U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 12, 2015

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Week

1.Two police officers shot outside Ferguson’s police station after chief resigns
Two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri, police station early Thursday during a protest hours after embattled Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned. One of the officers was shot in the shoulder, the other in the face. Both were expected to survive, and an investigation into the shooting suspect is underway. Jackson was the latest of several officials, including city manager John Shaw, who have resigned since a scathing Justice Department report accusing city officials of unfairly targeting blacks with fines to raise money.

Source: The New York Times

2.AP sues for Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails
The Associated Press on Wednesday filed suit against the State Department demanding Hillary Clinton’s email records from her time as secretary of state, saying it was “in the public interest” to see what was in them. The lawsuit came a day after Clinton defended herself by saying she used her personal account for “convenience” to avoid using two accounts and two devices. The State Department says it will release Clinton’s work emails publicly after a months-long internal review.

Source: The Associated Press

3.Two other universities look into whether SAE frat members used racist chant
At least two new investigations are underway to determine whether a racist chant used by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma had been used by students in chapters at other schools. The president of the University of Texas at Austin saidWednesday that the school is checking into “rumors” that members of the SAE frat there used the same song, and the national fraternity office in Evanston, Illinois, said a similar investigation was taking place at least one other college.

Source: ABC News

4.Apple online stores suffer outage
Apple experienced a 12-hour outage at its iTunes and App stores on Wednesday. Frustrated customers from around the world flooded social media sites with reports of receiving error codes when they tried to access the Apple sites. “ALL of my Apple products won’t accept my password,” one user wrote. “Life today is going to suck.” Apple issued a statement apologizing for the outages, saying it was “working to make all of the services available to customers as soon as possible.”

Source: Tech Times, The Associated Press

5.Search continues for survivors after Florida Army helicopter crash
Military officials said Wednesday some human remains had been recovered on the shore near where an Army Blackhawk helicopter crashed during a training mission in Florida Tuesday night. Search and rescue crews, hampered by fog, were looking for survivors, but the seven Marines and four Army reservists who were on board were presumed dead. The identities of the Marines, who were based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and the Louisiana National Guard soldiers were not immediately released.

Source: Pensacola News Journal

6.Utah House approves gay-rights bill
Utah’s Republican-dominated state legislature passed a bill Wednesdaynight banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, but giving religious institutions and charities some leeway if they object to homosexuality. Both the Mormon church and gay-rights groups back the bill, which is seen as a potential model for other conservative states looking to shield gays and lesbians from housing and employment discrimination. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) is expected to sign the bill into law Thursday evening.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, The New York Times

7.Obama approves non-lethal military aid to Ukraine
President Obama on Wednesday approved $75 million in non-lethal aid to Ukraine as its military contends with pro-Russian separatist rebels in the eastern part of the country. The assistance will include small reconnaissance drones, radios, and military ambulances. In a separate move, Obama also has approved sending Ukraine 30 armored Humvees, and as many as 200 unarmored ones in a show of U.S. support for “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” an anonymous official said.

Source: Los Angeles Times

8.Iraq takes back Tikrit from ISIS
Iraqi forces seized control of the strategically important city of Tikrit from the Islamic State on Wednesday, although sporadic fighting continuedThursday in pockets still held by ISIS. If the Iraqi military and allied militias can hold onto the city it will mark a significant victory for 30,000 pro-government fighters involved in the offensive against ISIS, and a big step in the effort to reclaim Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

Source: Reuters, The Washington Post

9. Secret Service agents under investigation for crash at White House gate
The Obama administration is investigating reports that two Secret Service agents drove a government vehicle into White House security barriers following a night of drinking at a party last week. Officers on duty wanted to arrest the agents and give them sobriety tests, but were told by a supervisor to let them go home. The agents under investigation are Mark Connolly, the second-in-command on President Obama’s detail, and George Ogilvie, a senior supervisor in the Washington field office.

Source: The Washington Post

10.Bill Badger, hailed as hero for tackling Giffords shooter, dies at 78
Retired Army colonel Bill Badger, who helped tackle the gunman who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson four years ago, died Wednesday of pneumonia. He was 78. Badger was wounded before he got to the shooter, Jared Loughner, and helped hold him down. Six people were killed in the attack outside a grocery store while Giffords was meeting with constituents. Thirteen, including Badger and Giffords, were wounded. Giffords called Badger “a hero,” saying his “selfless, brave actions” saved lives.

Source: Arizona Daily Star

Gabrielle Giffords

Gun nuts meet their match: Why Gabby Giffords isn’t playing nice anymore

Gun nuts meet their match: Why Gabby Giffords isn't playing nice anymore
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords | (Credit: Reuters/Samantha Sais)


A few years back someone walked up to then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, and shot her in the head. The shooter, Jared Loughner, killed six and injured a dozen or so others. In 2012, another nut shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Illinois. Later that year, a shooter walked into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and murdered 20 children. These are only a few high-profile examples of the dozens of mass shootings that have taken place in the last several years.

After Newtown, President Obama and many members of Congress finally felt compelled to make the first serious push for gun control legislation in decades. Their demands were eventually whittled down to some modest measures, such as expanding background checks for gun buyers. But even that effort, pushed hard by then-former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and backed by vast majorities of the American people, failed to overcome a Republican Senate filibuster.

Oddly enough, it strains certain imaginations that the above sequence of events is something that people could get really, really angry about it. That masses of people, including members of Congress, movie-theater patrons, and children could get shot, and that members of Congress — mostly Republicans, with a handful of conservative Democrats — wouldn’t even accede a minimal piece of legislation shoring up the country’s porous background check laws. It’s horrifying and enraging, and those public figures who work to maintain or even loosen what we might generously called the “loopholed” status quo of American gun law should expect to be treated as accomplices to this farce.

As Giffords herself recovered, retired from Congress and became an ardent advocate for stricter background checks, she first tried to play nice. She implored members of both parties to work together to pass common-sense gun regulations, like those closing background check loopholes for private sales on the Internet and at gun shows. The advocacy commercials she and/or her husband appeared in were mostly to urge action, not to attack. As we know, that didn’t work very well.

So this cycle, Giffords’ super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is getting “mean.” That’s how Politico describes the group’s tactics this cycle.

Continue reading here…

Gov. Nathan Deal · Gun Advocates

Georgia Governor Signs ‘Unprecedented’ Gun Rights Bill

Gov. Nathan Deal, seated, signs House Bill 60 into law Wednesday in Ellijay, Ga. The gun law is a broad loosening of Georgia’s gun restrictions. Under the law, people with a license can carry a gun into bars, some government buildings and places of worship if religious leaders say it’s OK. 

I can’t believe the Governor of Georgia signed this incredibly dangerous gun “rights” bill.   What about the rights of potential victims of this madness?

The Huffington Post

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a sweeping gun rights bill on Wednesday.

House Bill 60, also known as the Safe Carry Protection Act, will allow licensed gun owners to carry their firearms into public places, including bars, nightclubs, schools, churches and government buildings.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

The National Rifle Association has praised the bill as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history” and called it a “historic victory for the Second Amendment.” Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control organization started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), fought todefeat the bill, calling it “the most extreme gun bill in America.”

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting who now works with the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety, called the bill “unprecedented.”

“The Stand Your Ground expansion is truly a new type of Stand Your Ground as we know it,” Goddard said of the measure, which some critics dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill. “To expand it in such a way to remove all carrying or possession offenses is really unprecedented.”

For more on Deal’s thoughts on the bill, go to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gabrielle Giffords · Mark Kelly

Gabrielle Giffords Honored With John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award

Finally, some  good news.

Not only does Gabrielle Giffords deserve the award for her fight against irresponsible gun laws but also because she fought her way back from a horrific battle for her life after being one of several victims shot at an outdoor town hall she was about to conduct.  Honorable mention goes to Gabby’s devoted husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly who has stood by her side and encouraged her all the way back from what appeared to be a very long rehabilitation.

The Huffington Post

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Sunday, asking the U.S. Congress to act more courageously on the issue of gun control.

“We all have courage inside,” Giffords, who herself survived being shot in 2011, said at the Kennedy Library in Boston. “I wish there was more courage in Congress. Sometimes it’s hard to express it.”

The remarks come just a few weeks after the U.S. Senate voted down a measure to expand background checks for gun buyers, a step favored by U.S. President Barack Obama and most Americans.

An online Reuters/Ipsos poll released in January showed that 86 percent of those surveyed favored expanded background checks of all gun buyers.

Giffords, a Democrat, was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire on a congressional outreach event in Tucson in January 2011, killing six people and wounding a dozen others. She resigned from Congress a year after the shooting to focus on her recovery.

Following the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people at an elementary school in December, Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, founded a lobby group aimed at curbing gun violence and challenging the political clout of the well-funded gun lobby.

Before the awards ceremony on Sunday, Giffords and Kelly visited victims of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing who are recovering at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

The award, named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Profiles in Courage,” was presented to Giffords by foundation president Caroline Kennedy. (Reporting by Aaron Pressman; Editing by Chris Reese)

Gun Background Checks

Kelly Ayotte’s Approval Rating Plunges After Vote Against Gun Background Checks

Kelly Ayotte Approval

I’d call this revelation an excellent example of just desserts

The Huffington Post

A new poll has New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte down a total of 15 points from her previous approval rating in a survey that followed her vote against requiring background checks for firearms purchases.

Ayotte’s plunge underscores the changing politics around gun control and gun safety. In years past, lawmakers worried that a vote for gun control would bring the anger of the National Rifle Association. In the new reality, votes against gun control also carry a political risk, as the Ayotte (R) poll indicates.

A full three-quarters of New Hampshire voters support such background checks, along with 56 percent of Republicans, according to Public Policy Polling. A WMUR Granite State Poll taken in January and February found that more than 9 in 10 state residents supported implementing background checks at gun shows.

It’s not entirely clear yet how opposition to background checks will play out at the polls, but there are signs Ayotte’s vote may have taken a toll.

In October, the last time that PPP surveyed voters about Ayotte, she had a 48-35 approval rating. She has now tumbled underwater, with 46 percent disapproving and 44 percent approving. The 11-point surge in disapproval threatens Ayotte’s 2016 reelection, when she could face popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte won her 2010 race by 23 points, but in a hypothetical matchup against Hassan trails 46-44.

Forty-five percent of independents in the state disapproved of Ayotte, up 13 points since October. Half of voters said her vote on background checks made them less inclined to vote for her, with only a quarter saying it made them more likely to support her.

Among the critical third of voters who described themselves as moderates, disapproval of Ayotte increased by 21 points, with two-thirds saying her vote against background checks made them less likely to vote for her. Only 13 percent said it made them more likely to back her, an overwhelming 5-1 margin.

Local coverage has not been friendly to Ayotte. Sunday’s Portsmouth Herald headlined its editorial: “If you want gun control, vote Ayotte out of office.”

“New Hampshire voters who care passionately about sensible gun legislation can contribute to the effort by defeating U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the only senator in New England to vote against the Toomey-Manchin bill. Ayotte justified her vote by parroting the NRA, saying the measure would ‘place unnecessary burdens on law-abiding gun owners and allow for potential overreach by the federal government into private gun sales.'”

The Concord Monitor was flooded with angry letters and ran a rough cartoon of her. The editorial page called it a “double abomination.” She was hit by a tough ad paid for by Gabby Giffords’ group — the kind of on-the-ground spending that is helping to alter the political dynamic.

Dean Debnam, president of PPP, sees it as trouble for Ayotte. “New Hampshire is a good bellwether for fallout from the gun vote,” he said. “There’s serious backlash from voters toward Kelly Ayotte for how she handled this issue.”

The PPP poll surveyed 933 New Hampshire voters using automated phone calls between April 19 and 21.


James Holmes

James Holmes offers guilty plea to avoid death penalty


USA Today

Attorneys for Denver-area theater shooting suspect James Holmes have offered to have him plead guilty and be jailed for life to avoid the death penalty, KUSA-TV is reporting.

The prosecution has not yet responded to the offer, which came in a court filing Wednesday.

“Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion,” the filing reads.

The defense team said the case could end Monday if the Arapahoe County district attorney accepts the deal. Prosecutors planned to announce Monday whether they would seek the death penalty.

Holmes, 25, is charged with first-degree murder for the July 20 rampage that killed 12 moviegoers and wounded nearly 60 others at the premiere of the latest Batman film at a multiplex in Aurora.

On March 12, a judge entered a not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf but said Holmes could enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity later.

Trial is set for Aug. 5.

KUSA, a Denver TV station owned by Gannett, USA TODAY’s parent company, notes that a similar plea deal was offered to Jared Loughner, the man charged in a Tuscon mass shooting. The federal government withdrew the death penalty after he pleaded guilty to killing six and wounding 13, including former U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords, in January 2011.

Loughner was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms and an additional 140 years.

Arizona authorities have just released crime reports from the case, which had been sealed by court order.

Gun Control · Gun Violence

Gun shop blocks Mark Kelly’s right to buy AR-15, citing political ‘intent’

Official NASA photo of Kelly

Mark Kelly is married to  former AZ Congress woman Gabby Giffords.  He is an accomplished man in his own right and he is a responsible gun owner.

Naval career        NASA career

The Raw Story

The owner of a gun shop in Tucson, Arizona on Monday refused to hand over an AR-15 military-style rifle that Mark Kelly purchased in order to demonstrate how easy it was to obtain assault weapons.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Diamondback Police Supply owner Doug MacKinlay said that he was blocking the former astronaut’s Second Amendment right because he questioned the political “intent” behind the purchase.

“While I support and respect Mark Kelly’s 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess, and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other then for his personal use,” MacKinlay wrote.

Kelly, who is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), said that he had purchased the rifle to show how easy it was to pass a background check. The effort was part of his push for more gun control in response to his wife’s shooting and other recent mass shootings.

A weapon similar to the Sig Sauer M400 was used last year to gun down 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut.

MacKinlay promised to refund all of Kelly’s money and raffle the weapon off to support the Arizona Tactical Officers Association.

Gabrielle Giffords' Progress · Gun Violence

Behind the Scenes with Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly: January 30th 2013

Gabby and Capt. Mark Kelly are the epitome of the term: power couple.  Not in the colloquial version of the term but in the literal interpretation.  This couple intends to have a voice in the gun control debate.  I personally support them and their Americans for Responsible Solutions effort 100%.


Evening News Wrap-up

An Emotional Call to Action on Gun Violence (TFC Evening Wrap-up)

What Gabby Said

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in the head two years ago this month in a shooting that also left six of her constituents dead, including a nine year-old girl. In the wake of the Newtown gun massacre, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group that “will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership.”

Today the Senate Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to begin formal work on a gun violence prevention bill in the next month, held a hearing that opened with a statement from Giffords. Giffords told the senators that “the time is now,” they “must act,” and must “be bold.”

Watch Giffords challenge senators to deal with America’s gun violence epidemic:

Giffords’ handwritten testimony:

BOTTOM LINE: Gabby Giffords is right. Americans are counting on our political leaders to summon the courage to take commonsense steps to address the gun violence epidemic that results in 33 Americans being murdered each and every day.

The Progress Report

The study the NRA’s top Washington lobbyist hopes you won’t actually look up.

Teenager who performed at the Inauguration last week was gunned down yesterday in Chicago.

Senator catches the NRA’s top Washington lobbyist in an epic flip-flop on background checks.

GOP senator: people need to arm themselves because GOP-forced budget cuts will mean fewer cops.

Missouri bill would force all first-graders to take NRA-sponsored gun class.

Communism, polygamy, and human cloning are more popular than NRA lobbyists’ position on gun violence.

Republican witness claims mothers need an AR-15 assault rifle to defend their children.

Meet the nine year-old girl who would likely still be alive today if high-capacity magazines were illegal.

Another shooting happened as the Senate held its hearing on gun violence.

Gun Violence

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Opening Statement (C-SPAN)

Gabby Gifford’s compelling statement in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on gun violence, today: