U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: May 13, 2015

AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek


1.Six die in Philadelphia Amtrak derailment
At least six people were killed Tuesday night when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia. Dozens more were injured, at least six of them critically. The impact ripped passenger cars apart and mangled the engine. “It’s an absolute disastrous mess,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said. “I’ve never seen anything so devastating.” The train was en route from Washington, D.C., to New York, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members.

Source: The Washington Post, CNN

2.Democrats block debate on fast-track trade bill
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill that would give President Obama authority to fast-track a major trade agreement with Asia. The Senate voted 52-45 to begin debate, falling short of the 60 votes needed to break the Democrats’ filibuster. Democrats who oppose the bill want provisions added to protect American workers. Obama says he needs the fast-track authority to get trading partners to make concessions without fearing Congress will block the deal.

Source: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

3.Death toll rises from Nepal quake
The death toll from the latest earthquake in Nepal rose to more than 50 in Nepal and India on Tuesday. The 7.3-magnitude temblor was the strongest aftershock yet since the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people. A U.S. Marine helicopter that was already in the Himalayan nation conducting humanitarian and disaster relief missions went missing on Tuesday about 45 miles east of the capital of Kathmandu with six American Marines and two Nepali soldiers on board.

Source: The Washington Post

4.Virginia dean sues Rolling Stone over rape article
University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over a now-discredited article about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house. Eramo accused the magazine and the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, of defaming her by portraying her as the “chief villain.” The article made Eramo’s response to the alleged crime appear inadequate. The lawsuit asks for $7.5 million and calls the story a “monumental hoax.” A Columbia University review found the story “deeply flawed,” and Rolling Stone retracted it.

Source: Los Angeles Times

5.No charges against Wisconsin officer who killed unarmed teen
The Madison, Wisconsin, police officer who killed an unarmed biracial teenager will not face criminal charges, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday. “I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force,” Ozanne said. In March, officer Matt Kenny fatally shot 19-year-old Tony Robinson after responding to a disturbance call. The shooting set off peaceful protests similar to those in other cities over deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police.

Source: The Guardian

6.Humanitarian truce begins in Yemen after last-minute airstrikes and shelling
A five-day humanitarian truce started in Yemen on Tuesday. In the hours before the cease-fire, Saudi-led airstrikes hit military targets in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa, and in the port city of Aden. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels shelled areas along the border with Saudi Arabia. Iran sent a cargo ship to Yemen, prompting the U.S. to warn against “provocative actions.” The truce appeared to be holding on Wednesday despite reports of violations on both sides.

Source: Reuters

7.Navy plans policies to improve quality of life, including more maternity leave
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected on Wednesday to announce policy changes intended to improve quality of life and careers for sailors and Marines. The changes will include doubling paid maternity leave to 12 weeks, easing body fat restrictions, increasing career flexibility, updating the co-location policy for dual military couples, and bolstering recruitment of women to 25 percent, up from 18 percent for the Navy and 5 percent for the Marines.

Source: Navy Times

8.North Korean military chief reportedly executed for falling asleep
North Korea has executed its own defense chief on treason charges, South Korean media reported on Wednesday. The military leader, Hyon Yong Chol, reportedly was accused of showing disrespect to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by dozing off at a military event and failing to carry out unspecified instructions. He was allegedly executed by firing squad in front of hundreds of people at a Pyongyang military school. Kim has reportedly ordered the executions of at least 15 high-ranking officials this year.

Source: Reuters, The Washington Post

9. Gunmen kill 43 minority Ismaili Muslims in Pakistan
Gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 43 people on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, early Wednesday. The passengers were members of the Ismaili sect of Shiite Islam making a daily commute from an Ismaili residential complex to other parts of the southern port city. At least six people took part in the attack, some of them boarding the bus and opening fire. All of the gunmen escaped, police said. Sunni extremists in a Taliban splinter group called Jundullah claimed responsibility for the killings.

Source: The New York Times

10.Raul Castro says Cuba ready to exchange ambassadors with U.S.
Cuban President Raul Castro said Tuesday that his country was ready to exchange diplomats with the U.S. as soon as it was removed from Washington’s list of state terrorism sponsors. President Obama announced last month that he intended to remove the communist Caribbean island nation from the list. The formal move is expected this month under Obama’s push to resume normal relations with the former Cold War rival. “This sort of unjust accusation is about to be lifted,” Castro said, “and we’ll be able to name ambassadors.”

Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to now today: April 19, 2015

Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The Week

1.Hundreds of migrants feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck 
An estimated 500 to 700 people went missing on Sunday after a boat ferrying migrants to Italy capsized north of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. The 65-foot-long fishing boat sent a distress call overnight, but when another vessel approached the migrants huddled to the far side of the ship, causing it to capsize, according to the Italian Coast Guard. Close to 20 ships raced to rescue survivors, pulling 28 people from the water so far. Roughly 900 people are believed to have died this year trying to make the crossing.

Source: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

2.FBI admits to exaggerating forensic hair evidence for two decades
Almost every examiner in the FBI’s hair analysis unit repeatedly overhyped evidence to aid prosecutors over a two-decade period ending in 2000, according to The Washington Post. The finding comes from an ongoing review of cases conducted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project in conjunction with the federal government. Per the review, 26 of 28 forensic hair analysts overstated evidence in 95 percent of the 268 trials examined so far. The FBI and Justice Department acknowledged the errors, saying in a statement they were “committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance.”

Source: The Washington Post

3.Republican presidential hopefuls woo New Hampshire voters
A slew of declared and potential Republican presidential candidates trekked to New Hampshire this weekend for the two-day Republican Leadership Summit. Close to 20 prospective candidates — ranging from establishment types like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, to bottom-tier hopefuls like Donald Trump and John Bolton — used their stage time to discuss policy, ding the president, and assail presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “When Hillary Clinton travels, there’s going to need to be two planes,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. “One for her and her entourage, and one for her baggage.”

Source: CNN, Politico

4.Poland summons U.S. ambassador over FBI head’s Holocaust remark
Poland on Sunday summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest FBI Director James Comey’s recent comment casting some blame on Poland for the Holocaust. “The murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” Comey said in a speech last week, which was then adapted as an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do.” Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. called the comment “unacceptable” and a “falsification of history.”

Source: Reuters

5.Senior Revolutionary Guard rejects weapons inspections
A high-ranking member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturdayinsisted weapons inspectors would be barred from visiting military sites under any final nuclear agreement. “Iran will not become a paradise for spies,” Gen. Hossein Salami said. “We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy,” he added, saying that inspections would amount to Tehran “selling out.” Under a framework agreement reached last month between the U.S., Iran, and five world powers, international inspectors would be granted access to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Source: The Associated Press

6.Putin walks back anti-U.S. rhetoric
Speaking on Russia’s state-run Rossiya channel on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow and Washington have “disagreements,” but that “there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together,” according to Reuters‘ translation of the remarks. “I mean general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic,” Putin said. “We have a common agenda.” Putin’s comments came two days after he told a Russian phone-in show that the United States wants “not allies, but vassals,” and is behaving like the former Soviet Union in its overreaching foreign policy.

Source: Reuters

7.ISIS claims to kill Ethiopian Christians
The Islamic State on Sunday released a video purporting to show the execution of two groups of captured Ethiopian Christians. The 29-minute video claims to show ISIS affiliates at two separate locations in Libya beheading or shooting to death prisoners, though a death toll was not immediately clear. Though the video has yet to be authenticated, it closely resembled previous ISIS propaganda videos depicting executions.

Source: CBS

8.California water board releases revised drought restrictions
California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Saturday released modified proposed conservation restrictions, adjusting the planned cuts based on water-saving efforts already underway. A former draft divided water suppliers into four tiers; the new framework places them into one of nine tiers — where water usage must be cut by anywhere from 8 percent to 36 percent — to “more equitably allocate” the restrictions. Water suppliers that do not meet their cuts could face fines of up to $10,000 per day. The board is expected to vote on the revised framework proposal in early May.

Source: The New York Times

9. Warriors open NBA playoffs with win
The NBA playoffs tipped off Saturday with the Golden State Warriors, owners of the best record in basketball, holding off the New Orleans Pelicans. Also Saturday, the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, and Washington Wizards won the opening games of their first-round series. The playoffs continue Sunday with four more games.

Source: Sports Illustrated

10.Ringo Starr inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday as a solo artist, making him the fourth and final member of the seminal band enshrined for his solo work. “As all the other drummers say, he just is something so special,” bandmate Paul McCartney said at the induction ceremony. The Hall’s 2015 class also included newcomers Lou Reed, Green Day, and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, among others.

Source: Rolling Stone

U.S. Politics

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

A piece of the flight recorder. (AP Photo/Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses)

The Week

1.Germanwings co-pilot intentionally downed plane, prosecutor says
The co-pilot of the Germanwings airliner that crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, seemed to have taken control of the plane and deliberately started its doomed descent, a French prosecutor said Thursday. The other pilot left the cockpit before the plane began descending and got locked out, according to investigators who reviewed the plane’s damaged cockpit voice recorder on Wednesday. The pilot knocks lightly when he tries to get back in, but “there is no answer” from the lone pilot left inside, the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”Source: The New York Times
2.Former POW Bowe Bergdahl to be charged with desertion
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after leaving his post in Afghanistan, was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Wednesday. Bergdahl, who could face life in prison, was held by the Haqqani insurgent network, then freed in May 2014 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban officials then being held at Guantanamo Bay. Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon complained about the deal, saying other soldiers had lost their lives searching for him.Source: The Washington Post, CNN
3.American warplanes join the fight against ISIS in Tikrit
The U.S. began bombing Islamic State targets in the Iraqi city of Tikrit for the first time on Wednesday at the request of the Iraqi government, which has been unable to eliminate pockets of resistance after retaking much of the city from militants. Iraqi government forces have been supported in the offensive by Shiite militias and Iranian military advisors, factors that have made the U.S. hesitate to get involved actively in the attempt to drive ISIS out of the strategically important, predominantly Sunni Muslim city.Source: Los Angeles Times
4.Three U.S. citizens were among passengers on crashed Germanwings jet
Three Americans were among the 150 people killed in the Germanwings airliner crash in the French Alps, State Department officials said Wednesday. Two of the Americans were Yvonne Selke and her daughter Emily, of Virginia. Also on Wednesday, investigators, already retrieving clues about what happened from the cockpit voice recorder, found the housing for the plane’s other black box, the flight data recorder.Source: Reuters, The Washington Post
5.Saudi Arabia launches military operations against Yemen rebels
Saudi Arabia and Gulf region allies launched airstrikes against rebels in Yemen to “protect the legitimate government,” the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. announced Wednesday. Shiite Houthi rebels took parts of the port city of Aden hours earlier. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country by boat as rebels closed in. U.S. officials said rebels capturing government installations had taken secret documents with information on counter-terrorism operations.Source: CNN, The Associated Press
6.Deadly tornado hits Oklahoma
A tornado deemed “extremely dangerous” by authorities swept through parts of eastern Oklahoma Wednesday evening, killing one person and leaving another in critical condition. Both victims were at a mobile home park where the twister destroyed 25 to 30 mobile homes in the Sand Springs suburb west of Tulsa. Sixty people inside a gymnastics building in Sand Springs managed to flee before the building was destroyed. A smaller tornado overturned cars and injured three people in the town of Moore.Source: USA Today, TIME
7.Jesse Jackson Jr. to leave prison for halfway house
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is expected to leave an Alabama prison on Thursday and enter a halfway house, his friend, former congressman Patrick Kennedy said. Jackson, 50, has served a year and a half of a two and a half year sentence for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on luxury items and vacations. Jackson’s wife, Sandra, will start a one-year sentence for related crimes after he completes his sentence.Source: The Associated Press
8.California attorney general tries to block anti-gay initiative
California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday asked a judge to halt an “utterly reprehensible” proposed anti-gay ballot initiative calling for executing gays with “bullets to the head.” Harris said if the court did not step in she would be obligated to officially name and summarize the ballot and start the clock for gathering signatures. The measure, proposed by a Huntington Beach attorney, “not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional… and has no place in a civil society,” Harris said.Source: Los Angeles Times
9. Arizona passes anti-abortion measure
Arizona lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would bar women from buying health care plans covering abortion through the federal marketplace. The legislation also would require abortion providers to tell women who have started the process of drug-induced abortions that they can reverse the process if they seek help promptly after taking the first of two drugs in the process. Critics say there is no science backing up that claim. Pro-life Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill.Source: The Associated Press
10.Sam Taylor-Johnson will not return to direct 50 Shadessequel
50 Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson announced Wednesday that she would not return to direct two sequels. She said the making the hit movie, which stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, was “an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful.” The sadomasochistic love story has made $558.6 million worldwide, but Taylor-Johnson has clashed with the book’s author EL James over creative control. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel is not expected to return, either, to write the next film.Source: The Hollywood Reporter
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 things you need to know today: February 19, 2015

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Week

1.Ukraine call for peacekeepers meets Russian opposition
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, on Wednesday called for international peacekeepers to restore order to his country’s war-ravaged east, where pro-Russian separatists have continued fighting for a strategic rail hub despite a new ceasefire deal. Hours earlier, thousands of Ukrainian troops pulled out of the town, Debaltseve, where rebels continued fighting after the truce took effect on Sunday. Rebels and Russia, which could veto a peacekeeping proposal at the United Nations Security Council, said sending foreign troops would violate the peace deal.

Source: The Washington Post

2.Obama challenges mainstream Muslims and world leaders to counter extremists
President Obama on Wednesday called on leaders of more than 60 nations to join together to fight “violent extremism,” calling the effort to the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups a “generational challenge.” Obama, speaking on the second day of a three-day summit, called on governments, educators, and mainstream Muslims to “amplify the voices of peace and tolerance,” saying the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but with people who have “perverted Islam.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Obama administration weighs lawsuit against Ferguson police
The Justice Department is getting ready to sue Ferguson, Missouri, police over allegedly racially discriminatory tactics, CNN reported Wednesday. Attorney General Eric Holder said his department is likely this week to release investigators’ findings regarding the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer last year. The Justice Department is expected to say it won’t charge the officer, but will sue the Ferguson Police Department if it doesn’t change its tactics.

Source: CNN

4.Jeb Bush says he is his “own man” on foreign policy
In a speech former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) gave Wednesday before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the likely 2016 presidential candidate tackled the elephants in the room: His brother George W. Bush and father George H.W. Bush. Because they both “shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office” as president, “my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs — sometimes in contrast to theirs,” Jeb Bush said. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Obama taps Joseph Clancy to fix the Secret Service
President Obama has picked acting Secret Service chief Joseph Clancy to run the beleaguered agency long-term. Critics had called on Obama to pick an outsider to lead the Secret Service out of a period of embarrassing security lapses, such as a case last year when a knife-wielding man jumped a fence and managed to get into the White House before being caught. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama believed Clancy would “conduct a candid, clear-eyed assessment” of the agency’s problems.

Source: The Washington Times

6.Fed minutes show the central bank fears hiking interest rates too soon
Federal Reserve policy makers expressed concern in a meeting last month about the possibility of undermining the economic recovery by raising historically low interest rates too soon, according to meeting minutes released Wednesday. Members of the Federal Open Market Committee tried to reconcile conflicting signals from the U.S. economy, which is strengthening, and weak international markets. The central bank now appears to be looking to start raising rates in June.

Source: Reuters

7.Two die in superbug outbreak at UCLA
At least seven patients treated at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October and January have been infected by the drug-resistant superbug CRE. Two deaths have been linked to the outbreak. At least 180 people were potentially exposed, and the number could rise as more are tested. UCLA discovered the outbreak in late January, and began notifying patients this week. The superbug can stay on a specialized endoscope that is used to treat cancers and digestive system issues and is hard to disinfect.

Source: Los Angeles Times

8.Record cold pushes from the Midwest into the South
A blast of Arctic and Siberian air will hit parts of the Southeast withrecord cold on Thursday and Friday. Temperatures in Washington, D.C., could drop below zero for the first time since 1994, and areas from Tennessee to Virginia could see the lowest February temperatures on record. The frigid plume early Thursday pushed through the Midwest and Kentucky, which could get the worst of it with temperatures hitting 40 degrees below normal. Forecasters say the entire state will be below zero.

Source: The Washington Post

9. Greek government makes request for bailout extension
Greece on Thursday formally asked the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to extend its bailout by six months. Without the extension, the new government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will run out of cash within weeks. Tsipras, who has vowed to dismantle painful austerity measures demanded by creditors, offered concessions and promised not to unilaterally ditch the existing program’s fiscal targets. Eurozone finance ministers plan to consider the request in Brussels on Friday.

Source: Reuters

10.Oregon swears in nation’s first bisexual governor
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) was sworn in on Wednesdayto replace John Kitzhaber, who resigned in an ethics scandal. Brown, 54, became the nation’s first openly bisexual governor. LGBT rights advocates cheered the news. Brown, 54, served 17 years in the state legislature. She is married to a man. “I don’t think anybody cares” that Brown is bisexual, Bob Moore, a Republican pollster, said. “The whole thing seems irrelevant to me. But what does it mean to be a bisexual and married? What does that mean?”

Source: Los Angeles Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 3, 2015

Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

The Week

1.Second snowstorm hits already snow-covered Northeast
Boston authorities postponed a victory celebration for the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl victory, moving it from Tuesday to Wednesday due to a record breaking winter storm. The second blizzard to hit the Northeast in a week dumped another foot of snow on Boston, which was blanketed with two feet of snow last week, the most snow ever to fall on the city in seven days. The storm has been linked to at least 10 deaths, and forced the cancellation of 2,900 flights in Chicago, Newark, Boston, and New York.

Source: Reuters

2.Paul and Christie criticized for vaccine remarks
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, faced criticism from medical experts on Monday after suggesting some child vaccinations should be made voluntary. Paul said some vaccines have caused “profound mental disorders.” Christie said parents need “some measure of choice” although, with a U.S. measles outbreak surpassing 100 cases, a spokesman said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated” for measles. CDC director Tom Frieden said not vaccinating endangers other children.

Source: Fox News, The Washington Post

3.Obama sets new rules on NSA data mining
The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce new rules about how U.S. intelligence agencies manage the data they collect. The National Security Agency and other spy agencies will have to delete private information they collect about Americans that has no intelligence value, and do the same for foreigners after five years, The New York Timesreports. Obama will also begin a regular, formal White House assessment of NSA spying on foreign leaders.

Source: The New York Times

4.Obama releases his proposed $4 trillion budget
President Obama on Monday unveiled the specifics of a $4 trillion proposed budget that would roll back blanket spending cuts, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, and extend tax benefits to the middle class. “These proposals will put more money in middle-class pockets, raise wages, and bring more high-paying jobs to America,” Obama said in a statement. The budget covers the 2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The blueprint is largely a symbolic statement of the president’s priorities, as Congress will make significant changes to it over the coming months.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Google reportedly is developing an Uber rival
Google invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013, and put more money in the next year, but now the internet search giant reportedly is preparing to compete with Uber by starting its own ride-hailing service, possibly linked to its driverless car project. A person close to Uber’s board said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an Uber board member, informed fellow Uber board members of the possibility. Uber leaders reportedly have seen a prototype app being used by Google employees.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Cuba publishes first photos of Fidel Castro since August
Cuba on Monday released the first photos of former president Fidel Castro seen since August. With Cuba’s communist government and the Obama administration attempting to renew diplomatic relations cut off in the Cold War, rumors have surfaced that Castro, 88, was dead or near death. Last week, Cuba released a letter attributed to Castro in which he said he didn’t trust the U.S. but advocated a “peaceful resolution to conflicts.” The photos, published in the official Granma newspaper, showed Castro in a meeting with a youth leader.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Bus firebombing kills seven in Bangladesh
Attackers hit a packed bus with gasoline-bombs in Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring 16 others. The local police chief blamed the bombing on opposition activists, but they denied responsibility. At least 53 people have died in political violence, mostly vehicle firebombings, since the opposition launched a nationwide transportation strike in early January in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Suge Knight charged with murder
Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday for allegedly running over two men with his truck, killing one and injuring the other. His $2.2 million bail was revoked because authorities considered him a possible flight risk. Police said Knight argued with the men on the set of Straight Outta Compton, a film about the group N.W.A., and later ran them over. Knight’s lawyer said he accidentally ran over the victims while trying to get away from two men trying to attack him.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Charles Manson’s marriage license expires with no wedding
Eighty-year-old mass murderer Charles Manson’s marriage license is set to expire on Thursday without a wedding. Manson and his fiancee, 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, missed their last chance to marry over the weekend — weddings are not performed on weekdays at the California prison where Manson is incarcerated. Burton, who uses the nickname Star, intends to get another 90-day license and proceed with the wedding plan, according to a source in contact with her.

Source: The Associated Press

10.Revenge-porn site creator convicted of extortion
A California court on Monday convicted revenge-porn site founder Kevin Bollaert, 28, on identity theft and extortion charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Bollaert set up one website, YouGotPosted.com, where women’s former husbands and boyfriends posted nude photos of them, and he established another website, ChangeMyReputation.com, where victims could pay up to $350 to get the photos taken down. “This is essentially 21st century blackmail,” Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin told jurors last week.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, The Washington Post

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush Makes an Anti-Pander Promise if He Runs in 2016

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington last month.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington last month.Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The New York Times

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida was blunt Monday night: If he runs for president in 2016, he will not pander to his party’s conservative base in the primaries.

Mr. Bush said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington that Republican candidates must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles.”

“It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you,” he added.

Mr. Bush said he would make a decision about the 2016 race “in short order” and sketched out the sort of campaign that he said Republicans must run to take back the White House. “It has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical,” he said.

Practicality is not, of course, the primary attribute many Republican primary voters look for in a presidential hopeful. Still, Mr. Bush noted, the viability of an unapologetically pragmatic bid has not been tested.

“Frankly, no one really knows that because it hasn’t been tried recently,” he said, prompting a round of knowing chuckles among the business executives in attendance.

Mr. Bush recognized what he had implied and quickly heaped praise on the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg · SCOTUS

Why the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign

The Washington Post

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg | (Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Supreme Court justice and pop culture icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the hospital yesterday after having a heart stent implanted and expects to be back at work Monday. Despite various health issues over the years, Ginsburg insists that she is still of sound body at age 81 (her mind isn’t in question) and has no plans to retire before the end of President Obama’s term to ensure a Democratic replacement. If she keeps to that pledge, and presuming there are no other retirements in the next two years, the makeup of the Supreme Court could be a bigger campaign issue in 2016 than ever before. It certainly ought to be.

As much as we’ve debated Supreme Court cases in recent years, we haven’t given much attention to the idea of a shift in the court’s ideology because for so long the court has been essentially the same: divided 5-4, with conservatives having the advantage yet liberals winning the occasional significant victory when a swing justice moves to their side. And though a couple of recent confirmations have sparked controversy (Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor were both the target of failed attempts to derail their nominations), all of the retirements in the last three presidencies were of justices from the same general ideology as the sitting president. The last time a new justice was radically different from the outgoing one was when Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall — 23 years ago.

Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins in 2016, he or she may well have the chance to shift the court’s ideological balance. Ginsburg is the oldest justice at 81; Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 78, and Stephen Breyer is 76. If the right person is elected and the right justice retires, it could be an earthquake.

Consider this scenario: Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2017, and sometime later one of the conservative justices retires. Now there would be a liberal majority on the court, a complete transformation in its balance. A court that now consistently favors those with power, whether corporations or the government, would become much more likely to rule in favor of workers, criminal defendants and those with civil rights claims. Or alternately: The Republican nominee wins, and one of the liberal justices retires. With conservatives in control not by 5-4 but 6-3, there would be a cascade of even more conservative decisions. The overturning of Roe v. Wade would be just the beginning.

Look at what the Supreme Court has done recently. It gutted the Voting Rights Act, said that corporations could have religious beliefs, simultaneously upheld and hobbled the Affordable Care Act, struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and moved toward legalizing same-sex marriage, all but outlawed affirmative action, gave corporations and wealthy individuals the ability to dominate elections and created an individual right to own guns — and that’s just in the last few years.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, there is probably no single issue you ought to be more concerned about in the 2016 campaign than what the court will look like after the next president gets the opportunity to make an appointment or two. The implications are enormous. It’s not too early to start considering them.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Obama Opposition

No attribution

The New York Times ~ Charles M. Blow

The president came to Washington thinking he could change Washington, make it better, unite it and the nation. He was wrong. As he ascended, the tone of political discourse descended, as much because of who he was as what he did.

When Obama introduced Joe Biden as his vice-presidential running mate in Springfield, Ill., he expressed his confidence that Biden could “help me turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people.”

In his first Inaugural Address, Obama said:

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

He underestimated the degree to which his very presence for some would feel more like a thorn than a salve. The president seemed to think that winning was the thing. It wasn’t. Stamina was the thing. The ability to nurse a grievance was the thing.

The president’s first “I won” moment came shortly after his inauguration. It was in an hourlong, bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders about the stimulus package. ABC News reported an exchange the president had with Eric Cantor this way:

“Obama told Cantor this morning that ‘on some of these issues we’re just going to have ideological differences.’ The president added, ‘I won. So I think on that one, I trump you.’ ”

Then, in a 2010 meeting with members of Congress about the Affordable Care Act, a visibly agitated president quipped to John McCain (who was raising concerns about the bill): “We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.”

And in 2013, appearing even more agitated following the government shutdown, the president chastised his opponents across the aisle: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election.”

This idea that Republicans would honor the fact that he was elected — twice — almost seems quaint. It angered; it didn’t assuage.

And in addition to some people being ideologically opposed to Democratic principles in general, others are endlessly irritated by a personal attitude and persona that seem impervious to chastisement or humbling.

Even the president himself has come around to giving voice to this in public. Last year he told The New York Times: “There’s not an action that I take that you don’t have some folks in Congress who say that I’m usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency.”

Gall here is an interesting word, and a purposeful one I think. It is in line with all the other adjectives used to describe this president’s not kowtowing and supplicating himself before traditional power structures.

Arrogant is another word that gets regular usage by his opponents, like Rand Paul, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. Some even connect Obama and supposed arrogance to anything and everything he does.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: November 6, 2014

The midterms were...
The midterms were… (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Week

Republicans lay out their legislative agenda, Obama assesses the damage, and more

1. Republicans lay out their legislative agenda
A day after retaking the Senate and adding to their majority in the House, the GOP leadership is letting Americans in on their plan for the next two years. Chief among their priorities is balancing the budget, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and revising or repealing the Affordable Care Act. Republican lawmakers are also expected to use their new-found control of the Senate to work towards large-scale revisions to the tax code. [The New York Times]


2. Obama assesses the midterms
President Obama on Wednesday assessed his party’s resounding defeat in the midterm elections, saying the clear message from voters was that Washington needs to scrap the dysfunction and finally “get stuff done.” Obama said he would work with Republicans on issues where there is broad bipartisan agreement, and take executive action when he is compelled to act alone. “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions Congress won’t like.” [Time]


3. Judge overturns Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison struck down Missouri’s ban on gay marriage. In June, St. Louis officials handed out four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of the state’s 10-year-old constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. The move was designed to set up a show down in the courts over the ban in the hopes of overturning it. Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster, announced that he would not appeal the ruling because he wanted Missouri’s future to “be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” [CBS]


4. Russia snubs 2016 nuclear arms summit
Russian officials have decided to skip a 2016 nuclear security summit being held in Chicago, according to the U.S. State Department. Russia will instead attend a symposium hosted by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency. The move comes at a time when the relationship between Washington and Moscow has been severely strained thanks to the crisis in Ukraine. In March, both Russia and the United State attended the last nuclear summit, which took place in The Hague. [Reuters]


5. Deadly attack in Jerusalem fuels tension
Two people were killed in Jerusalem when a driver rammed into a line of commuters waiting for a train. The authorities killed the assailant but not before he got out of his car and assaulted a group of bystanders with a metal bar. The attack was the latest deadly incident in a city that has seen mounting tension over the past few months. [Time]


6. Kerry pushes for deal with Iranians over their nuclear program
Secretary of State John Kerry said that he is hoping to finalize a deal with Iran over its nuclear capacity before a Nov. 24 deadline for negotiations. “I want to get this done,” said Kerry, who added that Iran has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and five other countries have been in talks with Iran for months to convince the rogue nation to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. [The Washington Post]


7. Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola is released from hospital
Teresa Romero Ramos, the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa, left the hospital after a month of treatment. The Spanish nurse was still weak, but called her recovery a “miracle” from God. Doctors said Ramos is no longer contagious and that they learned several lessons about treating Ebola patients from her case. [CNN]


8. Tesla beats third quarter expectations
Tesla, the manufacturer behind the all-electric Model S car, reported a modest, third-quarter profit of $3 million. The company delivered a record-setting 7,785 sedans, which boosted its sales to $932 million. Analysts had expected the company to report lower revenues. [Forbes]


9. Van Gogh painting sells for $61.8 million
Vincent van Gogh’s “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies” fetched $61.8 million at auction — almost $12 million more than its estimated value. The painting, which van Gogh created at his doctor’s house just a few months before his death, was purchased by a private collector from Asia. The still life was one of the few canvases van Gogh was able to sell before he passed away in 1890. [BBC]


10. Public outcry prompts Starbucks to bring back Eggnog Latte
Starbucks is bringing back its seasonal — and apparently very popular — Eggnog Latte after an outpouring on social media. The company had decided to take it off the menu to streamline its offerings but decided that was the wrong move. “We made a mistake,” says spokeswoman Linda Mills. “We are very sorry.” [USA Today]