U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 29, 2016

Jason Merritt/Getty Images


1. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Spotlight, Mad Max win at Oscars
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) won the Academy Award for Best Actor, while Brie Larson (The Room) won Best Actress, Spotlight won Best Picture, Alejandro Iñárritu (The Revenant) won Best Director, Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) won Best Supporting Actress, and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) won Best Supporting Actor Sundaynight at the Oscars. Mad Max: Fury Road dominated in the technical categories, scoring trophies for Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Film Editing.

Source: CNN

2. Chris Rock at Oscars: ‘You’re damn right Hollywood is racist’
Chris Rock hosted the Academy Awards on Sunday, and he did not shy away from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “It’s not about boycotting anything,” he said. “We want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities.” In the most memorable part of his opening monologue, Rock called the Oscars “The White People’s Choice Awards” and tackled the big question of the night: “Is Hollywood racist?” His answer: Yes. “Is it burning cross racist? No. Is it ‘Fetch me some lemonade’ racist? No. It’s a different type of racist,” he said. “You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda. But you’re not a Kappa.'”

Source: The Week

3. Marco Rubio ramps up taunting of Donald Trump before Super Tuesday
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has taken to insulting Republican presidential rival Donald Trump more in sorrow than in anger, he told a rally of about 3,000 supporters in northern Virginia on Sunday. “I had hoped that this would be a campaign only about ideas,” Rubio said, before trying out a few new taunts about Trump’s skin color, honesty, and hand size. Rubio advisers see the risks of crudely mocking Trump, but “we came to the conclusion that if being a part of the circus is the price you have to pay in order for us to ultimately be able to talk about substantive policy, then that’s what we’re going to do,” said adviser Todd Harris.

Source: The New York Times, RealClearPolitics

4. American student detained in North Korea confesses to ‘hostile act’
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, appeared at a press conference at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang on Monday to confess trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan from the walls of his Pyongyang hotel. “I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel,” Warmbier said in the televised press conference. “I apologize to each and every one of the millions of the Korean people and I beg that you see how I was used and manipulated.” Warmbier was detained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Jan. 2 as he attempted to board a plan to leave the country.

Source: CNN, International Business Times

5. Syrian ceasefire ends without an agreement, airstrikes resume
The negotiated ceasefire in Syria ended after talks between representatives of the Syrian army and an alliance of Syrian insurgent groups failed to reach an agreement to stop the fighting permanently. The ceasefire began last Wednesday. On Sunday, Russia resumed airstrikes on towns in the northern part of Syria. Countries involved in the Syrian peace process will meet Monday afternoon in Geneva to discuss how the ceasefire broke down.

Source: The Washington Post, Reuters

6. Macedonian police fire tear gas on refugees trying to enter Western Europe
Police attacked Iraqi and Syrian refugees with tear gas and stun guns on Monday after hundreds of the refugees broke down a gate to a rail crossing in an attempt to cross the Greek-Macedonian border. Thousands of refugees are stuck on Greece’s northern border, waiting for Macedonian authorities to let them resume their journey. Migrants had earlier pushed past Greek police, shouting, “Open the border!” and “We want to go to Serbia!” Serbia is the next country on the journey though the Balkans into Western Europe.

Source: Associated Press

7. Sen. Jeff Sessions endorses Donald Trump

In front of thousands of Donald Trump supporters, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions announced his endorsement of the Republican frontrunnerSunday during a rally in Madison, Alabama. “At this time in American history, we need to make America great again,” he said. “I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States.” Sessions is the first sitting senator to support Trump, and has advised him on immigration reform. Sessions also told the crowd that a “movement is afoot that must not fade away,” and voters need to remember they are “the bosses,” and the people in Washington are “public servants. They serve you and we haven’t had enough of that.”

Source: CNN

8. John Kasich predicts Donald Trump will sweep Super Tuesday
On Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich predicted that Donald Trump will sweep all of the Super Tuesday states tomorrow. Kasich indicated that he would win his home state on March 15, and that could propel him to the GOP nomination. Kasich has not won any primary contests so far, and conceded that if he didn’t win Ohio, “then it’s time to call it over.”

Source: CNN

9. Leaving the EU would cause a decade of economic instability, UK report says
Leaving the European Union would lead to a decade of uncertainty, according to a new report by British civil servants. The difficulty would come from the complicated process of negotiating the terms of the exit. Future trade agreements with countries inside and outside of the 28-member EU would also be more complicated. “A vote to leave the EU would be the start, not the end, of a process,” the report said. “It could lead to up to a decade or more of uncertainty.” On June 23, a nationalreferendum in Great Britain will decide whether the country breaks off its relationship with the European Union.

Source: Associated Press

10. Tulsi Gabbard quits DNC post, endorses Bernie Sanders
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has quit her post as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. Gabbard, one of five vice chairs, has clashed with the DNC in the past over the debate schedule preceding the presidential primaries. “There is a clear contrast between our two candidates with regard to my strong belief that we must end the interventionist, regime change policies that have cost us so much,” Gabbard said on NBC’sMeet the Press.

Source: CNN, Reuters

U.S. Politics

Did Adam McKay just call out the Koch brothers on the Oscars stage?

Did Adam McKay just call out the Koch brothers on the Oscars stage?

(Credit: AP/Chris Pizzello)


When accepting the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for “The Big Short,” director McKay got political

For those of us waiting for a movie that took on Wall Street excess and assigned blame to the people who generated the Great Recession, “The Big Short” has been the answer to prayers.

So it only made sense that Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, accepting the  best adapted screenplay award, would toss out one of the night’s best and post political lines so far.

“If you don’t want big money to control government,” McKay said, “don’t vote for candidates who take money from big banks, oil, or weirdo billionaires.”

Nice line! He could have made it more succinct just by naming the Koch Brothers, though, who’ve said they will spent close to $900 million on this campaign. In Hollywood that only funds a handful of movies. But in politics, that’s still real money.

Does it get any more “weirdo” than brothers whose family fortune was made by an ultra-conservative father involved in Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan?

Let’s hope McKay keeps talking.

U.S. Politics

Vice President Joe Biden Brings Oscars To An Emotional Halt With Powerful Message (VIDEO)


In an powerful moment for a night that is usually designated to honoring celebrities and movies, Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage at the 88th Annual Academy Awards to deliver a message about sexual assault.

Biden recently took a break from organizing a national initiative to cure cancer to help launch a program that asks young people to fight against sexual assault by standing up and intervening if they see a situation “where consent cannot or has not been given.”

Taking the microphone at the Academy Awards ceremony, Biden was greeted with a standing ovation from the attendees. The applause was so intense, in fact, that Biden had to settle people down with a joke, telling the collected group of megastars, “I’m the least qualified man here tonight.”

During his brief remarks, Biden made it clear that victim-blaming had no place in our society.

“Let’s change the culture so that no abused woman or man ever feels they have to ask themselves ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing wrong.”

The vice president was joined by Lady Gaga, who helped make a documentary on the subject of date-rape on college campuses. The two promoted a website called ItsOnUs.org that will help spread the message of what people can do to help stop sexual assaults in universities around the country. Afterwards, Lady Gaga performed a song she had written for the documentary. At the conclusion, she was joined by survivors of sexual assault. The performance brought the house down and reduced many in the audience to tears.

After the performance, Biden tweeted a photo of himself and Lady Gaga.

And to those cynics who might believe a speech during the Oscars won’t accomplish anything, consider this: From the instant it was mentioned, the ItsOnUs.org website was brought to a crawl under the weight of the traffic. That’s a lot of eyes on an issue that is far too often swept under the rug and ignored.

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump declines to disavow David Duke and the KKK

Photo by Benjamin Krain/Getty Images


Appearing this morning on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union, Donald Trump was asked to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists and politely declined.

Trump, being a cautious sort and not one to just talk without gathering all the facts and giving a matter serious consideration, said he would have to do more research because at the moment he lacked sufficient information to disavow them.

The question arose when Tapper asked Trump about the Anti-Defamation League’s request that he disavow Duke’s endorsement and that of other white supremacist groups.

Here’s their exchange which you can watch here:

Trump: I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.

Tapper: Ok. I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but —

Trump: Honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.

This is the kind of situation where Trump’s lack of support from the broader institutions of American conservatism is going to end up hurting him.

It’s not inconceivable to me that these remarks could be spun away as simply a clumsy answer to a hostile and somewhat unfair line of questioning if there were people out there eager to do the spinning.

But because most of the conservative movement has decided it doesn’t like Trump, conservative pundits are piling on with criticism of these remarks. And that makes it entirely kosher for “objective” journalists to report as a factual, non-contested story that Donald Trump is endorsed by white supremacist organizations who he has refused to disavow.

Here’s the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis, for example.


And here’s Republican media consultant Rick Wilson:


At any rate, Trump has certainly said enough things that enough people were sure would make his campaign implode that I am not offering any predictions about the impact of these remarks on the primaries on Super Tuesday. But it’s certainly an indication that he would be a toxic element in a general election.

U.S. Politics

Exclusive: Democratic Party slams GOP candidates on climate change

Exclusive: Democratic Party slams GOP candidates on climate change


The Democratic Party released a video on Sunday slamming Republican presidential hopefuls for their opposition to action on climate change, suggesting the views clash with the reality of rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Democratic Party released a video on Sunday slamming Republican presidential hopefuls for their opposition to action on climate change, suggesting the views clash with the reality of rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns.

The video features Republican front-runner Donald Trump and his two closest rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, denying man-made global warming, juxtaposed with images of U.S. flooding, wildfires, droughts and heat waves.

“I’m not a believer in climate change,” Trump says during a television news interview featured in the clip. The video can be seen at bit.ly/1Qm5iB8.

“Satellite data show there’s been no warming whatsoever,” Cruz, a U.S. senator of Texas, says in another news clip.

Rubio, a U.S. senator of Florida, says, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

The video aims to put the environmental issue center stage in the November race for the White House.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both laid out plans to combat climate change, while all five Republican presidential contenders have argued that the problem doesn’t exist or have discounted the scope of the issue.

The video also draws a link between environmental issues and the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court following the surprise death this month of Justice Antonin Scalia.

President Barack Obama has said he plans to nominate a replacement for Scalia before the November election, but Republicans in Congress have vowed to block the effort.

“With so many issues at stake now, with so much potentially heading before the court on clean energy and climate change, we simply can’t afford for our nation’s highest court to be crippled,” a few Democratic members of Congress say in the video.

An official for the Democratic Party said the video would be circulated on social media.

U.S. Politics

Trump disavows David Duke endorsement after ducking question earlier


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump disavowed white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke in a tweet Sunday.

Earlier Sunday morning, Trump avoided a question about whether he’d condemn Duke’s racism.

The GOP front-runner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” he didn’t know anything about Duke and would need to research his connections before deciding whether he would condemn them.

“I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about,” he said. “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

Duke told listeners of his radio show last week they should vote for Trump and volunteer for Trump’s campaign. He said voting against Trump at this point would be “treason to your heritage.”

At a press conference late last week, Trump responded to a question from a reporter asking how he felt about the Duke endorsement.
“I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me?” he asked.
“All right, I disavow, OK.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast Sunday, Duke said Trump probably knows more about him than he let on at first.

“I think he knows who I am,” Duke said. “But he doesn’t know what I actually stand for today.”

Duke said he’s not endorsing Trump because of differences on Israel and torture, but he plans to vote for Trump and will encourage others to do so as well.

There appeared to be no hard feelings about Trump’s Sunday afternoon disavowal.
“If he disavows me fine,” Duke told the Daily Beast. “Let him do whatever he thinks he needs to do to become president of the United States.”
Rebecca Savransky
U.S. Politics

The Republican Party’s implosion over Donald Trump’s candidacy has arrived

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


The implosion over Donald Trump’s candidacy that Republicans had hoped to avoid arrived so virulently this weekend that many party leaders vowed never to back the billionaire and openly questioned whether the GOP could come together this election year.

At a moment when Republicans had hoped to begin taking on Hillary Clinton — who is seemingly on her way to wrapping up the Democratic nomination — the GOP has instead become consumed by a crisis over its identity and core values that is almost certain to last through the July party convention, if not the rest of the year.

A campaign full of racial overtones and petty, R-rated put-downs grew even uglier Sunday after Trump declined repeatedly in a CNN interview to repudiate the endorsement of him by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Trump had disavowed Duke at a news conference on Friday, but he stammered when asked about Duke on Sunday.

Marco Rubio, who has been savaging Trump as a “con man” for three days, responded by saying that Trump’s defiance made him “unelectable.” The senator from Florida said at a rally in Northern Virginia, “We cannot be the party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists.”

The fracas comes as the presidential race enters a potentially determinative month of balloting, beginning with primaries and caucuses in 11 states on Tuesday. As the campaign-trail rhetoric grew noxious over the weekend, a sense of fatalism fell over the Republican firmament, from elected officials and figureheads to major donors and strategists.

“This is an existential choice,” said former senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who is backing Rubio. Asked how the party could unite, Coleman said: “It gets harder every day when you hear things like not disavowing the KKK and David Duke. It’s not getting easier; it’s getting more difficult. . . . I’m hopeful the party won’t destroy itself.”

The choice for voters is not simply one of preference but rather a fundamental one about the direction they want to take the country, with the insurgent Trump promising utter transformation.


Philip Rucker  and  Robert Costa

U.S. Politics

THE OSCARS (*Yes it’s political* ks)




Chris Rock’s Monologue Nails #OscarsSoWhite: ‘We Want Opportunity’…The Oscar’s 88-Year-History Of Exclusion… The Night’s Other Show: #JusticeForFlint… Biden Challenges Students To Change Culture Of Campus Sexual Assault… WATCH: Lady Gaga’s Powerful Performance… WINNERS…

U.S. Politics

CNN host backs Melissa Harris-Perry’s ‘scorching’ indictment of MSNBC: ‘She deserved better than this’

Melissa Harris-Perry (CNN/screen grab)

Melissa Harris-Perry (CNN/screen grab)


CNN media critic Brian Stelter came to the defense of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday, saying that the controversial weekend host “deserved better” than to be silently dumped by the network.

In an email posted last week, Harris-Perry explained that she had been absent from several weekend broadcasts after the network took her off the air in favor of election coverage. And she suggested that she would not host the show again until the network returned editorial control to her staff.

“I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” she wrote. “I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by [Andrew] Lack, [Phil] Griffin, or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.”

Over the weekend, multiple sources confirmed that MSNBC intended to part ways with Harris-Perry in the coming days. And on Sunday, Stelter said that Harris-Perry had told him in a text message that she was in severance talks with MSNBC.

“I’m a direct time slot competitor of hers so I have an interest in this,” Stelter noted. “And I know Harris-Perry is a polarizing figure. Some people are very happy she has been sidelined, but I think she deserved better than this.”

“Harris-Perry’s talk show was unique,” he continued. “Love it or hate it, she booked people who otherwise weren’t seen or heard on TV. In some ways, she symbolized the Obama era of MSNBC. But that era is ending.”

Stelter observed that Harris-Perry’s statement about her treatment at MSNBC was “scorching.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it in cable news,” he said. “And it has led to her exit… But by marginalizing her, the channel is taking a risk.”

As The Washington Post‘s Paul Farhi pointed out: “All of the changes carry a potential perception risk that MSNBC… is diminishing the contributions of its minority personalities.”

Watch the video below from CNN’s Reliable Sources, broadcast Feb. 28, 2016.

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump Approvingly Retweets Mussolini Quote, Refuses to Condemn KKK

Donald Trump Approvingly Retweets Mussolini Quote, Refuses to Condemn KKK

Image Credit: AP

Is Trump dumber than George W. Bush appeared to be? (ks)


The presidential campaign of Donald Trump took yet another disquieting turn this Sunday, as the Republican presidential front runner approvingly posted a Benito Mussolini quote to Twitter and refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan on national TV.

Early on Sunday morning, Trump retweeted a user named “ilduce2016” — a reference to the Italian dictator’s title — who had written “‘It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.’ — @realDonaldTrump #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.”

It later emerged “ilduce2016” is an automated bot set up by Gawker, which wrote they had registered the account “under the assumption that Trump would retweet just about anything, no matter how dubious or vile the source, as long as it sounded like praise for himself.”

On the Sunday edition of NBC News’ Meet the Press, Trump said he knew what he was doing and even praised the fascist’s word choice.

“Mussolini was Mussolini,” Trump said, reported the Hill. “It’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote. I know who said it, but what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else?”

“You want to be associated with a fascist?” host Chuck Todd responded.

“No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes,” Trump retorted.

In a separate appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Trump refused to condemn former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke or the KKK itself, saying he didn’t know enough about either to pass judgment. Duke has previously endorsed Trump.

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump said, reports CNN. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

Host Jake Tapper again asked Trump whether he would like to take the opportunity to disavow Duke and the KKK.

“I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about,” the candidate responded. “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”

“OK. I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here,” Tapper said.

Of course, Trump hasn’t innocently stumbled into the good will of racists. Thanks to his positions on immigration, Islam and race, Trump has earned numerous endorsements and praise from groups like the far-right American Freedom Party and the American Nazi Party.

In November, he infamously retweeted doctored statistics on black crime originating from a neo-Nazi account. A later study of his social media habits found Trump tends to retweet users who follow top white nationalist accounts or use hashtags like #WhiteGenocide.

According to Time, Trump knows very well who Duke is. In 2000, he condemned the former KKK official in a statement ending his presidential bid that year.

“The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani,” Trump said. “This is not company I wish to keep.”

Tom McKay