White House

Pity The Poor Multi-Millionaires And Their Waning Political Influence

MILLIONAIRE DONORS DONT COUNT ANYMORE

The Huffington Post

It probably will come as no surprise to any of you to hear the news that most of you are not making it in America. And one way in which the semi-permanent nature of our not-making-it status has deftly revealed itself is the clear alteration to our political system: It no longer really resembles a citizen-driven democracy, but rather a weird oligarchy in which the would-be leaders of the free world have to schlep around, kissing the rings of dotty billionaires, in the hopes that their favor will propel them forward in their political careers.

Of course, for most Americans, clawing their way down the eroding path of middle-class respectability, there isn’t a whole lot of time to pause and stage an aria of self-pitying lamentation. But there is one class of people that apparently do have the luxury of having the time to whine: the not-quite super-rich.

Yes, apparently the political fortunes of the merely astonishingly affluent have taken a nose dive of late, drawing the bottom nine-tenths of the top 1 percent into Thomas Piketty’s “r > g” argybargy along with the rest of us. That is, at least from their perspective. They are deeply sad about their diminished political influence, and they are granting interviews to the commoners. Take for example, Terry Neese, a one-time pretty-big-wheel down on the Bush family Ranger ranch, who now tells The Washington Post that she’s feeling as if her wealth, no longer able to quite stagger the imagination, doesn’t count for much anymore:

At this point in the 2012 presidential race, Terry Neese was in hot demand.

“Gosh, I was hearing from everyone and meeting with everyone,” said Neese, an Oklahoma City entrepreneur and former “Ranger” for President George W. Bush who raised more than $1 million for his reelection.

This year, no potential White House contender has called — not even Bush’s brother, Jeb. As of early Wednesday, the only contacts she had received were e-mails from staffers for two other likely candidates; both went to her spam folder.

Yes, the indignity of downmarket candidates reaching out through staffers, it is not to be endured. Neese, like many former in-demand toffs, has now become the poor, soot-stained matchgirl, face pressed to the window, looking on as the party to which she was once an invitee now gaily spins without her. And that is not hyperbole. As The Washington Post’s Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger explain, at the recent RNC retreat in Boca Raton, would-be presidential candidates passed on flattering the merely very wealthy gathered in attendance, making for the event’s version of the VIP room instead:

A number of White House contenders in attendance — including former Texas governor Rick Perry and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Bobby Jindal (La.) — devoted much of their time to private meetings with high rollers, according to people familiar with their schedules. Bush came to Boca Raton after an afternoon super-PAC fundraiser in Miami.

Then on Sunday, the governors made a pilgrimage to Palm Beach for a private Republican Governors Association fundraiser hosted by billionaire industrialist David Koch at his 30,000-square-foot beachfront mansion.

Welcome to class envy, you guys! Don’t say you weren’t warned. As Annie Lowrey noted in The New York Times last September, recent studies had indicated that while the “total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent” in 2012 (as compared to the 1 percent growth experienced by the bottom 99 percent), the incomes of “the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.” And over at Demos,Joseph Hines elaborated further:

That’s just 16,000 Americans that make over ten million dollars a year. And their dominance is strengthening: the share of income controlled by that tiny group of people jumped over a percentage point from 3.7 percent in 2011 to 4.8 percent in 2012. This is the donor class, the same group of people that donate to political campaigns and determine the structure of the market they have so clearly mastered.

As this new, super-exclusive donor class deepens their connection to the policy-making apparatus, their capacity to consolidate their wealth and influence will no doubt continue, in a pattern of rent-seeking and favor-trading designed to ensure high returns on their capital without having to take any of those knotty “risks” that we used to consider a vital ingredient to productive capitalism.

And as this progresses, more and more of the new over/underclass will start to feel like the heroine of this Washington Post story: “Most of the people I talk to are kind of rolling their eyes and saying, ‘You know, we just don’t count anymore,’” says the once influential Neese.

In other news, a number of people in the East Village of Manhattan, paying rents that are prohibitively high for working-class New Yorkers, had their homes explode yesterday.

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)

 

This 46 Seconds Of Stupid Explains Why Ted Cruz Can Never Be President (VIDEO)

I know I’ve come down hard on this cretin already but this just came across my desk and I had to share…

Addicting Info

The Republican [Senator] of Texas, Ted Cruz, has launched his 2016 Presidential campaign from a Creationist college that teaches American children the world is just 6,000 years old. If that isn’t reason enough to keep him out of the White House, this 46-second compilation of Cruz stupidity provides many more.

After announcing his 2016 plans on Twitter, Cruz formally launched his campaign at Liberty University, a college for Evangelical Christians in the state of Virginia that claims to be the largest Christian university in the world.

He told the assembled audience:

“God has blessed America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet.”

He then promised to abolish the IRS and repeal the Affordable Care Act which has provided healthcare for 20 million previously uninsured Americans.

Nearby, in the University’s “Creation Hall,” students were being taught the biblically literal idea that God created the world in seven days. This includes the teaching of Noah and the flood as an actual historical event, and that today’s species of animals are all descended from the pairs of animals saved on the Ark.

One display contains Noah’s Ark as a scale model next to a Boeing 747 and the US space shuttle, explaining in detail how all the animals had fitted in.

B004

Image via Skeptic Free Thought

One display states that there is a:

“strong possibility that horses, zebras and donkeys are all descended from an original pair of horses that were on Noah’s Ark”.

Another claims that evolutionary theory has already been destroyed by the discovery of the coelacanth “fossil-fish.”

According to the display, sharks did not evolve 400 million years ago (as evidenced by science), but were designed by God just 6,000 years ago. It reads:

“Sharks are not primitive remnants of pre-history, but are acutely fine-tuned organisms that defy Darwinian evolution.”

No evidence is presented to justify these new versions of history.

Does America really want a man who believes the Earth is just 6,000 years old to be sitting in the White House?

Sadly, a Gallup Poll last year revealed that a stunning 42% of Americans also believe Creationism over science. The choice of location was designed to appeal to those people – the christian conservative, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-science vote.

With this in mind, that remaining 58% of America, which is forward thinking, progressive, and rational needs to get out and vote in 2016.

Featured Image via The Daily Banter

 

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

10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2015

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

1.Manhunt continues for suspects in Ferguson police ambush
St. Louis County police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol took over security responsibilities at protests in Ferguson on Thursday night as a manhunt continued for whoever shot two officers outside the city’s police station early that morning. The parents of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot dead by a white officer last year, condemned the shooting. Attorney General Eric Holder said the attack was the “cowardly” act of a “damn punk.” Both wounded officers were released from a hospital.

Source: The New York Times, NBC News

2.Major powers hold nuclear talks with Iran
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the U.S. — along with Germany and Iran have begun talks on lifting sanctions on Tehran if it strikes a deal curbing its controversial nuclear program. A deal the Obama administration is discussing with Tehran would not be legally binding, as Obama’s GOP critics in Congress pointed out in a letter to Iran. A Security Council resolution, however, could be legally binding, complicating any potential efforts to fight it.

Source: Reuters

3.Sweden offers to interview Assange in London about sex assault charges
Swedish prosecutors said Friday they had asked to question Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London about 2010 sexual assault allegations. Prosecutor Marianne Ny previously insisted that Assange travel to Sweden for the interview, but he is holed up at Ecuador’s London embassy and the statute of limitations runs out in August. Assange has long argued the charges were cooked up so Sweden could extradite him to the U.S. to face charges for leaked secrets.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

4.Secret Service agents drove through a crime scene on night of White House incident
Two senior Secret Service agents under investigation for crashing into a White House security barrier on March 4 also plowed through a crime scene and may have driven over a suspicious package during an active investigation, according to The Washington Post. Police had just cordoned off a package described as a bomb when the agents — Mark Connolly, second-in-charge on President Obama’s detail, and George Ogilvie — drove through police tape after leaving a work party, and came close to hitting the package, investigators said.
5.Islamic State accepts Boko Haram’s offer of allegiance
The Islamic State has accepted a promise of allegiance from the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, an ISIS spokesman said Thursday. Boko Haram is fighting to establish Islamic law, but it has suffered a series of setbacks under an offensive by a multinational force in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Sheka released an audio recording pledging allegiance to ISIS. In accepting it, Islamic State leaders said their caliphate had expanded from Syria and Iraq to include West Africa.

Source: USA Today

6.Civil rights activist Rev. Willie T. Barrow dies at 90
Chicago civil rights leader Rev. Willie T. Barrow died Thursday after being hospitalized recently for a blood clot in her lung. She was 90. Barrow began fighting for civil rights at age 12 when she insisted she be allowed to ride an all-white school bus in Texas. She later became an organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marching with him in Washington, D.C., and Selma, Alabama. President Obama called Barrow “a constant inspiration, a lifelong mentor, and a very dear friend.”

Source: Reuters

7.Utah’s governor signs gay rights bill
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed a bill making it illegal in the state to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing matters. The bill also provides leeway for religious groups and affiliated organizations, such as schools and hospitals. The mix of protections for both rights and religious beliefs won endorsements from both gay rights groups and the powerful Mormon church.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Wreckage of Army helicopter found underwater off Florida
Divers on Thursday discovered the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter that went down this week off the coast of Florida. Search crews recovered the bodies of all but two of the seven Marines and four Louisiana National Guard members lost in the crash. Fog and rain continued to delay the recovery. The service members were conducting a nighttime training mission when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed. Another helicopter in the drill safely returned to base.

Source: TIME

9. Kathy Griffin quits Fashion Police panel after just seven episodes
Kathy Griffin announced Thursday that she was leaving the E! showFashion Police after just seven episodes. “I discovered my style does not fit with the creative direction of the show and now it’s time to move on,” she tweeted. Griffin joined the program after the death of Joan Rivers, and began appearing on the show in January. With a new panel, the program’s ratings fell, and another panelist, Kelly Osbourne, quit after co-host Giuliana Rancic insulted actress Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks at the Oscars.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

10.Disney announces Frozen sequel
Disney confirmed Thursday at its annual shareholder meeting that it would produce a sequel to the massive animated hit Frozen, which generated nearly $1.3 billion and won an Oscar for animated feature film. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are developing Frozen 2 along with producer Peter Del Vecho for Walt Disney Animation Studios. “We’re taking you back to Arendelle,” said John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

Source: Boston Herald

10 things you need to know today: March 3, 2015

Getty Images

The Week

1.Netanyahu says he means no disrespect to Obama with speech
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his Tuesday speech to Congress was not intended to be a show of disrespect to President Obama, but that he felt a “moral obligation” to speak out against Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu was invited by Republican leaders who control Congress, not by Obama, in what the White House has called a breach of diplomatic protocol. The president has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during the trip, because that could be seen as interference in Israel’s looming elections.

Source: Reuters

2.Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account at State Department
During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account, rather than a government one, The New York Timesreports. This may have violated the Federal Records Act, which requires preserving officials’ emails on department servers so Congress, journalists, and historians can find them, with some exceptions for sensitive material. Clinton’s advisers gave 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, and a spokesman said she is adhering to the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced Monday that she would not seek reelection in 2016, ending a congressional career that has spanned 10 years in the House and 30 years in the Senate. Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, rose to the powerful position of Senate Appropriations Committee chair before losing the position when Republicans took over control of the Senate this year.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

4.Judge rules Nebraska’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional
A federal judge on Monday struck down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment to the state’s constitution to outlaw gay marriage in 2000. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled in favor of several plaintiffs who challenged the ban, but he put his decision on hold pending the hearing of an appeal Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R) filed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has similar cases in Missouri, Arkansas, and South Dakota before it.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Georgia delays woman’s execution
Georgia halted the execution of the state’s only female death-row inmate on Monday, due to problems with the lethal combination of drugs with which she was to be injected. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was condemned to die for plotting with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband in 1997. She was scheduled to become the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945. The Georgia Supreme Court turned down her request for a stay, but prison officials delayed the execution because the drugs appeared cloudy.

Source: Reuters

6.Thieves steal $4 million in gold from truck in N.C.
Three men stole three barrels of gold valued at $4 million from a truck in North Carolina, authorities said Monday. The truck’s two security guards, who worked for the Miami firm Transvalue, said they pulled over on Interstate 95 due to mechanical trouble on the way from Miami to Massachusetts. The three armed men pulled up in a white van and made the guards lie down, then bound their hands behind their backs and left them in the woods. The robbers then took the gold and fled.

Source: NBC News

7.ISIS threatens Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey
Islamic State militants on Monday threatened to kill Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey because the microblogging service has blocked ISIS-linked accounts. A message posted online also threatened Twitter with “real war.” The threat was posted on Pastebin and attributed to ISIS, although its authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Twitter said it had contacted authorities and that its security team was investigating the threats.

Source: PC Magazine

8.Mommy blogger Lacey Spears convicted in her son’s death
Parenting blogger Lacey Spears was convicted Monday of second degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old son, Garnett. The child died in January 2014 after high levels of sodium in his system led to swelling of his brain. Prosecutors said Garnett poisoned her son by injecting salt through a feeding tube, calling it “torture” she did for attention as she blogged about his health problems. Defense attorneys said there was no evidence against Spears, 27. She faces 15 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in April.

Source: The Journal News

9. Clinton’s portrait included reference to Monica Lewinsky scandal, artist says
The artist who painted President Clinton’s portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., told Philly.com that the work includes a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The painter, Nelson Shanks, said he included a shadow in the image meant to have been cast by Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress. Shanks said it was “a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” cast by Clinton’s affair with his then-intern.

Source: Philly.com, U

10.Google confirms plan to start small wireless service
Google plans to offer a small-scale wireless service, but it is designed to show off technological innovations rather than compete with the nation’s leading carriers, Google Android executive Sundar Pichai said at an industry conference in Barcelona. The move could complicate Google’s relationship with the big carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Google counts on them to promote Android phones, but its efforts to improve connections by tapping WiFi networks could reduce data traffic — and income — for carriers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

ISIS changes Americans’ appetite for war

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

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

MSNBC ~ Rachel Maddow Show

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

Obama: We Must Confront ‘Twisted Ideologies’ That Spawn Violence

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AP Photo

NBC News

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that the world is at war with those who have “perverted Islam,” and stressed the importance of reaching out to youth most at risk of being successfully recruited by radical groups.

“No religion is responsible for terrorism, people are responsible for violence and terrorism,” Obama said during a summit on countering the spread of violent radicalism.

Leaders from 60 different countries traveled to Washington for the summit, which focused on working with local communities to identify youth most at risk of falling prey to terrorist propaganda.

The president warned that terror groups are often effective in enticing poor or uneducated Muslims with a good salary and “twisted” interpretations of their religious beliefs.

The gathering comes shortly after terror attacks in Copenhagen and Paris and as ISIS expands its reach beyond the Middle East. Terror groups have rapidly improved their online and social media presence, and ISIS has successfully recruited American citizens.

“Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and [ISIS] deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims, “Obama said. “Especially those who may be disillusioned or wrestling with their own identity.”

Obama said that parents, teachers and faith leaders play a key role in preventing terrorist groups from penetrating into local communities. They are usually the first to notice signs that someone is beginning to adopt radical religious beliefs.

Part of the Obama’s plan also includes increasing law enforcement outreach to Muslim Americans.

“Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance,” Obama said.

Throughout his remarks, the president stressed that no one religion or set of beliefs is responsible for terrorism.

“They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists,” Obama said of ISIS and Al Qaeda.

– Andrew Rafferty

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

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Week

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

Source: The Washington Post, Reuters

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

Source: Politico, Bloomberg

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

Source: The Huffington Post, Fox News

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

Source: The Associated Press

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

Source: Reuters

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

Source: The Associated Press

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

Source: The Boston Globe

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

Source: The New York Times

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

Source: MSNBC

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

Senate Democrats Leave Door Open To Skip Netanyahu Speech

ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan Walsh

BuzzFeed

Only one senator asked by BuzzFeed News — Sen. Ben Cardin — said he’d definitely go.

WASHINGTON — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress in March, it is unclear whether everybody invited will actually show up.

Democrats have criticized House Speaker John Boehner for circumventing the administration when he invited Netanyahu to speak, and the White House has already said Obama will not meet with him when he’s here.

BuzzFeed News asked several Senate Democrats whether they planned on skipping the speech or not. Most said they either hadn’t thought about it or they hadn’t decided. But there were no hard answers in the negative. Only one senator definitively said he would go.

Sen. Tim Kaine, who serves on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and recently traveled to Israel, said it’s “too early” to decide whether he’ll attend or not.

“It is not the norm to do this right before an election and it is being widely reported in the Israeli press as the U.S. expressing some kind of a preference,” Kaine said.

Sen. Chris Murphy expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’m sick about the fact that protocol has been violated, but you know, I’m always eager to hear what he has to say,” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “It’s not something that I have thought about one way or the other.”

A Democratic aide said their office was only informed of the scheduled date on Thursday and it was unclear if “anything’s been discussed at this point by anyone in the Senate.”

Netanyahu’s arrival will come at a tense time. He’s up for re-election in mid-March and many have said they are uncomfortable having him make a political speech to Congress so close to that vote. The U.S. is also in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

Netanyahu is slated to address Congress on March 3.

When asked whether he’d attend, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he’d “figure that out later.”

Sen. Chris Coons, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “I’ll be weighing what’s the best thing to do.”

“I remain hopeful that his address would be delayed until after their election,” the Delaware Democrat told BuzzFeed News.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein declined to comment. Sen. Ed Markey referred BuzzFeed News to his press office.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was the lone senator who said he would attend no matter what.

“I’d be more than happy to meet with opposition leaders if they want to meet with us, give them opportunities, etcetera,” Cardin told BuzzFeed News. “But if the Prime Minister of Israel addresses a joint session of Congress, I would be there.”

Speaking at the Democrat retreat in Philadelphia Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned of the effects a visit from Netanyahu could have on the Iran talks.

“In terms of invitations to speak to Congress — the Prime Minister has spoken two times. The only person who has spoken more is Winston Churchill,” Pelosi said. “One of the times, my father was in the room; Dec. 26 — the day after Christmas — 1941, right when we were going into World War II. It’s a serious, big honor that we extend. That it should be extended two weeks before an election in a country, without collaboration among the leaders of Congress, and without collaboration with the White House, is not appropriate. It is not appropriate.”