White House

Obama shuts down White House heckler: ‘You’re in my house!’

President Barack Obama responds to a heckler as he speaks during a reception to celebrate LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, | June 24, 2015, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

CNN

President Barack Obama is used to hecklers stopping him during speeches — but he draws the line when the audience interrupts him in his own house.

As Obama was speaking at a White House event honoring LGBT Pride Month on Wednesday, an accented voice rang out from the crowd. Obama wasn’t amused.

“Shame on you,” he told his heckler, who was protesting deportations under the Obama administration.

Obama responded, “Listen you’re in my house … it’s not respectful.”

The interruption persisted, however, and Obama asked for the heckler to be removed from the East Room.

“As a general rule I am just fine with a few hecklers. But not when I’m up here in the house,” he said, as Vice President Joe Biden clapped him on the back.

Obama said later if guests are “eating the hors d’oeuvres and drinking the booze,” they’re typically expected to listen respectfully.

Shortly after the incident, an immigration group claimed the protestor was an undocumented immigrant named Jennicet Gutiérrez, who is transgender. According to a press release, Gutiérrez was a founding member of FAMILIA TQLM, established to advocate for LGBTQ immigrants who the group says are often excluded in the immigration debate.

See:

Immigration activists often interrupt Obama when he’s delivering speeches on the road — examples have included remarks he delivered in San Francisco in 2013, and speeches he delivered in Chicago and Las Vegas last November.

Interruptions are more rare at the White House, where guests are typically invited and pre-screened. One previous example came in June 2012, when Obama was announcing a change in immigration policy.

A reporter from the Daily Caller website called out a query in the middle of Obama’s remarks, leading the President to retort that it wasn’t the time for questions.

The reporter later said he miscalculated the ending of Obama’s speech.

Kevin Liptak

Secret Service Solves Fence Problem by Adding Spikes

SHUTTERSTOCK

MEDIAITE

Last year was the summer of White House Fence Breaches, when at least three people (including one baby) managed to climb over the fence that separates the people from the leader of the free world.

Congressional hearings and firings ensued, and the Secret Service promised to find ways to beef up security. So far, the solutions are: 1) higher fence, and 2) spikes. Lots of spikes.

(Seriously, look at this dinky fence to the left of this paragraph. You know what it needs? Say it with me: MORE. SPIKES. MORE. SPIKES. MORE. SPIKES.)

The AP reports that the new fence will have “steel ‘pencil point’ spikes…snapped into place at the top of the fence and protrude outward,” and was clearly inspired by a nine-year-old pretending that he’s Wolverine by holding pencils between his fingers, or by the cars from Mad Max.

The final design has yet to be approved by the Commission of Fine Arts, who want to ensure that the White House doesn’t look inaccessible and surrounded by a fence of sharp, unwelcoming spikes. To which we chant: More spikes! More! More, I say! It’s better and easier than reforming an organization, marked by scandal and poor training, charged with protecting the President! #TEAMSPIKES

The spikes will be no problem for a drone.

~Tina Nguyen

10 things you need to know today: May 6, 2015

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1.The U.S. investigates ISIS claims it staged Texas attack
Skeptical U.S. investigators are looking into the Islamic State’s claim that it wasbehind the attack at a Texas cartoon contest featuring images mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The White House said it was too early to say whether ISIS really was involved in what would be its first strike in the U.S. Police shot and killed two men — Elton Simpson and his roommate Nadir Soofi — after they allegedly opened fire, wounding a security guard. A federal law enforcement agent said Simpson was under investigation before the attack.

Source: Reuters, Fox News

2.Mike Huckabee launches second White House bid
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee on Tuesday became the latest in a flurry of candidates to jump into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Huckabee, a former president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, made a strong showing in his first White House bid, in 2008. On Tuesday, he jabbed at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and GOP rivals such as Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, saying he would be “funded and fueled not by the billionaires but by working people across America.”

Source: Bloomberg

3.Hillary Clinton backs citizenship path for undocumented immigrants
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday publicly backed establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States. “We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” she said at a Las Vegas high school. Seeking to draw a contrast between her view and that of rivals in the Republican party, the Democratic frontrunner said, “When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status.”

Source: USA Today

4.Investigators say Germanwings co-pilot rehearsed crash
French investigators reported Wednesday that the Germanwings co-pilot suspected of deliberately crashing his airliner in the French Alps had entered crash settings on the plane’s previous flight in what appeared to be a rehearsal for the tragic fatal dive. Andreas Lubitz repeatedly set the altitude dial to 100 feet on a flight to Barcelona that ended normally, French safety agency BEA reported Wednesday. On the return flight to Dusseldorf, he allegedly locked the captain out of the cockpit and crashed, killing himself and 149 others.

Source: NBC News

5.Baltimore officer challenges prosecutor claim that Freddie Gray’s arrest was illegal
One of the six Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death has filed court papers challenging prosecutors’ claim that Gray was falsely arrested. A lawyer for Officer Edward Nero, who has been charged with assault, misconduct, and false imprisonment, said Gray had an illegal knife, and challenged prosecutors to produce it. Baltimore City’s State Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed the charges last week after receiving a police investigative report. She said the knife was legal under state law.

Source: Baltimore Sun

6.French lawmakers back bill likened to U.S. Patriot Act
The lower house of French parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would broaden the government’s spy powers. The bill, which is expected to easily pass in the Senate, was drafted days after gunmen killed 17 people in separate attacks — including one on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The so-called French Patriot Act would let intelligence agencies tap phones and monitor email accounts without a judge’s permission. Critics say it it is an unnecessary encroachment on liberty.

Source: The New York Times, AFP

7.Four sentenced to death for mob killing in Afghanistan
An Afghan court on Wednesday sentenced four men to death for participating in the March mob killing of a 27-year-old woman named Farkhunda who was wrongly suspected of burning a copy of the Koran. Forty-nine people, including 19 police officers, were tried for their alleged roles in the fatal beating, which caused widespread anger and spurred calls for greater women’s rights in Afghanistan. Eight others were convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Charges were dropped against 18, and the rest will be sentenced Sunday.

Source: The Associated Press

8.California water regulators adopt mandatory conservation rules
California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday approved the state’s first rules for mandatory water conservation as the state struggles with an historic drought that is entering its fourth year. The emergency regulations require communities to slash water use by as much as 36 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) ordered the cutbacks, which hit urban users hardest while giving broad exemptions to the state’s giant agricultural sector, even though it accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water use.

Source: Reuters

9. Loretta Lynch meets with Freddie Gray’s family and police in Baltimore
Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore on Tuesday, saying she was considering a request from City Council President Jack Young for a civil rights investigation into the city’s police department after the death of Freddie Gray. He suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody. Lynch met with Gray’s family, protesters, city officials, police, and religious leaders. Calm has returned to the city following protests and riots, but Lynch said tensions between residents and police remain.

Source: Politico, The Associated Press

10.Federal government approves ferry service to Cuba
The Obama administration on Tuesday granted licenses to at least four companies to offer ferry service between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. “I’m very excited, because this is a historical event in U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Leonard Moecklin Sr., managing partner of one of the companies, Havana Ferry. The move is part of an effort, announced by President Obama in December, to restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and its former Cold War antagonist.

Source: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Wall Street Journal

Does Obama’s New York trip offer a glimpse into his post-White House life?

President Obama will be headed to Lehman College in New York to launch the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new nonprofit that could keep him busy when he leaves the White House. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

THE WASHINGTON POST

He still has almost two years left in office, but the outlines of President Obama’s post-White House life might be starting to take shape.

On Monday, the president will speak at the New York City launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit that is spinning off a White House initiative that his administration began in 2014. The trip to Lehman College in the Bronx is the latest in a series of hints from the White House about the president’s future plans. Last week, word leaked that Obama’s  presidential library is headed for the South Side of Chicago. In recent months there have been signs that his elder daughter, Malia, is looking at colleges in New York City.

The president and first lady still have a while to figure out where they will settle post-presidency; although in the past, they’ve suggested that they may stay in Washington long enough to let their daughter Sasha graduate from Sidwell Friends School.

Regardless of where they land, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance seems certain to play a large part in Obama’s post-White House life. The program began as a public-private partnership designed to help men of color who are struggling to finish high school or develop the skills to find jobs. The effort sprang, in part, from the frustration that followed the 2012  shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Since then, lethal interactions between police and black men and boys in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Cleveland and North Charleston have sparked demonstrations, outrage and riots.

The latest riots in Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, prompted the president to call last week for some collective“soul searching” on the part of the country.

“If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could,” Obama said. “It’s just it would require everybody saying, ‘This is important, this is significant,’ and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.”

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is one element of the president’s long-term solution to the problem’s faced by minority youth and urban communities struggling with poverty and a lack of jobs. The program has attracted $300 million in funding for an effort that the president has said will continue long after he has left the White House. The alliance is similar in its broad outlines to the Clinton Global Initiative, started by former president Bill Clinton in 2005, in that it serve as a magnet for corporate and individual donations.

The alliance will focus on everything from preparations for preschool to job-training and employment programs. “Persistent gaps in employment, educational outcomes and career skills remain, barring too many youth from realizing their full potential and creating harmful social and economic costs to our nation,” wrote Broderick Johnson, the chairman of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

According the White House, closing the gap between young men of color and their peers could boost the U.S.  gross domestic product by as much as $2.1 trillion.

Greg Jaffe

Survey Finds A Solid Majority Of Young Voters Want Democrats To Keep The White House

hillary-clinton-obama | attribution: none

PoliticusUSA

A survey from the Harvard University Institute of Politics contained good news for Democrats. The younger voters that were a key part of President Obama’s victories solidly want to keep a Democrat in the White House.

The survey found that Obama coalition is going to keep their support with Democrats in 2016:

Overall, young Americans prefer that a Democrat (55%) win the White House over a Republican (40%) in the 2016 race for president, a view held within the younger (18-24 year-olds – 53%: Democrat; 41%: Republican) and older (25-29 year-olds – 57%: Democrat; 39%: Republican) segments of the age-group. ‎This view is stronger among young African-Americans (87%: Democrat; 8%: Republican) and young Hispanics (68%: Democrat; 27%: Republican). A majority of young whites, however, prefer Republican White House control after 2016 (53%: Republican; 41%: Democrat).

….

Among 18-to 29- year-olds, President Obama’s job performance has improved seven percentage points over the past six months (50%: Mar. 2015; 43%: Oct. 2014). The president’s job approval also increased across all major subgroups, including among young Hispanics – rising sixteen ‎percentage points over the same time period (65%: Mar 2015; 49%: Oct. 2014). The president’s approval ratings on handling the economy (47%: Mar. 2015; 36%: Oct. 2014), health care (43%: Mar. 2015; 37%: Oct. 2014) and race relations (50%: Mar. 2015; 47%: Oct. 2014) all also increased since October. Tracking with the president, job approval of Democrats in Congress improved five percentage points (40%: Mar. 2015; 35%: Oct. 2014) since the fall, while approval of Republicans in Congress remained at 23% for the third straight IOP poll.

It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton is running away with the Democratic nomination. Younger voters support Hillary Clinton over Elizabeth Warren 47%-11%. Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 47%-1%. No Republican candidate was able to break 10% support with younger Republicans. Ben Carson (10%), Rand Paul (8%), Jeb Bush (7%), Mike Huckabee (7%), and Scott Walker (5%) were the top five Republicans.

Many Republicans had embraced the hopeful delusion that young voters would be up for grabs without President Obama on the ballot, but it looks like the Obama coalition is holding strong and ready to support Hillary Clinton in 2016. What Republicans refuse to admit is that it is their policies that are pushing younger voters away. Republicans are wrong on immigration, same-sex marriage, women’s issues, climate change, the war on drugs, income inequality.

These are issues that matter to voters regardless of age, but on social issues, Republicans are completely out of step with younger voters. The Republican fantasy that the Obama coalition would crumble in 2016 is getting a stiff dose of reality. The 2016 election cycle is beginning with Democrats being powered by many of the demographic groups that powered President Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012.

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