» Bridget Johnson

The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
Follow Bridget:

ISIS’ British ‘Cyber Caliphate’ Leader Reportedly Killed in Airstrike

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

junaidhussein

The head of ISIS’ “cyber caliphate” has been killed in an airstrike, a Syrian monitoring group said.

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a grassroots ISIS opposition group that has reporters within the Islamic State, broke the news about Brit Junaid Hussain. ISIS accounts on Twitter have had mixed acknowledgment and denial of the Birmingham man’s death.

He tweeted under the name Abu Hussein Al Britani, and was behind the sharing of home addresses of U.S. military personnel.

According to Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently founding member Hamood Almossa, “Hussain was known to have high capability of changing his position and hide well, to escape the coalition air strikes.”

“He used to move very carefully with 4 cars, each going to a different place. He didn’t spend more than 6 hours in one place, and stayed underground,” Almossa wrote. “All this didn’t allow him to stay alive serving ISIS, because the coalition forces managed [Tuesday] to kill him after attacking a group of cars near Abu Al Haif gas station in the city of Raqqa.”

“According to our correspondent in the city ‘The air forces targeted a car near the gas station, which killed 3 people, one of them is a high profile’. They our source confirmed that the person who died is in fact Junaid Al Hussain, with two of his men, one of them is European.”

However, this doesn’t mean the Cyber Caliphate is dead. Hussain trained an electronic army to not only hack but to utilize social media and dark places on the web to recruit and communicate with jihadists around the globe.

The U.S. government is reportedly still working to confirm the report. State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters yesterday he didn’t “have anything to speak to with respect to these rumors.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Jarrett on Gun-Control Push: ‘Everyone Should Be Able to Live in Our Country’

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said the administration is renewing its call for gun control because while Wednesday’s journalist murders in Virginia “may not have been a mass shooting… it felt like a mass shooting.”

Killer Vester Flanagan, who murdered reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward and wounded Chamber of Commerce official Vicki Gardner, passed a background check to buy two Glock handguns weeks ago.

Jarrett told MSNBC last night that the shooting was “just heartbreaking,” and “we’re just faced with another tragedy.”

“And we are once again asking ourselves, what more can we do? We know that the president took 23 different executive actions to try to make it safer for Americans. We know from our effort after Sandy Hook, that 90 percent of the Americans believe we need sensible gun legislation and we are continuing to call on Congress to act,” she said.

That poll to which the administration keeps referring is a Quinnipiac survey in January 2014 that asked the question, “Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?” Ninety-two percent responded “yes,” including 86 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats.

The same poll asked another question, too: “Do you support or oppose stricter gun control laws in the United States?” Fifty percent supported, while 47 percent opposed.

“And as the president said earlier, we really need a grassroots effort around our country that says, look, we may not able to save every life. But if we save just one life, isn’t it worth it? And that we can both respect the Second Amendment at the same time we can make sure the guns don’t get into the wrong hands,” Jarrett said.

She added that President Obama’s inability to push more gun-control legislation is “something that weighs on him heavily.”

“He shares it very openly when his staff and he’s obviously talked about it quite publicly. And he’s convinced that when you have 90 percent of the American people who want to do something, there is really no excuse for Congress not acting.”

Jarrett added that “the voices of the American people have to be heard in this dialogue.”

“And today may not have been a mass shooting. But I can tell you to the families of the victims, it felt like a mass shooting. And so, every time we lose a life and it happens too often in our country, it should be another wake-up call. When do we say enough is enough?” she continued.

“…Everyone should be able to live in our country. And, you know, the fact of the matter is, the United States is unique. Why is it in our country that we have so many of these incidents compared to the rest of the world, the developed world for sure? And so, if there are steps that we can take as a country, why aren’t we taking them?”

Read bullet | 27 Comments »

New York Tabloids Pick Worst Possible Covers for Virginia Journalist Murders

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The New York Daily News sparked online outrage over its cover showing stills from the footage taken by the killer of Virginia journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Vester Flanagan was wearing a body camera when he approached the two, who were doing an early-morning live shot at a retail center at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke with a local Chamber of Commerce official, Vicki Gardner.

After fleeing the crime scene, Flanagan tweeted that people should go see his video on Facebook. He posted footage there that began with him silently standing and watching the live shot before opening fire. Facebook deleted the video, but not before some people had duped the footage and distributed it on YouTube.

Needless to say, people are angry with the paper’s decision to put those images on their cover.

 

 

Not like the New York Post was any better, though.

Read bullet | Comments »

White House, Clinton Make Gun-Control Push Hours After Virginia Journalist Murders

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton sounded off on gun control hours after two journalists were killed by a disgruntled former colleague near Roanoke, Va.

At the daily briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters he “did not have the opportunity to speak to the president about the tragic shooting that occurred earlier today in Virginia.”

“Obviously, the thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident,” Earnest said. “The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation. But as you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States.”

“And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country, and Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law- abiding Americans. And the president’s long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the president continues to believe that they should do so.”

On a campaign stop in Iowa, Clinton told reporters, “We have got to do something about gun violence in America, and I will take it on.”

“I believe we are smart enough, compassionate enough to balance Second Amendment rights” with gun control, she said, adding there are too many “needless, senseless deaths.”

“I feel this great heartache at what happened,” Clinton continued, saying the country can “not let yet another terrible instance go by” without addressing the “terrible killing that is stalking our country.”

“There is so much evidence that if guns were not so readily available… maybe we could prevent this kind of carnage.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who chaired Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said in a statement that “as we reflect with heavy hearts on this tragedy, it is appropriate to begin to ask questions about how we can prevent these senseless events in the future.”

“Keeping guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm our family, friends and loved ones is not a political issue; it is a matter of ensuring that more people can come home safely at the end of the day,” McAuliffe said. “We cannot rest until we have done whatever it takes to rid our society of preventable gun violence that results in tragedies like the one we are enduring today.”

Earnest said the lack of passing more gun control remains President Obama’s “greatest frustration” in office.

“We could do that in a way that wouldn’t undermine the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. I think, you know, there’s little argument about that, I think,” the press secretary said.

“There continues to, however, be, a very vocal portion of the U.S. population — I think it’s a minority and I think the polls bear that out — however, that has a lot of sway in Congress when it comes to issues related to guns. And the president has found that disappointing and frustrating, principally because he believes it’s bad public policy. And for us to not take common-sense steps to address what I think we all acknowledge what I think we all acknowledge is a pretty significant problem,” Earnest continued.

“But I think the president has also been disappointed that our political system hasn’t responded in the way that he would like. There’s clear — there are clear majorities in both the Democratic and Republican parties, according to many polls, for these policies. There are even some polls that indicate that there are clear majorities of gun owners that support some of these common-sense steps. But yet, we haven’t seen Congress take this action.”

Democrats Who Didn’t Let the #WDBJ Crisis Go to Waste

Read bullet | 63 Comments »

Clinton Campaign Going After Sanders on Gun Rights

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Campaigning for Hillary Clinton this week in New Hampshire, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy went into inevitable territory as Bernie Sanders leads polls in the first-in-the-nation state: he attacked the Vermont senator’s gun-rights stance.

“It’s an anathema to my own,” Malloy said of Sanders’ platform during a meeting with Clinton organizers in Manchester, according to the Stamford Advocate. “I don’t understand it.”

“Her position among the Democrats is a lot more popular than his position,” Malloy said later. “There’s a difference.”

Sanders leads Clinton 42 percent to 35 percent in a new Public Policy Polling survey. And he’s leading in every category of Dems in New Hampshire: “somewhat liberal,” “very liberal” and moderate.

The senator leads Clinton among men and women, but seniors like 67-year-old Clinton over 73-year-old Sanders. With voters under age 65, Bernie leads 45 percent to 29 percent for Hillary.

Sanders voted against the Brady Bill when he was in the House, and his votes as senator have included joining with Republicans on the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which would have guaranteed veterans due process rights in being deemed “mentally defective” by the VA and having their ability to own a gun stripped away.

He’s been questioned about his position on guns on the campaign trail, and hasn’t swayed. “If somebody has a gun and somebody steals that gun and shoots somebody, do you really think it makes sense to blame the manufacturer of that weapon?” he said at a July forum when asked about his vote to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. “If somebody assaults you with a baseball bat, you hit somebody over the head, you’re not going to sue the baseball bat manufacturer.”

Sanders told MSNBC that month that common ground should be sought on gun legislation, like “nobody should have a gun who has a criminal background, who’s involved in domestic abuse situations.”

“We have a huge loophole now with gun shows that should be eliminated. There may be other things that we have to do,” he said.

“But coming from a rural state, I think I can communicate with folks coming from urban states where guns mean different things than they do in Vermont where it’s used for hunting. That’s where we’ve got to go. We don’t have to argue with each other and yell at each other. We need a common sense solution.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Trump Leads in N.H. While Kasich, Fiorina Make Gains; Sanders Trumping Clinton

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A new poll out of New Hampshire shows a commanding lead for Donald Trump and two candidates making big surges.

The Public Policy Polling survey shows Trump at 35 percent in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich is second with 11 percent and Carly Fiorina has 10 percent.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have seen big slips since their post-announcement peaks: from 14 percent to 4 percent for Cruz, and 12 percent to 4 percent for Paul. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has dropped from 7 percent to less than 1 percent.

Holding the middle at 7 percent in the new polls are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ben Carson has 6 percent.

Some more notes from PPP:

“-Bush is really struggling. Only 38% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of him to 41% with a negative one. This is largely a function of his unpopularity with conservatives- among voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ just 34% have a positive opinion of him to 48% who have a negative one. Only 3% say he’s their first choice for the nomination, putting him in a tie for 8th place with that group.

-Kasich is on the move because of his strength with moderate voters. He gets 20% with them, putting him second to Trump, and making up for his own trouble on the right- he gets just 1% with ‘very conservative’ voters. Moderates are 29% of the GOP electorate on this poll, a lot more than in most places.

-New Hampshire makes another state where Ben Carson is the most well liked Republican, with 62% rating him favorably to 17% who have a negative opinion. Carly Fiorina is not far behind him at 58/19. Besides those two and Trump, the only other Republican seen positively by a majority of primary voters is Marco Rubio at 50/27.

-Besides Bush, Huckabee, and Paul other Republican hopefuls with negative favorabilities even among the GOP electorate in New Hampshire are Lindsey Graham at 20/43 (-23), Chris Christie at 35/46 (-11), Jim Gilmore at 4/13 (-9) George Pataki at 27/32 (-5), and Rick Perry at 34/37 (-3).”

On the Dem side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is holding off Hillary Clinton, 42 percent to 35 percent. And he’s leading in every category of Dems in New Hampshire: “somewhat liberal,” “very liberal” and moderate.

Sanders leads Clinton among men and women, but seniors like 67-year-old Clinton over 73-year-old Sanders. With voters under age 65, Bernie leads 45 percent to 29 percent for Hillary.

Fiorina told MSNBC this morning that debate rules which average national polls should instead use polling from the early states to determine who gets primetime.

“I think Donald Trump is perhaps, as much as anything, a big wakeup call to the professional-political class, as well as the media, honestly. People are tired of both. And they don’t trust either one anymore. I think what Donald Trump taps into is a disgust with professional-political class, a belief that the game is rigged and that in part whether this is fair or not, the media helped rig it. I think people want truth telling in politics,” Fiorina said.

“…Having said all that, I think what presidential campaigns do is reveal character over time and under pressure. And I think character will be revealed of all the candidates over time and under pressure.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Gunman Kills Reporter, Cameraman During Morning Live Shot Near Roanoke (UPDATE: Suspect Is Former Anchor)

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Two Roanoke, Va., journalists were shot and killed during a live shot while doing an innocuous story on local development at the Bridgewater Plaza marina and retail center near Smith Mountain Lake.

WDBJ7’s reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photojournalist Adam Ward, 27, died in the 6:45 a.m. incident.

Police were searching for the shooter, dressed all in black and captured on the cameraman’s final footage.

The woman Parker was interviewing, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was reportedly shot in the back and taken to surgery.

In the video, Parker and Gardner are speaking against a railing overlooking the complex. The shooter walks up and starts firing without a word. Ward swings his camera over to the gunman before collapsing, and the station cut back to the studio.

Local schools were put on lockdown as cops hunted in the area for the killer. The FBI’s Richmond field office was reportedly on scene.

 

 

UPDATE 11:30 EST: The suspect has been identified as Vester Flanagan, who uploaded a video of the shooting on Twitter under his on-air name, Bryce Williams. Twitter has removed the account.

Flanagan, 41, is a former news anchor fired from the Roanoke station in February 2013. He’s in a 2009 gray Ford Mustang, plate WZE 8846. More:

In the tweets, Flanagan hinted at possible motives for the shooting. He tweeted about filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint and alleged that the reporter had made racist comments. “They hired her after that???” he Tweeted. The slain producer, he claimed, complained to HR about him after working together one time. His final text tweet boasted about filming the attack.

 

 

UPDATE 11:50 a.m. EST: Flanagan has reportedly shot himself.

Read bullet | 28 Comments »

Professor Who Grew Up in Virginia Tried to Wrestle Gun Away from Train Terrorist

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A professor originally from Virginia was revealed as the first passenger on a Paris-bound high-speed train to confront a terrorist who was hellbent on inflicting mass casualties.

Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, 26, was armed with an AK-47, box cutters and lots of ammunition, and caught the attention of Mark Moogalian when he went into the restroom with a suitcase. The gunman emerged with his weapon, and was rushed by the teacher:

Moogalian and his wife were seated facing each other on the high-speed train when she saw only his expression and the urgent “Get out, this is serious.” Then, Isabelle Risacher Moogalian said, she ducked behind some seats as he lunged to grab the assault rifle from the gunman’s hands.

“When my husband collapsed, I saw across the seats. He looked at me and he said ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.’ He thought it was over and he was going to die,” she told Europe-1 radio. The bullet struck him in the back and exited through the neck.

…Moogalian remained hospitalized Tuesday in the northern city of Lille, and his sister in Virginia said his role in trying to stop what French authorities are calling a terror attack was in character.

“Mark would give anything for anybody,” Julia Allen told NBC News. “He’s just that kind of person.”

Risacher said U.S. Airman Spencer Stone came across the wounded Moogalian and stanched the bleeding by holding his finger on the wound until paramedics could take over.

Moogalian runs a language school from a houseboat in the outskirts of Paris, according to the school’s website. Music and art are clearly his passions, as his personal website attests, with its range of sculpture, paintings, photos and downloads of music he performs in a duo with his wife. In the duo’s biography, they describe themselves as “largely bicultural, bringing the best of both worlds.”

“My husband is among the heroes of this story, and he nearly paid with his life, because just a few millimeters closer and the bullet would have sliced his carotid in exiting,” Risacher said.

Moogalian, 51, is a graduate of Midlothian High School in Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, and his Armenian family has deep roots in the area, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He’s been living in France for more than two decades.

He will be receiving the Legion of Honor, which British businessman Chris Norman, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and college student Anthony Sadler received in a ceremony with French President Francois Hollande yesterday.

A fifth hero was honored in stopping the attack as well. The Frenchman, who wanted to remain anonymous, reportedly warned passengers about the gunman before Moogalian tried to wrestle away his weapon. The others Americans stepped in and beat the Moroccan unconscious.

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

EPA Misses Deadline to Turn Over Documents About Nasty Mine Spill

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Environmental Protection Agency missed a congressional deadline to turn over documents related to its spill of toxic sludge into a southwest Colorado River.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Aug. 10 requesting documents and materials relating to the work that caused the Aug. 5 spill as well as information on “whether the polluted water poses health risks to humans or animals.”

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sought documents on the chemicals in the mine waste and information on the waste water being treated in holding ponds at the mine site.

He asked for the documents no later than yesterday. Some were released to the entire public by the EPA, but the majority of what they requested has not been released or turned over, the committee said.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” Smith said today. “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on September 9th. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

Smith added that “even in the face of self-imposed environmental disaster, this administration continues to prioritize its extreme agenda over the interests and well-being of Americans.”

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is currently crusading on climate change action in Japan while President Obama, who has yet to visit the areas affected by the spill, is touring the U.S. to tout EPA’s latest regulation that will do little to impact climate change and will only further burden Americans with higher electric bills,” the chairman said. “It is no wonder the majority of Americans feel Washington no longer works for them.”

McCarthy has been called to testify before the committee Sept. 9.

Other panels that will undoubtedly seek the EPA administrator’s testimony include the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Sierra Club hasn’t said a peep about the spill since its initial reaction in which the environmental group blamed miners.

“The Animas River was sadly already contaminated due to the legacy of toxic mining practices. The company that owns this mine has apparently allowed dangerous conditions to fester for years, and the mishandling of clean-up efforts by the EPA have only made a bad situation much worse,” the environmental group said in a statement Aug. 11.

“As we continue to learn what exactly happened, it’s time that the mine owners be held accountable for creating this toxic mess and we urge the EPA to act quickly to take all the steps necessary to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.”

Read bullet | 6 Comments »

Branded Non-Terrorists by U.S., Taliban Murder Mother and Son for Refusing to Feed Fighters

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House stopped calling the Taliban terrorists this year — “The Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group,” said spokesman Eric Schultz — for a couple of reasons.

First, they wanted to make the case that they didn’t actually negotiate with terrorists and trade five terrorists for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz said in January.

Second, the U.S. supports a peace deal with the Taliban so they can wrap the Afghan conflict up in a tidy bow after leaving — never mind the Taliban’s recent renewal of their al-Qaeda alliance, the reason we invaded in the first place after the 9/11 attacks.

And though the heinous crimes of the “non-terrorist” terrorist Taliban are many, Tolo News in Afghanistan reports a new gruesome one:

Taliban insurgents killed a woman and her son on Monday after they refused to provide insurgents with food in central Maidan Wardak province.

Head of Wardak CID police Mohammad Ayoub confirmed the incident and said the Taliban had asked residents in Chak district to feed them three times a day.

Ayoub said in addition to killing the woman and her son, the insurgents also torched the homes of several families who also refused to help the fighters.

“Taliban burned the homes when they got a negative response to their call for food and shelter,” Colonel Ayoub said.

Asked at yesterday’s State Department briefing about the strategy of not calling the Taliban terrorists, press secretary John Kirby said “we want to see Afghan-led political reconciliation continue to advance.”

“Yes, there’s been some violence as Kabul as recently as just a few days ago… the Taliban claim responsibility for some and others they didn’t, so I’m in no position to judge who’s responsible,” Kirby said.

“…As for the Taliban’s future, much of it is for them to determine if they’re going to renounce violence and renounce the terrorist type tactics that they use, and contribute to a meaningful reconciliation process in Afghanistan, well then we support that – an Afghan-led reconciliation process.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Love: CDC Should Be Investigating Planned Parenthood’s High Percentage of Minority Abortions

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be taking Planned Parenthood to task for its high percentage of abortions on minority women.

“We’re accepting the fact that black Americans make 12 — make up 12 percent of the population yet Planned Parenthood aborts 78 percent of minorities in this country. This is an issue that should be something that we’re both on the same side of,” Love, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Fox last night.

“We make up 12 percent of the population, and, yet, let’s look at who they’re aborting. This is an issue that the CDC should be taking on as far as I’m concerned. It should be something that, as an organization, if they’re going to do everything they can to help the black race they should be on top of this issue and oppose Planned Parenthood and the practice of aborting of these babies.”

The CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity says its mission is to “advance health equity and women’s health issues across the nation through CDC’s science and programs.”

Love said “we need to do what we can to make sure the American people do not forget what’s happening” in the undercover Planned Parenthood videos where staffers are discussing brokering body parts.

“Now, watch, this is what’s going to happen. The left and those who want to protect this organization are going to turn this conversation from killing of babies and shutdowns, health issues, and everything to kind of distort, distract, and divide Americans into thinking what’s actually happening isn’t happening, the fact that they are actually taking brain tissue from live babies. These are American babies,” she said.

“…What you’ll see is that the left believed that our people are pretty much — we believe that they’re assets that can be developed. Or they believe that they’re liabilities that need to be managed. We believe that human beings have the right to live, that our job is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And they don’t care about these things.”

The National Abortion Federation, which is suing the Center for Medical Progress over the Planned Parenthood videos, said in a statement today that “counsel for defendants notified the court that all defendants…plan to plead the Fifth Amendment.”

A preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled for Aug. 27 but has been bumped to an undetermined date.

Read bullet | Comments »

Obama: Reid and I ‘Figuring Out How We’re Going to Deal with the Crazies’

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

At a Nevada State Democratic Party fundraiser last night, President Obama lamented having to deal with “the crazies” as he pushed his agenda on Capitol Hill.

A little over 100 people attended the event at a private home in Henderson, Nev., which raised more than $300,000 for the Senate campaign of former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto.

“It’s hard for me to express how much I love Harry Reid but it’s easier to do it in a room of people who love Harry Reid,” Obama said. “Harry and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems. And then we talked about riding off into the sunset together.”

“Everything I’ve accomplished, I’ve accomplished because Harry Reid was there by my side. And I am forever grateful for his friendship and his strength, because the thing about Harry is he’s a great politician but he’s also a man with a lot of backbone and is willing to do hard things when it’s required, and that’s what you want out of a political leader.”

Obama said that after two weeks of vacation at Martha’s Vineyard he feels “refreshed, renewed, recharged, a little feisty.”

“Right now, we could be putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work rebuilding the infrastructure of this country, and yet we have a Congress that finances our highway bill for three months at a time,” he said. “That’s not what the greatest country on Earth does. That’s not how the Hoover Dam was built. That’s not how the Interstate Highway or the Transcontinental Railroad were built. That’s not how we sent a man to the moon, or invented the Internet — by failing to invest in our future.”

The president added that everyone around the world envies the United States, but “what’s holding us back is too often our political debates are not about what’s best for the country but what’s best for the next election.”

“We’ve been leaders in nonproliferation, which is part of the reason why I am so insistent that Congress not block a historic diplomatic effort when it comes to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. And I’m so appreciative of Harry Reid’s support for that effort,” he said.

Reid came out in support of the Iran deal two days ago, calling it “consistent with the greatest traditions of American leadership.”

Saying “the happiest person on Earth that I cannot run for a third term is Michelle Obama,” the president insisted that in order for America to lead in the world “we’re going to need not just a strong executive branch, not just a president who after a few gray hairs seems to know what he’s doing, but we also need a Congress that works, that functions.”

“And so we’re going to be observing, to some degree, what takes place in the election to come,” Obama continued. “But what I can say is this: Democrats are not perfect. There are times where we have disagreements within the party. There are some folks in our party who sometimes are dogmatic. But Democrats govern. Democrats are willing to do things that are hard.”

Read bullet | 29 Comments »

U.S. Convenes First UN Security Council Meeting on Gay Rights

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
isisgaystoning

ISIS members prepare to stone a man accused of being gay in February

The Obama administration lauded as “historic” Monday’s first-of-its-kind meeting at the UN Security Council on gay rights, organized by the U.S. Missions at the UN and Chile.

Much of the meeting focused on the murder of homosexuals by ISIS, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and other groups in the region including the Al-Nusra Front, but UN Ambassador Samantha Power made clear that they want the agenda to be broader.

According to reports, Chad and Angola skipped the closed meeting.

Subhi Nahas escaped execution by fleeing to Lebanon after ISIS took his city, Idlib, Syria. “At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding,” Nahas said. “If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate too.”

A representative of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said they’ve counted at least 30 murders by the Islamic State on the allegation of sodomy. Those accused of being gay are thrown off tall buildings, beheaded, stoned or shot.

After the meeting, Power told reporters that images of what ISIS does to gays were displayed “so, if ever anybody was tempted to drift away or have their attention go elsewhere, the graphic, gut-wrenching photos of what is being done and the very real threat posed – even as we sat in this meeting today – in territory where ISIL is dominant.”

“Yes, it is true that ISIL has made it common practice, it seems, to target LGBT persons, but that is true also around the world very far from where ISIL dominates. You have countries that have criminalized LGBT status; you have societies, of course, that are every bit as unwelcoming as they were 20, 30 years ago, communities in that regard. But today’s meeting is a sign that this issue is getting injected into the mainstream at the United Nations,” she said.

Power stressed it was the first Security Council meeting ever on LGBT issues — “a small but historic step.”

“We just have to continue to create dedicated spaces and venues for conversations like the one we just had, raising awareness, showing LGBT people, or those being persecuted, that the UN cares, that the Security Council cares, that the General Assembly cares, that the Human Rights Council cares, that the Member States of the United Nations care – that’s extremely important,” she said. “But also each of us, as governments, has a responsibility to inject the treatment of LGBT persons into our bilateral relationships as well.”

Power added that when the issue of “how LGBT persons are being treated in particular conflict areas” comes up in future meetings “it’s also imperative that in addition to talking about the threat that ISIL poses to Christians, to Yezidis, to Shia, to any Sunni or anybody who doesn’t share their warped ideology, to cultural artifacts of the kind that have been destroyed monstrously here in the last couple days.”

“Alongside that, it is essential that the fate of LGBT persons also be raised and discussed, and we will work with our Council partners and colleagues to ensure that it isn’t just the United States raising it.”

Power made no mention of Iran, which hangs gays.

The meetings comes as the administration is under pressure from lawmakers to deny visas to diplomats’ spouses if the envoys come from a country that doesn’t recognize same-sex spouses of State Department personnel.

“This historic event recognizes that the issue of LGBT rights has a place in the UN Security Council,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters at the open of the daily briefing. “Around the world, the UN has documented thousands of cases of individuals killed or injured in brutal attacks simply because they are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT. This abhorrent practice is particularly widespread in ISIL-seized territory in Iraq and in Syria where these violent extremists proudly target and kill LGBT individuals or those accused of being so. No one should be harmed or have their basic human rights denied because of who they are or who they love.”

“We would like the thank Chile for co-sponsoring this event with us,” Kirby added. “The United States will continue to raise the plight of target LGBT individuals around the world and work to protect their basic human rights.”

The meeting even got a shout-out from the National Security Council, with spokesman Ned Price issuing a statement tonight on the meeting “of how better to protect the lives and dignity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons, who are frequently among the most vulnerable in conflict and post-conflict situations.”

“Today’s session focused on ISIL’s atrocities targeted against LGBT persons and those perceived to be LGBT in Syria and Iraq. In highlighting acts of horrific brutality that these individuals have endured, today’s discussion challenged the international community to develop better and more effective protections for LGBT persons,” Price said. “…Just as the United States will not relent in our efforts to defeat and ultimately destroy ISIL, we will continue striving for a world in which no one is subject to violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love.

Read bullet | 31 Comments »

House Dem: Iran Deal ‘Makes War More Likely’

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Many of the Democrats who have come out against the Iran nuclear deal, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), are veteran lawmakers who have less to fear than young members in terms of repercussions from leadership or the administration for defying the president.

But a freshman Dem from Pennsylvania came out against the Iran deal Sunday in an op-ed declaring that the agreement Obama insists is an alternative to war will actually lead us to war.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is the sixth Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to come out against the deal.

He wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that, even after meeting with Obama in the White House Situation Room, he determined there were three reasons why he couldn’t support the deal.

“First, this agreement will inject at least $56 billion into the Iranian regime. This is a massive sum for a country with a gross domestic product of $400 billion,” Boyle wrote. “What does Iran currently spend its money on? It is the single largest funder of terrorism in the region. It funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, supplying it with more than 80,000 rockets, all located just over the Israeli border. It funds Hamas in Gaza. Remember those thousands of rockets that rained down on Israel last year? They too were courtesy of Iran. And Iran also funds the murderous Assad regime in Syria.”

“The administration’s response on this point is to claim that money shouldn’t be an issue when analyzing the nuclear agreement. But it is part of this agreement. It would be impossible to analyze this deal without weighing the inevitable impact these billions will have on the further funding of terrorism.”

Boyle also points to the lack of anytime, anywhere inspections and disputes the administration assertion that a 24-day notice is no big deal. “As a former top official at the International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed, 24 days is enough time for Iran to hide most weaponization activity,” the congressman wrote. “During a congressional hearing, I asked Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to dispute this fact. They did not.”

His third objection is that the deal does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power but merely delays it.

“The argument that a vote against this deal is a vote for war is disingenuous. Actually, the opposite is true,” Boyle wrote. Releasing billions of dollars to Iran will result in more rockets in Lebanon and Gaza. These will be used against Israel, as similar weapons have been for the last seven years. With more cash for more rockets, these attacks will likely happen again, increasing the odds that Israel again will respond militarily. Only this time, the Israeli wars with Lebanon and Gaza will last longer, and there will be higher casualty numbers.”

“The nuclear agreement with Iran doesn’t make war less likely. It makes war more likely.”

Read bullet | Comments »

There Are No ‘Secret Side Deals’ Between IAEA and Iran, Says Admin, Just ‘Confidential’ Deals

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration stressed today that there’s nothing secret about the pacts between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency — the documents that Congress isn’t allowed to view and the White House isn’t allowed to posses are simply confidential.

The Associated Press last week leaked text of one of the documents it was able to view and transcribe, called “separate arrangement II” and dealing with Iran’s self-inspections at the Parchin military complex. “Iran will provide to the Agency” photos, videos and “environmental samples taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and 2 points outside of the Parchin complex which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.”

“It is Secretary Kerry’s view that this is absolutely not a secret or side deal,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today, but are instead “confidential arrangements… the contents of which are confidential.”

“The fact that there is an arrangement between the IAEA and Iran is of course not secret or confidential. They do this typically around the world,” Kirby said. “So, it’s Secretary Kerry’s view that it’s neither secret, nor is it a side deal. It is — it is an appropriate arrangement between the IAEA and another nation to verify it.”

Still, Kirby said, he’s “not gonna comment on the veracity of leaked documents.”

At the White House, though, press secretary Josh Earnest seemed to vouch for the veracity.

“And now that we have seen what appears to be, or at least what the Associated Press has assessed to be, a near final document that’s been released, I think it’s hard for people to make the case that this is somehow a secret agreement,” Earnest declared.

The AP stressed that they did not see a “separate arrangement I.”

“It continues to be our view that this agreement is not a side agreement and it’s not a secret one primarily because this administration went to great lengths to brief every member of Congress about the contents of the agreement,” Earnest said. “…What is true is that typically agreements between the IAEA and countries around the world are held confidential. And the IAEA has agreements like this with hundreds of countries of hundreds around the world, in more than 100 countries around the world, including the United States.”

Earnest said he’s “confident” that the IAEA “will get access to all of the information they need and all of the access to the site that they need in order to conclude their report.”

“And there are some Republicans in Congress who have suggested that the IAEA will not get enough access to the site in order to write their report,” he added. “And that’s a pretty bold statement, considering that some of these same Republicans in Congress say that they don’t have enough scientific knowledge to determine whether or not climate change is actually occurring, but yet somehow they claim to have enough knowledge of nuclear physics to assess what kind of access the IAEA needs to Parchin.”

Kirby said “we are confident, remain confident that this deal in all its parameters will provide the IAEA the access it needs to do its job with the verifying.”

Read bullet | 9 Comments »

Hollande Bestows Legion of Honor on Train Heroes

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

franceheroes

French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor on three Americans and a British businessman who beat down a terrorist on a high-speed train.

The three Americans grew up together: Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Oregon who just wrapped up a deployment in Afghanistan; Anthony Sadler, a senior at California State University, Sacramento; and Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who serves at Lajes Air Base in the Azores. The Brit, Chris Norman, is a grandfather of three and IT consultant.

A French citizen and a French-American were also going to receive the Legion of Honor later for their roles in stopping the attack.

The gunman, 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayob El Khazzani, was on the radar of Spanish authorities for his pro-jihad speeches there. He spent time in France and Syria, and was living in Belgium when he got on the train.

Hollande told Skarlatos and Stone, “You behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men.”

“A terrorist decided to commit an act. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives,” he told all of the heroes.

Sadler said of their actions, “Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.”

Separately, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Journal du Dimanche that “the tragedy which was prevented underlines the need for determined, meticulous, unrelenting, implacable and internationally-coordinated action – in short, the program of action of the Interior Minister and his services.”

“But it also reminds us of the reality of the global threat and the magnificent virtue of bravery,” Fabius added.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lauded his servicemen and the others “who stepped forward to prevent an even greater tragedy from taking place aboard that train.”

“Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why – on duty and off – ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said.

 

Read bullet | 15 Comments »

State Dept.: It Could Have Made U.S. Hostages’ Situation ‘Worse’ if We Linked Them to Iran Deal

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department’s spokesman told CNN this morning that one reason U.S. hostages weren’t included in the Iran nuclear deal is because it could have made their situation “worse.”

Retired FBI agent Bob Levinson went missing nearly eight years ago, likely taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati marks his fourth year behind bars this week. Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini marks his third year in Iranian custody next month. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was seized more than a year ago and is awaiting a verdict from a closed-door espionage trial.

All have suffered mistreatment while in custody, including torture and new or worsening medical conditions.

Many lawmakers have argued that Iran needed to release the hostages before Washington even sat down at the negotiating table with Iran.

“We wanted to separate the condition of the Americans that are being detained with Iran,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told CNN this morning.

“They need to be home because they need to be home with their families,” Kirby added. “And linking them to the deal might have only made the situation worse for them. So we never missed an opportunity to talk to Iranian leaders about that.”

Hekmati has said he did not want to be included as a swap for concessions, fearing additional hostage-taking by Iran in response, but has criticized administration concessions as Tehran holds — and takes new — Americans.

In a recent letter to Congress, he wrote, “And in the midst of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program, as Secretary Kerry sits politely with the Iranians, shaking hands and offering large economic concessions to save them from economic meltdown, Jason Rezaian was added to the growing list of American captives, undoubtedly in hopes of milking more concessions from the U.S. government.”

“While I am thankful that the State Department and the Obama administration has called for my release and that of my fellow Americans, there has been no serious response to this blatant and ongoing mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and they continue on with impunity,” Hekmati continued in the letter dictated over the phone to his family from prison.

“As a war veteran who defended our nation in its time of need, I ask that you also work to defend my dignity and that of my fellow Americans by putting in place serious consequences for this serial hostage-taking and mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for clearly illegal purposes. This has been going on far too long.”

Read bullet | 20 Comments »

VIDEO: Veterans Note Iran Behind U.S. Deaths, But We’ll Totally Catch Nuke Deal Violations!

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

A think-tank and lobbying organization with Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter on the board of directors is running an ad in support of the Iran deal featuring veterans who say their colleagues suffered at the hands of Tehran’s involvement with Iraq insurgents.

The Truman National Security Project is running the spots as a 501(c)(4) called Veterans Against the Deal continues its ad campaign.

In the Truman video, Butch Bracknell — a Marine veteran, attorney and member of the Defense Council at the Truman project,  says, “They’ve trained and supplied insurgents who’ve killed my brothers and sisters in Iraq.”

Yet, Bracknell and two others veterans in the ad — Terron Sims, a Democratic Party activist and co-director for Virginia Veterans for Obama, and Ashkan Bayatpour, a former partner at the Truman Project, argue, if Iran cheats on the nuclear deal, “We will catch them.”

The Truman Project quickly came out in support of the deal more than a month ago, arguing “this historic agreement demonstrates the power of strong, forceful diplomacy and, if it is implemented and enforced properly, will make America and our allies safer and stronger.”

“The agreement closes off all of Iran’s potential avenues to a nuclear weapon, gives us access to their entire nuclear supply chain, and imposes the strictest monitoring and verification regime ever negotiated in the history of non-proliferation. If Iran cheats, we will know in time to take decisive action – and all options will be on the table,” said the statement from Executive Director Michael Breen on July 14.

“Many of us witnessed firsthand the damage done by an unnecessary war fought in the Middle East in the name of nuclear non-proliferation. This time, through tough American-led diplomacy, we have closed off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon without risking American lives.”

Read bullet | Comments »

State Dept.: We Totally Trust IAEA with Inspections Where Only Iran Can Inspect

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department said today that everybody shouldn’t worry about the Iran side agreements, because the International Atomic Energy Agency will do a great job with inspections where they’re not allowed.

Press secretary John Kirby was grilled about an Associated Press story focusing on a draft seen of one of the final inspection agreements. According to “separate arrangement II” — the AP didn’t see a “separate arrangement I” — Iran will take its own photos and video of Parchin and other military sites believed to be linked to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

“As we’ve said before, including in classified briefings for both chambers of Congress, we’re confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program. Issues that, in some cases, date back more than a decade,” Kirby told reporters at today’s briefing.

“Just as importantly, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements which are unique to the agency’s investigation of Iran’s historical activities,” he continued. “When it comes to monitoring Iran’s behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran’s current program remains exclusively peaceful, the overarching objective, as you know, of the JCPOA.”

He stressed that he wouldn’t comment on the “purported draft document” cited by the AP.

“I wouldn’t amend the secretary’s comments about this at all. I mean, unless you’ve seen every single arrangement that the IAEA has with every other country in which it has a program for monitoring nuclear activity, I don’t know,” Kirby said. “It’s routine that the IAEA has these arrangements with individual counties. Those arrangements are, as we’ve said, confidential by the nation itself and the IAEA. That’s what’s routine here.”

“And this is, and remains, as I think the secretary has described it, as a technical arrangement between those two parties, and it’s — regardless of that detail it’s not unlike, in terms of framework, the kinds of arrangements they have with other nations that have nuclear capacity.”

Congress has not seen the arrangements, a withholding that many lawmakers are calling a deal-breaker on the vote next month.

But Kirby says they should be satisfied because both houses of Congress were “briefed” on the deal.

“But because it is reflective of a relationship between the IAEA and Iran, it is not for the P5+1 to endorse or negate,” he added. “…That is what the P5+1 has endorsed: make sure that the IAEA is satisfied.”

“Not an expert on IAEA protocols, but I can tell you that Secretary Kerry remains fully confident that the IAEA will manage their part of these requirements just as ably and efficiently as they do anywhere else in the world.” But, he insisted, this inspections regime “is much more robust than in any other case around the world.”

“We have full confidence in the IAEA and in the inspection regimen that they will establish and set up to make sure that Iran cannot achieve nuclear weapons capability. We’re very comfortable with the arrangement.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said it should be a no-brainer: “International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period.”

“The standard of ‘anywhere, anytime’ inspections – so critical to a viable agreement – has dropped to ‘when Iran wants, where Iran wants, on Iran’s terms.’ For weeks, Congress has been demanding access to this document to assess the viability of the inspections measures,” Royce said. “Congress must now consider whether this unprecedented arrangement will keep Iran from cheating. This is a dangerous farce.”

Read bullet | 18 Comments »

Peek at Iran-IAEA Agreement Shows Iran Will Use Own Inspectors on Military Site

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Congress has been rebuffed in its requests to see the deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, with many arguing that lawmakers can’t consider the deal as they’re entitled by law without knowing all the details.

But the Associated Press has seen one of those documents, and reports today that “Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms” — Parchin:

The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn’t differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue in public.

The document is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency’s probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.

Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”

That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won’t get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.

While the document says the IAEA “will ensure the technical authenticity” of Iran’s inspection, it does not say how.

The draft is unsigned but the proposed signatory for Iran is listed as Ali Hoseini Tash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs. That reflects the significance Tehran attaches to the agreement.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced his “no” vote today, and cited the IAEA agreements as one of many reasons why.

“While I remain deeply concerned with what I have been able to review in the Iran nuclear agreement, I am even more disturbed by the fact that there are agreements between the IAEA and Iran that Congress has not been allowed to read,” Isakson said. “These secret agreements will serve as a baseline, yet we will not be able to know where that line actually is. To vote for something that I am not allowed to read would be an injustice to the people I represent.”

Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he hadn’t read the agreements, and the administration doesn’t have a copy. The IAEA chief told lawmakers the agency won’t reveal anything about the agreements because of confidentiality.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted the existence of a side agreement as proof that the deal is a “sham.”

“After Iran spent years developing their nuclear capacity in secret while denying that they were doing so, we would now allow Iran to police these sites themselves,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This is a very serious development and should concern every member of Congress who supports or is thinking about supporting this deal. President Obama said that this deal is ‘not built on trust,’ but on verification.”

“This side agreement shows that true verification is a sham, and it begs the question of what else the administration is keeping from Congress.”

“Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the U.N. in an open and transparent way is remarkably naïve and incredibly reckless,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement. It is time for the Obama administration to come clean with the American people and provide all information about these secret side agreements between Iran and the IAEA.”

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

More Than 15,000 .mil and .gov Email Addresses Revealed in Cheater Dating Site Hack

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hackers who swiped the information of millions of registered members of Ashley Madison — a dating site for cheaters — made good on their promise to release the data dump, and it includes a Washington spin.

Among the 36 million records released are more than 15,019 email accounts from .mil or .gov. Army addresses comprised the largest number of military addresses, at 6,788, while the Air Force only had 127 addresses on the list.

The government agency with the most users? Veterans Affairs.

The .gov extension includes address with federal agencies, state governments and foreign governments. A check of a sampling of addresses by PJM showed many addresses at federal government agencies that matched names of staffers there, and some that appeared fake.

An online listing of the .gov addresses revealed a handful using a mail.house.gov email, including one House communications director and a staffer at the office of the Chief Administrative Officer.

There were three Senate addresses: three Capitol Police, one at the office of the Sergeant at Arms, and one from the office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). It was the general press email of his office.

“The email address in question is press@cruz.senate.gov, a publicly and widely available forwarding address that is often entered into web contact forms by people with no connection to our office,” a Cruz aide told Roll Call.

The hackers said in a statement released with the data that they’ve “explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”

“Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters,” the statement continued. “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

Ashley Madison, a Canadian company, said in a press release that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Services and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the hack.

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society,” the company said. “We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.”

Users on imageboard website 4chan were breaking down the data dump into more digestible, searchable information, such as a British government list.

Read bullet | 11 Comments »

Menendez ‘Certainly Sharing’ His Iran Deal Opposition with Undecided Senators

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said today that he’s sharing his Seton Hall remarks on the Iran nuclear deal — in which he ripped the agreement provision by provision — with other members of Congress.

Menendez was asked on Fox whether he’s whipping other Democrats to vote against the deal.

“I certainly am sharing the speech that I delivered yesterday at Seton Hall University to all of those colleagues that have not decided. I want them to have an understanding of the insights, of the countless hours,” the senator said. “Not every colleague sits on the [Foreign Relations] committee, not every colleague necessarily had all the access that I had. I want them to have a full understanding of both the flaws of the agreement and that there is also a Plan B, because I think many colleagues believe that the agreement is deeply flawed. But they’re hung up on the, ‘if not this, then what?’”

In his speech, Menendez laid out a “credible” alternate path forward in negotiations — something the Obama administration swears doesn’t exist.

He opined that President Obama jumped at the deal for “aspirational” reasons.

“There is a hope if you buy time and the Iranians comply exactly as they are supposed to over this period of time, that maybe Iran will change,” Menendez said of administration reasoning. “Maybe the forces of commerce and international integration will change. Maybe they’ll stop holding American hostages. Maybe they’ll stop exporting terrorism. But hope is not a national security initiative. And so I have to look at the deal not if everything is going to go well, but in fact looking at a 20 year history of violations of Security Council resolutions and other items. What if it goes bad?”

He noted that there are “more than a dozen” senators who haven’t decided how they’ll vote.

With his “no” vote and that of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), 11 more Dem defections are needed.

“But I would say simply say, this isn’t a binary choice between the agreement or war. Even members of the administration past and present, who came and testified before the committee when I asked him that question said, no that’s not the case. So that’s a false choice. And it’s a false choice to say that people who are against the agreement ere those who voted for the Iraq War. I didn’t vote for the Iraq War. So I’m on a totally different plane here.”

Menendez stressed “whether I was a deciding vote or not” is “not the basis” for his vote.

“The question for me this is one of the most significant national security non-proliferation issues we have had in quite some time, and so my view of this, as someone who has spent 23 years in the House and the Senate sitting on the respective Foreign Relations Committee, and pursuing Iran for the better part of 20 years,” he said.

“When I looked and said, why does Iran that has the fourth world largest oil reserves and the second natural gas reserves in the world even need nuclear energy for domestic energy consumption, that I had been following them and see how they’re deception delay and defiance of international community has gotten them to this point.”

Read bullet | 8 Comments »

Corker to Vote Against ‘Fanciful’ Iran Nuclear Deal

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has determined that Congress should reject the Iran nuclear deal “and send it back to the president.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced his “no” vote yesterday in a Washington Post op-ed, the same day that the former Democratic chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), gave a long, scathing rebuke of the deal at Seton Hall.

“Rather than end Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, over time this deal industrializes the program of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Corker wrote.

“For a deal that must be built on verification and not trust, the inspections process is deeply flawed. Through verbal presentations regarding possible military dimensions, many in Congress are aware of the unorthodox arrangements agreed to by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the administration and our negotiating partners to keep from upsetting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Those actual agreements remain secret, but we know that at best they are most unusual and speak to the P5+1’s low commitment to holding Iran’s feet to the fire.”

The chairman added that “absent a clearly articulated policy for the region, this deal will become the linchpin of the United States’ Middle East strategy.”

“This abrupt rebalancing could have the effect of driving others in the region to take greater risks, leading to greater instability. Iran was fully aware of this, which helped the regime continually erode the deal to its benefit, and it will become an impediment when we try to push back against potential violations of the agreement,” Corker wrote. “Iran, on the other hand, does have a regional strategy that this deal will boost and strengthen.”

The time is ticking, he warned, as “under this deal that leverage will flip in approximately nine months, when most major sanctions are relieved.”

“The idea that a future president will somehow have the same options available as today, when Iran is poor and isolated, is fanciful,” Corker said.

He stressed that he :came to these negotiations with an open mind,” but witnessed “a very disappointing outcome for our country.”

“Throughout history, Congress has rejected or altered hundreds of international agreements, many of them multilateral. For the administration to say there is no other deal than this one is an effort to negate Congress’s important role and responsibility.”

Read bullet | Comments »

ISIS Beheads Top Archaeologist in Ancient City of Palmyra

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

When ISIS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in May, antiquities experts feared that their first move would be to destroy the 1st and 2nd century ruins in the Syrian town.

Now, they’ve beheaded the antiquities expert.

Khaled Assad, 81, was the former director general of Palmyra antiquities and museums, holding the position for four decades until his 2003 retirement. According to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, the archaeologist was arrested a month ago.

This week, they murdered him in the public square, then tied his body to a lightpost with hands at the top and his head resting at his feet. A photo was circulated online and a video is rumored to be in the works.

A sign was hung on Assad’s body listing the reasons for his beheading, the first being his attendance at “infidel” archaeological conferences as an official Syrian representative. They accused him of being the head of “idols” in the ancient city.

But some reported that, over the past month, ISIS tortured the archaeologist demanding to know where there were treasures that they could loot and sell. When he didn’t give them an answer, he was killed.

Last month, ISIS released photos of militants smashing a handful of statues in Palmyra with sledgehammers; they claimed they were simply punishing a smuggler. ISIS also destroyed a  2,000-year-old, 10-foot lion statue, and Syrian activists on the ground have reported the terrorists planting explosives around the ruins.

UNESCO has warned that ISIS is already trying to sell looted antiquities in markets including Europe, and “using the illicit trafficking, the selling of these objects in order to finance extremism and terrorism.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Carly Fiorina Trolls the TSA on Yelp

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.58.08 PM

The site where you go to get user restaurant reviews now lets you sound off about government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration.

Said a blog post today on the Yelp website:

We are excited to announce that Yelp has concluded an agreement with the federal government that will allow federal agencies and offices to claim their Yelp pages, read and respond to reviews, and incorporate that feedback into service improvements.

We encourage Yelpers to review any of the thousands of agency field offices, TSA checkpoints, national parks, Social Security Administration offices, landmarks and other places already listed on Yelp if you have good or bad feedback to share about your experiences. Not only is it helpful to others who are looking for information on these services, but you can actually make an impact by sharing your feedback directly with the source.

Hence, Carly’s above contribution.

Read bullet | 33 Comments »

Menendez a ‘No’ Vote, Details Better Iran Deal that Obama, Kerry Claim Doesn’t Exist

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Stressing that his vote is “much greater and graver” than supporting President Obama or not, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) delivered his verdict of the Iran nuclear deal in an address at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

In short, not only will Menendez vote against the deal but will lend his voice and vote to override the White House veto.

Menendez said his analysis of the P5+1 agreement began with one question: “Why does Iran — which has the world’s fourth largest proven oil reserves, with 157 billion barrels of crude oil and the world’s second largest proven natural gas reserves with 1,193 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — need nuclear power for domestic energy?”

“While I have many specific concerns about this agreement, my overarching concern is that it requires no dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for 10 years. Not even one centrifuge will be destroyed under this agreement. Fordow will be repurposed, and Arak redesigned,” he said.

“…The deal enshrines for Iran, and in fact commits the international community to assisting Iran in developing an industrial-scale nuclear power program, complete with industrial scale enrichment.  While I understand that this program will be subject to Iran’s obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, I think it fails to appreciate Iran’s history of deception in its nuclear program and its violations of the NPT. It will, in the long run, make it much harder to demonstrate that Iran’s program is not in fact being used for peaceful purposes because Iran will have legitimate reasons to have advanced centrifuges and a robust enrichment program.  We will then have to demonstrate that its intention is dual-use and not justified by its industrial nuclear power program.”

Menendez noted how Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman danced around his question of reauthorizing sanctions legislation that expires next year, claiming it was “too early” to talk about discussing having something to “snap back” to in the event of an Iran violation.

So the senator took his question directly to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, and got an answer on July 25: “It is clearly spelled out in the JCPOA that both the European Union and the United States will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing the sanctions and restrictive measures lifted under the JCPOA,” the Iranians told Menendez. “It is understood the reintroduction or reimposition, including through extension of the sanctions and restrictive measures will constitute significant nonperformance which would relieve Iran from its commitments in part or in whole.”

“Frankly, in my view, the overall sanctions relief being provided, given the Iranian’s understanding of restrictions on the reauthorization of sanctions, along with the lifting of the arms and missile embargo well before Iranian compliance over years is established, leaves us in a weak position, and – to me – is unacceptable,” Menendez said.

“If there is a fear of war in the region, it is fueled by Iran and its proxies and exacerbated by an agreement that allows Iran to possess an industrial-sized nuclear program, and enough money in sanctions relief to continue to fund its hegemonic intentions throughout the region. Imagine how a country like the United Arab Emirates – sitting just miles away from Iran across the straits of Hormuz feels after they sign a civilian nuclear agreement with the U.S., considered to be the gold standard, to not enrich or reprocess uranium? What do our friends think when we give our enemies a pass while holding them to the gold standard? Who should they trust?”

He proceeded to rip apart the inspections plan, noting that the administration argument that no other country expect Iraq “was subjected to anytime, anywhere inspections” neglects to recognize that “Iran’s defiance of the world’s position, as recognized in a series of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, does not make it ‘any other country.’”

“If the P5+1 had not achieved an agreement, would we be at war with Iran? I don’t believe that,” Menendez said of another administration argument — that it’s their deal or war.

He even provided a congressional path for the “better deal” that Obama swears doesn’t exist.

“We should direct the Administration to re-negotiate by authorizing the continuation of negotiations and the Joint Plan of Action – including Iran’s $700 million-a-month lifeline, which to date have accrued to Iran’s benefit to the tune of $10 billion, and pausing further reductions of purchases of Iranian oil and other sanctions pursuant to the original JPOA. I’m even willing to consider authorizing a sweetener – a one-time release of a predetermined amount of funds – as a good faith down payment on the negotiations.

We can provide specific parameters for the Administration to guide their continued negotiations and ensure that a new agreement does not run afoul of Congress. A continuation of talks would allow the re-consideration of just a few, but a critical few issues, including:

First, the immediate ratification by Iran of the Additional Protocol to ensure that we have a permanent international arrangement with Iran for access to suspect sites.

Second, a ban on centrifuge R&D for the duration of the agreement to ensure that Iran won’t have the capacity to quickly breakout, just as the U.N. Security Council Resolution and sanctions snapback is off the table.

Third, close the Fordow enrichment facility. The sole purpose of Fordow was to harden Iran’s nuclear program to a military attack. We need to close the facility and foreclose Iran’s future ability to use this facility. If Iran has nothing to hide they shouldn’t need to put it under a mountain.

Fourth, the full resolution of the ‘possible military dimensions’ of Iran’s program. We need an arrangement that isn’t set up to whitewash this issue. Iran and the IAEA must resolve the issue before permanent sanctions relief, and failure of Iran to cooperate with a comprehensive review should result in automatic sanctions snapback.

Fifth, extend the duration of the agreement. One of the single most concerning elements of the deal is its 10-15 year sunset of restrictions on Iran’s program, with off ramps starting after year eight.  We were promised an agreement of significant duration and we got less than half of what we are looking for. Iran should have to comply for as long as they deceived the world’s position, so at least 20 years.

And sixth, we need agreement now about what penalties will be collectively imposed by the P5+1 for Iranian violations, both small and midsized, as well as a clear statement as to the so-called grandfather clause in paragraph 37 of the JCPOA, to ensure that the U.S. position about not shielding contracts entered into legally upon re-imposition of sanctions is shared by our allies.

At the same time we should: Extend the authorization of the Iran Sanctions Act which expires in 2016 to ensure that we have an effective snapback option; Consider licensing the strategic export of American oil to allied countries struggling with supply because Iranian oil remains off the market; Immediately implement the security measures offered to our partners in the Gulf Summit at Camp David, while preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge.

In addition, Menendez said, Obama should “unequivocally affirm and Congress should formally endorse a Declaration of U.S. Policy that we will use all means necessary to prevent Iran from producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, as well as building or buying one, both during and after any agreement.”

He’s also not buying the administration argument that P5+1 partners won’t come back to the negotiating table, as they “will still be worried about Iran’s nuclear weapon desires and the capability to achieve it.”

“At this juncture it is important to note that, over history, Congress has rejected outright or demanded changes to more than 200 treaties and international agreements, including 80 that were multilateral,” he said.

Menendez slammed the deal as being based on hope, and “hope is part of human nature, but unfortunately it is not a national security strategy.”

“I know that the editorial pages that support the agreement would be far kinder, if I voted yes, but they largely also supported the agreement that brought us a nuclear North Korea… I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.”

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

Hillary Decries High Cost of College While Selling ‘Back to School’ $40 iPhone Case

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t want the next generation to be bled dry by their student loans, but her campaign is taking a different approach with their back-to-school collection at the Hillary store.

The new items on the page included in her back-to-school tweet include a $55 polo shirt — plain navy blue with her “H”-arrow campaign logo (you can get a Ralph Lauren polo for less). The environmentally-friendly plastic drink tumbler will set you back $20.

Her iPhone case is an astounding $40 — you can get Marc Jacobs iPhone cases at Bloomingdales for less.

And never mind the $65 backpack:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.08.21 PM

And so everyone can chuckle about her eons-ago baking cookies comment:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.21.46 PM

But since some college students won’t be doing any baking unless there’s a special plant in the brownie mix, Hillary offers everything to make your rager complete — the difference being that the Party Pack has no clothes:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.24.30 PM

And she’s also ready for tailgate season:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.26.11 PM

And that spatula warrants a Weird Al flashback:

YouTube Preview Image

Read bullet | 8 Comments »

VIDEO: Hillary’s Meeting with #BlackLivesMatter Gets Tense as Activists Accuse Her of ‘Victim-Blaming’

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists early last week, and just-released video shows the meeting got testy with an activist accusing the former secretary of State of “victim-blaming.”

Clinton spoke with the handful of activists for about 15 minutes on the sidelines of a forum about substance abuse in Keene, N.H.

One of the activists, Julius Jones, related their conversation to the topic of the forum, telling Clinton that “free black labor” was “America’s first drug.”

He adds that someone needs to “take on anti-blackness” by telling white people in the country that the mass incarceration system is like the plantation system — “a founding problem.”

Jones then accused the Clintons of being “partially responsible” for this through tough-on-crime legislation. “Now that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?”

Clinton listened with her hands folded, nodding at some of the things he was saying but giving him a stern look.

“There has to be a reckoning — I agree with that — but I also believe that there has to be some positive vision and plan that you move people toward. Once you say ‘this country has still not recovered from its original sin,’ which is true, once you say that then the next question by people who are on the sidelines, which is the vast majority of Americans, the next question is ‘well, what do you want me to do about it’?” Clinton said. “That’s what I’m trying to put together in a way that I can explain and I can sell it.”

“Your analysis is totally fair,” she later told the activist. “It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say ‘here’s what we want done about it.’ Because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it…. Even for us sinners, find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in people’s lives.”

But as the meeting progressed, as Clinton’s advisers were trying to urge her to move on to the next meeting, the interaction got more tense.

“If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what we need to do,” Jones said. “This is, and has always been, a white problem of violence. There’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.

“If that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we’re going to deal with a very real problem,” Clinton fired back.

“What you just said was a form of victim-blaming,” the activist continued.

“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we could do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them, to live up to their own God-given potential.”

CNN confirmed that the activists had showed up to protest inside the Clinton event, but weren’t allowed in by the Secret Service.

The meeting didn’t impress the activists from the Black Lives Matter Boston chapter, who issued a series of tweets accusing Clinton of having “more influence than most on policies that led to systemic oppression of people of color.”

“HRC’s policies are far-reaching, & negatively affect Black & brown people OUTSIDE the US as well,” added another tweet.

Clinton, meanwhile, tweeted against Arctic drilling, in support of Obamacare, and in support of her campaign’s new collection of back-to-school Hillarwear for kids.

YouTube Preview Image

Read bullet | 21 Comments »

State Dept.: Classified Emails on Hillary’s Server Aren’t All ‘Spy Thriller’ Caliber

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department spokesman told reporters Monday that Hillary Clinton’s confidential emails aren’t necessarily “spy thriller” level classification, and insisted that 63 classified emails out of sampling of 3,000 off her private server so far is “a pretty small percentage.”

More than 300 have been pulled by intelligence community reviewers for additional scrutiny.

“We’ve got intelligence community reviewers sitting with our reviewers as we go through that traffic. So what you’re seeing here is exactly what we want to see, which is the proper care and scrutiny being applied to this,” press secretary John Kirby said at the daily briefing when prodded about whether the department can still call the scope of the probe and violations “limited.”

“It’s a healthy thing. It’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that all 300 are going to end up at some level of upgrade. I suspect some will and I suspect some won’t. We just have to let the process work its way out.”

Kirby added that “there’s a lot of work left to do, and I can assure you that there will be additional upgrades” to classified status “over time. It’s just a mathematical fact.”

“And what I think you’re seeing here is testament to the fact that we’re taking this very seriously, and we’re doing it deliberately and in a measured way, and we’re not going to shy away from making an upgrade recommendation if that’s, in fact, what has to happen,” he said.

Asked if even low-level classified information should be treated with appropriate safeguards by the U.S. government, Kirby replied, “Yes. Of course.”

“So why does the fact that it was low-level classified somehow change the fact that it is information that should be kept inside the circle of the government?” the reporter continued.

“It doesn’t,” Kirby said. “And I didn’t imply that.”

“At least not at this point in the review, we haven’t seen any indication that anybody did it willfully or negligently, that people knew at the time that they were transmitting,” the press secretary continued. “And that it was – that it was sent to former Secretary Clinton or anybody else on her staff doesn’t mean that they solicited that sensitive information or that the sender meant to put sensitive information out there at the time. So it’s just not as cut and dry as I think everybody would like it to be at this point.”

“…It’s inevitable at some point as you’re trying to do your job as a diplomat in sometimes sensitive situations or restrictive environments that information may come to you whether you wanted it or not that ends up being sensitive. When you know that’s the case, when you feel that’s the case, when you believe that’s the case, you have obligations – all of us do – to properly protect it.”

Kirby said that “if you do know or you have a reason to suspect, ‘Boy, I just got an email that’s got some sensitive information in here,’ there are steps in place, there’s procedures – we’re all trained on them – on how to deal with that.”

“You alert the IT folks, you alert the security folks, you do what you have to do. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not so easy to know where that line is. But there are procedures in place regardless of where on the unclassified side that information resides and/or was transmitted, whether it’s a private Gmail account or my State.gov. There’s procedures and rules and they have not changed.”

Read bullet | 56 Comments »

WATCH: New Amazon Exec Jay Carney Defends Online Giant Against Allegations It Makes Workers Cry

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is trying to turn around sagging sales at McDonald’s, and now his successor Jay Carney is defending Amazon from allegations that it makes workers cry.

The New York Times story alleged that the mega Internet retailers is “conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable” in a “punishing,” “bruising,” “extreme” environment.

“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” one former employee told the NYT.

In his new role as Amazon senior vice president for global corporate affairs, Carney told CNN that the article was “way off base.”

“It doesn’t represent the company that I’ve worked for, for just five months, but the company that others that I work with have been at for a decade or more,” he said, adding the writers painted a “vision of a soulless dystopian workplace where people are miserable and unhappy.”

Amazon workers, he said, “like the fact, that unlike a lot of workplaces, including places I’ve worked, it is absolutely standard and expected to question everybody’s ideas and anybody can have a good idea. It doesn’t have to be the person at the top. It can be the person in the middle or the bottom.”

Carney was Obama’s press secretary from 2011-2014.

He argued that “150,000 new jobs wouldn’t be created and filled if people didn’t want to work at Amazon.”

“And when we’re talking about the white collar workforce, again, these are people who could work anywhere. And in some cases, at the most senior levels, these are people, because they have been so successful, who don’t have to work but they love coming to work at Amazon because it’s an innovative and creative place to be,” Carney continued.

He defended the fact that, unlike other online giants such as Netflix and Facebook, Amazon has no paid paternity leave. “But 83 percent of American companies don’t offer paid paternity leave. So, 83 percent of companies are where Amazon is. That doesn’t mean that’s ultimately the right policy, but that article left that fact out,” he said.

“…Right now, if you’re a qualified PhD in engineering or software developer, you can name — you can decide where you want to work. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter. The world is your oyster, right? And we have to compete to get those people. And they come to Amazon because it’s such a compelling place to be and people love to work there.”

Carney added that “one of the things that I marvel at about the story is, to suggest that people should come to Amazon if they want to work hard is somehow a bad thing.”

Read bullet | Comments »

After Rocky Rally with #BlackLivesMatter Protesters, Sanders Sits Down with Jesse Jackson

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

More than a week after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was kept from speaking to a Seattle rally by a pair of Black Lives Matter protesters, the Democratic presidential candidate sat down for a chat with Jesse Jackson.

Sanders was in Chicago today for a meet-and-greet fundraising reception at Park West, off the heels of a packed weekend schedule in Iowa that included opening a field headquarters in Cedar Rapids, a town hall that was expanded to a bigger venue at the last moment in Dubuque, and a union hall meeting in Clinton. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the Iowa State Fair straw poll 49-45 percent.

Even though a Chicago fundraiser sounds Obama-esqe, Sanders’ campaign said the starting ticket price for the 820-people capacity event was $50. His average campaign donation so far has been $31.20.

Before the fundraiser, Sanders went to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition national headquarters for a “very productive” hourlong meeting with Jackson “on important issues confronting the country and the African-American community.”

Sanders, who was active in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement including the March on Washington, has been accused by some activists of not having an understanding of or a good enough plan for racial issues. Activist Deray McKesson tweeted at Sanders, “The first draft of your racial justice platform has promise. When will you be available to discuss enhancements w/ folks?”

Sanders replied today, “Let’s do it. We will [personal message] you this week to arrange.”

Buzzfeed reported Saturday that Sanders’ African-American outreach director, Marcus Ferrell, sent an email to activists apologizing for taking “so long to officially reach out” and saying the campaign wants “to do a better job speaking out on the issues, and as a sitting U.S. Senator, possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change.”

Sanders told Meet the Press on Sunday that email “was sent out by a staffer, not by me.”

“Look, we are reaching out to all kinds of groups, absolutely. I met with people at Black Lives Matter. We’re reaching out to Latino groups. We’re reaching out to the unions. We’re fighting to expand Social Security and we’re reaching out to senior groups. We’re reaching out to health care groups because we believe that everybody in America is entitled to health care. We’re reaching out to everybody,” the senator said.

“But on this issue of Black Lives Matter, let me be very clear, the issue that they are raising is a very, very important issue. There is no candidate for president who will be stronger in fighting against institutional racism and, by the way, reforming a broken criminal justice system.”

Asked if an apology such as that delivered by the staffer was necessary, Sanders replied, “No, I don’t.”

“I think we’re going to be working with all groups,” he said. “This was sent out without my knowledge.”

Tonight, Sanders told the Park West crowd, “As somebody who has one of the strongest civil rights records in Congress, no one will fight harder to end institutional racism in this country and, equally important, reform the criminal justice system.”

“We are going to end this horrendous distinction of having more people in jail than any other country on earth and instead work to create the best-educated population on earth,” he added. “In my view, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to be investing in jobs and education instead of jails and incarceration.”

Jackson tweeted an old photo of the pair to mark their meeting:

Read bullet | 12 Comments »

Redskins President Won’t Change Name Even If New Stadium Gets Blocked

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The leaders of the Washington Redskins are holding fast on their vow to not change the team name, even if they lose out on land for a new stadium because of it. From ESPN:

Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen said the team will not reconsider changing its name — even if it’s a political barrier to a potential new stadium.

The Redskins have started the process of finding a new home, exploring potential sites in Maryland, where they now play; Washington, D.C., where they used to play; and Virginia, where they train. But Allen supplied a short answer when asked about changing the name stance to build a new home.

“No,” he said.

Despite protests from Native Americans and others, the Redskins have maintained they won’t change their longtime nickname. But Interior Secretary Sally Jewell opposes the team name, which could prove to be a hindrance if the Redskins want to return to Washington, D.C

Governors in Virginia and Maryland have said the Redskins name wouldn’t be a disqualifier for building a stadium there. The team’s lease in Maryland is up in 2026.

The National Park Service would come into play if the Redskins wanted to build at the RFK Stadium site in D.C.

“The team and its leaders are so obsessed with clinging to a dictionary-defined racial slur that they are willing to abandon their hometown and local fans in order to continue degrading Native Americans,” said Joel Barkin, spokesman for the grassroots Change the Mascot campaign, which includes some Native American tribes and politicians including President Obama.
“Now that Bruce Allen has been relieved of day-to-day responsibilities as General Manager he must have a lot of free time on his hands to double down on this racist moniker and try to figure out what to do about Native Americans returning donations from the team,” Barkin continued. “Unfortunately, Bruce Allen, team owner Dan Snyder and the Washington team fail to understand that you cannot buy acceptance of continued racism. The NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the other owners should immediately step forward now that the Washington team is publicly declaring its willingness to abandon Washington in order to retain its racial slur mascot.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Congressman Behind Birthright Citizenship Bill Gives Thumb’s Up to Trump Plan

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A congressman who introduced legislation earlier this year to nix birthright citizenship praised Donald Trump’s immigration strategy as a “very, very positive document.”

“It’s bold, it’s strong, it’s broad. It covers most of the things you want to cover,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told CNN today.

King said his birthright citizenship legislation, should it pass, “will be litigated, there isn’t any doubt about it.” The bill has 27 co-sponsors and is sitting in committee.

“I think it is constitutionally sound to pass legislation and end birthright citizenship. There aren’t many countries in the world that have that policy,” he added.

The congressman said he was “curious, for some time” about how Trump would get Mexico to pay for the wall. “As you know, I’ve advocated for a long time for a fence or a wall, or fence on the southern border. I’m optimistic about this.”

Trump’s plan states: “Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options].  We will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

King said the “tactics” employed in Trump’s plan “are legitimate and he’ll use more leverage in that.”

“There will be subtle leverage. There’ll be State Department leverage. I think he can get to the place, but whether they do or don’t pay for the wall, as he says in his document, the cost of that wall pales in comparison to the cost of not building it,” he said.

The congressman also suggested the plan include one of his ideas, legislation offered a while ago: “If you’re an employer and you use E-Verify you get safe harbor for those you hire. But you cannot let the wages and benefits be paid to illegals under this legislation. So, the IRS would go through under a normal audit of business and they would run the Social Security numbers of the employees through. If E- Verify kicks them out and said sorry they can’t work in the United States, then the employer would lose his business deduction.”

“So your $10 hour illegal after there’s interest, penalty, taxes charges on that would be $16 an hour illegal, and we would end there’s a six-year statue limitations on it. So, we would clean up this work force and we do so with the IRS. And we require the IRS to cooperate with the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN this morning that Trump’s border wall policy is “something that’s discussed, but I don’t think that’s the first thing we should be worried about.”

“We talked about four different ways you have to secure the border. Walling and fencing in certain places, not the entire border. Doesn’t make any sense,” Christie said. “…I’ve met President Pena Nieto a number of times. I don’t think if we present him with a bill, he’s going to pay for it. And this is not negotiation of a real estate deal, OK. This is international diplomacy and it’s different. And it’s different.”

Christie said walls should be built in populated areas, along with “FBI, DEA, and ATF agents embedded with Border Patrol folks to deal with the criminal element.”

“They’re much more trained to be able to deal with gun running and drug running than our typical border agents are. Third, we need to use drones and other electronic surveillance in more difficult parts of the border to show where we need to deploy human resources more effectively. And then fourth and importantly, we need to use e-verify,” he said.

“And the fact is these folks are coming over here to work. They’re not coming to vote; they are coming to work. And if fact they know they can’t get jobs, then they’re not going to come. And so that’s the most important element of all four. All four are important, but that’s the most important element.”

Trump’s plan advocates nationwide e-verify: “This simple measure will protect jobs for unemployed Americans.”

Read bullet | 9 Comments »

Poll: Email Scandal Capturing Voters’ Attention Far More Than Hillary Wants

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is getting more attention among voters than her campaign would like, and a new poll shows it’s also influencing how they’ll cast their ballots.

A Morning Consult poll conducted Friday through Sunday found 82 percent of surveyed registered voters have paid “a lot of or some attention” to the story of Clinton’s private server and classified material found in emails sent or received outside of secure government email.

A full 60 percent said the controversy would be “somewhat or very important” to their 2016 vote. That included 63 percent of self-described independents.

Just a little over a third — 34 percent — said they were “satisfied with Clinton’s explanations of her handling of the private server,” with more than half — 52 percent — dissatisfied, including 56 percent of independents.

A Gallup poll last year found a record number of American voters identifying themselves as independent — 42 percent, as compared to 31 percent ascribing to the Democratic Party and 25 percent picking the GOP.

In mid-July, Clinton had 48 percent favorability in the Morning Consult poll and that number has declined to 43 percent.

She has the support of 50 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) climbing to 24 percent. Just a few weeks ago, Clinton led Sanders by 44 points.

Clinton’s emails got wide play on the Sunday shows, with House Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on ABC.

Gowdy says he “has no idea” at this point if Clinton broke the law, but “most of the explanation she’s given for why she did, I have been proven to be demonstrably false.”

Clinton is scheduled to testify in open session before Gowdy’s committee in October.

“I don’t use the word ‘lie.’ I’d just tell you it’s false. Whether or not she knew it was false at the time she said it, you’re going to have to ask her. I can just tell you that we found 15 documents that should have been produced in the State Department that she did not produce to the State Department. But that’s just one of the five explanations she’s given with respect to her email arrangement that has also proven to be false,” Gowdy said.

“So whether she’s just terribly mistaken a lot, whether there’s an intent to deceive, I’m not smart enough to be able to answer that question. I can just tell you this: she’s wrong.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Breakdown of Federal Funding Sought in Oversight Committee Probe of Planned Parenthood

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Leaders on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee let Planned Parenthood and the Department of Health and Human Services know they need some critical documents in their investigation of any role of federal funding in transactions involving body parts.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules, noted in the letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell that according to Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 report, the organization received more than $500 million in government funding that fiscal year accounting for more than 40 percent of the organization’s total revenue.

“The Department of Health and Human Services provided a significant portion of the federal funds that Planned Parenthood received,” the chairmen wrote. “It is not clear whether Planned Parenthood used any federal funds to support transactions involving fetal tissue.”

They asked Burwell to provide a number of documents to the committee by Aug. 28, including how the HHS funding broke down by program, what restrictions or regulations applied to any of the government funds, and what healthcare services are only provided by Planned Parenthood that are not available from other facilities utilizing Medicaid or Obamacare.

Chaffetz and Jordan sent another letter to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, noting her group’s “potentially unlawful transactions involving fetal tissue” recently released by the Center for Medical Progress.

Richards was asked to break down, from 2010 until today, Planned Parenthood’s funding sources and “an accounting of all Planned Parenthood activities that were financed with federal funds.”

They also asked for a list of the organization’s top 50 wage-earners since 2010 as well as information on the “66 independently incorporated affiliates” of Planned Parenthood mentioned in the annual report as operating about 700 health centers across the country.

And the chairmen posed to Richards the same question they asked of Burwell: which healthcare services are only provided by Planned Parenthood that are not available from other facilities utilizing Medicaid or Obamacare.

Richards was asked to hand over requested documents and to provide a briefing for committee staff by Aug. 28.

Read bullet | Comments »