-to-head contest with his closest rival, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who got 34 percent of the vote.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

6.Four Wesleyan students charged after MDMA overdoses
Four Wesleyan University students were arrested Tuesday night in connection with MDMA, or Molly, overdoses that sent a dozen students to the hospital over the weekend. Eric Lonergan, 21; Andrew Olson, 20; Zachary Kramer, 21; and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, were suspended from school after their arrests. “The university takes allegations of the distribution of drugs seriously and is cooperating with state and local officials,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth said. The defendants will appear in court March 3.

Source: NBC News

7.Women sue hot-yoga entrepreneur Bikram Choudhury
Hot-yoga empire founder Bikram Choudhury, 69, is facing six civil lawsuits filed by women accusing him of rape or assault, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The most recent accusation was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian woman, Jill Lawler, who accused Choudhury of raping her during a teacher-training session in 2010. The first of the complaints surfaced two years ago. It triggered a series of other accusations ranging from assault to harassment. Choudhury denies doing anything wrong.

Source: The New York Times

8.State Department official suspected of soliciting sex from minor
A senior State Department counterterrorism official, Daniel Rosen, was arrested Tuesday at his Washington, D.C., home on suspicion of soliciting sex from a minor. The allegations against Rosen, who is the director of counterterrorism programs and policy at the State Department, stem from an online exchange between him and detectives in the Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department’s child exploitation unit. A State Department spokesperson said Rosen had been placed on leave and his security clearance suspended pending the resolution of the case.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Paris drone sightings increase terrorism concerns
A Paris prosecutor on Tuesday called for a police investigation of unidentified drones spotted flying near the U.S. Embassy, the Eiffel Tower, and several major roads for the second night in a row. At least five sightings were reported Tuesday and early Wednesday, heightening tensions in a country already on high alert following the Charlie Hebdoterrorist attacks in January. Similar reports have been surfacing for months at other sensitive locations, including power plants, government buildings, and a bay that is home to French nuclear submarines.

Source: The Washington Post

10.ESPN benches commentator Keith Olbermann
ESPN suspended talk-show host Keith Olbermann for a week on Tuesdayfor calling a Penn State student effort to raise $13 million to fight pediatric cancer “pitiful.” Penn State challenged Olbermann to make a donation to the cause. Olbermann issued an apology over Twitter, saying, “I was stupid and childish and way less mature than the students there who did such a great fundraising job.”

Source: Pittsburgh Sporting News

10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2015

Kutluhan Cucel / Getty Images

The Week

1.Sec. Kerry threatens Russia with more sanctions
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said the U.S. could impose more sanctions on Russia should Moscow violate the latest truce in Ukraine and continue with its “land-grabbing” in the region. Though a delicate cease-fire aimed at ending the year-old conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists went into effect last weekend, both sides accused the other of continued aggressions. “If this failure continues, make no mistake there will be further consequences including consequences that will place added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said.

Source: The Guardian

2.Turkey evacuates soldiers, remains from Syrian tomb
The Turkish Army on Saturday rescued about 40 military guards from a shrine in northern Syria that had been encircled by ISIS. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said more than 500 troops, aided by tanks and armored vehicles, retrieved the soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which lies within Syria but is considered part of Turkey. Turkey also temporarily relocated the tomb’s remains to prevent ISIS from obtaining or desecrating them. “The ongoing conflict and state of chaos in Syria posed serious risks to safety and security of the tomb,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Source: CNN

3.Defense Secretary says U.S. may slow Afghan withdrawal
Making an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the United States’ troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may be slowed to ensure that “progress sticks” in the war-torn nation. “President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President [Ashraf] Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops,” Carter said. The current schedule would wind the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to about 5,000 by the end of 2015, with a target of lowering that to a “normal” troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Source: Reuters

4.Scott Walker: ‘I don’t know’ if Obama loves America, is a Christian
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) on Saturday declined to answer basic questions about President Obama’s faith and commitment to the nation. “I don’t know,” Walker said when The Washington Post asked him if the president is Christian. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.” In a separate interview with The Associated Press, the prospective 2016 candidate also shrugged off a question about Rudy Giuliani’s claim Obama does not love America, saying, “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.” A Walker spokesperson later clarified the governor thinks Obama is indeed Christian, and that he was simply trying to avoid answering “gotcha questions.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Bangladesh ferry capsizes, kills at least 30
More than two dozen people died Sunday after a ferry carrying more than 100 passengers collided with a cargo ship on the Padma River. Early estimates put the death toll between 30 and 40, though that could change as rescue divers search for people trapped inside the submerged vessel.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

6.Chris Bosh out for season with blood clots in lung
Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after developing blood clots in one of his lungs, the team announced Saturday. Bosh had been dealing with pain in his side for days before doctors discovered the clots, which can be fatal; former NBA player Jerome Kersey died Wednesday of a blood clot in his lung. “His health will be restored,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing. That’s bigger than basketball.”

Source: ESPN

7.Study: India’s polluted air cutting short 660 million lives
More than half of India’s population may be facing a shortened life expectancy due to filthy air, according to a study published Saturday in the journal Economic & Political Weekly. Using previous research on China’s air pollution, the study found that 660 million people were breathing in unsafe levels of fine particulate matter and losing at least 3.2 years of their lives as a result. “The extent of the problem is actually much larger than what we normally understand,” Anant Sudarshan, one of the study’s co-author’s and the India director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, said.

Source: The New York Times

8.Sprawling storm brings fatal snow, ice to South and East
Yet another weekend storm dumped snow, sleet and, and ice across the South and East from Saturday into Sunday. At least 21 people died in Tennessee from storm-related fatalities, including hypothermia, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R) upgraded the state of emergency there to Level 2. Further north, Washington, D.C., and New York City each saw about five inches of snow, while snowed-in Boston received about another inch of powder.

Source: USA Today, CBS

9. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch loses final appeal
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on Saturday lost the final appeal of his indefinite suspension from racing. NASCAR suspended Busch on Fridayafter a Delaware judge ruled he choked and beat his ex-girlfriend. The ruling means Busch will miss Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

10.Academy Awards to crown best in film Sundaynight
The 87th Academy Awards will be held tonight as Hollywood’s award season culminates with its most prestigious event. Birdman and Boyhoodare expected to take home the night’s top honors. Neil Patrick Harris will host the show for the first time.

Source: ABC

ISIS changes Americans’ appetite for war

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. (Photo by Reuters)

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. Reuters

MSNBC ~ Rachel Maddow Show

There was a crisis of sorts for U.S. policy towards Syria in the summer of 2013, but I’m convinced much of the political world remembers the events poorly. The Beltway version is that President Obama drew a “red line” but blinked when it came time to follow through.
That’s not quite what happened. Obama was convinced that Syria had used chemical weapons, and had decided to use force against the Assad government. But before launching strikes, the president turned to Congress to authorize the mission, just as many Republican lawmakers had recommended.
Congress balked. Lawmakers said the public, wary after disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, simply had no appetite for yet another combat mission in the Middle East, and many of the same Republicans who demanded the White House get permission for airstrikes soon announced their opposition to the airstrikes. Some even used this as the basis for fundraising. (Obama considered strikes anyway, but instead scored a diplomatic coup by ridding Syria of its chemical weapons.)
A year and a half later, Americans’ attitudes appear to have shifted. Consider a CBS News poll released this week.
Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat – up from 58 percent in October….
With concern about ISIS growing, support for the use of U.S. ground troops in the fight against ISIS has risen. For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. In October, Americans were divided (47 percent favored and 46 percent opposed), and in September these numbers were reversed (39 percent favored and 55 percent opposed).
There is, of course, a political angle to all of this – the White House recently sent lawmakers proposed language for an Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIS, effectively trying to get Congress’ buy-in for a military offensive that began last August.
If lawmakers are sensitive to the prevailing political winds, polls like these probably make it more likely that Congress will at least consider doing their duty when it comes to authorizing force. Indeed, the scope of the AUMF may very well reflect these changing public attitudes, too.
But I’m also interesting in what, specifically, led to the public-opinion shift. In 2013, most Americans told Washington, “Don’t you dare start another war in the Middle East.” And yet, as 2015 gets underway, most Americans are evidently on board, not only with airstrikes, but with boots on the ground.
How’d this happen?
One possible explanation is the impact of propaganda. Remember, ISIS has several goals, but one of them is devoted to changing public attitudes in the West and baiting the public. ISIS wants to enrage Americans, specifically in the hopes of luring the U.S. military into a prolonged fight.
The terrorist network’s public-relations campaign has at times been made easier by Republican politicians and conservative media organizations that, for whatever reason, decided it was wise to help disseminate ISIS propaganda on American television screens.
The New York Times reports today that ISIS seems well aware of the impact of “shock value,” so the militants are exploiting it at every available opportunity.
The killings have been both deliberately lurid and strangely intimate. Designed for broadcast, they have helped the Islamic State militant group build a brand of violence that shocks with its extreme brutality, yet feels as close to viewers as the family images on their smartphones.
Broadcast specifically to frighten and manipulate, the Islamic State’s flamboyant violence consumes the world’s attention while more familiar threats, like the Syrian government’s barrel bombs, kill far more people but rarely provoke widespread outrage.
The CBS poll suggests the manipulation is having the desired effect.
As for the practical implications of a ground war against ISIS, Kevin Drum explained yesterday, “[T]he only way to defeat ISIS would be in grisly house-to-house fighting in Sunni strongholds like Mosul. We already know that U.S. troops can’t do that effectively, and neither can the predominantly Shia troops controlled by Iraq. It would be a long, grinding, disaster of a war. But apparently the American public hasn’t quite internalized that yet. They’re becoming more and more enraged about ISIS, and they want to do something. That’s a bad combination.”
Terrorists use propaganda because they know it works.

10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2015

The Week

1.Pentagon lays out plans, dates to retake Mosul from ISIS
In a briefing on Thursday, a U.S. Central Command official detailed how and when up to 25,000 Iraqi troops plan to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from Islamic State control, starting in April or May. Twelve brigades will be involved, the official said: five that will lead the attack, three acting as backup, three Kurdish peshmerga brigades to keep ISIS boxed in, and a force of former Mosul police and other leaders tasked with keeping control of the city once ISIS is pushed out. It is unusual for military officials to detail plans for an attack beforehand.

Source: The Associated Press

2.Record cold hits the East
A blast of Arctic air brought East Coast temperatures to record lows on Thursday, with still colder weather expected in some areas on Friday. In parts of the upper Midwest, Thursday temperatures plunged to minus 35 early Thursday. Sub-zero temperatures hit a broad area stretching from North Dakota south to Kentucky and east to New York. Chicago hit a record low for Feb. 19 at eight degrees below zero. All-time February lows are forecast from Ohio to Virginia early Friday.

Source: The Washington Post

3.Walmart promises to lift wages for 500,000 employees
Walmart pledged Thursday to raise the wages of a half million U.S. employees, boosting them to at least $9 an hour this year, and to $10 an hour by next February. Economists said the move by the giant retailer could signal that wage growth is finally picking up six years into the recovery from the Great Recession. The raises will affect about 500,000 of the company’s 1.4 million U.S. workers at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

4.Caracas mayor arrested, accused of planning a coup
Venezuelan intelligence police on Thursday arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an outspoken critic of President Nicolas Maduro and his handling of the economy. In a televised statement, Maduro said Ledezma was detained on the public prosecutor’s orders for instigating a coup. “Enough already of vampires conspiring against the peace,” he said. Maduro also claimed the U.S. was attempting to destabilize his government, allegations the U.S. State Department called “baseless and false.”

Source: Bloomberg

5.Germany turns down Greece’s initial bailout extension terms
Germany rejected Greece’s proposal to extend its European bailout package for six months, saying Thursday that the new Greek government’s proposal was “not a substantial solution” because it did not stick to the austerity measures required under the original loan terms. Some analysts interpreted the rejection as a sign that Greece and its new anti-austerity government were destined to exit the eurozone. A senior Greek official said, however, that the two sides were near a deal heading into a Friday meeting.

Source: Reuters

6.Texas high court halts gay marriages
The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday halted gay marriages after a lesbian couple became the first same-sex partners to wed in the state. The Texas high court stayed two court rulings calling the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared the marriage of the couple — Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant — to be “void” after the Supreme Court decision. A county clerk in Austin had issued Goodfriend and Bryant a license because one had “severe and immediate health concerns.”

Source: NBC News

7.Bill O’Reilly accused of having his own “Brian Williams problem”
Mother Jones published an article Thursday accusing Fox News star Bill O’Reilly of claiming he was in the Falkland Islands during Argentina’s 1982 war with Britain, even though no U.S. reporters are believed to have made it to the islands. O’Reilly, who worked for CBS at the time, called the magazine’s assertion that he had a “Brian Williams problem” “a piece of garbage,” saying he never said he was in the islands. “I was in Buenos Aires,” O’Reilly said. “In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.”

Source: Mother Jones, Politico

8.Man arrested in connection with Las Vegas road-rage killing
Las Vegas police on Thursday arrested a 19-year-old man, Erich Nowsch, on suspicion of killing a Las Vegas woman, Tammy Meyers, after a road rage incident. Meyers was giving her 15-year-old daughter a driving lesson when the girl honked the horn at a car speeding by. The driver of the other vehicle stopped in front of the women and threatened them. Nowsch lives a block away from the Meyers’ house. Tammy Meyers’ husband said she knew Nowsch, and had given money and mentored him.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

9. Giuliani defends controversial remarks about Obama
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) defended Thursday remarks he made about President Obama’s patriotism at a fundraiser Wednesdaynight for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). During the event, he said, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani told The New York Times on Thursday that he was not being prejudiced when he made the statement. “Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” he said. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

Source: The New York Times

10.Parks and Recreation exec Harris Wittels, 30, found dead
Parks and Recreation co-executive producer Harris Wittels was found dead Thursday at his Los Angeles home. He was 30. Police said they suspected a drug overdose, although the coroner’s office will have to perform an autopsy to confirm it. Amy Poehler, star of the NBC sitcom, mourned Wittels as a “dear, young friend in my life who was struggling with addiction.” Wittels also co-wrote the series and occasionally appeared as an animal control staffer. The show’s final season concludes Feb. 24.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Variety

10 things you need to know today: February 19, 2015

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Week

1.Ukraine call for peacekeepers meets Russian opposition
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, on Wednesday called for international peacekeepers to restore order to his country’s war-ravaged east, where pro-Russian separatists have continued fighting for a strategic rail hub despite a new ceasefire deal. Hours earlier, thousands of Ukrainian troops pulled out of the town, Debaltseve, where rebels continued fighting after the truce took effect on Sunday. Rebels and Russia, which could veto a peacekeeping proposal at the United Nations Security Council, said sending foreign troops would violate the peace deal.

Source: The Washington Post

2.Obama challenges mainstream Muslims and world leaders to counter extremists
President Obama on Wednesday called on leaders of more than 60 nations to join together to fight “violent extremism,” calling the effort to the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups a “generational challenge.” Obama, speaking on the second day of a three-day summit, called on governments, educators, and mainstream Muslims to “amplify the voices of peace and tolerance,” saying the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but with people who have “perverted Islam.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Obama administration weighs lawsuit against Ferguson police
The Justice Department is getting ready to sue Ferguson, Missouri, police over allegedly racially discriminatory tactics, CNN reported Wednesday. Attorney General Eric Holder said his department is likely this week to release investigators’ findings regarding the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer last year. The Justice Department is expected to say it won’t charge the officer, but will sue the Ferguson Police Department if it doesn’t change its tactics.

Source: CNN

4.Jeb Bush says he is his “own man” on foreign policy
In a speech former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) gave Wednesday before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the likely 2016 presidential candidate tackled the elephants in the room: His brother George W. Bush and father George H.W. Bush. Because they both “shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office” as president, “my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs — sometimes in contrast to theirs,” Jeb Bush said. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Obama taps Joseph Clancy to fix the Secret Service
President Obama has picked acting Secret Service chief Joseph Clancy to run the beleaguered agency long-term. Critics had called on Obama to pick an outsider to lead the Secret Service out of a period of embarrassing security lapses, such as a case last year when a knife-wielding man jumped a fence and managed to get into the White House before being caught. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama believed Clancy would “conduct a candid, clear-eyed assessment” of the agency’s problems.

Source: The Washington Times

6.Fed minutes show the central bank fears hiking interest rates too soon
Federal Reserve policy makers expressed concern in a meeting last month about the possibility of undermining the economic recovery by raising historically low interest rates too soon, according to meeting minutes released Wednesday. Members of the Federal Open Market Committee tried to reconcile conflicting signals from the U.S. economy, which is strengthening, and weak international markets. The central bank now appears to be looking to start raising rates in June.

Source: Reuters

7.Two die in superbug outbreak at UCLA
At least seven patients treated at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October and January have been infected by the drug-resistant superbug CRE. Two deaths have been linked to the outbreak. At least 180 people were potentially exposed, and the number could rise as more are tested. UCLA discovered the outbreak in late January, and began notifying patients this week. The superbug can stay on a specialized endoscope that is used to treat cancers and digestive system issues and is hard to disinfect.

Source: Los Angeles Times

8.Record cold pushes from the Midwest into the South
A blast of Arctic and Siberian air will hit parts of the Southeast withrecord cold on Thursday and Friday. Temperatures in Washington, D.C., could drop below zero for the first time since 1994, and areas from Tennessee to Virginia could see the lowest February temperatures on record. The frigid plume early Thursday pushed through the Midwest and Kentucky, which could get the worst of it with temperatures hitting 40 degrees below normal. Forecasters say the entire state will be below zero.

Source: The Washington Post

9. Greek government makes request for bailout extension
Greece on Thursday formally asked the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to extend its bailout by six months. Without the extension, the new government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will run out of cash within weeks. Tsipras, who has vowed to dismantle painful austerity measures demanded by creditors, offered concessions and promised not to unilaterally ditch the existing program’s fiscal targets. Eurozone finance ministers plan to consider the request in Brussels on Friday.

Source: Reuters

10.Oregon swears in nation’s first bisexual governor
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) was sworn in on Wednesdayto replace John Kitzhaber, who resigned in an ethics scandal. Brown, 54, became the nation’s first openly bisexual governor. LGBT rights advocates cheered the news. Brown, 54, served 17 years in the state legislature. She is married to a man. “I don’t think anybody cares” that Brown is bisexual, Bob Moore, a Republican pollster, said. “The whole thing seems irrelevant to me. But what does it mean to be a bisexual and married? What does that mean?”

Source: Los Angeles Times

10 things you need to know today: February 18, 2015

The Week

1.Ukraine pulls out of key town claimed by pro-Russian rebels
Ukrainian soldiers began withdrawing from the strategically important town of Debaltseve, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko saidWednesday. Street-to-street fighting there had continued despite a new cease-fire. Pro-Russian separatists had declared that the rail hub linking two rebel-contolled areas is on their turf, not the front lines, and was not covered under the peace deal. Hundreds of Ukrainian troops are still believed to be trapped in the contested town.

Source: Sky News

2.White House says administration will appeal blocking of Obama immigration orders
President Obama on Tuesday said he would abide by a judge’s decision to block an executive order delaying the deportations of as many as five million undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said the ruling was necessary to give 26 states time to challenge Obama’s executive action. The White House said Obama’s measures were “well within his legal authority,” and the ruling “wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect.” The administration plans to appeal.

Source: CNN

3.Miss P the beagle wins best in show at Westminster dog show
Miss P, a 15-inch beagle, won Best in Show at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday night at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. She is the second beagle to take the title of top dog, and the grandniece of the first winning beagle, Uno, 2008’s champion. “She’s hungry and I’m overwhelmed,” said handler Will Alexander of Miss P and himself. Miss P, at least, will get a nice steak at Sardi’s on Wednesday.

Source: The New York Times

4.Ray of hope in Greece boosts stocks into record territory
The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index shook off early losses to rise into record territory, closing above 2100 for the first time. The gains were fueled by optimism over news that Greece’s new anti-austerity government would ask European creditors to extend the country’s bailout. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell six points short of a record, closing up 0.2 percent at 18,047.58.

Source: USA Today

5.Texas probate judge calls gay-marriage ban unconstitutional
A Travis County, Texas, probate judge ruled on Tuesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Judge Guy Herman, in a decision on an estate case, said the ban violates the guarantee of due process and equal protection under the law spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir praised the ruling as “a great step toward marriage equality” but said she had not yet been ordered to make the change, so she would not yet start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Source: Los Angeles Times

6.Florida high court halts execution pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling
Florida’s Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the execution of Jerry William Correll, who killed four people in Orlando 30 years ago, pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the administration of one of the drugs the state uses in its lethal injections. The high court is considering the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s use of a sedative that Florida also administers in the first step of its three-step process. Critics say the drug, Midazolam, does not work and subjects condemned inmates to pain.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

7.Haiti cancels third and final day of carnival after deadly float accident
Haiti canceled the last day of its three-day annual carnival celebration and announced three days of mourning after a power line fell on a hip-hop band’s float, resulting in at least 16 deaths and 78 injuries. Most of the casualties came as the panicked crowd tried to run away. Witnesses said a singer who goes by the name Fantom hit his head on the high-voltage line, then somebody used a pole to lift it so the float could pass underneath.

Source: Reuters

8.Woman killed after road rage incident had gone looking for other driver
The case of a Las Vegas woman killed last week in front of her home after a road-rage incident went searching for the other driver after the initial confrontation, police said Tuesday. She was accompanied by her 22-year-old son, who had a gun. Initially, investigators said the woman — Tammy Meyers, 44 — and her 15-year-old daughter had gone home and were calling for help when someone pulled up in a car and shot Meyers. She and her son had spotted the other car but decided to return home.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Alabama governor apologizes to India for police force against grandfather
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has written a letter to the Indian government, apologizing for the actions of two police officers who seriously injured a man visiting from the country. “I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force… and for the injuries sustained by Mr. Patel,” Bentley wrote to India’s consul general in Atlanta. On Feb. 6, two police officers threw Patel, 57, to the ground, leaving him partially paralyzed. The Indian citizen was in Alabama to care of his young grandson.

Source: Time

10.Alex Rodriguez apologizes to fans for suspension
New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez on Tuesday issued a handwritten apology to fans his for yearlong suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-boosting drug policy. The three-time MVP missed out on the entire 2014 season. He was the biggest name among 14 players stained by their association with the now shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic. Rodriquez has maintained that he never used performance-enhancing drugs, calling the MLB investigation a “witch hunt.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

10 things you need to know today: February 17, 2015

The Week

1.Federal judge halts Obama’s immigration action
A federal judge in Texas on Monday blocked the federal government from enacting President Obama’s executive order deferring deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen said the preliminary injunction was necessary to allow Texas and 25 other states to proceed with a lawsuit challenging Obama’s immigration moves. “The genie would be impossible to put back in the bottle,” Hanen said.

Source: NBC News

2.Egypt bombs ISIS again as more Egyptians kidnapped
Egypt launched a second wave of airstrikes against the Libyan branch of the Islamic State on Monday, stepping up its retaliation against the Islamist group for beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach. The murders of the Egyptian hostages, if confirmed, would be the first such crime by ISIS outside Iraq and Syria. After the first bombing wave, militants reportedly kidnapped 35 more Egyptians in ISIS-controlled areas.

Source: CNN, Libya Herald

3.Heavy fighting in contested Ukrainian town despite ceasefire
A day after a cease-fire in Ukraine was scheduled to take effect, heavy fighting continued in the government-held town of Debaltseve, a strategic railway hub that the separatists claim to have surrounded. Both sides missed a Tuesday deadline for pulling heavy weapons back from the front lines. Kiev said that five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and another 25 wounded since the cease-fire started.

Source: The Associated Press, USA Today

4.Stocks and the euro fall after Greece bailout talks collapse
Bailout talks between Greek leaders and their country’s European creditors broke down on Monday, sending the euro and global stocks tumbling. The negotiations for a six-month extension of Greece’s bailout fell apart when the recession ravaged country’s new leaders, who have vowed to dismantle austerity measures demanded by lenders, rejected the proposed terms for the extension. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem gave Athens until Friday to request extending the bailout beyond the end of the month.

Source: Reuters

5.South gets its share of extreme winter weather
With the Northeast wrestling with the aftermath of its fourth blizzard in less than a month, the South was the one that got a taste of harsh winter weather on Monday. Snow and ice hit the Southern states from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, forcing the cancellation of nearly 2,000 departures and arrivals at airports across the region, and cutting off power to thousands of customers. “You are not going to see bare pavement for a number of days, probably,” Louisville Metro Public Works spokesman Harold Adams said.

Source: NBC News

6.Oil train derails and burns in West Virginia
An oil train derailed and caught fire in West Virginia on Monday, forcing the evacuation of two towns. Fourteen rail cars on the 109-car CSX train and one house burned, and at least one tanker leaking Bakken shale oil tumbled into an icy river along the tracks. There were reports that several of the 33,000-gallon tankers had fallen into the river. The train had been headed to a refinery in Yorktown, Va., according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.

Source: USA Today

7.Princeton receives rare book collection worth $300 million
Princeton University announced Monday that it had received its biggest gift ever — a rare book and manuscript valued at $300 million. The 2,500-volume trove includes the first six printed editions of the Bible, an original printing of the Declaration of Independence, and Beethoven’s autographed music sketchbook. Musician, bibliophile, and philanthropist William H. Scheide, a 1936 Princeton graduate, left the collection to the school when he died in November at age 100.

Source: The Inquirer

8.U.S. plants spyware in foreign networks, cybersecurity firm says
Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said Monday that the U.S. has been embedding surveillance and sabotage tools into computers and networks in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and other countries. The implants allegedly were placed by the “Equation Group,” which “appears to be a veiled reference to the National Security Agency and its military counterpart, United States Cyber Command,” The New York Timesreports.

Source: The New York Times

9. Debonair French actor Louis Jourdan dies at 93
French actor Louis Jourdan, who sealed his position as a romantic idol with his work in the 1958 Oscar winner Gigi, died over the weekend in California at age 93. The handsome and debonair Jourdan was cast in roles that exploited his Gallic charm — so much so that he referred to himself as Hollywood’s “French cliche.” Later he played villains, including James Bond’s nemesis in the 1983 film Octopussy.

Source: BBC News

10.Lesley Gore, who sang “It’s My Party,” dies at 68
Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who hit the top of the charts at age 16 with “It’s My Party,” died Monday of lung cancer. She was 68. “She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” said Gore’s partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson. Gore followed up her first No. 1 song with a string of hits, including Judy’s Turn to Cry and You Don’t Own Me, which became a feminist anthem.

Source: The New York Times

Obama Not Antichrist, Newspaper Correction Notes


NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

The absurdity of it all is mind-boggling…

The Huffington Post

The text reads:

Boyd Thomas’ letter Saturday contained an error in the headline. He does not believe President Obama is the Antichrist, who will come after seven kings, according to Revelation. He thinks Obama could be the seventh king.

The correction references this letter to the editor published on February 6. The Dispatch originally titled the letter “Is Obama the Antichrist?” The headline has now been amended to ask, “Is Obama the seventh king?”

The letter writer does not speculate as to who the preceding 6 kings would have been.

H/T: Gawker

Reince Priebus Demands President Obama Apologize For Truthful, Historical Crusade Remarks


I seem to have missed this a few days ago (2-11-15), but this is “so like them” (Conservatives) that I had to share it…

‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ ~ Mahatma Ghandi

Addicting Info

In today’s America, the GOP wants those who speak the truth to apologize because it doesn’t conform to their warped sense of reality.

When President Obama delivered his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast and made reference to the Crusades (in which Christians massacred hundreds of thousands of people in the name of religion), conservatives flipped. I guess the Republicans can condemn all Muslims when it comes to the actions of ISIS, but when it comes to Christians, the Crusades never happened.

Now Reince Priebus, chairman for the Republican National Committee, is demanding that President Obama apologize for reminding the country about a historical fact. Apparently, when faced with their own demons, Christian conservatives want to bury their heads in the sand and blame all the woes on the President (like they always do). Another example of how they cannot accept responsibility or accept reality.

On his Facebook page, Priebus posted a link to an online petition, saying, “Obama’s playbook—Ignore the threat of radical terrorism & insult Americans instead. Agree? Sign to demand an apology.”

He then linked on the post to this page, where over 7,300 signatures have been gathered. The caption of the petition really shows how sissy and spineless the GOP is when it comes to having their “strong faith” insulted:

At the National Prayer Breakfast, rather than condemning the terrorist attacks in the name of religion, President Obama lectured Christians on crusades from centuries ago.

He said, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” 

It’s infuriating to hear the President make such out-of-touch remarks and unduly insult Christians. President Obama should apologize to those hurt and offended by his comments. He should stand strong against those who threaten our country, our families and our freedom.

Demand Obama apologize for his insulting remarks.

The part that really gets me is “President Obama should apologize to those hurt and offended by his comments.” If a person in good faith was truly hurt by these comments, their faith is pretty damn weak. Suck it up, know your history, and grow from it. You don’t like someone calling you out for the atrocities you didn’t commit? Welcome to the life of every Muslim American.