White House

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

Omar Havana / Getty Images

The Week

1.Death toll in Nepal earthquake climbs above 2,200
At least 2,263 people are dead and nearly 6,000 are injured afterSaturday’s catastrophic earthquake in Nepal. A powerful 7.8 magnitude quake and a series of violent aftershocks — one an estimated 6.7 magnitude rumbling on Sunday — rocked the mountain nation, destroying historic buildings and buckling infrastructure. Thousands of people squatted in the streets after the first seismic activity, either because the quake leveled their homes or because it made them too afraid to go back indoors. The earthquake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 people while injuring or trapping dozens more.

Source: The New York Times, CNN

2.12 arrested during Freddie Gray protest in Baltimore
Baltimore police on Saturday arrested 12 people after a dwindling protest over the police custody death of Freddie Gray descended into violence. An estimated 2,000 people marched peaceably for hours before a small splinter group began hurling rocks and scuffling with police. Protesters also tangled with bystanders and police outside Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and Red Sox, prompting the city to ask fans to remain inside the venue until authorities cleared the scene. “I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Source: The Washington Post, Reuters

3.Russian hackers obtained some Obama emails
Russian hackers infiltrated a White House computer system last year and scooped up some of President Obama’s emails, according to The New York Times. Citing senior sources informed of the incident, the Timesreported the hackers accessed internal email archives and were able to see some messages the president sent and received. However, they did not hack the more tightly guarded servers for Obama’s Blackberry and other classified material, nor did they gain direct access to the president’s email account.

Source: The New York Times

4.NBC finds more Brian Williams embellishments
An internal review of NBC anchorman Brian Williams’ reporting has found several more alleged exaggerations, according to multiple reports.The New York Times on Friday reported NBC found a half-dozen such instances; CNN and The Washington Post later upped the tally to 10 and 11, respectively. In February, NBC suspended Williams as it launched an investigation following his apology for embellishing details of his wartime reporting from Iraq. When completed, the investigation is expected to form the basis of NBC’s decision to keep or cut ties with Williams.

Source: CNN, The New York Times

5.Obama ribs press, politicians at annual White House gala
President Obama came to the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday with plenty of barbs about Washington lawmakers and the reporters who cover them. Noting that host Cecily Strong plays a CNN anchor on Saturday Night Live, Obama quipped that it was “surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN.” And addressing Dick Cheney’s recent media tour in which the former vice president lambasted Obama, the president said the feeling was mutual. “He thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime,” Obama said, “which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”

Source: ABC

6.GOP presidential hopefuls court evangelicals in Iowa
Nine declared or potential Republican presidential candidates descended on Iowa on Saturday in hopes of wooing evangelical voters at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit. Representing a range of experience and political positions, the presidential hopefuls tailored their messages to fit the religious tenor of the evening. “There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned.

Source: The Hill, The Des Moines Register

7.Fighting intensifies in Yemen despite call for ceasefire
A Saudi-led coalition upped its offensive against Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels on Sunday, bombing targets around the country including some sites in the capital Sanaa. The strikes came less than one week after Saudi Arabia announced an end to its monthlong combat operation. On Friday, the United Nations estimated that fighting in Yemen has killed 550 civilians in the past month.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder rumored to eye 2016 bid
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is raising eyebrows about a potential White House bid after dining this weekend with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson while in Las Vegas for the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting. “It was my clear impression from my conversation with him that he is running,” former senator and current RJC board member Norm Coleman said. Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported the governor’s allies quietly established a fund allowing him to engage in potential proto-campaign activities.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

9. Golden State Warriors sweep into second round of NBA playoffs
The Golden State Warriors on Saturday completed a four-game sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs. Owners of the best record in basketball during the regular season, they are the first team to clear round one. On Sunday, the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Houston Rockets can cap their own sweeps and advance to join Golden State in the next round.

Source: Sports Illustrated

10.Judge rules Pink concert not tantamount to child abuse
A New Jersey judge has ruled that a mother who brought her daughter to a concert by the pop artist Pink is not guilty of poor parenting. The mother’s decision “did not subject the child to any unreasonable risk of harm, or compromise [her] health, safety or welfare,” Superior Court Judge Lawrence R. Jones wrote. The case arose after the mother’s ex-husband filed a complaint alleging child abuse for exposing his daughter to Pink’s ostensibly “sexually suggestive themes and dance performances” and “lyrical profanities.”

Source: NJ.com, Rolling Stone

Russian Hackers Read Obama’s Unclassified Emails, Officials Say

Emails that President Obama sent and received were breached last year, senior officials said. Credit Zach Gibson/The New York Times

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked. Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.

Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.

Continue reading here…

10 things you need to know today: April 14, 2015

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Week

1.Marco Rubio joins presidential race calling for new leaders
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) formally entered the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Monday, promising in a Miami rally to help lead the way to “a new American century.” The 43-year-old Rubio, who rose from the West Miami City Commission to the race for the White House in just 12 years, said it was time to break from the past, an apparent reference to GOP rival and former mentor Jeb Bush, and newly declared Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. “Yesterday is over,” he said, “and we are never going back.”

Source: The Miami Herald

2.Blackwater security contractors get stiff sentences for Iraq killings
A federal judge on Monday sentenced four former Blackwater Worldwide guards to 30 years to life in prison for a 2007 shooting that killed 14 unarmed Iraqis at a Baghdad traffic circle. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sentenced Nicholas A. Slatten — the only one convicted of murder — to life, and gave the other three security contractors 30 years for multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. The defendants said they would appeal what one called a “perversion of justice.”

Source: The Washington Post

3.Russia ends hold on selling air-defense system to Iran
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday lifted a self-imposed ban on the sale of advanced S-300 defensive missile systems to Iran. Putin’s predecessor had put a hold on such sales in 2010 under pressure from the U.S. and Israel. Russia is strapped for cash now because of falling oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine, and lifting the ban clears the way for an $800 million swap of Russian goods for Iranian oil. The KremlinTuesday confirmed the deal was being implemented. The U.S. said the move could further destabilize the Middle East.

Source: Reuters, Voice of America

4.Jodi Arias sentenced to life in prison for boyfriend’s murder
Jodi Arias was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering her ex-boyfriend out of jealousy, concluding a salacious case that has attracted global attention for nearly seven years. The sisters of the victim, Travis Alexander, had called for the harshest penalty available to Judge Sherry Stephens. They said Arias was “unrepentant” and “evil.” A jury deadlocked on whether to sentence Arias, 34, to death, taking capital punishment off the table.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Tulsa reserve deputy charged with manslaughter
Tulsa reserve deputy sheriff Robert Bates, 73, was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black suspect. Bates, a volunteer, said he thought he was holding his Taser when he fired the fatal shot after another officer tackled the suspect, Eric Courtney Harris, 44, as he fled the scene of a drug and guns sting. The case has fueled anger over a series of fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white officers. Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said Bates, a longtime friend, “made an error.”

Source: USA Today

6.Capital punishment off the table for North Charleston officer
A white police officer, Michael Slager, will not face the death penalty for the killing of an black man, Walter Scott, after a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, a prosecutor said Monday. Slager was charged with murder after he shot Scott eight times in the back as he ran away. The case reignited protests over excessive force against African Americans that followed the fatal shootings of unarmed black men by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year. The prosecutor said there were no “aggravating circumstances” to justify the death penalty.

Source: Reuters

7.Iraqi leader and Obama to discuss combating ISIS
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is meeting with President Obama at the White House on Tuesday to personally appeal for increased military aid, including drones and other weapons, to use in the fight against the Islamic State. “We, in Iraq, are fighting terrorists on the ground,” Abadi said before leaving Baghdad. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that if Abadi makes specific requests the U.S. would “obviously consider them seriously.”

Source: Voice of America, Reuters

8.Seattle company raises its minimum wage to $70,000 a year
The owner of a Seattle credit-card processing firm has taken the debate over the minimum wage to a higher level by raising the salaries for his 120 workers from an average of $48,000 to $70,000 a year, minimum, over the next three years. Dan Price of Gravity Payments came up with the money for the move by lowering his own take-home pay from $1 million to $70,000, and pumping profits back into the company. Price explained the move by saying that the gap between the pay of CEOs and workers is “ridiculous, it’s absurd.”

Source: The New York Times

9. Diplomats call for removal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine
Foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany have to urge all sides to withdraw heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, from still-contested areas in eastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said early Tuesday. The diplomats said the pullback was necessary to support a shaky ceasefire that has held since late February, despite allegations that both the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian separatists have violated its terms.

Source: The New York Times

10.Scientists find signs of briny water on Mars
Mars may have water after all thanks to its super salty soil, according to research published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. Using data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover, researchers concluded that salt in Mars’ soil lowers the freezing point of water just enough to allow small amounts of liquid to condense below the planet’s surface at night; in the morning, as temperatures rise, it evaporates. Temperatures are so low on Mars, however, that the scientists say it still cannot sustain life.

Source: Discovery News, The Guardian

Photo Of Obama Throwing Magic Out Into The Universe Is The Best Thing You’ll See Today (IMAGE)

It’s a “slow news day”…

Addicting Info

No matter which way you look at this photo, it’s amazing. If you see it as President Obama spreading LGBT equality, or being the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or throwing magic out into the universe… it is fabulous no matter what.

The image, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, is of President Obama boarding Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, right before he left after his recent trip there.

via whitehouse.gov

via whitehouse.gov

Now, is President Obama magical? Some would like to think so. He has pushed forward the most progressive policies and ideas of an entire generation. Bringing the nation, as a whole back, from the brink of another depression while pulling us forward in terms of fiscal strength and LGBT equality.

He doesn’t let those who criticize bother him whatsoever, appearing to have a super-human ability to let haters hate, roll with the punches, and smile all the way through it all. He just keeps on keepin’ on and doing what needs to get done.

This image is a perfect portrayal of how he can be seen as a treasure at the end of the rainbow. The reward for following through to the end. The first African-American President of the United States with all the odds against him. However, he knew and knows how important him getting into the Oval Office was, not only for African-Americans and people of color, but for a nation that has been falling prey to conservative fiscal policy ideas that dragged us down deep into a recession. Ideas he’s still fighting against to this day — but he holds strong.

President Obama get’s sh*t done. He got bin Laden, he ended wars, he revitalized the auto-industry, he helped cut our deficit spending by two-thirds, he brought forth and implemented health care reform, and among so many other things, he bravely came out in support of LGBT equality — the first president to ever do so, and as he did equality has been spreading across this nation like wildfire.

So, keep shooting those magic rainbows, Mr. President. We see them… and thank you.

Featured image via President Obama official portrait/Wikimedia Commons

Obama, Castro spoke by phone ahead of Panama summit

CNN

Panama City (CNN)President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro spoke by phone Wednesday before leaving Washington for the President’s trip to Jamaica and Panama, a White House official told CNN on Friday.

Obama was set to meet face-to-face with Castro on Friday, the first time the leaders have interacted since their nations agreed to renew diplomatic relations after half-a-century of enmity.

Obama arrived in Panama late Thursday to his third Summit of the Americas, a large gathering of Latin American leaders that in years past was tinged with animosity at Cuba’s exclusion. Moments after Marine One, Obama’s helicopter, touched down in Panama City, Castro’s plane landed on the same tarmac. Panamanian television carried both arrivals live.

Details of Wednesday’s phone call were not immediately available Friday.

This year, Obama was expecting a warmer welcome from the dozens of countries represented at the conference, after announcing in December he was seeking to engage Havana in talks over reopening embassies and removing barriers to commerce and travel.

READ: Obama to test engagement doctrine with Cuba

In Panama, Obama is expected to announce he’s removing Cuba from the United States’ list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a major advance in building diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The State Department delivered its report on the designation to the White House on Wednesday; Obama said on Thursday a panel of experts was reviewing it before he makes a final determination.

But in remarks during a brief stopover in Jamaica, he strongly hinted he was ready to remove Cuba from the list, which also includes Iran, Sudan and Syria.

“Throughout this process, our emphasis has been on the facts,” Obama said. “So we want to make sure that given that this is a powerful tool to isolate those countries that genuinely do support terrorism, that when we make those designations we’ve got strong evidence that, in fact, that’s the case.”

“As circumstances change, then that list will change as well,” he said.

While some inside Cuba have expressed dissatisfaction at the pace of the diplomatic thaw, U.S. officials insist they’re pleased at the progress toward re-establishing diplomatic ties, which the White House argues has helped improve relations with other countries in the region.

Obama said in Jamaica he “never foresaw that immediately overnight everything would transform itself.”

The summit meetings Friday and Saturday will mark the first time Cuba participates in the conference, which takes place every three years. At the two Obama previously attended, in Trinidad and Colombia, reception toward the U.S. delegation was icy.

“We felt it was long overdue and takes a huge irritant out of our policy in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs who’s led talks with Cuba re-establishing diplomatic ties.

The overtures to Cuba have not been universally popular in the United States; some lawmakers were irate that Obama was seeking to engage what they regard as a corrupt government.

Obama was planning to meet in Panama with Cuban dissidents, some of whom were violently accosted earlier this week by supporters of the Castro regime.

By Alexandra Jaffe and Elise Labott, CNN

10 things you need to know today: April 7, 2015

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Week

1.Duke wins its fifth NCAA basketball title
The Duke Blue Devils defeated Wisconsin 68-63 Monday night to win the school its fifth national college basketball title, all under coach MikeKrzyzewski. Duke’s four freshmen — Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and, off the bench, Grayson Allen — scored 60 of Duke’s 68 points. Okafor made two straight baskets, sandwiched by two three-pointers by Jones, to help Duke bounce back from a nine-point deficit and take an eight-point lead with just 1:22 remaining.

Source: ESPN, The Washington Post

2.Rand Paul expected to unveil plan for White House run
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is expected to announce Tuesday that he is launching a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Paul said in a video previewing his campaign that he wants to “defeat the Washington machine.” The libertarian Tea Party favorite is expected to unveil his campaign plans at a rally planned Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky. He will simultaneously run to keep his Senate seat. So far, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the only major candidate from either party to officially declare a White House bid.

Source: Politico, USA Today

3.UVA fraternity vows to pursue legal options againstRolling Stone
The University of Virginia fraternity identified as the site of a gang rape in a now-retracted Rolling Stone story said Monday it would “pursue all available legal action” against the magazine following a scathing independent report on the now discredited article. The Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said Rolling Stone “admits its staff engaged in reckless behavior” but refuses to punish those involved, apparently referring to publisher Jann Wenner’s statement that the reporter and editors involved would not be fired.

Source: MSNBC

4.Boston Marathon bombing case goes to jury
Attorneys in the Boston Marathon bombing trial made their closing argumentson Monday, sending defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s fate to the jury, which begins deliberating Tuesday. Defense attorneys did not deny that Tsarnaev participated in the attack, but insisted he was manipulated into committing the bombing by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police. Prosecutors said the brothers deliberately targeted as many civilians as possible to bring Islamist holy war to the U.S.

Source: New York Daily News

5.Israel lists demands for Iran nuclear deal
Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, on Mondayissued a list of requirements for an Iran nuclear deal that would be deemed “more reasonable” to Tel Aviv. Israel wants Iran to end all nuclear research and development, ship all its enriched uranium out of the country, lower the number of centrifuges below the 6,104 (out of 19,000 currently) agreed to in the framework deal, disclose all previous nuclear activities, and shutter its underground Fordo facility, which under the current framework could be used for medical purposes. Analysts say that reopening the talks could easily start them unraveling.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times

6.Iraq exhumes mass graves holding ISIS victims in Tikrit
Iraq’s government said Tuesday that forensic teams had begun exhuming bodies from mass graves in the newly liberated city of Tikrit. The graves are believed to hold the bodies of hundreds of soldiers summarily executed by Islamic State fighters after they seized control of the city — Saddam Hussein’s hometown — last June. ISIS captured 1,700 soldiers trying to flee after it overran the town last year, and later posted images online showing gunmen massacring captives.

Source: The New York Times

7.Clandestine group puts bust of Edward Snowden in Brooklyn park
An unidentified group erected a bust of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden at a New York City park early Monday. The work of art in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park was quickly covered up by park officials. The monument reportedly was installed on the site of an existing structure with a bronze eagle. A voice on a video showing the Snowden bust before it was covered said it was mounted so that it could be taken down “without doing permanent damage to the structure.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

8.Kenya says it took out two al-Shabab bases behind cross-border attacks
Kenya’s military said Monday that it had destroyed two al-Shabab camps in neighboring Somalia in the first major response against the Islamist group since it claimed responsibility for the massacre of 148 people at a Kenyan college last week. Military jets targeted the camps of the al-Qaeda-linked group with intense airstrikes on Sunday. “Our aerial images show that the camps were completely destroyed,” Kenya Defense Forces spokesman David Obonyo said.

Source: Reuters

9. Rutgers bans fraternity parties after alcohol incidents
Rutgers University in New Jersey on Monday banned all fraternity and sorority parties on campus for the rest of the semester, due to several recent alcohol-related incidents. Students are calling the ban a form of informal “social probation.” It applies to all 86 of the school’s fraternities and sororities. “Rutgers takes seriously its commitment to maintaining a healthy and safe campus environment,” Rutgers spokesman E.J. Miranda said.

Source: NJ.com

10.Woman dies after five days as world’s oldest person
Gertrude Weaver died Monday at age 116 just five days after becoming the world’s oldest person. She was aware that she had taken on the status after the death of 117-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan last week. Weaver, who lived at the Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center in Arkansas, fell ill with pneumonia on Saturday. “She was alert and oriented,” the facility’s administrator, Kathy Langley, said. “She knew that she was the oldest person in the world, and she enjoyed that distinction greatly.”

Source: The Washington Post

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.

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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