U.S. Politics

In Wake of Shootings, North Carolina Just Made It Easier for Police to Hide Camera Footage

In Wake of Shootings, North Carolina Just Made It Easier for Police to Hide Camera Footage

Image Credit: Getty Images


Pat McCrory is on a roll: In March, the Republican governor of North Carolina passed the country’s most controversial legislation, the widely-panned anti-transgender bill that mandates trans people use public bathrooms corresponding with their gender assigned at birth.

Now, McCrory and lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state legislature have made it easier for police to conceal police-captured camera footage from the public.

The new rules around police body cameras and dashboard cameras puts police chiefs and sheriffs in charge of deciding whether the public may access recorded videos, among other regulations. As he signed the legislation Monday, McCrory heralded the rules as a “necessary balance” between protecting law enforcement and maintaining transparency.

In Wake of Shootings, North Carolina Just Made It Easier for Police to Hide Camera Footage

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory | Source: Chuck Burton/AP

“We have been trying evaluate how we can deal with technology. How can it help us, and how can we work with it so it doesn’t also work against our police officers and public safety officials?” McCrory said in a press conference, according to WRAL-TV report.

In the wake of police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, North Carolina’s move has angered the civil rights community. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, last week, were filmed on bystander cell phone video. Sterling’s death may have also been captured on police body cameras, which reportedly became dislodged during the scuffle.

North Carolina’s law now treats all video — those captured through body devices, dashboards and other public surveillance methods — as the same. Previously, the law made only body camera footage a part of an officer’s personnel record, which was nearly impossible for the public to access through a request via the Freedom of Information Act. With these new reforms, all police-related videos will be more difficult to access.

WRAL-TV further explains the new law:

Viewing a police video will be restricted to only those members of the public who are captured in the video, and then only with the police chief’s or sheriff’s agreement. The citizen and his or her attorney or other representative could view it but could not copy or photograph it. The law enforcement agency and the local district attorney would also have access to the video.

A state judge can allow other parties to view the video, as long as the footage is not considered highly personal or does not present a risk to public safety, the new law states. With body cameras being used as a tool to inspire trust between police and citizens. American Civil Liberties Union has called BS on the governor’s claims that the bill does not hurt transparency and accountability for law enforcement agencies.

“People who are filmed by police body cameras should not have to spend time and money to go to court in order to see that footage,” Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement released Monday. “These barriers are significant and we expect them to drastically reduce any potential this technology had to make law enforcement more accountable to community members.”

In Wake of Shootings, North Carolina Just Made It Easier for Police to Hide Camera Footage

Protesters are pictured in St. Paul, Minnesota, following the police shooting death of Philando Castile | Source: Jim Mone/AP

The existence of police-captured video has been a sticking point in a number of police shooting cases in the last several years. In Minnesota, local Black Lives Matter activists sought police-captured video that they believed shows Jamar Clark was handcuffed and posed no threat to the officers who shot him last November. State and federal prosecutors have declined to prosecute the officers.

Police in Chicago withheld video of the officer-involved shooting death of Laquan McDonald for more than a year, while officers claimed the black teenager charged them with a knife in October 2014. More than a year later, a judge ordered the release of video, which showed McDonald was walking away from police when an officer fired 16 shots at him, prompting local authorities to charge the officer who opened fire.

After signing the legislation, McCrory struck a tone of hopefulness over the nationwide reactions to Castile and Sterling’s deaths: “Sadly, our country and state have been through these types of situations before. We’ve learned from them, we’ve recovered from them and we’ve united after them.”

By Aaron Morrison

U.S. Politics

How A Federal Judge Just Helped Republicans In A Key Swing State

How A Federal Judge Just Helped Republicans In A Key Swing State

Featured image via Flickr


This judge just put his thumb on the scales for the presidential election.

Republicans were just given a leg up over Democrats in this fall’s presidential election in the battleground state of North Carolina, and they have a judge put in place by George W. Bush to thank for it.

Federal judge Thomas D. Schroeder decided in favor of Republican legislators in court on Monday, letting a controversial voter ID law stay in place despite strong objections from civil rights groups.

Research on Voter ID laws have shown that these laws are often a reliable way for Republican conservatives to cut down on voters that often vote for Democrats, especially minorities and young voters.

The judge, Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, wrote near the end of his 485-page opinion that “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

North Carolina’s voter identification law requires people to display one of six credentials, such as a driver’s license or passport, before casting a ballot. Those who cannot may complete a “reasonable impediment declaration” and cast a provisional ballot.

Schroeder was officially put in place on January 8, 2008, at the beginning of George W. Bush’s last year in office.

The North Carolina law also banned same-day registration, cut down on the amount of days available for early voting, and stops 16 and 17-year-olds from preregistering to vote.

An expert testified at the trial that the law was designed in a way to put extra burden on black and Latino voters. Republican legislators and the state’s GOP governor Pat McCrory deny the claim.

In 2012, a Republican Pennsylvania State House leader bragged that that state’s voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” (he didn’t), while recently a Republican congressman from Wisconsin said voter ID would make the state – which has recently voted for Democrats – competitive in the fall for Republicans.

President Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by 0.32% then lost it in 2012 by 2.04%. Polling in March showed the race in North Carolina effectively a toss-up between the Democratic and Republican presidential front runners.

Author: Oliver Willis

U.S. Politics

Pearl Jam Cancels N Carolina Concert In Protest Of ‘Despicable’ Anti-LGBT Law


Greg Allen


The law has been criticized by businesses and Bruce Springsteen also canceled a concert that was scheduled to take place in the state.

Pearl Jam assured its fans that they would receive a full refund and encouraged them to sign a petition to repeal the law.

Read the band’s full statement:

It is with deep consideration and much regret that we must cancel the Raleigh show in North Carolina on April 20th.This will be upsetting to those who have tickets and you can be assured that we are equally frustrated by the situation.

The HB2 law that was recently passed is a despicable piece of legislation that encourages discrimination against an entire group of American citizens. The practical implications are expansive and its negative impact upon basic human rights is profound. We want America to be a place where no one can be turned away from a business because of who they love or fired from their job for who they are.

It is for this reason that we must take a stand against prejudice, along with other artists and businesses, and join those in North Carolina who are working to oppose HB2 and repair what is currently unacceptable.

We have communicated with local groups and will be providing them with funds to help facilitate progress on this issue.

In the meantime we will be watching with hope and waiting in line for a time when we can return.

Perhaps even celebrate.

With immense gratitude for your understanding,

Pearl Jam

U.S. Politics

NBC’s Chuck Todd Destroys Pat McCrory’s Defense Of North Carolina Anti-LGBT Law



Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) went on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday to defend the sweeping anti-LGBT law he signed last month. It did not go well for him.

After Charlotte passed an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, similar to longstanding laws in 18 states and hundreds of localities, the North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state legislature rushed through HB2, a law that blocked all local non-discrimination laws in the state, required transgender citizens to use public agency bathrooms corresponding with “biological sex” as “is stated on a person’s birth certificate,” and pre-empting local laws governing employee rights.

Over the nearly 10-minute interview host Chuck Todd hammered at McCrory’s widely-debunked talking points.

Todd began by highlighting how much the law has already hurt the Tar Heel state economically, noting that 160 companies have called for the law’s repeal. “Bloomberg, Capital One, United Airlines, Williams-Sonoma — that’s just on Friday,” he observed, adding that the law has cost state that at least $39.7 million in lost revenue already. He asked McCrory if he has any regrets about signing the law.

McCrory responded that he would “always call out government overreach,” like Charlotte’s law, blaming “the left” for passing a mandate on “every private sector employer” in the city. He then boasted that while the business community has criticized him, people at “an African Americanbuffet restaurant” in the small city of Hamlet, NC had thanked him protecting them.

Watch the video:

After McCrory said he opposes a statewide law protecting gay and lesbian North Carolinians from employment discrimination because, “I’m not the private sector’s HR director,” Todd noted that similar arguments were made by Barry Goldwater and others to try to defeat the 1964 Civil Rights Act. McCrory dismissed gay and lesbian equality as an “extremely new social norm that has come to our nation,” that requires balancing with privacy.

Todd then pressed McCrory on question of access to bathrooms. “Do you want somebody who identifies as a woman, born on their birth certificate as a man, may look like a woman, going into a men’s bathroom? Is that fair to them?”

McCrory responded that 27 to 29 states “also don’t have this type of mandate on private business” and said that while he did not meet with any transgender people before signing the law, he has “had very positive conversations” with some before and since. He then blasted the Human Rights Campaign (which he called “a very powerful group called the Human Relations… Human Rights Council”) for being “more powerful than the NRA” and for putting too much pressure on North Carolina “instead of having good dialogue.”

Finally, McCrory attacked Hollywood for opposing the bill, arguing that “the new Batman and Robin movie is playing in China, which has anti-gay, terrible, terrible human rights violations.”


U.S. Politics

N.C.’s Sweeping Anti-Gay Law Goes Way Beyond Targeting LGBTs


AP Photo / Emery P. Dalesio


While North Carolina never had a clear anti-discrimination law similar to those in other states, plaintiffs had been able to use a legislative declaration passed in 1977 to file lawsuits against their former employers regarding discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap.

The new law amends the statute by declaring that it “does not create, and shall not be construed to create or support, a statutory or common law private right of action, and no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.”

Lawyers say that this new language eliminates employees’ ability to use state law to file discrimination suits, leaving them only able to use federal law to sue former employers.

“Based on the plain language of the statute,” Kathryn Sabbeth, a law professor at the university of North Carolina told TPM, “this language does appear to take away a private right of action whose existence has been settled law for decades.”

Carolyn Wheeler, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who works with employment discrimination cases, described the change as “extraordinary.”

“That in some ways seems even more shocking than the stuff they were specifically debating. It’s more far-reaching,” she said of the provision that eliminates employees ability to file a discrimination lawsuit under state law.

Republican state lawmakers have brushed off concerns that the new bill eliminates an avenue for fired employees to seek legal recourse.

State Rep. Dan Bishop, one of the bill’s sponsors, called the change “an exceedingly minor procedural difference,” according to Charlotte television station WBTV.

He acknowledged to WBTV that the new law will eliminate people’s ability to file workplace discrimination lawsuits on the state level, but noted that individuals can still use federal law to file a suit.

“You’re eliminating the state cause of action, but who cares if you get the exact same result?” he said, according to WBTV.

“The remedies that are available under federal law are far more robust under federal law, as things stand anyway. So, there’s no harm,” Bishop told WRAL.

And during a committee hearing on the bill, Republican state Sen. Buck Newton said that lawmakers did not intentionally change individuals’ right to sue.

“Our intent was to keep the status quo and not create new right of action,” he said, according to the News & Observer. “It doesn’t change anything currently in existing law that relates to the ability to bring a cause of action.”

But losing a state right to sue is significant, lawyers and advocates said.

Geraldine Sumter, an attorney who works with employment discrimination issues in Charlotte, told TPM that losing the ability to sue under state law will be an inconvenience to those looking to file a claim.

Under state law, the statute of limitations for filing a claim is three years, whereas individuals only have 180 days to file a claim at the federal level with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Sumter said. And after the EEOC gives an individual the go-ahead to sue the employer, they only have 90 days to file a lawsuit, according to Sumter.

Rowe agreed that the difference in the statutes of limitations could have an impact.

“Any time you reduce the statute of limitations on a claim from three years to basically six months, you’re going to cut some people out of their ability to file a claim,” he told TPM.

Both Sumter and Rowe pointed out that there are fewer federal district courts in the state, which may require individuals to travel outside of the county in which they reside to go to court. And Sumter said that the filing fee in federal court is twice as much as the fee in state court.

Rowe also emphasized how quickly lawmakers decided to eliminate the ability for employees to file lawsuits under state law.

“There’s a process problem here about changing something that’s been the law for 30 years in North Carolina to protect people from discrimination in their state court and changing it in such a manner where there’s little notice about it, little opportunity for discussion or debate or even to understand what the ramifications may be,” he said.


U.S. Politics

Students Are Being Rejected From The Polls Because Of North Carolina’s Voter ID Law



North Carolina’s controversial voter identification law is being used for the first time in Tuesday’s primary, and registered voters are experiencing the consequences of the voter suppression measure.

About 218,000 North Carolinians, roughly five percent of registered voters, do not have an acceptable form of government-issued ID that is now required under state law to cast a ballot.

Early voting offered a glimpse of the problems that will arise on Tuesday — during the past ten days of early voting, many college students were blocked from the polls. North Carolina’s WRAL reported that 864 people across the state had cast provisional early ballots because they did not have acceptable forms of ID, and four of the five counties with the highest concentrations of provisional ballots from voters without ID were in places with college campuses.

Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, told ThinkProgress that the voter protection hotline is receiving many calls, “disproportionately from young people and students,” who are being told they do not have acceptable ID, so they have to “go through the maze of filling out forms” and provisional ballots. Those ballots run the risk of being challenged and not being counted.

“Because this is so much affecting young people, we’re teaching them the wrong lesson about democracy and about voting,” Hall said. “We’re really pushing them away from being involved in the political process, and that’s a bad message, but it is the message that’s coming across.”

Under current North Carolina law, people who have registered to vote within 90 days of Election Day can use an out-of-state ID to vote – an important provision for students who may attend school away from their home state. But those who registered more than 90 days before Election Day and do not have a North Carolina ID are being forced to cast provisional ballots.

University of North Carolina sophomore Isatta Feika had to cast a provisional ballot because of her out-of-state ID. She told WRAL she likely won’t vote in North Carolina again after experiencing the hassles involving voting without an ID in North Carolina. “I’m probably just going to register in Georgia and absentee vote there,” she said.

Elderly voters told the Nation’s Ari Berman how the voter ID law imposes similar barriers to voting to what they experienced in the Jim Crow South. Rosanell Eaton, a 94-year-old voter, had to recite the Preamble to Constitution to vote in North Carolina in the 1940s. Last year, she had to make 11 trips to state agencies to comply with the voter ID law.

”We had 100 years of pushing away people from the polls,” Hall said about North Carolina. “It was really only in the early 21st century, after 2000, that our participation started to come up, and now we’re going right back to this message of ‘elections are not for you.’”

Like in South Carolina, voters without ID can cast a provisional ballot if they have a “reasonable impediment” to getting photo ID, including lack of proper documents, work schedule, or family obligations. But unlike South Carolina, the impediments voters can list are limited and will not cover any voter without ID. Early voting data has shown that while black voters make up 22 percent of the state’s voting population, they account for 26 percent of those who said they had a reasonable impediment for not having an acceptable ID.

Some of the state’s restrictive voting measures are not in place on Tuesday, but will go into effect before November’s general election. North Carolina voters are permitted to vote outside their normal precinct on Tuesday because of a court injunction, but this stipulation will not be in place in November because it was eliminated by Republican-engineered legislation. Hall noted that it is likely to disenfranchise many voters in November — even this year, voters are being rejected from voting at other precincts because of confusion by poll workers.

After this Election Day, same day registration will also be eliminated in North Carolina. Hall said he saw “thousands of voters in the early voting period whose right to vote was protected through the use of same day registration, so when that does get repealed, it will have a big impact.”

The state’s voter ID law, part of a sweeping election reform law passed in 2013, is still being challenged in both federal and state court. Also pending in federal court are challenges to new laws that restrict the early voting period, eliminate pre-registration of teenagers before they turn 18 and same-day registration during early voting, and block people from voting outside their assigned precincts.

An appeal to that lawsuit could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.


U.S. Politics

Impeach Hillary Clinton Immediately If She’s Elected, North Carolina Republicans Say



Two-thirds of North Carolina Republican voters would support immediately impeaching Hillary Clinton if she’s elected president, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Conducted by Public Policy Polling, the survey drew from the responses of 425 self-identified Republicans likely to vote in the 2016 presidential primary. Along with various questions about the Republican candidates, it asked voters if they would either “support or oppose impeaching [Clinton] the day she takes office.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they would support immediate impeachment for Clinton, while only 24 percent said they would oppose it. Ten percent said they were not sure, according to the poll.

Impeachment is not the removal of a president from office — rather, it’s the formal process of accusing a public official of unlawful activity, which may or may not lead to removal from office.

Tuesday’s poll did not ask its Republican respondents why they would support impeachment for Clinton, though it likely has something to do her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

Though the Justice Department has not found evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, prominent Republican politicians have been frequently accusing her of criminality. Presidential candidate Donald Trump called her actions “criminal”; presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Clinton was “literally one email away from going to jail.”

Republicans in Congress have also been using Clinton’s emails to try and prove that she mishandled the events leading up to and following the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Those Republicans have undertaken eight separate Congressional investigationsinto Clinton for that purpose. None have found substantive evidence to warrant an official accusation of wrongdoing by the Department of Justice.

The idea that Clinton should be impeached on her first day of office is not new. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) recently suggested Clinton should be impeached for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Unfortunately for Brooks and the majority of North Carolina Republicans, however, impeachment does not seem likely. Even if Clinton was found to have broken the law, sitting presidents can not be impeached for alleged crimes that occurred before they were elected.


U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 14, 2015

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

 The Week

1.President Obama denounces killings of North Carolina Muslim students
President Barack Obama condemned the murders of three Muslim students earlier this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said in a statement on Friday. “We are all one American family.” Obama’s remarks on the killings come as federal investigators begin inquiries into whether or not the murders were a hate crime. Craig Stephen Hicks, who has been charged with the killings, had reportedly engaged in many parking space disputes with other residents of the Chapel Hill apartment complex where he and the students lived. But prominent Muslim groups have disputed that characterization of events, saying the murders were a hate crime and should be investigated as such.

Source: The New York Times

2.Argentine president charged for alleged cover-up of 1994 bombing
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina was charged on Friday with allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita brought the charges, resuming the investigation that had been headed by Alberto Nisman, who died on Jan. 18 under suspicious circumstances and who had drafted a warrant for Kirchner’s arrest just four days before his death.

Source: BloombergBusiness

3.Fighting in Ukraine intensifies ahead of agreed-upon cease-fire
Fighting around rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine intensified on Friday, despite a cease-fire plan that is intended to end hostilities over the weekend. Both sides blamed the other for at least five civilian deaths in separate shelling attacks near Luhansk and Donetsk. The cease-fire is scheduled to begin on Sunday, at which point heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from the frontline in eastern Ukraine. The deals were signed early on Thursday after about 15 hours of talks involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande.

Source: Reuters

4.Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announces resignation
One month after being sworn in for a fourth term, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) officially announced his resignation on Friday amid an ethics scandal. Kitzhaber and his private-consultant fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, are under criminal investigation amid suspicion Hayes used their relationship for the benefit of her business. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will succeed Kitzhaber, whose resignation is effective Wednesday.

Source: The Oregonian

5.Arkansas legislature passes bill blocking anti-discrimination laws against LGBT people
On Friday, the Arkansas legislature voted in favor of a bill preventing cities and counties from passing laws which would criminalize LGBT discrimination in housing, job, and business situations. The Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of the bill, which will be sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). Proponents of the bill said it would “create consistent policies” for employment laws across the state, but detractors called it a “proactive act of discrimination.”

Source: BuzzFeed News

6.South Sudan calls off elections as cabinet members try to extend presidential term
South Sudan’s June elections have reportedly been called off, and the country’s cabinet is now planning to request that parliament approve an extension of President Salva Kiir. An extension of the presidency would also extend the terms of parliament members; government spokesman Michael Makuei said he is confident the proposal would pass. The cabinet says an extension is necessary in the world’s newest nation because of ongoing fighting between supporters of Kiir, and his former vice president Riek Machar.

Source: Reuters

7.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf puts moratorium on state death penalty
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) put a moratorium on the state death penalty on Friday. The moratorium will be in effect until the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment publishes its report on the state’s death penalty policy. The moratorium “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes,” Wolf said, but rather is “based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings.” Pennsylvania has 186 inmates on death row, and the moratorium will delay the execution of Terrance Williams, who was convicted of a 1984 murder and had been scheduled to receive the death penalty on March 4.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

8.Ray Rice apologizes for domestic violence incident, thanks Baltimore
In a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Friday, Ray Rice apologized for his “horrible mistake,” adding that “there is no excuse for domestic violence.” Rice thanked the city of Baltimore and the Ravens, saying he’ll “always be proud” to have been a member of the team. Sources told the paper that Rice, who found his $35 million contract with the Ravens terminated after a graphic video surfaced in 2014 showing him punching his then-fiancee Janay in an elevator, will move back to his home state of New York and try to reboot his football career.

Source: The Baltimore Sun

9. Northeast braces for another frigid, snowy winter storm
A fourth winter storm in as many weeks is expected to hit the Northeaston Saturday and into Sunday. Twenty-six states are under winter weather warnings; the system could bring some of the coldest air in the past 20 years, along with near-hurricane-force winds. Bill Simpson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said people should expect a “monster storm.”

Source: NBC News

10.Fifty Shades of Grey on track to make more than $75 million in opening weekend
Based on current estimations, the big-screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey is on track for a whopping $75 million to $85 million dollar opening weekend, smashing the record previously set by Valentine’s Day in 2010. The film is on track to gross another $75 million internationally.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2015

Johannes Simon

The Week

1.Russia, Ukraine to meet this week for peace talks in Minsk
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany plan to meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “They expect that their efforts during the Minsk meeting will lead to the swift and unconditional cessation of fire by both sides,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said in a statement. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists has intensified since the failure last year of a delicate cease fire. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande traveled to Russia to discuss a last-ditch peace plan.

Source: BBC

2.Brian Williams to take leave from NBC News
NBC News anchor Brian Williams said Saturday he would take a temporary leave from the network amid an internal investigation into his account of a 2003 helicopter mission in Iraq. “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” he said in a statement. Williams is under investigation for allegedly embellishing a story about an attack on a helicopter convoy he was part of at the outset of the Iraq war.

Source: USA Today

3.North Korea test-fires short-range missiles
North Korea on Sunday fired five short-range missiles into the sea, according to the South Korean government. Fired near the coastal town of Wonsan, the missiles traveled about 125 miles before crashing into the water. The second such test this year, the launch dims the hopes of the two nations resuming peace talks that stalled last year.

Source: The New York Times

4.Legendary college hoops coach Dean Smith dead at 83
Dean Smith, the longtime University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, died on Saturday at the age of 83. “We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to help make the world a better place to live in,” current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement. Smith coached North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, leading the team to national titles in 1982 and 1993. He retired with 879 victories, the most in college basketball history at the time.

Source: ESPN

5.Israeli PM vows to block Iranian nuclear deal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would do everything possible to scuttle “bad and dangerous” nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. “We will do everything to thwart a bad and dangerous deal that will cast a dark cloud on the future of the state of Israel and its security,” he said in a weekly cabinet meeting. The remarks come amid a backlash over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which some Democrats and the White House believe could undermine the ongoing nuclear talks.

Source: CBS

6.Maryland court to hear appeal in ‘Serial’ murder case
In a case popularized by the podcast Serial, Adnan Syed will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed its decision on Friday, and Syed’s lawyers can now move forward with the appeals process, which can include the presentation of new evidence. A former classmate who did not testify at the original trial, Asia McClain, says she can provide an alibi for Syed in the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee.

Source: The Washington Post

7.New England braces for more snow
A slow-moving winter storm could dump as much as two feet of snow on parts of New England over the next two days. The region is already reeling from two massive storms that left behind record snow totals. In Boston, 49 inches of snow fell over a 14-day period, smashing the previous two-week record of 40.2 inches.

Source: The Boston Globe

8.Iran’s top cleric endorses developing nuclear agreement
Iran’s religious leader on Sunday offered his support for a potential nuclear deal with the U.S. in which both sides give ground. “I would go along with any agreement that could be made,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement, adding that “negotiations mean reaching a common point.” The two sides have until late March to establish the basic framework of a nuclear agreement.

Source: Reuters

9. Teen arrested in connection with weekend mall shooting
Police on Sunday arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a weekend shooting at a mall outside Pittsburgh that injured three people, two of them critically. Police said the suspect, Tarod Thornhill, is believed to have been targeting one person when he opened fire Saturday night in the Monroeville Mall. Thornhill is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment.

Source: NBC

10.The Grammy Awards ceremony is tonight
The 57th annual Grammy Awards will be held Sunday night in Los Angeles. Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams, all of whom are up for Album of the Year, lead the pack with six nominations each.

Source: Billboard

U.S. Politics

For Next AG, Obama Picks a Quiet Fighter With a Heavy Punch

Joshua Lott | Reuters

More on President Obama’s Attorney General nominee…

The Daily Beast

Daughter of a librarian, sister to a SEAL. Why colleagues say America can’t ask for better than Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to succeed Eric Holder.

The woman tapped to become the new attorney general is the younger sister of a Navy SEAL from those days before fame and book deals, when America’s foremost warriors were known only as anonymous “quiet professionals.”

Loretta Lynch has taken much the same quietly professional approach as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Her father can attest to that, having seen her in action in a Brooklyn courtroom. He speaks of her much as he might of his elder son, the SEAL.

“Low-key, soft voice, but hard-punching attorney,” says Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a fourth-generation Baptist minister from North Carolina. “She was never a show person but boy she did hit hard.”

Her mother, Lorine Lynch, started life as a farmhand. Loretta Lynch recalled aloud at the swearing-in ceremony for her first stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999 that she once asked her mother why she had labored in the fields.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” her mother had told her.

The mother had left the fields to become a librarian and her love of literature passed on to her three children. Neighbors in Durham would marvel at the stacks of books little Loretta and her brothers would carry from the public library just down the street.

“Your books are taller than you are!” the father remembers people exclaiming.

Loretta’s uncommon brightness led to an early encounter with what some took to be racism when she took a standardized test at her largely white public school.

“She scored so high they said, ‘This is wrong, you have to retake it,’” the father recalls. “She retook it and scored higher the second time.”

When Loretta was not yet in high school, the family took a trip to Boston and her parents pointed across the Charles River to Harvard University. The father recalls, “She said, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’”

Another encounter with apparent racism came when she finished at the very top of her class at Durham high school. The authorities suddenly decided there had to be three valedictorians, which resulted in one of them being white. She did indeed go to Harvard, where she majored in English and delighted in reading Chaucer in Old English. She proceeded on to Harvard Law School.

From there, she joined a big Wall Street law firm and earned a six-figure salary. Her father figured that she was set, even if she more than once arrived to conduct a disposition only for the opposing lawyers to assume she must be the court stenographer.

Then she announced she was taking a 75 percent pay cut to become an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. She thereby declared herself less interested in making money than in making a difference.

The father came up from North Carolina to see her prosecute a Chinese gang. He returned when she took on the Abner Louima case, which was as momentous in 1999 as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson is now. Louima was a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by a cop with a wood stick in a precinct bathroom. Four other cops were also arrested in connection with the incident

“Don’t let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up,” Lynch told the jury during her closing argument that day in 1999.

The courtroom was completely silent when she was done.

“You could hear a pin drop,” the father recalls. “It was remarkable.”

He adds, “I wouldn’t want her prosecuting me.”

Soon afterward, President Clinton appointed her the U.S. attorney for the district, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. She was replaced by President Bush in mid-2001 and she returned to private practice.

In 2010, President Obama then brought her back for a second stint. She continually impressed her staff with her ability to quickly grasp the essentials of a case as her office wrangled multibillion-dollar settlements from various errant banks while prosecuting a wide range of terrorists, gangsters, and cybercriminals.

In recent weeks, she has overseen cases involving a dual Kazakh-Israeli citizen charged with money laundering, a man arrested for sexually abusing three girls at an Army base, an attorney convicted of a $5 million fraud, mobsters nabbed for a decade-old murder, a banker who faked his own death, a union delegate sentenced for extorting Christmastime tribute, a doctor collared for illegal distribution of Oxycodone, a scamster who engineered an Alaskan gold-mine investment scheme, another scamster charged with facilitating a $6 million food-stamp fraud, five 7-Eleven franchisees who victimized immigrant employees, a fugitive who got in a shootout with U.S. Marshals, a pharmacist charged with smuggling counterfeit medicines via a Costa Rican Internet distributor, a drug dealer convicted of two contract murders, six corporate executives indicted for orchestrating a $500 million offshore fraud, a man convicted of using stolen Social Security numbers to file thousands of false tax returns, and a civil dispute over a dinosaur fossil

She has also pressed ahead with the prosecution of Rep. Michael Grimm, who was reelected this week despite being under indictment for lying under oath and allegedly cooking the books of a now-shuttered health-food restaurant. Grimm is a Republican and he charged during the campaign that the prosecution was politically motivated. That suggestion turns absurd when you consider the long list of corrupt Democrat politicians Lynch has sent to prison.

And nobody can rightly say that she seeks headlines in the way of too many other prosecutors. Her single and singular goal in every case is to pursue justice as determined by the law.

“I think we should want an attorney general who doesn’t seek the limelight, but seeks justice,” says Ken Thompson, who prosecuted the Louima case with her and has gone on to become the Brooklyn district attorney.

Thompson knows her life story and goes on to say, “What she represents is the American dream.”

He believes she would serve as an inspiration and a role model to young people who are beginning their own struggle toward that dream. He described her as a super-smart, fiercely focused, unshakably honest, and supremely fair-minded champion who would make an outstanding attorney general.

“We can’t as a country ask for more than Loretta Lynch,” Thompson says.

According to numerous reports, the departing attorney general, Eric Holder, agreed. He had already named her the head of his advisory council. And he was said to be urging Obama to appoint her as his successor.

On Friday, her 82-year-old father was down in North Carolina, remembering that his daughter sneezed in his face when he was carrying her home from the hospital after she was born. She had since been only a delight.

“Highly inquisitive, highly playful, always cheerful,” he recalls. “She would play with anything. She would make a toy out of anything.”

The father had known tragedy with the death of his son, the former SEAL, when he was just 51. The father now seemed about to know triumph with the nomination of the family’s other quiet professional, 55-year-old Loretta Lynch, as the new attorney general.

In this age of selfies, the president had chosen someone who never seeks the spotlight and lets her work speak for itself. The father said Friday night that he would wait until he actually sees it happen at the official ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Saturday.

“I would be proud, but my late mother said, ‘Don’t count your eggs, son, until they hatch,” he said. “When I see Mr. Obama and my daughter standing beside him, I’ll say something is about to happen.”

H/t: DB