Immigration Debate

GOP Congressman Laughs At Woman’s Border Solution- ‘Blow ‘Em Up’ (VIDEO)

Addicting Info

Town hall meetings can be fun. Among all the boring policy talk, there’s always at least one local nutjob who shows up to give everyone something to laugh at. A recent meeting in a Georgia town was no different. GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk actually laughed at one of his constituents, who suggested bombing immigrants.

Image Credit: Rep. Barry Loudermilk- Screengrab via Raw Story
Image Credit: Rep. Barry Loudermilk- Screengrab via Raw Story


The woman’s outburst came after Rep. Loudermilk was discussing his travels to border states like Arizona and Texas. The congressman suggested that, due to the way a fence ended on a mountain in one such state, that the Obama Administration is being less than truthful regarding immigration statistics. Loudermilk said:

“You can watch the fence go up a mountain, and the fence ends up on this mountain. I asked a Border Patrol agent, ‘Why does the fence end there?’ He said, ‘Because that’s the easiest place to catch them. Because it’s all desert up there. When they come across that it takes them a full day just to cross that desert. That’s the easiest place to catch them.’”

At this, the unidentified constituent burst out:

“Why don’t we learn something from Afghanistan and put IUDs in the ground? Blow ‘em up. Quit being so nice.”

Now, of course, IUDs are a form of birth control, and have nothing to do with bombs. The fact that this woman said this in a public forum just illustrates the ignorance of the violent right. Even her own congressman, as well as other audience members, laughed at her. This woman likely was referring to IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. Either way, it’s a terrible suggestion, because these devices are deadly.

Rep. Loudermilk, of course, was only worried about the lives of Americans, and to hell with those dirty immigrants, right? When responding to the woman, he said:

“There’s a lot of Americans that work, and kids around the border, as well.”

So, in other words, if you dare to try to cross the border for a better life, you deserve to get blown up. The only issue with this barbaric suggestion from a clearly ignorant, rabidly hateful woman is that Americans might get hurt, too.

Watch video of the meeting below, courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

U.S. Politics

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

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Week

1.GOP splits on Homeland Security funding as deadline nears
Republicans continued feuding over Homeland Security Department funding after the Senate advanced a “clean” bill to give the agency the money it needs through September, and prevent a shutdown when its current funding runs out Friday. The Senate removed a provision in the House version blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to hold two votes, one on DHS funding and another countering Obama on immigration, but House GOP leaders have refused to endorse it.

Source: The Washington Post

2.Three New York men accused of trying to aid ISIS
Federal authorities arrested three New York men Wednesday on charges that they plotted to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. One of them also allegedly spoke of attacking President Obama, and planting a bomb on Coney Island. One of the men, Akhror Saidakhmetov, was arrested at Kennedy Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey, Syria’s neighbor. Another man, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, was arrested in Brooklyn. He allegedly had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month. A third man, Abror Habibov, was arrested in Florida and accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov.

Source: The Associated Press

3.Rice calls Netanyahu’s U.S. visit “destructive” to relations
National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress next week, saying that his trip was “destructive” to the relationship between Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner without President Obama’s approval to argue against the Obama administration’s effort to negotiate a deal to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Source: The New York Times

4.Palestinians blame Jewish nationalists for West Bank mosque fire
Someone set a mosque near Bethlehem on fire Wednesday. Palestinian leaders blamed Jewish nationalists, calling the arson “a sign of the mounting violent extremism within Israeli society.” The attackers spray-painted the walls of the mosque with a Star of David, and slogans, such as, “We want the redemption of Zion,” and “Revenge.” The blaze was discovered when worshippers showed up for morning prayers at 4:30 a.m.Nobody was injured, but interior walls, as well as furniture and carpet were damaged.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Apple told to pay Texas tech company $533 million for violating patents
Apple was ordered to pay Texas-based technology company Smartflash $533 million after a federal jury on Wednesday found that the iPhone and iPad maker’s iTunes software infringed on three Smartflash patents. Smartflash had asked for $852 million. Apple tried to have the court throw out the case, arguing that it had never used Smartflash’s technology and that the company’s patents were invalid because they involved innovations already patented by other companies. Apple says it will fight to overturn the decision.

Source: PC World

6.French authorities detain three Al-Jazeera journalists over drone flight
Three Al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in France on Wednesday and charged with flying drones in Paris. The network said the journalists were working on a report on mysterious reports of drone flights near sensitive sites in the city, which have triggered an investigation. The drone sightings have heightened tensions in a city that has been under an elevated alert status since last month’s terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

Source: Fox News

7.17 injured in massive pile-up on I-95 in Maine
Seventeen people were injured Wednesday in a 75-car pile-up on a snow-covered stretch of Interstate 95 in Maine . The crashes began at around7:30 a.m. At first, several cars, a school bus, and a tractor-trailer were involved. By the time it was over, at least 50 vehicles were so damaged they had to be towed away. State police called it the largest accident they had seen in more than 15 years. The highway’s two northbound lanes were closed for more than five hours.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Avalanches kill 124 in northeastern Afghanistan
Avalanches killed at least 124 people in northeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging through debris and snow with their bare hands trying to reach buried survivors. The avalanches buried homes in four provinces. The hardest hit was Panjshir province 60 miles northeast of Kabul, where 100 homes were buried. The province’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Aziz Ghirat, said he expected the death toll to rise when rescuers resumed work early Thursday after heavy snowstorms passed.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Washington, D.C., legalizes home pot smoking over GOP threat
Home use of marijuana became legal for people age 21 or older in Washington, D.C., at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the voter-approved legalization measure would take effect as planned despite threats from House Republicans to send her to prison for violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. “I have a lot of things to do in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said in the televised conference. “Me being in jail wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Source: The Washington Post

10.“Jihadi John” identified in news reports
News outlets including BBC News and The Washington Post have published reports identifying the masked, British-accented Islamic State killer shown in videos beheading Western hostages. The terrorist, known as “Jihadi John,” is allegedly a Kuwaiti-born British man named Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi, now in his mid-20s, grew up in West London and became radicalized after graduating from college with a computer programming degree. He traveled to Syria in 2012. “I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” a close friend said.

Source: BBC News, The Washington Post

U.S. Politics

10 Companies That Aren’t Waiting For Congress To Raise The Minimum Wage

The Huffington Post

It’s been six years since Congress raised the federal minimum wage, which stands at a paltry $7.25. Some companies aren’t waiting around any longer.

A week after Walmart said it would bump its roughly 500,000 lowest-paid employees up to $9 per hour in April, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other chains owned by TJX Companies announced a similar plan to hike wages for hourly workers.

The moves could mark a turning point for the entire economy as more major corporations feel pressure to lift workers’ wages.

Here’s a list of major companies that aren’t waiting around for Congress to give hourly workers a raise:

1. Walmart


Months after protests by workers who said their paltry wages forced them to seek government assistance, Walmart vowed to raise baseline pay to $9 per hour this April. The company promised to increase that wage to $10 per hour next year.

“Overall, these are strategic investments in our people to reignite the sense of ownership they have in our stores,” CEO Doug McMillon said on Feb. 19. “As a result, we firmly believe that our customers will benefit from a better store experience, which can drive higher sales and returns for our shareholders over time.”

As the world’s biggest retailer, the move could ripple throughout the economy, stimulating more consumer spending and pressuring other retailers to increase baseline pay.

2. T.J. Maxx

tj maxx

On Thursday, TJX Companies — which owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other department store chains — announced plans to hike its baseline wages to $9 per hour in June, and then to $10 per hour in 2015 for workers who’ve been at the companies for at least six months. The move came just six days after Walmart vowed to do the same.

“This pay initiative is an important part of our strategies to continue attracting and retaining the best talent in order to deliver a great shopping experience, remain competitive on wages in our U.S. markets, and stay focused on our value mission,” Carol Meyrowitz, TJX’s chief executive, said in a statement included with the company’s fourth-quarter earnings.

3. Starbucks


Last October, Starbucks promised to increase wages for its baristas and shift supervisors. The raises, tailored to the individual employees’ pay packages, were slated to go into effect last month. The company did not offer specifics on the size of the increases.

“The new rates will ensure we are paying a competition wage that better positions us to attract and keep the best partners,” said Troy Alstead, the coffee chain’s chief operating officer.

4. Ikea

ikea hacks

Ikea will peg its minimum wage in different stores to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which estimates the minimum living wage a worker needs to make depending on where he or she lives. IKEA said none of its wages will fall below $9 an hour. The new rates took effect Jan. 1, 2015.

5. Gap Inc.

california dark money

Last February, Gap Inc. announced that it would raise minimum hourly pay for workers across all of its brands to $9 in June, and to $10 an hour in June 2015.

“With more than 65,000 workers getting an increase in their hourly pay rate [by 2015], we are making a positive impact for our employees,” Gap spokeswoman Paula Conhain said in a statement. “And, it is good for business; it is helping us to attract and retain the best talent in retail, which is a real competitive advantage for us.”

Since the announcement, the company has seen a surge in job applications.

6. Costco


Costco’s starting pay is $11.50 an hour, and the average employee there earns $21 an hour, not including overtime. About 88 percent of Costco workers also benefit from company-sponsored health insurance, David Sherwood, Costco’s director of financial planning and investor relations, told HuffPost in 2013.

7. In-N-Out Burger


The West Coast burger chain starts its employees off at $10.50 an hour and provides workers paid vacations and 401(k) plans, according to its website.

“We strive to create a working environment that is upbeat, enthusiastic and customer-focused,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “A higher pay structure is helpful in making that happen.”

8. Shake Shack

shake shack

This East Coast eatery has a starting salary of $10 an hour in New York and $9.50 an hour elsewhere. The chain also offers health care benefits for full-time employees and a 401(k) matching program.

9. Ben & Jerry’s

ben cohen occupy

Need another reason to love the makers of Chunky Monkey and Half Baked? An entry-level Ben & Jerry’s worker makes $16.29 an hour, according to company spokesman Sean Greenwood — more than double the current federal minimum wage. “As we as a business prosper, those around us should prosper as well,” Greenwood said in an email.

Ben & Jerry’s even treat their cows better than other companies.

10. Whole Foods

whole foods

At Whole Foods, workers earn a minimum starting salary of $10 an hour. The averagehourly wage is $18.89, while the average annual salary is $39, 289. A company spokeswoman told HuffPost in an email that the chain’s wages have contributed to a low employee turnover rate of less than 10 percent.

Rebecca Hiscott contributed reporting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of this article was previously published last June.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 25, 2015

The Week

1.DOJ decides no civil-rights charge against George Zimmerman
The Justice Department said Tuesday that investigators had found “insufficient evidence” to charge George Zimmerman in connection with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder said his department would not file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman because the evidence in the case did not satisfy the “high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution,” although he said the nation needs to “take concrete steps” to avoid more such incidents.

Source: USA Today

2.Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline legislation
President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans made passage of the bill a top priority after taking control of Congress in last year’s midterms, despite the Obama administration’s lingering concerns about the pipeline’s potential environmental impact. Republicans said they would try to override the president’s veto, although the legislation did not pass with enough “yes” votes to do the job.

Source: The Guardian

3.Routh gets life in prison in American Sniper murder case
Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty late Tuesday of killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the author of American Sniper, and his friend Chad Littlefield in 2013. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, but Texas State District Judge Jason Cashon sentenced him to life in prison, with no possibility of parole. Routh shot and killed Kyle and Littlefield in an outing to a gun range, where they had taken him to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: Fox News

4.Cuba honors five freed spies
The Cuban government on Tuesday honored five spies who were convicted in U.S. courts in 2001 and released in a prisoner exchange onDec. 17. Cuban President Raul Castro pinned medals on the so-called Cuban five, whose release was engineered under a plan to restore diplomatic relations between the two former Cold War enemies. Spy network leader Gerardo Hernandez, who had received a double life sentence, called on Cuba to “rise to the challenges facing the revolution,” including modernizing the communist nation’s economy and resuming ties with the U.S.

Source: Reuters

5.Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into reelection runoff
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fell short of the votes he needed to avoid an April runoff in his bid for reelection. Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, cruised to victory for his first term four years ago. He led the five-candidate field this time, with 45 percent of the vote, and had a big fundraising lead over his lesser known opponents. Now he heads into a riskier head-to-head contest with his closest rival, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who got 34 percent of the vote.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

6.Four Wesleyan students charged after MDMA overdoses
Four Wesleyan University students were arrested Tuesday night in connection with MDMA, or Molly, overdoses that sent a dozen students to the hospital over the weekend. Eric Lonergan, 21; Andrew Olson, 20; Zachary Kramer, 21; and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, were suspended from school after their arrests. “The university takes allegations of the distribution of drugs seriously and is cooperating with state and local officials,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth said. The defendants will appear in court March 3.

Source: NBC News

7.Women sue hot-yoga entrepreneur Bikram Choudhury
Hot-yoga empire founder Bikram Choudhury, 69, is facing six civil lawsuits filed by women accusing him of rape or assault, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The most recent accusation was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian woman, Jill Lawler, who accused Choudhury of raping her during a teacher-training session in 2010. The first of the complaints surfaced two years ago. It triggered a series of other accusations ranging from assault to harassment. Choudhury denies doing anything wrong.

Source: The New York Times

8.State Department official suspected of soliciting sex from minor
A senior State Department counterterrorism official, Daniel Rosen, was arrested Tuesday at his Washington, D.C., home on suspicion of soliciting sex from a minor. The allegations against Rosen, who is the director of counterterrorism programs and policy at the State Department, stem from an online exchange between him and detectives in the Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department’s child exploitation unit. A State Department spokesperson said Rosen had been placed on leave and his security clearance suspended pending the resolution of the case.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Paris drone sightings increase terrorism concerns
A Paris prosecutor on Tuesday called for a police investigation of unidentified drones spotted flying near the U.S. Embassy, the Eiffel Tower, and several major roads for the second night in a row. At least five sightings were reported Tuesday and early Wednesday, heightening tensions in a country already on high alert following the Charlie Hebdoterrorist attacks in January. Similar reports have been surfacing for months at other sensitive locations, including power plants, government buildings, and a bay that is home to French nuclear submarines.

Source: The Washington Post

10.ESPN benches commentator Keith Olbermann
ESPN suspended talk-show host Keith Olbermann for a week on Tuesdayfor calling a Penn State student effort to raise $13 million to fight pediatric cancer “pitiful.” Penn State challenged Olbermann to make a donation to the cause. Olbermann issued an apology over Twitter, saying, “I was stupid and childish and way less mature than the students there who did such a great fundraising job.”

Source: Pittsburgh Sporting News

U.S. Politics

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’


If there’s one thing you must read today, it’s this:an expose in The Guardian, detailing the Chicago Police’s secret “black sites,” inspired by Guantanamo Bay and used to illegally detain American citizens.

According to the Guardian, a “nondescript” warehouse in Chicago’s Homan Square is used by the CPD for work they would like to keep “off-the-books,” particularly work that happens to violate the Constitution. “It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place,” Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes told The Guardian. “If you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” being subjected to the following treatments:

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

The report cites multiple examples of people held in these prisons, such as Brian Jacob Church, a NATO protester held on terrorism-related charges that were eventually dropped. Jacon Church, who was arrested in 2012, detailed how he was held at Homan Square for nearly 17 hours, completely restrained, without being read his Miranda rights or allowed to contact an attorney:

In preparation for the Nato protest, Church, who is from Florida, had written a phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on his arm as a precautionary measure. Once taken to Homan Square, Church asked explicitly to call his lawyers, and said he was denied.

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.

“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church said.

Multiple lawyers, representing clients accused of terrorism, drug, or gang-related charges, confirm that they’ve lost track of their clients in Homan, and when they attempted to contact them, have been turned away by Chicago police officers:

One man in January 2013 had his name changed in the Chicago central bookings database and then taken to Homan Square without a record of his transfer being kept, according to Eliza Solowiej of Chicago’s First Defense Legal Aid. (The man, the Guardian understands, wishes to be anonymous; his current attorney declined to confirm Solowiej’s account.) She found out where he was after he was taken to the hospital with a head injury.

“He said that the officers caused his head injuries in an interrogation room at Homan Square. I had been looking for him for six to eight hours, and every department member I talked to said they had never heard of him,” Solowiej said. “He sent me a phone pic of his head injuries because I had seen him in a police station right before he was transferred to Homan Square without any.”

In one case, a man, who was not charged with any crimes, mysteriously died:

On February 2, 2013, John Hubbard was taken to Homan Square. Hubbard never walked out. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 44-year old was found “unresponsive inside an interview room”, and pronounced dead. The Cook County medical examiner’s office could not locate any record for the Guardian indicating a cause of Hubbard’s death. It remains unclear why Hubbard was ever in police custody.

The article’s author, Spencer Ackerman, recently published another expose about the Chicago police, in which he accused an award-winning Chicago detective of engaging in horrific acts of interrogation and torture, including “shackled suspects to walls for extended periods, threatened their family members, and perhaps even planted evidence on them.” The detective, Richard Zurley, eventually transferred these tactics to Guantanamo Bay, where he “oversaw a shocking military interrogation that has become a permanent stain on his country.”

Here’s a video summary of the report, via The Guardian…

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O’Reilly Lied About Witnessing Suicide Of JFK Assassin’s Friend, Former Co-Workers Say

Bill O’Reilly (Photo by Noel Vasquez/GC Images) | Noel Vasquez via Getty Images

The Huffington Post 

As Bill O’Reilly continues on the warpath against those reporting on whether he embellished his combat experience, new allegations have emerged that the Fox News anchor lied about being present at a suicide in Florida.

“He was in Dallas,” Tracy Rowlett, a former colleague of O’Reilly’s at Dallas station WFAA, told liberal watchdog Media Matters. “Bill O’Reilly’s a phony — there’s no other way to put it.”

The Fox host has claimed on several occasions that he heard the gunshot that killed George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald who committed suicide at his daughter’s home in Florida in 1977. O’Reilly originally made the claim in his 2012 book, Killing Kennedy. He repeated it during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” while promoting the book: “I was about to knock on the door where [de Mohrenschildt] was, his daughter’s house, and he blew his brains out with a shotgun,” O’Reilly said (see embedded video at the bottom of this piece). He made the claim again in an adaption of Killing Kennedy for younger readers.

Rowlett and Byron Harris, another of O’Reilly’s WFAA colleagues at the time, both say the embattled host was with them at WFAA’s Dallas headquarters when de Mohrenschildt died.

The station “would have reported it as some kind of exclusive — and there was no exclusive — if O’Reilly had been standing outside the door,” Harris said. Not only did WFAA run no exclusive, but the story was broken by The Dallas Morning News.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigation of de Mohrenschildt’s deathdoes not mention O’Reilly. Nor does The Associated Press report of the incident, which only says de Mohrenschildt was in the house with two maids at the time, neither of which heard the gunshot.

According to Rowlett and Harris, O’Reilly never mentioned while he was working at WFAA that he was present when de Mohrenschildt committed suicide.

“That came later,” Rowlett said. “That must have been a brain surge when he was writing the book.”

O’Reilly’s claim to have been in Florida is also contradicted by conversations the Fox host had with Gaeton Fonzi, an investigative journalist who wrote extensively about the Kennedy assassination. Fozi, who is now deceased, writes in his biography that he received a call from O’Reilly shortly after the suicide, asking for confirmation it had happened. From Fozi’s autobiography:

About 6:30 that evening I received a call from Bill O’Reilly, a friend who was then a television reporter in Dallas. “Funny thing happened,” he said. “We just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located de Mohrenschildt in South Florida. Now de Mohrenschildt’s attorney, a guy named Pat Russel, he calls and says de Mohrenschildt committed suicide this afternoon. Is that true?”

The new charges promise for the embattled Fox entertainer, who since last Thursday has fended off accusations that he overstated his war reporting experience. O’Reilly has claimed in the past that he “reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands” during his time with CBS and “survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War.” O’Reilly was in Buenos Aires — 1,200 miles from the Falklands — when the conflict ended, but maintained in an interview with conservative radio host Howard KURTZ that the riots he witnessed in the capital constitute a “combat situation.”

O’Reilly did not immediately respond to request for comment through the publisher of Killing Kennedy, Henry Holt and Co.

Keystone XL Pipeline · President Barack Obama

Obama Vetoed The Keystone XL Pipeline [This Afternoon]. Now What?

Dozens of demonstrators rally in support of Obama’s pledge to veto any legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, outside the White House in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.

Think Progress

A two-month legislative battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has come to its tentative end.

President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a bill to approve construction of the controversial pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada down to refineries on the Gulf coast. The decision comes — as White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it would — with little fanfare. Obama had been widely expected to reject the bill, and there’s been no indication that the Republican-led Congress has enough votes to override him.

So now what? For starters, pretty much everyone has noted that Keystone is not dead. All the veto means is that Congress isn’t able to force the pipeline’s construction through legislation — the process is just going back to being centered on the State Department’s administrative review procedure, as it largely has been for the last six years.

After it’s finished reviewing the pros and cons of Keystone XL, the State Department will ultimately make a recommendation to Secretary of State John Kerry on whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. Kerry will then make the official determination, which will likely sway the President’s final decision.

For now, there’s no telling when that will happen. As Neela Banerjee reported forInsideClimate News, Kerry has no deadline to make his decision on whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. But while everyone waits for that to happen, there are at least three things in the works that could heavily influence the future of the pipeline.

The fight over property rights in Nebraska

If you’ve been following the Keystone XL process closely, then you’re familiar with the fact that Nebraska has been a key battleground for the project. That’s because of challenges to the pipeline’s proposed route through the state, specifically from landowners who don’t want the pipeline running through their properties. TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build Keystone, has filed for eminent domain on those properties.

The latest development is that two weeks ago, a Nebraska district judge said TransCanada cannot yet use eminent domain, placing a temporary injunction on land seizure.

That injunction will remain in place until Nebraska’s Supreme Court takes up the landowners’ case against state law LB1161, which effectively gave TransCanada the right to seize land under eminent domain in the first place. The landowners are arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Until this case is decided, there is no final pipeline route through Nebraska. So in terms of Keystone’s future, this is a pretty important case to watch.

Low oil prices increasing Keystone’s climate impact

President Obama has said he would only approve Keystone XL if it didn’t significantly increase carbon emissions. For many, this has been a signal that he might approve the pipeline, given the The State Department’s assessment that the project would have little impact on climate change.

Now, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is calling on the State Department to “revisit” that determination, and that’s because of oil prices.

Oil prices have been relatively low for nearly a year. With little indication that they’re going to rise much in the near future, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said Keystone XL could be more important for the future of tar sands development, and therefore the climate.

Tar sands oil produces as much as three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil, but the State Department said that Keystone XL would not impact the climate because that oil would inevitably be developed, pipeline or not. But now, with such low oil prices, it’s becoming less and less profitable to extract tar sands, and some companies are even pausing their planned development. So now, the EPA says Keystone might be a project that will accelerate the carbon-intensive tar sands process, and therefore have a greater impact on the climate.

A fueled debate over exports

One of the arguments President Obama has used against the pipeline is that it won’t do anything to improve U.S. energy security. “Understand what this project is,” Obama said at a Nov. 14 press conference. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.”

It is true that Canadian crude, unlike most U.S.-produced oil, can be sent overseas. And, as CNN Money noted in a 2013 report, exports from the United States will likely risebecause of the Keystone XL pipeline.

There’s been a fierce debate over how much of that oil would stay in the U.S. and how much would be exported. And that debate is only going to heat up now that a new study, released Monday by the analysis firm IHS Inc., said that the majority of it would stay in the country. Specifically, the study said that 70 percent of the Canadian heavy oil would stay in the country after being refined, while the remaining would likely be exported.

If true, that’s a burn for pipeline opponents who argue that most of the oil would be shipped oversees and wouldn’t contribute to U.S. energy security. But 30 percent of 830,000 barrels per day is not a small amount of oil to be exported, so it’s unlikely opponents will totally lay off the point that much of Keystone’s oil is for other countries. Indeed, the Senate rejected an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that would have required all the pipeline’s oil stay in the United States.

The refineries that do process Keystone’s tar sands oil in the United States will also produce large amounts of petcoke — the black, dusty byproduct of tar sands oil refining — which will also likely be exported. Petcoke is coal-like and can be burned as a fuel in power plants, but is too dirty to be burned in America. Petcoke was the second-most exported product from the United States last year.

President Barack Obama · Rudy Giuliani · Sen. Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer to Rudy Giuliani: ‘Ask Osama bin Laden’ if Obama loves America

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) before delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC

Sorry guys.  Preparing for a major move up north and I’ve been too busy to post today.  I’ll do a couple of posts now and a couple tomorrow.  When I get settled I’ll be back on a regular schedule.

The Week

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) waded into the ridiculous “Does Obama love America?” debate Monday night with some sharp words for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

Giuliani came under fire last week for claiming President Obama does not love his country. He walked back that assertion in a Monday op-ed, saying he never meant to question Obama’s “motives or the content of his heart.”

Jon Terbush

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 23, 2015

Eddie Redmayne wins Best Actor Oscar for “Birdman”: | (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

The Week

1. Birdman takes the Oscar for Best Picture
Birdman won best film at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday. Alejandro G. Iñárritu also won directing honors for the dark comedy, which stars Michael Keaton as a former movie superhero determined to do more meaningful work on Broadway. Birdman also won Oscars for original screenplay and cinematography. Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her role as a professor with early Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, and Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.Source: Los Angeles Times
2. Mall of America increases security after threat
Shoppers crowded into the Mall of America on Sunday despite a threat of attack by an al-Qaeda-linked group. The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab threatened the Bloomington, Minnesota, mall, as well as malls in Canada and London, in a video released a day earlier. The Obama administration called for vigilance. Al Shabaab was the Islamist group that claimed responsibility for a deadly 2013 mall attack in Kenya. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said security at the Mall of America has been increased, but anyone going should “be particularly careful.”Source: CBS Local, The New York Times
3. Ukraine says rebel attacks are preventing it from withdrawing big guns
The Ukrainian government said Monday that it could not withdraw heavy weapons from the front line in eastern Ukraine because its forces remained under attack by rebels. The pro-Russian separatists ignored a new ceasefire deal last week and took control of the strategically important railway hub of Debaltseve. European leaders, who sponsored the peace deal, are hopeful the rebels will start respecting the truce now, but Kiev says it fears the rebels will continue their offensive.Source: Reuters
4. Honda announces CEO’s departure
Honda Motor Co. announced Monday that CEO Takanobu Ito is stepping down in June. He will be replaced by a relatively low-level engineer, Managing Officer Takahiro Hachigo. Ito, 61, has been chief executive since 2009. His tenure has been marred by defects in the Fit hybrid, recalls due to faulty airbags made by Takata Corp., and other perceived missteps. His efforts to trim costs also angered longtime suppliers and former executives. Still, the resignation came as a surprise.Source: Reuters
5. Harsh weather kills 22 in Tennessee
Winter storms and record low temperatures in Tennessee have been blamed for at least 22 deaths — about half of them from hypothermia, state officials said Sunday. Gov. Bill Haslam put the state on a higher level of state of emergency over the weekend, making the hardest hit areas eligible for state and federal help. About 32,000 customers were without power in the state.Source: The Associated Press
6. Girl suicide bomber kills four in Nigeria
A girl estimated to be as young as 10 years old detonated explosives strapped to her body at a security checkpoint outside a market in the Nigerian town of Potiskum on Sunday, killing herself and five others. Dozens of people were wounded. The girl “refused to be checked at the gate to the market and an argument ensued,” witness Ibrahim Maishago told Reuters. “She let off the bomb.” Nobody immediately claimed responsibility, but the attack was similar to others by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.Source: CBC
7. West Coast ports resume normal work after deal ending contract dispute
West Coast seaports stepped up their activity over the weekend after employers and dockworkers struck a tentative labor deal. The number of dockworker assignments doubled compared to recent Sundays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Work levels also returned to normal at more than two dozen ports from Washington to California, and the larger ports were expected to do extra work to clear a backlog after a month-long contract dispute.Source: The Associated Press
8. Home health aides follow fast-food workers’ lead demanding better pay
Home care workers on Monday are launching two weeks of meetings and rallies in 20 cities to call for higher wages for low-paid workers. The campaign was inspired by similar efforts by fast-food and retail workers. The nation’s two million home health aides make a median wage of about $9.60 an hour. Most work part-time, so their annual income averages $18,600. The leaders of the campaign say these workers should make $15 an hour and have the right to unionize so they won’t have to live in poverty.Source: USA Today
9. Prominent Egyptian opposition leader sentenced to five years over protest
An Egyptian court sentenced activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a leader in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, to five years in prison on Monday for violating a law banning protests. Twenty-four others were sentenced to three to 15 years. Abdel-Fattah was charged with inciting an unauthorized demonstration in November 2013 despite the anti-protest law imposed after the military ousted the next president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.Source: Voice of America
10. Logano wins the Daytona 500
Joey Logano held off a late challenge by Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Jeff Gordon, who started out in the pole position, was going for his fourth victory in what he said would be his final start in the Great American Race. He led for 87 of the first 111 laps, but got caught in congestion in the race’s final wreck and finished far back in the pack. Gordon said he was “a little bit sad this is my final Daytona 500,” but it was “an amazing week and an amazing day.”Source:, Fox Sports
Voter Supression

‘Selma Is Now’: John Legend’s Momentous Oscar Speech

Credit: YouTube Screenshot

Think Progress

John Legend and Common won the Academy Award for best original song for “Glory” from the movie Selma, which chronicled Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for the Voting Rights Act.

Legend took the opportunity to remind the audiece that the struggle continues. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today,” Legend said. “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now.”

(Video is no longer available:  “This video contains content from AMPAS Oscars, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.“)

Selma depicts events that took place 50 years ago. But in just the last two years there has been a stunning assault on voting rights in the United States:

[T]he very rights championed by King have been eroded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 which effectively struck down the heart of Johnson’s Voting Rights Act.

The high court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder opened the doors for nine Southern states to change their election laws without federal approval. In the year and a half since the decision, courts have heard a number of cases about the constitutionality of newly passed voter ID legislation and other methods of voter suppression, while voters across the country have faced increased barriers to casting their ballots.

Immediately after the Supreme Court struck down the provisions against restrictive voting legislation by ruling that Section 5 of the VRA no longer blocks discriminatory voting changes, states across the country moved forward with laws that were previously blocked. In the first year after the decision, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia all made previously forbidden changes to their voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

More on Selma’s missing epilogue.