President Obama

Obama Family Reportedly Thinking About Moving to NYC Because Chicago Is a Mess

President Obama and the next Mayor of NYC Bill DeBlasio leaving Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn October 25, 2013 | WBLS

Upstate New York or Long Island may be their preference. Residing in the city is an option as well…


How bad is Chicago right now? Depends on where you look (the shootings kind of suck, as does the weather) but apparently it’s losing its allure enough that the Obamas may not move back after they leave the White House.

BuzzFeed reports that the Obamas are considering a move to New York after Barack’s term ends, thanks to “messy Chicago politics and a personal craving for a new beginning when they leave the White House for the last time as residents. The first family fears the Chicago they left is not one they want to return to, and a source close to the family said the long-shot New York library bid has emerged as a serious alternative.”

This may be partly due to the non-popularity of Obama’s former Chief of Staff and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who Obama heavily assisted during his election and famously has low poll numbers (though those numbers are quickly rising thanks to his re-election campaign). Or maybe they don’t like the blizzards.

But why would they move somewhere that has equal amounts of bad weather? For one, suggests BuzzFeed, they may be seriously considering Columbia University’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library (he completed his undergraduate degree there, after all). They could also be considering the sad inevitable path of…becoming pundits:

Another New York Congressman, Long Island Republican Peter King, suggested New York would offer Obama a better environment for staying relevant, should he want to.

“New York is the media capital of the world. I think that’s what he wants and you don’t get that anywhere else,” said King, who added that he’d “heard second and third hand” that Obama is seriously considering New York. “I can certainly understand why.”

Let’s hope that’s not the reason, guys.

The Netanyahu Paradox: How Obama is Using Bibi’s Arrogance to Box in the Right and Promote Peace

That moment when you learn the hard way not to mess with Barack Obama | Attribution: none

I ran across this site and decided to post an article written two days ago…

The People’s View 

“Informed Citizenry: Progressive analysis, Commentary and Rants”

TPV doesn’t aim to be a “tomorrow’s news today” kind of a site. Instead, our goal is to help you understand the news in depth. That in-depth exploration, however, does become an ahead-of-time understanding of news events  sometimes.

The breaking of [March 24th’s] story of Israeli espionage against US officials in the confidential Iran negotiations is such a moment.

While it is in and of itself newsworthy that Netanyahu’s government crossed a line by disseminating it to members of Congress and while it is particularly troubling that those members of Congress participated in espionage against our own country by not immediately notifying the White House about Netanyahu’s attempt to circumvent the diplomatic process, the one element of the story that seems to be falling by the wayside is something we highlighted three weeks ago: Barack Obama is closer than any leader has ever been to striking an international pact to peacefully put nuclear weapons out of Iran’s reach.

Three weeks ago, I had to rely on the dumbness of the GOP’s move and Netanyahu’s repeated appeals to “world powers” in his speech in front of the US Congress – World powers, I pointed out then, with whom President Obama had earned enormous capital by proving that his hard work on behalf of peace wasn’t mere lip service and by already having the disarmament of a middle eastern rogue power (Syria) under his belt.

The Wall Street Journal, breaking the spying story, describes that desperation:

“Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer early this year saw a rapidly closing window to increase pressure on Mr. Obama before a key deadline at the end of March, Israeli officials said.”

They decided to do so, WSJ goes on to say, by channeling to members of Congress confidential information the Israelis had learned in an attempt to derail the President’s plans. Little did they know that US counterintelligence had in short order discovered the Israeli spying however, and Netanyahu’s belligerence received blowback when the espionage turned off pro-Israel Democrats Netanyahu had counted on to scuttle the President’s plans.

But it didn’t stop at ticking off Democratic members. Netanyahu’s petulance and the following fallout not only backfired, it has angered officials who aren’t necessarily political appointees, and thus whose times of service aren’t always linked to the length of their presidents’ administrations.

““People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.””

On the other end, Netanyahu’s screw-ups – including an election-eve assertion he has now been forced to backpedal on – has enabled the White House to make a point too many American administrations have been afraid to due to fear of the We-gotta-be-more-pro-Israel-than-Israel lobby. This weekend, in a speech to J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, the President’s Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough made the case for and end to occupation (which Netanyahu said he would expand) and the establishment of a free Palestinian state as not only the best option for Israel’s long term security but the only way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic.

McDonough’s speech, though making the usual rounds among the right wing echo chamber, has done what right wing dogmatism hasn’t allowed in decades: established the United States as both pro-Israel and pro-peace. McDonough was even backed up at J Street by the George Bush Sr’s Secretary of State Jim Baker (before that Reagan’s Secretary of Treasury), who lit into Netanyahu in his own speech.

Frankly, Netanyahu has done so much to draw attention to himself that even some conservatives are finding it difficult to defend his rhetoric and actions. By making himself the cause celeb, Netanyahu has put the American right wing in the uncomfortable position of having to reject the longstanding, bipartisan goal of a two-state solution and defending expanded settlements and now, spying on the United States, all at the behest of a foreigner.

The Right’s open contempt for peace and Netanyahu’s open defiance of the United States may well have had a big part in creating the atmosphere in which the White House Chief of Staff can articulate in clearest of terms that indefinite occupation and settlement does not have the backing of the United States, and that Benjamin Netanyahu is part of the problem against a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, without allowing the press to instantly brand this longstanding American position as anti-Israel. It is better understood than ever that the President is merely dropping support of a petulant, arrogant foreign leader, not his proven commitment to the security of the state of Israel.

Let’s recount. Netanyahu’s attempt to derail the Iran negotiations – from spying and secretly talking to members of Congress to the belligerent electioneering on the floor of the US Congress – not only failed but backfired, reiterating to our allies as well as to Iran that the window to make a deal is now. Bibi’s rhetoric following that has now resulted in what is a well-earned rebuke from the White House and loss of support on the Right. Not for Israel, but for Bibi.

Netanyahu may have won an election, but he seems to have lost a tremendous amount of ground on the global stage and within the US.

Barack Obama has generally taken a simple but deadly effective approach to neutralizing Right wing belligerence. Hand them enough rope, wait for them to screw up, then move in at lightening speed. He said it a long time ago, even before he was president, that he would work with anyone, but if you come at him with an attack posture, he will knock you out.

Now he has used that tactic with the precision of a neurosurgeon against Bibi’s follies, and at the same time, tied and hung Netanyahu like a sinking rock around the American far Right’s neck, all the while continuing to advance his global leadership. The GOP is back in a box: if they now back Netanyahu, they are committing sedition by backing a foreign leader who not only spied on the US but passed that info to unauthorized individuals, and if they don’t, their base is going to call them a n____ lover. Welcome to the Netanyahu Paradox.

Well done, Mr. President.

NOTE: Please please please understand that this article’s comments section is not an invitation to jump into the “Israel good, Palestine bad” or vice versa kind of a discussion. Rather, it is meant to be an introspection on American leadership and moving the peace process (both between Israel and Palestine and the current negotiations with Iran), and exactly who’s getting in the way (Netanyahu, the American Right wing).  As such, please keep your comments on that topic. I know passions run high on both sides, but since that cat has already been skinned every way possible, let’s be forward looking to the solutions. ~  (Author of this article)

(Original article dated 3-24-15)


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

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The Week

1.Black box found at Germanwings crash site
Search crews found the first of two black box recorders of an airliner run by Lufthansa’s low-fare subsidiary, Germanwings, on a mountainside in the French Alps where the plane crashed Tuesday. All 144 passengers and six crew members are believed to have been killed. Investigators do not yet have a theory on why the Airbus A320 jet crashed with no distress call en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, but expect information from the cockpit voice recorder within hours. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve saidterrorism was “not a privileged hypothesis.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

2.Obama agrees to slow troop drawdown in Afghanistan
President Obama on Tuesday agreed to keep about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of this year. The announcement came after Obama met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who requested the slower drawdown to help maintain stability as foreign forces leave. Obama said he would stick to plans for closing bases and consolidating U.S. troops in Kabul. “Afghanistan is still a dangerous place,” Obama said. “The way it’s going to become less dangerous is by Afghan security forces­ being capable of keeping law and order and security.”

Source: The Washington Post

3.Kraft and Heinz to merge and form food and beverage powerhouse
Kraft Foods Group Inc. and ketchup giant H.J. Heinz announced Wednesdaythey had agreed to merge, creating the third largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth largest in the world.  The new company, Kraft Heinz Co., will boast many of America’s most iconic brands, including Heinz, Kraft, Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida, and Philadelphia. Heinz is owned by 3G Capital, a Brazilian private-equity firm, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Source: Reuters

4.Israel denies spying on U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations
Israel on Tuesday forcefully denied that it spied on U.S. nuclear talks with Iran described in a Wall Street Journal report. “There is no such thing as Israel spying on the Americans,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said the allegations “are baseless and we reject them outright.” The Journal reported that Israel leaked information from its snooping to Congress in an attempt to undercut the developing nuclear deal.

Source: The New York Times

5.Ted Cruz shops for health care through ObamaCare while vowing to repeal it
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — who this week declared he was running for president and vowed to repeal ObamaCare if elected — said Tuesday that he was enrolling for family health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Cruz told The Des Moines Register that his wife, Heidi Cruz, had lost workplace coverage when she took a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs to work on his campaign, so they are looking at plans on the federal marketplace. “I believe we should follow the text of every law, even [a] law I disagree with,” he told CNN.

Source: The Associated Press, The Des Moines Register

6.Houthis close in on Aden, forcing Yemen’s president to flee
Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, reportedly fled his home in Aden on Wednesday as Shiite Houthi rebels closed in. Aden is the southern port city where the embattled leader established a temporary capital. Hours earlier, Houthi representatives said on the rebel TV station that they had taken over an air base — just 35 miles from Aden — where U.S. and European advisers helped government forces in their fight against the local al Qaeda affiliate.

Source: Haaretz

7.Middlebury police say student visited Durst’s store before disappearing in 1971
A Middlebury College student who disappeared in 1971 made a purchase — dried prunes — in millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst’s Vermont health food store on the day she went missing, local police said Tuesday. Investigators said they were searching for a connection between Durst and the woman, Lynne Schulze, who was 18. Police said they searched Dursts’s former property in the area last year but found nothing tying him to the case. Investigators do not know whether Durst was in the store that day.

Source: ABC News

8.Adam Lanza’s house demolished to erase reminder of Sandy Hook school massacre
Demolition crews in Newtown, Connecticut, tore down the house where 20-year-old Adam Lanza started a December 2012 killing spree that ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 20 children and six adults before fatally shooting himself. Investigators determined that Lanza shot his mother to death in the 3,100-square-foot colonial home before storming into the school. Town officials voted unanimously in January to demolish the home, which neighbors complained served as a constant reminder of the murders.

Source: New York Daily News

9. Italian high court takes up appeal of Amanda Knox conviction
Italy’s highest court on Wednesday began hearing the appeal of Amanda Knox’s conviction in the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the town of Perugia, where both were studying. Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito, were found guilty, then innocent, then guilty again in the polarizing trial. The court now can confirm the 28.5-year sentence for Knox and 25-year sentence for Sollecito, throw them out, or order a third appeal trial. An attorney said Knox, who is awaiting the ruling in her hometown of Seattle, is “very worried.”

Source: The Associated Press

10.Jon Hamm leaves rehab ahead of Mad Men final season premiere
Actor Jon Hamm has left a rehabilitation center where he underwent 30 days of treatment for alcohol addiction. Hamm’s release from Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, comes ahead of the final season premiere of Mad Men. Hamm, 44, struggled for years in Hollywood before he began appearing on the AMC show in 2007 as the alcoholic, womanizing advertising executive Don Draper. He won a 2008 Golden Globe for the role, and has been nominated for an Emmy seven times.

Source: The Washington Post


10 things you need to know today: March 24, 2015

(AP Photo/dpa, Jan-Arwed Richter)

The Week

1.Israel spied on U.S.-Iran nuclear talks
Israel spied on negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on curbing Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, then shared what it learned with U.S. lawmakers to fuel opposition to any deal, The Wall Street Journal reported. The snooping was not out of the ordinary — U.S. intelligence agencies discovered it while spying on Israel — but a U.S. official said Israel went too far by sharing the information with U.S. lawmakers “to undermine U.S. diplomacy.” Israel denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today

2.German budget airliner crashes in France with 148 people on board
A Germanwings airliner crashed in southern France on Tuesday with 148 people on board. “The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors,” French President Francois Hollande said. The Airbus jet, operated by Lufthansa’s budget airline unit, was traveling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it went down in rugged terrain in the foothills of the French Alps, about 65 miles north of the French Riviera city of Nice.

Source: Reuters

3.Police find no evidence supporting Rolling Stone rape account
Charlottesville, Virginia, police said Monday that they had found no “substantive” evidence of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house described in a November article in Rolling Stone. A female student identified in the story as “Jackie” told the magazine that she had been assaulted in September 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. Phi Psi leaders said they enforce a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault. They said the “false accusations” had damaged their organization and they were considering their “legal options.”

Source: CNN, The Washington Post

4.Ted Cruz kicks off presidential campaign with “imagine” speech at Liberty University
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday announced his 2016 presidential bid with a speech at Liberty University in which he asked voters to “imagine” a more prosperous America free of ObamaCare and the IRS. “It is a time for truth,” he said. “It is a time for liberty. It is a time to reclaim the Constitution.” Cruz cast himself as the religious “courageous conservative” candidate, proclaiming that rights “don’t come from man, they come from God Almighty.” Though other prospective candidates have formed exploratory committees in preparation for 2016 bids, Cruz is the first major candidate to join the race.

Source: Politico

5.U.S. vows to fund Afghan security forces at peak levels into 2017
The Obama administration on Monday promised Afghanistan’s leaders enough money to keep Afghan security forces at 352,000 personnel until at least 2017. That peak level is considered crucial to helping Afghan forces provide stability as foreign soldiers leave the country. The announcement came as Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, heads into talks with President Obama. Ghani is expected to ask Obama at the White House Tuesday to leave 10,000 troops longer than planned. Obama is expected to agree.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

6.Utah governor signs law bringing back firing squads
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a law Monday that will allow firing squads to carry out executions if lethal injection drugs are not available. Herbert said the method is “a little bit gruesome,” but allows the state to have a Plan B when it comes to executions. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, who said firing squads are a more humane form of execution. Critics believe it is too brutal and puts Utah in a bad light.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Netanyahu apologizes for warning of Arab voter turnout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized Monday for his last-minute warning that Arab voters were “being bused to the polling stations in droves” ahead of last week’s parliamentary election. Netanyahu’s party was trailing ahead of the vote but won after he appealed to hardliners by saying there would be no Palestinian state as long as he remained in office. Netanyahu said his comments on Arab turnout had offended many Israelis. “This was never my intent,” he said. “I apologize for this.”

Source: Times of Israel, CBS News

8.Judge refuses to release Durst
A New Orleans judge called millionaire accused killer Robert Durst dangerous and a flight risk on Monday, and refused a request by defense lawyers for his release on bail. Durst, heir to a New York real estate fortune, is accused in the shooting death of family friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles 15 years ago, days before she was to talk to investigators about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife. Durst was arrested on March 14, hours before the airing of an HBO documentary episode in which he appeared to admit to killing Berman, his wife, and another person.

Source: Bloomberg

9. Former football star Darren Sharper sentenced for rapes
Former NFL star Darren Sharper pleaded no contest to sexual assault charges in Arizona and Los Angeles on Monday. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but his lawyer said he will serve about nine years behind bars. Sharper, 39, faced nine charges that he drugged and raped women in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Tempe, Arizona. He also is expected to plead guilty to the charges in Las Vegas and New Orleans, and serve sentences for all of the crimes concurrently.

Source: USA Today

10.Angelina Jolie reveals she had her ovaries removed to prevent cancer
Angelina Jolie said in an opinion article published Tuesday in The New York Times that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent cancer. The surgery last week came two years after the actress underwent a preventative double mastectomy. A blood test had found that Jolie, who lost her mother, grandmother, and an aunt to cancer, had a gene mutation giving her an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. “I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer.'” Jolie wrote.

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

President Obama arrives at Bob Hope Airport via helicopter from LAX, en route to ABC Studios for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The National Memo

Republicans have consistently said that a president cannot take responsibility for a strong economy — unless of course he’s a Republican.

A weak economy, however, is always a Democratic president’s fault. And if a Republican president presides over the worst financial crisis in a half-century after seven years in office, that is clearly the fault of poor people.

President Obama is in an awkward position when it comes to the economy. It’s only great if you compare it to the last 14 years. But with 50 percent of America now saying in the latest CNN poll that his presidency is a success, he figures that he’s now allowed to “take a well-earned victory lap” by answering the question Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked for four years: “Where are the jobs?”

“Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled — I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side,” the president said in Cleveland on Wednesday.

A sensible media would be debating which of Obama’s two great accomplishments — the stimulus or the Affordable Care Act — is a bigger success; which better proves that the government can successfully intervene to prevent suffering while reshaping our economy to be more sustainable; or about which Republicans were more wrong.

But conservatives won’t let that happen. They’ll focus on metrics that languished before Obama came into office — we’re very concerned about labor force participation all of a sudden! — and blast him for not solving all of the failures of conservative economics and foreign policies.

America should be used to Democratic presidents outperforming Republicans by now. While no administration is perfect, President Obama has staked strong claims for liberal values and policies that prove things Republicans have to pretend never happened.

  1. Proved trickle-down economics are wrong, again
    You don’t hear it mentioned often enough, but 2014 was the best year of job creation in this century. This is a key point, because it’s the first full year in which Obama’s economic policies really took hold. Most of the Bush tax breaks on the rich ended in 2013. And in 2014, new taxes on the wealthy and corporations kicked in to help 16 million Americans gain health insurance. The result was a job market like we haven’t seen since the’90s. As they did in 1993, Republicans claimed that asking the rich to pay a bit more would destroy the economy. So, of course, the opposite happened. It’s almost as if some tax hikes on the wealthy are good for the economy! But if Republicans admitted that, they’d have to give up their entire reason for existing, which is to comfort the most comfortable.
  2. Proved we can expand health insurance coverage and shrink the deficit.
    America’s long-term debt problems are largely built on conservatives’ unwillingness to do what every other advanced nation in the world does — insure everyone. As a result, we pay more and get worse results than almost every industrialized country in the world. Obamacare has shown that we can increase coverage dramatically while cutting more than $600 billion from long-term debt projections. Republicans have finally gotten honest in their new budget and admitted that their alternative to Obamacare is… nothing. They’ve got nothing because Obamacare was their alternative, and every prediction they’ve made about it has been wrong. Health spending isat a 50-year low, businesses aren’t dumping employees’ coverage, hospitals are performing better, and policy cancelations were likely lower than they were before the law. Meanwhile, Obama has been even more successful at shrinking the deficit as a percentage of GDP than even Bill Clinton.
  3. Proved that the government can kick-start a clean-energy revolution.
    When it comes to fighting climate change, President Obama has done more than anyone on Earth. Beyond the regulations he set in his first term, which are quickly reducing our dependency on dirty energy, the stimulus launched the clean-energy technological revolution this nation needed. Republicans started calling the stimulus “failed” before it even became law. And that kind of message discipline — plus half a billion dollars in ads that smeared the bill — scared Democrats from bragging about it. But now that we’ve experienced the first year of economic growth where carbon emissions didn’t increase in 40 years, maybe they should.
  4. Proved we can regulate Wall Street without killing the stock market.
    Good news! Bankers are complaining about being regulated too much. Despite this “over-regulation,” we’re seeing constant stock market records. Meanwhile, the memory of the costs of under-regulation — 8 million jobs and trillions in wealth — continues to fade. Democrats have become newly proud of the Dodd-Frank law now that they see how desperate Republicans are to gut it. The success in keeping the economic engine of the rich purring should not dissuade those on the left. Instead, they should continue to fight against the persistent dangers to our economy that come from ridiculous executive compensation schemesstock buybacks, and high-frequency trading.
  5. Proved that we should give diplomacy a chance.
    The Bush administration left America facing a newly nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran building nuclear centrifuges, and a wrecked Iraq, run by a propped-up sectarian strongman with no interest in reconciliation. Democrats were likely naive in assuming this Tower of Babel of foreign policy disasters could be kept from crumbling. The Obama administration’s effort to re-engage the world may seem foolhardy now — but what was the alternative? More confrontational Republican alternatives would have guaranteed nothing but more American lives lost. Syria is a disaster. Libya proved that regime change is never simple. Putin is emboldened or frantically flailing, depending on your point of view. But as a result of re-engagement with our allies and a Medvedev-led Russia, sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. We’re closer than ever to a nuclear deal that could prevent another, still more disastrous war. And even if it fails, at least we tried not to repeat the catastrophes of the past.

Despite these successes, Republicans have to see Obama as a floundering, economy-shrinking, deficit-creating failure, or risk questioning their failed worldview.

Essentially, they have to pretend he’s Bobby Jindal.

10 things you need to know today: March 23, 2015

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Week

1.Singapore’s founding father dies at 91
Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew died Monday more than a month after being admitted into a hospital with pneumonia. He was 91. Lee served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, and has been credited with turning the small island trading outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia. Lee’s government became known for its authoritarian rule, including tough law enforcement and limits on protests. He said the heavy-handed tactics were necessary for stability.

Source: The New York Times

2.Cruz officially enters 2016 race for the White House
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his presidential candidacy official on Monday, announcing with a Twitter post and video that he will run for the Republican nomination in 2016. Other big-name candidates are openly considering running, but Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, was the first major candidate from any party to jump into the race officially. Cruz, 44, promised to lead “a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again.”

Source: Fox News

3.McCain tells Obama to end his “temper tantrum” over Netanyahu
Republicans sharply criticized President Obama on Sunday for saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had complicated peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders by saying there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. Netanyahu made the statement in a last-minute appeal to conservative voters ahead of his party’s surprisingly strong win in last week’s parliamentary elections. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama should end his “temper tantrum” and accept the result of Israel’s “free and fair democratic election.”

Source: New York Daily News

4.Supreme Court hears argument on Texas Confederate flag license tag
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Monday on whether the state of Texas can refuse to issue license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag. The Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, backed by First Amendment advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, says banning the plates is a violation of free speech. Texas counters that license tags, unlike bumper stickers, are government speech, so they should not include a symbol many see as racist.
5.Crowds line the streets for Richard III funeral
Richard III got a king’s funeral in England on Sunday, more than 500 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The former king’s remains were excavated from a parking lot in Leicester in 2012 and identified. About 35,000 people, many tossing white roses symbolizing the House of York, lined the streets to watch the procession take the coffin from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral. The casket was placed on public view until Monday. The notoriously brutal monarch will be reburied on Thursday.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6.Durst heads back to New Orleans court
Real estate heir Robert Durst returns Monday to a New Orleans courtroom where his lawyers plan to demand his release on the grounds that his arrest was illegal. Durst, 71, has spent nearly a week in a prison mental ward, but he is to appear in a preliminary hearing on new weapons charges filed after he was picked up on a Los Angeles warrant accusing him of killing family friend Susan Berman in December 2000. Defense lawyers say the arrest was a stunt timed to coincide with the airing of an HBO documentary in which Durst appeared to incriminate himself.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Seven children killed in fire mourned in Brooklyn
Thousands of New Yorkers on Sunday joined a grief-stricken father to mourn seven Orthodox Jewish children killed in an overnight fire the day before. The blaze was believed to have been started by an untended hot plate left on to warm food on the Jewish day of rest. The children died within minutes. Their mother, Gayle Sassoon, 45, and a 15-year-old sister survived by jumping out of second-floor windows. “There’s absolutely nothing to say!” the father, Gabriel Sassoon, wailed.

Source: The New York Times

8.Soldiers brush off ISIS “hit list”
An purported ISIS “hit list” of 100 U.S. service members has emerged online, but three soldiers named on the list said they were not concerned about the threat. The list, which included personal information allegedly linked to the targeted soldiers, was posted on a website by the “Islamic State Hacking Division,” a previously unknown group. The post urged “lone wolf” ISIS supporters to kill the soldiers on the list.

Source: ABC News

9. Starbucks ends its brief campaign against racism
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Sunday ended his company’s brief attempt tospark a national dialogue about race, by encouraging baristas to write “Race Together” on their customers’ cups. Schultz said in a letter to employees that the project was designed to be a brief “catalyst” for a long-term conversation about race. “While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz said.

Source: The New York Times

10.Virginia and Kansas fall as March Madness upsets continue
In the latest upsets of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Michigan State, a regional No. 7 seed, beat the No. 2-seeded Virginia Cavaliers 60-54, and another No. 7 seed, Michigan State, knocked off Kansas 78-65 to advance to the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers also lost to Michigan State in 2014, that time in the Sweet 16. The loss came after Virginia won 30 or more games both seasons — the first such streak in the school’s history. Villanova on Saturday became the first No. 1 seed to fall.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

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

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

The Week

1.Ted Cruz expected to announce presidential bid Monday
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will make it official on Monday and announce a 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Houston Chronicle. Citing “senior advisers” to Cruz, the paper said the freshman firebrand would skip the standard exploratory committee phase in favor of an immediate declaration of his candidacy. Should Cruz indeed move right on to campaigning, he would be the first major candidate to do so from either party.

Source: Houston Chronicle

2.Villanova becomes first No. 1 seed to fall in NCAA Tournament
March Madness claimed its first top seed on Saturday when No. 8 seed North Carolina State knocked off the Villanova Wildcats 71-68. It’s a disappointing cap to an otherwise brilliant season for Villanova, who lost only two games all year and headed into the tournament ranked second in the nation behind undefeated Kentucky. “We failed here in this N.C.A.A. tournament,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said, “And we just got to accept it.” The Wolfpack advance to the Sweet 16, where they will meet either Louisville or Northern Iowa.

Source: ESPN, The New York Times

3.Tunisia confirms third gunman involved in museum attack
A third gunman took part in last week’s attack on Tunisia’s Bardo Museum and remains “on the run,” Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said Sunday. “There were for certain three terrorists,” Essebsi said. “There is one on the run. He will not get far.” Tunisian authorities on Saturday said they had arrested more than 20 people in connection with the attack, including 10 suspected of having a direct role in it. Gunmen on Wednesday killed 23 people, 20 of them foreigners, before being killed by security forces.

Source: CNN

4.Obama: Netanyahu’s election rhetoric complicated peace process
President Obama says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s abrupt right turn ahead of last week’s elections made it hard for the international community to “seriously believ[e] that negotiations are possible” to establish a peaceful Palestinian state. “We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership,” Obama said in an interview with The Huffington Post. With his support lagging in the polls, Netanyahu vowed never to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. Days after winning re-election, though, he walked back that statement.

Source: The Huffington Post

5.U.N. Security Council to meet amid crisis in Yemen
The United Nations Security Council will meet on Sunday for emergency discussions after Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi called for an “urgent intervention” regarding the escalating violence in his country. The meeting comes after Shiite rebels seized control of Yemen’s third-largest city, Taiz. The U.S. on Saturday withdrew its remaining 100 special forces from an airbase in Yemen, one month after it closed its embassy in Sanaa.

Source: Reuters, The Washington Post

6.ISIS claims to release personal info of U.S. military members
A purported hacking wing of the Islamic State on Saturday urged its “brothers residing in America” to kill members of the U.S. military. To that end, the so-called Islamic State Hacking Division posted to the web what it claimed were the names, addresses, and images of 100 service members. The Pentagon and FBI are investigating the incident, but said it did not appear ISIS obtained any information by hacking government servers.

Source: The New York Times

7.North Korea warns it is ‘ready for nuclear war’
North Korea’s ambassador to Britain, Hyun Hak Bong, on Friday said in an interview with Sky News that while his country does not want war, it is prepared to respond with the utmost force if necessary. “We do not want war, but we are not afraid of war,” Hyun said. “We are ready for nuclear war with nuclear war.” North Korea quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993, but the state of its clandestine nuclear program remains unclear.

Source: Al Jazeera

8.Iranian president says nuclear deal within reach
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday expressed optimism about the prospect of reaching a nuclear accord with the United States. “I believe achieving a deal is possible,” Rouhani said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. “There is nothing that can’t be resolved.” Also Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said “genuine progress” had been made toward a deal. The two sides have until the end of the month to reach a framework agreement.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Steve Nash retires from basketball
Point guard Steve Nash on Saturday announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons. The 41-year-old is an eight-time NBA All-Star and two-time league MVP who ranks third all-time in assists. Nash struggled with injuries in recent years that kept him off the court; he played only 15 games last year and, before announcing his retirement, was sitting out the 2014-15 season with recurring nerve issues in his back.

Source: ESPN

10.Snoop Dogg developing HBO drama about 1980s L.A.
Rapper and actor Snoop Dogg is developing a TV show for HBO about the impact of 1980s politics on inner-city life in Los Angeles. “This is a dream come true to be able to tell a story that’s going to be told the right way on the right network,” he said during an interview at the South by Southwest festival. Snoop Dogg is executive producing the potential program, while Allen Hughes is slated to direct.

Source: Variety

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

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The Week

1.ISIS claims responsibility for Tunisian museum massacre
The Islamic State on Thursday claimed responsibility for a Wednesday attack on a Tunisian museum that left 20 foreign tourists and three Tunisians dead. ISIS called the attack “the first drop of rain” in the northern African nation, although there was no proof of its involvement. Tunisia said it had arrested nine people in connection with the attack, and that it would deploy soldiers to major cities to ramp up security against terrorists. The foreign victims came from Japan, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.

Source: Reuters

2.Obama uses video greeting to urge Iranians to support nuclear deal
President Obama made a direct appeal to young Iranians to pressure their leaders into accepting a proposed agreement to curtail the country’s controversial nuclear program. “A nuclear deal now can open the door to a brighter future for you, the Iranian people,” Obama said. The message was included in Obama’s greeting to Iranians for Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebration. The message came two weeks after Senate Republicans sent a letter to Iranian leaders warning that any deal with Obama could be unraveled after his term ends.

Source: The New York Times

3.Netanyahu backs down after ruling out Palestinian state
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fresh off a parliamentary electionupset victory, backed away Thursday from a late campaign promise to block the establishment of a Palestinian state as long as he remained in office. He saidThursday that he still supported creating a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel, but that circumstances would have to change for a two-state solution to work. In a sign of how far relations between the two leaders had deteriorated, U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly told Netanyahu directly that his campaign comments had forced the United States to “re-assess” its options on the two-state solution.

Source: MSNBC, Haaretz

4.Arctic sea ice levels reach record winter lows
Arctic sea ice reached record lows for winter this year, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Thursday. The levels fluctuate from year to year — summer ice levels hit record lows in 2012, then rebounded some in the next two years. Another recent study, however, found Arctic sea ice had thinned dramatically in recent decades as global temperatures have risen, thinning ice in the Arctic by 65 percent between 1975 and 2012.

Source: BBC News, Vox

5.Congressional Republicans advance budget plans
The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee on Thursday signed off on a budget proposal calling for cutting Medicaid and other social programs, and repealing ObamaCare. The plan promises $5 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade, largely due to those cuts. The proposal advanced on a 22-13 party-line vote. Senate Republicans are trying to advance their version, which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said gave the rich tax breaks while cutting programs for “some of the most vulnerable” Americans.

Source: The Associated Press

6.Judge blocks release of grand jury testimony in Eric Garner chokehold death
A New York judge refused Thursday to release testimony heard by the grand jury in the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer put him in a chokehold. The grand jury decision not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, sparked protests. Civil rights groups tried to make the evidence from the hearing public, but District Attorney Daniel Donovan argued that would “damage the credibility of prosecutors” guaranteeing witnesses and jurors confidentiality.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Police investigate hanging death of black man found in Mississippi
A black man was found dead, hanging by a bed sheet from a tree in Mississippion Thursday. The man was believed to be 54-year-old Otis Byrd, who had not been seen since March 2 and was reported missing March 8. The tree was just over a quarter mile from a house belonging to Byrd’s family. It is too early to say “what happened out there, if it is a suicide, a homicide,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack. The man’s arms were not bound.

Source: CNN

8.Google announces development of smartwatch
Google announced Thursday that it was entering the smartwatch war. The internet search giant is teaming up with Intel and watchmaker TAG Heuer to create a luxury smartwatch using Intel hardware and Google’s Android Wear operating system. The announcement suggested Apple’s newly unveiled Apple Watch, which goes on sale April 24 for $349, could be in for stiff competition. Google did not provide details on the pricing or features of its device.

Source: Bloomberg

9. Nigeria makes gains against Boko Haram ahead of election
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is up for reelection next week, said in an interview aired Friday that soldiers could retake all of the towns seized by the ISIS-linked group Boko Haram within a month. At the start of the year, Boko Haram controlled an area the size of Belgium, with 20 local government districts. Now it has just three, thanks to a regional offensive by Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria, the Nigerian army says.

Source: The Guardian (Nigeria), Reuters

10.March Madness kicks off with two upsets
Two No. 3 seeds fell in the first full day of the NCCA men’s basketball tournament on Thursday. First, No. 14 seed U.A.B. beat Iowa State, a No. 3 seed ranked the ninth best team in the country, by a score of 60-59; then, No. 14 Georgia State upset Baylor, 87-86, on a late 3-point shot. Another of the four No. 3 seeds, Notre Dame, held off a surprisingly strong challenge, beating No. 14 seed Northeastern, 69-65.

Source: The Associated Press, The Plain Dealer

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

Tunisians protest the museum attack. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The Week

1.Attackers kill at least 19 people at Tunisian museum
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday vowed to fight a “merciless war against terrorism” after two gunmen killed 17 foreign tourists and two Tunisians in a brazen attack at a major museum in Tunisia’s capital. Another 50 people were wounded in the attack at the National Bordo Museum. Security forces later stormed the museum, killing the two armed attackers. Tunisian officials promised to step up security in tourist zones.

Source: The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor

2.Governor calls for investigation after bloody arrest of black UVA student
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for an investigation on Wednesday after the bloody arrest of a black student, Honor Committee member Martese Johnson, outside an Irish pub. Bystanders caught the incident on cellphone video showing a bleeding Johnson, 20, calling white alcohol-control agents “racists” as they try to cuff his hands behind his back and pin him to the pavement. Johnson, 20, was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice. Hundreds gathered on the University of Virginia campus to protest his treatment.

Source: The Washington Post

3.Obama administration pushes back against Netanyahu’s campaign rhetoric
The Obama administration on Wednesday called the hardline campaign rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies ahead of their Tuesday election victory this week “deeply concerning” and “divisive.” Netanyahu, trailing slightly in polls ahead of the parliamentary vote, wooed right-wing voters by declaring that there would never be a Palestinian state as long as he remained in office. Obama administration officials said they might have to do more to push for a two-state solution if Netanyahu holds firm.

Source: The Associated Press

4.U.S. considers keeping two bases open in Afghanistan beyond 2015
The U.S. might slow down its troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and keep military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad open after the end of 2015 to help the country’s new government fight the Taliban, according to a senior U.S. official. The change reflects improving cooperation between the two governments under Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, after a period of tense dealings with his predecessor, Hamid Karzi. The current plan is to halve the number of troops in Afghanistan from 10,000 by the end of 2015.

Source: Reuters

5.Ex-convict arrested for Phoenix shooting spree
Police arrested ex-convict Ryan E. Giroux for a Phoenix shooting rampage that left one person dead and five others wounded on Wednesday. The gunman shot and killed a man and injured two women in an argument at a motel, then carjacked a vehicle to get away. Later he reportedly committed a home invasion before police spotted him at a nearby apartment building, and subdued him with a stun gun. Giroux, identified as a neo-Nazi, has been to prison three times since 1994 for burglary and other crimes.

Source: The Associated Press, NBC News

6.Fed signals possible rate hike in June
The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it was prepared to raise borrowing rates in the coming months for the first time since 2006. The central bank’s policy-setting body said a rate hike was “unlikely” in April because of slightly lowered expectations for the recovery. However, in a break with past statements, the Fed no longer pledged to be “patient” about raising interest rates, suggesting a hike in June. Stocks surged globally Thursday as investors took the statement as a sign the Fed would raise rates gradually.

Source: Reuters

7.Durst had disguise and cash at time of his arrest
Real-estate heir Robert Durst had a latex mask and $40,000 in cash when he was arrested in New Orleans over the weekend, according to court documents that emerged Wednesday. Durst, 71, is being held in Louisiana on weapons charges, awaiting extradition to California to face charges for the December 2000 murder of family friend Susan Berman. Durst’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin said police were “acting like a bunch of Keystone Kops” and searching Durst’s home 14 years after the crime because they were embarrassed about an HBO documentary in which he implicated himself.

Source: CNN

8.San Francisco archdiocese stops dousing homeless at cathedral
The Archdiocese of San Francisco, facing a backlash, removed a system designed to douse homeless people with water to discourage them from sleeping on the steps outside Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Local Catholic officials said the archdiocese had the system installed after learning that such systems were used in the Financial District to prevent people from leaving “needles, feces, and other dangerous items.” The archdiocese pointed out to critics that the church was San Francisco’s leading supplier of services to the homeless.

Source: The Washington Post

9. Target agrees to $10 million settlement in data-breach lawsuit
Court documents filed Wednesday in Minnesota show that Target Corp. has agreed to a $10 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed after the company’s 2013 data breach. Victims would be eligible for up to $10,000 compensation under terms reached on March 9 but not yet approved by a federal judge. As many as 110 million people were hit by the breach, and hackers stole encrypted PIN data, customer names, credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates, and the embedded code on the back of the card.

Source: USA Today

10.First Four games end, kicking off NCAA tournament
The NCAA basketball tournament kicks off in earnest with 32 games on Thursday and Friday, after Robert Morris, Dayton, Ole Miss, and Hampton won “first four” games to round out the field of 64 teams. Hampton, at 17-17, defeated Manhattan Tuesday to become only the fourth team to enter the NCAA tournament with a losing record and win a game by double digits. They will next face undefeated No. 1 Kentucky. President Obama, and many others, picked the dominant Kentucky team to remain undefeated and win the championship.

Source: SB Nation, ESPN

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

(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

The Week

1.Netanyahu wins decisive victory in Israeli election
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party soundly defeated the center-left Zionist Union coalition of Isaac Herzog, setting the stage for Netanyahu to serve a record fourth term as prime minister. Likud appeared likely to take 29 or 30 spots in the 120-seat parliament, while the Zionist Union got 24 seats, according to a nearly complete vote count early Wednesday. Netanyahu, who trailed in the last pre-election polls, made a last-minute appeal to the right by promising there would be no Palestinian state as long as he served as premier.

Source: The Washington Post, The New York Times

2.Letter sent to White House tests positive for cyanide
A letter addressed to the White House tested positive for cyanide at an off-site mail-screening facility on Tuesday. The Secret Service said it would do further screening to determine whether the “presumptive positive” result was accurate and the envelope indeed contained the poisonous substance. The agency did not say whether the letter was addressed to President Obama. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, letters laced with anthrax were sent to the White House, Congress, and other recipients in Washington.

Source: The Associated Press

3.Republican Aaron Schock resigns from House under ethics investigation
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), once considered a rising GOP star, announced his resignation Tuesday after revelations suggesting his lavish use of campaign funds might have broken House ethics rules and campaign finance laws. “Constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve,” said Schock, 33. The four-term congressman plans to step down at the end of the month.

Source: Politico

4.Serbia makes first arrests for 1995 Srebrenica massacre
Serbian and Bosnian prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrest of seven men in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 1,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at a warehouse just outside the Bosnian town. The suspects were the first people arrested in connection with the killings, Europe’s worst civilian massacre since World War II. Among those arrested was Nedeljko Milidragovic, or “Nedjo the Butcher,” a commander who launched a successful trucking business after the war.

Source: The Associated Press

5.First gay group marches in New York St. Patrick’s Day parade
An openly gay organization marched in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Tuesday — a first. The parade’s organizers announced in September that the group, OUT@NBCUniversal, would be permitted to take part. The group’s members work for NBC, the TV network that broadcast the event. Gay-rights advocates, however, criticized organizers for only letting in one openly gay group. Mayor Bill de Blasio and many other city leaders boycotted, saying more should be done to make the parade inclusive.

Source: Los Angeles Times

6.Penn State suspends fraternity over nude photos of women on Facebook
Pennsylvania State University administrators said Tuesday they had suspended the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity after some of its members came under investigation for a private Facebook page with photos of nude or partly nude women. Some of the women appeared to be sleeping or passed out. “No arrests are being made at this time,” State College Police Lt. Keith Robb said. “Unfortunately, we aren’t able to identify any suspects right now because the accounts on Facebook were sanitized, wiped clean.”

Source: CNN

7.House GOP releases budget proposal
House Republicans unveiled their budget proposal on Tuesday, calling for increasing defense spending and cutting social services spending. The $5.468 trillion plan would eliminate deficits by 2024 while reducing spending on health care for the poor. The document, which has little chance of adoption, assumes that the federal government will save $2 trillion over a decade from the full repeal of ObamaCare. It also calls for transforming Medicare into a system of subsidies on insurance for the elderly.

Source: Reuters

8.Air Force mechanic accused of trying to join ISIS
A former Air Force mechanic has been arrested after allegedly trying to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, authorities said Tuesday. Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was indicted Monday on two charges, including attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Though officials offered scant details about the case, the indictment shows Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in mid-January, but was denied entry. He then flew back to Egypt, where he was apprehended and sent to the U.S.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Washington and Havana hold third round of talks on restoring relations
The U.S. and Cuba completed their third round of negotiations on restoring full diplomatic relations, officials from the two countries said Tuesday. The day-long meeting was part of an effort to strike a deal before President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro attend the Summit of the Americas on April 10 in Panama. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said “the discussion was positive and constructive and was held in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

Source: The Associated Press

10.Presbyterian Church formally approves gay weddings
The Presbyterian Church (USA), the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, formally changed its constitution to permit same-sex weddings on Tuesday. More than half of the church’s 171 regional presbyteries voted in favor of changing the church’s definition of marriage from being a union “between a woman and a man” to “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” The change, which takes effect on June 21, could deepen differences between the 1.7-million-member church and other Presbyterian groups.

Source: The Washington Post