White House

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.”

Obama Mocks Mitt Romney For Being ‘Suddenly Deeply Concerned About Poverty’

BARACK OBAMA MITT ROMNEY DEBATE

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the end of the third and final presidential debate October 22, 2012 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) | MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Thought the 2012 presidential campaign was over? Think again.

President Barack Obama didn’t have much to say about Mitt Romney’s rekindled aspirations for the White House when he delivered a flat, “No comment,” earlier this month. But apparently he couldn’t resist much longer, following reports that the former GOP candidate was weighing entering the ring in 2016 on a platform focused on lifting up the middle class and eliminating poverty.

Addressing House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Obama referred to one “former presidential candidate” who was “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”

“That’s great. Lets do something about it,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report.

Romney fired back on Twitter, by noting poverty levels under the Obama administration.

“Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy,” Romney said.

Obama also said in Philadelphia that he had heard a Republican senator, who he did not name, was “suddenly shocked, shocked, that the 1 percent” was doing much better than the vast majority of Americans.

“I consider imitation the highest form of flattery,” Obama said of Republicans’ sudden embrace of populist rhetoric.

Three Republican senators considering bids for president — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida — spoke about the need to address income inequality at a summit organized by the Koch Brothers on Sunday.

Upcoming Congressional Speech Backfires on Boehner, Netanhayu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah Photo: AFP/GETTY – 1/25/15

Here’s interesting news from NBC including the blow-back both Boehner and Netanhayu are receiving from politicos and news organizations and in Netahayu’s case, from his own citizens back in Isreal.

NBC News First Read

BY CHUCK TODD, MARK MURRAY AND CARRIE DANN

If the goal of House Speaker John Boehner asking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress in early March was to undermine the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, well, that backfired — at least in the short term. On Tuesday, a key group of Senate Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez “told the White House they will hold their fire on Iran sanctions until March 24, taking pressure off the Obama administration as it seeks to complete negotiations about the country’s nuclear program,” NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. The reason why it backfired: By scheduling the speech without the White House’s blessing — plus two weeks before Israel’s own elections — it came across as entirely political. And it ultimately turned into Democratic-vs.-Republican fight. “Israel has been, for several decades, a bipartisan cause in Washington,” the Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg writes. But he adds that Netanyahu’s poor relationship with Obama — including this most recent end-run around the White House — alienates Democratic lawmakers (“One Jewish member of Congress told me that he felt humiliated and angered by Netanyahu’s ploy to address Congress ‘behind the president’s back'”) and American Jews (who overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012).

Bibi is now getting blowback at home

And the New York Times writes that Netanyahu is now getting some serious blowback at home with the elections coming up. “Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert on public opinion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said surveys had consistently shown that Israelis see a decrease in American support and a nuclear-armed Iran ‘as the two most serious threats, almost equal in severity.’ Israelis are highly critical of Mr. Obama, and may appreciate Mr. Netanyahu’s standing up to him, but losing congressional Democrats, Mr. Ben Meir said, would play differently. ‘Most people in Israel feel or think or believe that mainly this was done for internal political reasons,’ Mr. Ben Meir said. ‘His base may say he went because of the Iranian issue, but those swing voters – and what’s important is always the swing vote – it could among certain parts of the electorate harm him. It might be that he didn’t properly estimate the fallout.'”

White House yanks plan to roll back 529 accounts

Backfiring and blowback also applied to President Obama’s proposed elimination of 529 college-saving plans. Indeed, the White House quickly reversed course on Tuesday and dropped the proposal. “We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class,” an administration official told NBC News. “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision.” There are two big lessons here: One, it shows why tax reform is SO HARD; you touch one popular tax break (even if it makes ton of economic/efficiency sense), and folks will scream bloody murder. Two, it’s a story about the political/journalist class. Raise your hand if you have one of these 529 accounts for your children or grandchildren. As one observer tweeted, “You can see the major class bias of many journalists when they act as though *everyone* benefited from the 529 program.” In fact, the benefits under the program are disproportionately skewed to Americans earning six figures or above — who represent just a sliver of the population. Still, we’re surprised the White House didn’t see this blowback coming when it first proposed the plan.

And that yanking came very quickly

Yet there’s another story here, too: That the White House yanked it SO QUICKLY — especially while the president was overseas — suggests it’s still holding out hope to strike some sort of tax deal with congressional Republicans. If you want to see tax reform happen in the 114th Congress, the speed of the Obama White House’s retraction might give you hope.

The Democrats’ danger of focusing so much on the middle class

A final related point to this 529 story: We get why the White House centered President Obama’s State of the Union speech on “middle class economics” — especially considering that the economic recovery hasn’t trickled down to the middle and lower classes. But there is a danger here for Obama’s team and the Democratic Party. You don’t want to be seen as the folks who are trying to keep Americans IN the middle class. Yes, many Americans are either in the middle class or think they’re in the middle class. But not everyone WANTS to be in the middle class forever; they might have their sights higher.

Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Loretta Lynch

Finally, Obama’s nominee to be his next U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, today has her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. TheNew York Times sets the stage. “If she is confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office. In particular, Ms. Lynch is expected to face tough questioning about her opinion of the president’s decision to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder approved the legal justification for that action, enraging some Republicans. Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, will say that while she had no role in compiling the justification for the president’s action, the legal underpinning was reasonable, according to officials involved in her preparation.” The hearing begins at 10:00 am ET.

10 things you need to know today 1-27-2015

The Week

1. Blizzard slams into the Northeast

A massive winter storm hit the Northeast on Monday, shutting down roads and transportation systems in New York City and Boston, and dumping more than a foot of snow on parts of New England. The National Weather Service had warned as much as 30 inches of snow in New York, but the city appeared to have been spared the worst, with eight inches falling overnight at LaGuardia Airport. The National Weather Service said hours more of heavy snow were coming Tuesday, repeating the warning that, “This is a serious life-threatening storm!” [The Boston Globe, NY1]
2. Kurds regain control of Kobani

Kurdish fighters claimed on Monday that they had driven Islamic State militants out of the contested Syrian border town of Kobani. The Kurds, aided by U.S. airstrikes, fought ISIS in the streets for months to regain full control of the town. On the Turkish side of the border, thousands of Kurdish refugees who fled fearing an ISIS takeover celebrated the news. Kobani is in ruins, but the defeat marked a major setback for ISIS, which seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria last year. [Bloomberg]
3. Ex-CIA officer convicted of disclosing secret information

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was convicted Monday on charges that he leaked details of a covert operation to New York Times reporter James Risen. The case became the focus of intense debate about the Obama administration’s prosecution of alleged leakers after federal prosecutors subpoenaed Risen in an attempt to force him to say who told him about the top secret operation to disrupt Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which he described in a book. Risen refused to disclose his source. [CNN]
4. Obama visits Saudi Arabia after king’s death

President Obama headed to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to lead a U.S. delegation offering condolences to the oil-rich country’s royal family following the death of 90-year-old King Abdullah. Obama, who just finished a three-day visit to India, will meet with Abdullah’s successor, King Salman. The high-powered delegation will include high-ranking Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), as well as other high-ranking Obama administration officials — an indication of the importance Washington places on Saudi Arabia, a key oil supplier and counterterrorism ally. [The New York Times]
5. At least 10 killed when jet crashes during NATO training in Spain

A Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed during NATO training at a base in southeastern Spain on Monday, killing at least 10 people. The jet lost power during take-off and hit other aircraft that were parked on the ground, sending flames and smoke into the air. Eight of the people killed were French military personnel. Two were Greek. At least 21 other service members, including 11 Italians and 10 French, were injured. [The Associated Press]
6. Federal worker says he was controlling drone that crashed near White House

A federal employee came forward Monday and said he was responsible for the two-foot wide quadcopter drone that crashed on White House grounds hours earlier. The man, who does not work at the White House, said he was flying the remote-controlled quadcopter for fun around 3 a.m. when he lost control of it, not meaning for it to go near the White House. The Secret Service briefly locked down the White House when the drone was discovered. The Secret Service said the man appeared to be telling the truth. [The New York Times]
7. Koch brothers reportedly plan to spend $889 million on 2016 election

A conservative advocacy network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers intends to spend $889 million on the 2016 election. The plan was announced at an annual meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, a tax-exempt business lobby at the heart of Charles and David Koch’s political operations, according to a person who attended. The money would go toward field operations, technology, and other resources. Together, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are expected to spend about $1 billion. [The Washington Post]
8. CBO says deficit falling to lowest of Obama’s presidency

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the budget deficit should shrink this year to its lowest level as a percentage of the economy since 2007. The nonpartisan agency said the deficit for the fiscal year, which ends in September, will be $468 billion, down a tick from last year’s $483 billion mark. In addition, the CBO said there were 19 million fewer uninsured Americans this year compared to the year before thanks to changes implemented under ObamaCare. [The Associated Press]
9. Survivors mark 70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

About 300 Auschwitz survivors gathered Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation the former Nazi concentration camp by Russian troops. The presidents of Poland, Germany, France, and Ukraine will be among the dignitaries who will be present for the commemoration at the site of the camp, in southern Poland, where 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, were killed during World War II. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the anniversary should serve as a reminder of the world’s responsibility to continue to “expose those who promote prejudices.” [Reuters]
10. Kobe Bryant to have season-ending shoulder surgery

Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant has decided to follow his doctor’s advice and have shoulder surgery that is expected to end his season, according to a statement released by the basketball team on Monday. Bryant tore his right rotator cuff last week. He has been having one of the worst seasons of his career, and with the Lakers at the bottom of the standings had little reason to hurry back and risk further injury. [USA Today]

10 things you need to know today – 1/26/2015

AP WHITE HOUSE LOCKDOWN A USA DC

Secret Service Officers search south grounds of the White House on January 26, 2015 | (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

 The Week

(Via my email.  There is no longer access to the online version without a subscription.)

1. Radical Greek anti-austerity party wins parliamentary election

Greece’s radical left Syriza party, which is vowing to end the country’s tough austerity program, moved quickly to form a government Monday, a day after winning a decisive victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, at age 40 Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, said the vote gave the party a clear mandate to end “five years of humiliation and pain,” signaling a showdown with lenders over the terms of Greece’s $270 billion international bailout. Greek stocks fell by five percent early Monday. [The Washington Post]

2. New York and the rest of the Northeast brace for historic storm

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Monday ahead of a potentially historic winter storm headed into the Northeast. New Yorkers were expecting as much as 30 inches of snow to begin falling in early afternoon. New York City has only experienced two blizzards packing 26 inches of snow, one in 1947 and one in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.” [ABC News, PBS Newshour]

3. Sixteen die in protests marking anniversary of Egypt’s uprising

At least 16 people were killed in Egypt over the weekend in clashes between police and protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the country’s revolution. At least 15 people, including three police cadets, were killed on Sunday. One woman, Shaimaa El-Sabbagh of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was killed — shot by police, colleagues said — as she marched with a group heading to Tahrir Square. Police deny firing the shots, saying they only used tear gas. [CNN, BBC News]

4. New York Assembly Speaker Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

Longtime New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed Sunday to step aside temporarily as he fights federal corruption charges. Silver was under increasing pressure from Democrats to give up his duties. One person familiar with the deal said Silver, who was arrested on Thursday, would “not specifically step down, but step back.” Democrats will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon to consider the plan. [The New York Times]

5. Small aerial drone found on White House grounds

A device believed to be a small aerial drone, was found on the grounds of the White House on Sunday. Obama administration officials said Monday that the device posed no threat. The discovery came as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India, although their daughters, Sasha and Malia, did not travel with them. The news came as the Secret Service has been trying to regroup after several security breaches, including one in September when a man with a knife scaled a fence and ran into the White House. [The Miami Herald]

6. Christie forms PAC ahead of possible presidential bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee in what has been interpreted as an early step toward launching a bid for the presidency in 2016. The move made Christie the third high-profile Republican to consider launching a campaign, behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Launching the PAC, Leadership Matters for America, will let Christie recruit the staff and fundraisers he would need to start a campaign. [The Wall Street Journal]

7. Obama moves to expand protections in Alaska wilderness

The White House announced on Sunday that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness. The designation would make it illegal to drill for oil and gas, or build roads on the land. The news was met with excitement from environmental groups and anger by Republican opponents, including Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who called the proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.” [The New York Times]

8. Church of England consecrates its first female bishop

The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop on Monday. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, said her ordination as Bishop of Stockport is a “profound and remarkable moment,” as it ends an uninterrupted tradition of male-only leadership for the 500-year-old institution. The church announced Lane’s consecration last month after a divisive debate over whether to allow women to become bishops. Critics said Lane’s appointment was merely symbolic, but she said she may be “the first, but I won’t be the only.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

9. Birdman takes top prize at SAG Awards

Birdman took the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, winning for outstanding ensemble in a motion picture. The prize boosted the film’s Oscar hopes, although its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne, who took the best-actor award for his work in The Theory of Everything. Uzo Aduba took the prize for outstanding female actor for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Orange is the New Black. The series also won for best cast in a comedy. [CBS News, USA Today]

10. Duke’s Coach K gets his 1,000th win

The Duke men’s basketball team made a late-game comeback to beat St. Johns 77-68 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, giving the Blue Devils’ legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, the 1,000th win of his 40-year coaching career. Duke trailed by 10 with just over eight minutes remaining, then went on a 28-9 tear. Krzyzewski was already the winningest coach in Division I college men’s basketball. He won that distinction three seasons ago in the same arena with his 903rd win, surpassing his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. [Raleigh News & Observer, Sports Illustrated]

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

An injured person is evacuated in Paris.

An injured person is evacuated in Paris |(AP Images/Thibault Camus)

The Week

Gunmen kill 12 at French satirical magazine, Boehner keeps his job as House speaker, and more

1. Gunmen kill 12 at French satirical magazine
Twelve people were killed and 10 wounded by two gunmen who entered the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, police said Wednesday. The attackers reportedly escaped in two vehicles after the shooting. Charlie Hebdo‘s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad on its cover. [Time, Reuters]

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2. Boehner keeps his job as House speaker
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) fought off challenges from two hardline conservatives on Tuesday tohold onto his job as speaker of the House for a third term. Two dozen Republicans voted against Boehner, a rare upwelling of dissent compared to other such votes in recent years. The tweak came on the day Republicans assumed control of both houses of Congress for the first time in eight years after taking back the Senate in last year’s midterms. [The New York Times]

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3. Former Virginia governor McDonnell sentenced to two years in prison
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) to two years in prison for using his office to help a dietary-supplement tycoon in exchange for $177,000 in loans and gifts. Prosecutors initially pushed for McDonnell to serve more than a decade, but defense lawyers wanted him sentenced to community service rather than prison. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also convicted, but she has yet to be sentenced. The judge ordered McDonnell to report to prison on Feb. 9. [The Washington Post]

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4. White House threatens Keystone XL oil pipeline veto
The White House said Tuesday that President Obama would veto a bill introduced by Republicans in the Senate that would approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The proposal is the first piece of legislation introduced after Republicans officially took control of the Senate as the new Congress convened on Tuesday. All 54 GOP senators and six Democrats back the bill. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “premature to evaluate the project before something as basic as the route of the pipeline has been determined.” [The Associated Press]

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5. Divers confirm location of AirAsia jet’s tail
Indonesian authorities confirmed Wednesday that they had found part of the tail of AirAsia Flight 8501 at the bottom of the Java Sea. The country’s search-and-rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said divers had managed to take pictures of the wreckage and would investigate further. The find could lead to the recovery of the plane’s flight data recorders, or black boxes, which are located in the tails of jetliners. So far, the bodies of 40 of the 162 people who were on the plane have been recovered. [The Wall Street Journal]

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6. Car bombing kills 31 outside Yemeni police school
A car bomb blast killed 31 people and wounded 64 more outside a police college in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Wednesday. “The situation is catastrophic,” a paramedic said. “We arrived to find bodies piled on top of each other.” The attack came less than a week after a suicide bombing south of the city. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has stepped up its bombings and shootings since Shiite Muslim Houthi militia seized the capital in September. [Reuters]

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7. 220-year-old Boston time capsule opened
Boston Museum of Fine Arts conservators on Tuesday night opened a time capsule placed under the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795 by then-governor John Adams, and Paul Revere. The contents of the box were no secret, as they had been cleaned and carefully cataloged by workers who made emergency repairs to the building’s foundation in 1855. The box contained five newspapers, 23 coins dating as far back as 1652, and other artifacts. [The Boston Globe]

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8. U.N. accepts Palestinians’ request to join the International Criminal Court
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Tuesday that he had accepted the documents Palestinian officials submitted ratifying the International Criminal Court, clearing the way for the Palestinians to join the war-crimes tribunal in April. That, in theory, would give Palestinian leaders the ability to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel, although Palestinians could be accused, too. The U.S. opposed the move, saying it would be hurt the chance of peace. [The Associated Press]

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9. Kepler spots its 1,000th Earth-like planet
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has detected its 1,000th potentially life-sustaining planet, and the latest finds include what appear to be the most Earth-like planets yet. Those worlds are called Kepler 438 b and Kepler 442 b. They are both orbiting within the habitable zones surrounding their stars, where the temperature would be just right for liquid water, and life. These finds, along with the detection of six other small exoplanets, were announced Tuesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. [Scientific American]

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10. Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame
Former ace pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, along with star hitter Craig Biggio. The three pitchers earned nine coveted Cy Young Awards among them, with Johnson leading the pack with five. Biggio had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons with the Houston Astros. Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz all ended their careers in 2009, winning entry in their first year of eligibility. It was the first time in 60 years that four players were chosen in the same year. [The New York Times]

White House: GOP Keeping Scalise ‘Says A Lot About Who They Are’

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I wholeheartedly agree…

TPM LiveWire

The White House said on Monday that it’s up to Republicans to decide whether to keep House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the leadership team, but argued that their decision “says a lot about who they are.”

“There’s no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Earnest declined to call on House Republicans to remove Scalise from his position as the No. 3 leader in the conference, after the congressman admitted last week that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Other House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are standing by Scalise, while acknowledging that he made a mistake.

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

H/t: DB