Washington

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 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 3, 2015

Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

The Week

1.Second snowstorm hits already snow-covered Northeast
Boston authorities postponed a victory celebration for the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl victory, moving it from Tuesday to Wednesday due to a record breaking winter storm. The second blizzard to hit the Northeast in a week dumped another foot of snow on Boston, which was blanketed with two feet of snow last week, the most snow ever to fall on the city in seven days. The storm has been linked to at least 10 deaths, and forced the cancellation of 2,900 flights in Chicago, Newark, Boston, and New York.

Source: Reuters

2.Paul and Christie criticized for vaccine remarks
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, faced criticism from medical experts on Monday after suggesting some child vaccinations should be made voluntary. Paul said some vaccines have caused “profound mental disorders.” Christie said parents need “some measure of choice” although, with a U.S. measles outbreak surpassing 100 cases, a spokesman said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated” for measles. CDC director Tom Frieden said not vaccinating endangers other children.

Source: Fox News, The Washington Post

3.Obama sets new rules on NSA data mining
The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce new rules about how U.S. intelligence agencies manage the data they collect. The National Security Agency and other spy agencies will have to delete private information they collect about Americans that has no intelligence value, and do the same for foreigners after five years, The New York Timesreports. Obama will also begin a regular, formal White House assessment of NSA spying on foreign leaders.

Source: The New York Times

4.Obama releases his proposed $4 trillion budget
President Obama on Monday unveiled the specifics of a $4 trillion proposed budget that would roll back blanket spending cuts, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, and extend tax benefits to the middle class. “These proposals will put more money in middle-class pockets, raise wages, and bring more high-paying jobs to America,” Obama said in a statement. The budget covers the 2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The blueprint is largely a symbolic statement of the president’s priorities, as Congress will make significant changes to it over the coming months.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Google reportedly is developing an Uber rival
Google invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013, and put more money in the next year, but now the internet search giant reportedly is preparing to compete with Uber by starting its own ride-hailing service, possibly linked to its driverless car project. A person close to Uber’s board said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an Uber board member, informed fellow Uber board members of the possibility. Uber leaders reportedly have seen a prototype app being used by Google employees.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Cuba publishes first photos of Fidel Castro since August
Cuba on Monday released the first photos of former president Fidel Castro seen since August. With Cuba’s communist government and the Obama administration attempting to renew diplomatic relations cut off in the Cold War, rumors have surfaced that Castro, 88, was dead or near death. Last week, Cuba released a letter attributed to Castro in which he said he didn’t trust the U.S. but advocated a “peaceful resolution to conflicts.” The photos, published in the official Granma newspaper, showed Castro in a meeting with a youth leader.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Bus firebombing kills seven in Bangladesh
Attackers hit a packed bus with gasoline-bombs in Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring 16 others. The local police chief blamed the bombing on opposition activists, but they denied responsibility. At least 53 people have died in political violence, mostly vehicle firebombings, since the opposition launched a nationwide transportation strike in early January in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Suge Knight charged with murder
Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday for allegedly running over two men with his truck, killing one and injuring the other. His $2.2 million bail was revoked because authorities considered him a possible flight risk. Police said Knight argued with the men on the set of Straight Outta Compton, a film about the group N.W.A., and later ran them over. Knight’s lawyer said he accidentally ran over the victims while trying to get away from two men trying to attack him.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Charles Manson’s marriage license expires with no wedding
Eighty-year-old mass murderer Charles Manson’s marriage license is set to expire on Thursday without a wedding. Manson and his fiancee, 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, missed their last chance to marry over the weekend — weddings are not performed on weekdays at the California prison where Manson is incarcerated. Burton, who uses the nickname Star, intends to get another 90-day license and proceed with the wedding plan, according to a source in contact with her.

Source: The Associated Press

10.Revenge-porn site creator convicted of extortion
A California court on Monday convicted revenge-porn site founder Kevin Bollaert, 28, on identity theft and extortion charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Bollaert set up one website, YouGotPosted.com, where women’s former husbands and boyfriends posted nude photos of them, and he established another website, ChangeMyReputation.com, where victims could pay up to $350 to get the photos taken down. “This is essentially 21st century blackmail,” Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin told jurors last week.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, The Washington Post

Jeb Bush Makes an Anti-Pander Promise if He Runs in 2016

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington last month.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington last month.Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The New York Times

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida was blunt Monday night: If he runs for president in 2016, he will not pander to his party’s conservative base in the primaries.

Mr. Bush said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington that Republican candidates must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles.”

“It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you,” he added.

Mr. Bush said he would make a decision about the 2016 race “in short order” and sketched out the sort of campaign that he said Republicans must run to take back the White House. “It has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical,” he said.

Practicality is not, of course, the primary attribute many Republican primary voters look for in a presidential hopeful. Still, Mr. Bush noted, the viability of an unapologetically pragmatic bid has not been tested.

“Frankly, no one really knows that because it hasn’t been tried recently,” he said, prompting a round of knowing chuckles among the business executives in attendance.

Mr. Bush recognized what he had implied and quickly heaped praise on the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Why the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign

The Washington Post

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg | (Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Supreme Court justice and pop culture icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the hospital yesterday after having a heart stent implanted and expects to be back at work Monday. Despite various health issues over the years, Ginsburg insists that she is still of sound body at age 81 (her mind isn’t in question) and has no plans to retire before the end of President Obama’s term to ensure a Democratic replacement. If she keeps to that pledge, and presuming there are no other retirements in the next two years, the makeup of the Supreme Court could be a bigger campaign issue in 2016 than ever before. It certainly ought to be.

As much as we’ve debated Supreme Court cases in recent years, we haven’t given much attention to the idea of a shift in the court’s ideology because for so long the court has been essentially the same: divided 5-4, with conservatives having the advantage yet liberals winning the occasional significant victory when a swing justice moves to their side. And though a couple of recent confirmations have sparked controversy (Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor were both the target of failed attempts to derail their nominations), all of the retirements in the last three presidencies were of justices from the same general ideology as the sitting president. The last time a new justice was radically different from the outgoing one was when Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall — 23 years ago.

Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins in 2016, he or she may well have the chance to shift the court’s ideological balance. Ginsburg is the oldest justice at 81; Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 78, and Stephen Breyer is 76. If the right person is elected and the right justice retires, it could be an earthquake.

Consider this scenario: Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2017, and sometime later one of the conservative justices retires. Now there would be a liberal majority on the court, a complete transformation in its balance. A court that now consistently favors those with power, whether corporations or the government, would become much more likely to rule in favor of workers, criminal defendants and those with civil rights claims. Or alternately: The Republican nominee wins, and one of the liberal justices retires. With conservatives in control not by 5-4 but 6-3, there would be a cascade of even more conservative decisions. The overturning of Roe v. Wade would be just the beginning.

Look at what the Supreme Court has done recently. It gutted the Voting Rights Act, said that corporations could have religious beliefs, simultaneously upheld and hobbled the Affordable Care Act, struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and moved toward legalizing same-sex marriage, all but outlawed affirmative action, gave corporations and wealthy individuals the ability to dominate elections and created an individual right to own guns — and that’s just in the last few years.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, there is probably no single issue you ought to be more concerned about in the 2016 campaign than what the court will look like after the next president gets the opportunity to make an appointment or two. The implications are enormous. It’s not too early to start considering them.

The Obama Opposition

No attribution

The New York Times ~ Charles M. Blow

The president came to Washington thinking he could change Washington, make it better, unite it and the nation. He was wrong. As he ascended, the tone of political discourse descended, as much because of who he was as what he did.

When Obama introduced Joe Biden as his vice-presidential running mate in Springfield, Ill., he expressed his confidence that Biden could “help me turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people.”

In his first Inaugural Address, Obama said:

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

He underestimated the degree to which his very presence for some would feel more like a thorn than a salve. The president seemed to think that winning was the thing. It wasn’t. Stamina was the thing. The ability to nurse a grievance was the thing.

The president’s first “I won” moment came shortly after his inauguration. It was in an hourlong, bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders about the stimulus package. ABC News reported an exchange the president had with Eric Cantor this way:

“Obama told Cantor this morning that ‘on some of these issues we’re just going to have ideological differences.’ The president added, ‘I won. So I think on that one, I trump you.’ ”

Then, in a 2010 meeting with members of Congress about the Affordable Care Act, a visibly agitated president quipped to John McCain (who was raising concerns about the bill): “We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.”

And in 2013, appearing even more agitated following the government shutdown, the president chastised his opponents across the aisle: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election.”

This idea that Republicans would honor the fact that he was elected — twice — almost seems quaint. It angered; it didn’t assuage.

And in addition to some people being ideologically opposed to Democratic principles in general, others are endlessly irritated by a personal attitude and persona that seem impervious to chastisement or humbling.

Even the president himself has come around to giving voice to this in public. Last year he told The New York Times: “There’s not an action that I take that you don’t have some folks in Congress who say that I’m usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency.”

Gall here is an interesting word, and a purposeful one I think. It is in line with all the other adjectives used to describe this president’s not kowtowing and supplicating himself before traditional power structures.

Arrogant is another word that gets regular usage by his opponents, like Rand Paul, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. Some even connect Obama and supposed arrogance to anything and everything he does.

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

The midterms were...

The midterms were… (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Week

Republicans lay out their legislative agenda, Obama assesses the damage, and more

1. Republicans lay out their legislative agenda
A day after retaking the Senate and adding to their majority in the House, the GOP leadership is letting Americans in on their plan for the next two years. Chief among their priorities is balancing the budget, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and revising or repealing the Affordable Care Act. Republican lawmakers are also expected to use their new-found control of the Senate to work towards large-scale revisions to the tax code. [The New York Times]

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2. Obama assesses the midterms
President Obama on Wednesday assessed his party’s resounding defeat in the midterm elections, saying the clear message from voters was that Washington needs to scrap the dysfunction and finally “get stuff done.” Obama said he would work with Republicans on issues where there is broad bipartisan agreement, and take executive action when he is compelled to act alone. “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions Congress won’t like.” [Time]

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3. Judge overturns Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison struck down Missouri’s ban on gay marriage. In June, St. Louis officials handed out four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of the state’s 10-year-old constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. The move was designed to set up a show down in the courts over the ban in the hopes of overturning it. Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster, announced that he would not appeal the ruling because he wanted Missouri’s future to “be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” [CBS]

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4. Russia snubs 2016 nuclear arms summit
Russian officials have decided to skip a 2016 nuclear security summit being held in Chicago, according to the U.S. State Department. Russia will instead attend a symposium hosted by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency. The move comes at a time when the relationship between Washington and Moscow has been severely strained thanks to the crisis in Ukraine. In March, both Russia and the United State attended the last nuclear summit, which took place in The Hague. [Reuters]

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5. Deadly attack in Jerusalem fuels tension
Two people were killed in Jerusalem when a driver rammed into a line of commuters waiting for a train. The authorities killed the assailant but not before he got out of his car and assaulted a group of bystanders with a metal bar. The attack was the latest deadly incident in a city that has seen mounting tension over the past few months. [Time]

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6. Kerry pushes for deal with Iranians over their nuclear program
Secretary of State John Kerry said that he is hoping to finalize a deal with Iran over its nuclear capacity before a Nov. 24 deadline for negotiations. “I want to get this done,” said Kerry, who added that Iran has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and five other countries have been in talks with Iran for months to convince the rogue nation to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. [The Washington Post]

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7. Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola is released from hospital
Teresa Romero Ramos, the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa, left the hospital after a month of treatment. The Spanish nurse was still weak, but called her recovery a “miracle” from God. Doctors said Ramos is no longer contagious and that they learned several lessons about treating Ebola patients from her case. [CNN]

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8. Tesla beats third quarter expectations
Tesla, the manufacturer behind the all-electric Model S car, reported a modest, third-quarter profit of $3 million. The company delivered a record-setting 7,785 sedans, which boosted its sales to $932 million. Analysts had expected the company to report lower revenues. [Forbes]

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9. Van Gogh painting sells for $61.8 million
Vincent van Gogh’s “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies” fetched $61.8 million at auction — almost $12 million more than its estimated value. The painting, which van Gogh created at his doctor’s house just a few months before his death, was purchased by a private collector from Asia. The still life was one of the few canvases van Gogh was able to sell before he passed away in 1890. [BBC]

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10. Public outcry prompts Starbucks to bring back Eggnog Latte
Starbucks is bringing back its seasonal — and apparently very popular — Eggnog Latte after an outpouring on social media. The company had decided to take it off the menu to streamline its offerings but decided that was the wrong move. “We made a mistake,” says spokeswoman Linda Mills. “We are very sorry.” [USA Today]

10 things you need to know today: July 29, 2014

Putin watches a parade to celebrate Russia's Navy Day on Sunday. 

Putin watches a parade to celebrate Russia’s Navy Day on Sunday. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

The Week

Judges rule Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, the U.S. and Europe tighten sanctions against Russia, and more

1. Court rules overturns Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban
A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional because barring gay couples from marrying amounted to a new form of “segregation.” The 2-to-1 decision, upholding a lower court ruling, extended a winning streak for gay marriage advocates in court. After the decision, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) said his state would end its “vigorous” defense of a similar ban. [The Washington Post]

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2. Washington and Europe tighten Russia sanctions
The U.S. and the European Union agreed to intensify sanctions against Russia for allegedly returning troops to the Ukraine border and sending heavy weapons to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The E.U. had been resisting tougher sanctions, but in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, European leaders have rallied behind measures more severe than Washington’s. [The New York Times]

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3. Court says Donald Sterling can’t block Clippers’ sale
Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling lost a battle to block the team’s sale, when a California judge issued a preliminary ruling allowing Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, to proceed. Judge Michael Levanas said Shelly Sterling had the authority to negotiate the $2-billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after two doctors found Donald Sterling to be mentally incapacitated. [USA Today]

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4. U.S. accuses Russia of violating missile treaty
The Obama administration on Monday accused Russia of violating a 1987 arms control treaty by testing a cruise missile. The State Department said it had attempted to talk to Moscow about the issue for more than a year. Under the treaty, Russia is not supposed to possess or test missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Moscow said it dismissed the charge after an investigation. [CNN]

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5. Three law enforcement officers wounded in shootout with accused pedophile
Two federal marshals and a New York City detective were wounded Monday in a shootout with a fugitive child molestation suspect in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. The suspect, Charles Mozdir, died after being shot seven or eight times. Mozdir, 32, had been on the run for two years since a family friend accused him of molesting her son. Mozdir’s girlfriend reported him after seeing the case featured Sunday on John Walsh’s show The Hunt on CNN. [New York Post]

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6. Israel steps up strikes in Gaza
Israel hit Gaza overnight with the heaviest bombing of the three-week conflict. Israel targeted more than 70 sites, including government offices and other symbols of Hamas’ power. Israel also reportedly shelled Gaza’s only power plant, shutting it down. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” fight, and a Hamas leader whose house was hit said the strikes would not break Palestinians’ determination. [ABC News]

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7. Texas man charged with sending envelopes with harmless white powder
A Rowlett, Texas, man was accused on Monday of sending more than 500 letters containing white powder to government offices, schools, and other locations since December 2008. The suspect — Hong Minh Truong, 66 — was charged with false information and hoaxes. One batch of the mailings included a letter stating, “Al Qaeda back! Special thing for you. What the hell where are you Scooby Doo.” [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

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8. Congress announces $17 billion deal to improve veterans’ health care
House and Senate Veterans Affairs committee members unveiled a three-year, $17-billion deal on Monday to fix the veterans health-care system. Senate Democrats wanted $25 billion to reduce wait times for care; House Republicans wanted $10 billion. “The United States Congress is in my view a dysfunctional institution,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate committee, “so I’m quite proud of what we’ve accomplished.” [Fox News]

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9. Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar for $8.5 billion
Dollar Tree announced Monday that it was buying rival discount retailer Family Dollar for $8.5 billion. The surprising move came three months after Family Dollar announced that it would close 370 stores and slash prices following the latest in a series of disappointing earnings reports. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn had pushed for the merger of the No. 2 and No. 3 discounters, calling it “a big win” for Family Dollar shareholders. [The Washington Post]

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10. Bad timing killed the dinosaurs
What really wiped out the dinosaurs was a run of terrible luck, according to a new study published in Biological Reviews journal. The dinosaurs might have survived the impact of a six-mile-wide asteroid that paleontologists believe was the biggest factor in their demise if big plant eaters — prey for big carnivores — hadn’t just entered a period of decline. “If the asteroid hit five million years later or earlier, the dinosaurs might still be around,” one of the researchers said. [National Geographic]

10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014

Palestinian girls celebrate the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the festival to end Ramadan.

Palestinian girls celebrate the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the festival to end Ramadan. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Week

Violence declines under Palestinian-Israeli truce, Congress reaches a deal on veterans’ health care, and more

1. Strikes ease under Palestinian-Israelis humanitarian truce
Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire declined sharply on Monday as a humanitarian ceasefire took hold at the start of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Hamas said it wanted a 24-hour truce. Israel said it would respect “an unlimited truce” but would respond to any attack. Palestinian health officials said the death toll in the Gaza Strip had reached 1,032, most of them civilians. [The Wall Street Journal]

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2. Politicians agree on a plan to improve veteran health care
The leaders of veterans’ affairs committees in the House and Senate reached a deal to fix the health-care system for the nation’s veterans. The Veterans Affairs Department has been gripped by scandal for months since reports surfaced of patients waiting months for care at VA facilities and attempts to cover up the failings. VA committee leaders scheduled a 1:30 p.m. news conference Monday to announce their proposal. [Bloomberg News]

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3. Ukrainian separatists agree to let Malaysian investigators see crash site
Ukrainian troops launched an offensive to retake the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down, stalling international investigators’ efforts to reach the site hours after Malaysia reached a deal with pro-Russian separatists to let 68 Malaysian police officers visit the site. Officials in Australia and the Netherlands, where some of the victims were from, also plan to send officers. [The New York Times]

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4. Judge overturns Washington, D.C., handgun ban
A federal judge has ruled that Washington, D.C.’s ban on carrying handguns in public is unconstitutional. The overturning of the city’s ban marked a setback for local politicians who — faced with the nation’s highest murder rate two decades ago — imposed gun laws once seen as some of the toughest in the country. City officials plan to ask for a stay while they decide whether to appeal. [Al Jazeera America]

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5. Liberia closes borders to keep Ebola from spreading
Liberia closed most of its border crossings on Sunday as part of a campaign to impede the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has killed at least 660 people — including two Americans — in West Africa. Only Liberia’s main entry points will remain open, and people there will be subject to inspections and testing. Ebola can kill 90 percent of those it strikes, but the current outbreak has killed about 60 percent. [Reuters, CBS News]

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6. Beach goers hit by lightning at Venice Beach, California
A 20-year-old man was killed and nine other people were injured in a lightning strike at California’s Venice Beach on Sunday. A witness said the jolt blasted roof tiles off of nearby buildings. Around the time of the afternoon incident the National Weather Service tweeted a warning, urging people to stay indoors if they heard thunder. Three other people were injured by the same rare lightning storm elsewhere in Southern California. [Los Angeles Times]

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7. Washington says it has proof Russia is shooting at Ukraine
The U.S. released satellite images on Sunday indicating that Russia was shooting rockets and artillery at Ukrainian forces from across the border to support pro-Russian separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the need for an immediate ceasefire. Kerry also reportedly told Lavrov that Russia must stop shooting and sending weapons over the border. [The Washington Post]

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8. Man killed by plane crash landing on Florida beach
A father walking with his daughter was killed on a Florida beach on Sunday when a single-engine plane crash landed in the sand. The pilot and passenger in the 1972 Piper Cherokee sent a distress signal before bringing the plane down. Neither person on board was hurt as the plane came to a bumpy stop, but Ommy Irizarry, 36, of Georgia was killed, and his 9-year-old daughter, Oceana, was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. [New York Daily News]

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9. Sarah Palin Channel launches online
Sarah Palin launched a subscription-based online video network — the Sarah Palin Channel — that she said would allow her to reach Americans with no “politically correct” media filter. “I want to talk directly to you on our channel on my terms,” she said in a video greeting viewers, “and no need to please the powers that be.” The site promises video chats, interviews, and clips from Palin’s events. Access costs $9.95 per month. [MarketWatch]

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10. Vincenzo Nibali wins the Tour de France
Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday. The 29-year-old Sicilian — who calls himself “a flag-bearer of anti-doping” — was the first Italian to win cycling’s biggest race in 16 years. He won by picking up a second on his rivals wherever he could, then dominating in the grueling mountain phase, where he took three of the four stages he won in the tour. [CBS News]

The Republican Party’s problem with black people

The Republican Party mascot in front of the Starlite Ballroom at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Washington Post – Jonathan Capehart

Overall, I agree with Ron Christie’s argument in the Daily Beast on “how to really empower black voters nationwide.” The former special assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney says, “Republicans need a positive message for people of color, and they need to state that message clearly, and with conviction.” The Republican strategist, who is African American, writes, “Republicans need to expand who they are talking to in communities of color.” Both are very true. But the GOP suffers a bit from denial and has a self-reinforcing image problem that makes it seem inhospitable to people of color, which is something that comes through in the fourth paragraph of Christie’s column.

It jumps off the excellent story last week by Nate Cohn on the potentialpower of the Southern black vote in keeping the Democrats in control of the Senate. “Now we need to see the power of the black vote expand nationwide,” Christie writes, “which will only happen when Republicans and Democrats alike are forced to fight for their support.” And then he adds:

Given that roughly 90 percent of blacks are committed supporters of the Democratic Party, I suspect they will take this voting bloc for granted by promising more government support and handouts — belittling blacks by assuming that a majority of us are interested in “free” stuff from the government. I also assume that they’ll continue pushing the canard that the Republican push for voter ID laws is an attempt to disenfranchise black voters.

Voter identification laws as an attempt to disenfranchise black voters is hardly a canard. Plenty of Republicans, elected and unelected, are on record admitting it. Colin Powell went so far as to take his party to task over its fevered claims of voter fraud. “You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud,” the former secretary of state said last year in North Carolina. “How can it be widespread and undetected?” Indeed, how can it?

As for belittling blacks, the Republican insistence on peddling makers-vs.-takers nonsense to deny that there are people in this country in need of assistance is a prime example of said condescension. Surely, the GOP must see that it shoots itself in the foot with every utterance of “free stuff.” Good luck getting a look-see from folks loudly branded as moochers by the same people asking to be taken seriously. And let’s be clear: Free stuff is the food sample the folks at Costco hand you, not the food stamps that keep families from going hungry.

A combination photo shows Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel (L) attending a rally in Madison, Mississippi and Republican U.S. Senator ThadCochran campaigning in Pass Christian, Mississippi June 19, 2014. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)
Tea party candidate Chris McDaniel, left, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

No sooner did Christie slam “free stuff” than he praised a Republican who saved his seat by highlighting his ability to get “free stuff” from Washington. Christie praised Sen. Thad Cochran’s successful run-off against challenger Chris McDaniel as a model for “how to effectively bring black voters to the polls.” The five-term senator from Mississippi won, Christie insists, “because Cochran did what many Republicans seem reluctant to do: Ask for the support of black voters, and make a real, substantive argument for that support.”

Yes, that is true. But in asking, Cochran did something else. According to a Jackson Free Press story last month, “Cochran tout[ed] his support for historically black colleges and universities, the Jackson Medical Mall and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.” One man’s “bring home the bacon” is another man’s “free stuff.” Christie doesn’t try to explain how Cochran’s actions didn’t belittle blacks.

Like I said, Christie makes a good point. Democrats and Republicans should actively compete for the African American vote. And there is no denying that he is correct in his assessment that Democrats take black voters for granted. But Republicans make that oh so easy when their condescension, racially tinged rhetoric and questionable policies make them an unworthy alternative.