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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.
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At UN, Mexican President Takes Shot at ‘Political Opportunism’ Stigmatizing Immigrants

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The president of Mexico took shots at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, decrying populism that led to demonization of immigrants.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has been hesitant to take shots at Donald Trump, saying he doesn’t “want to contribute to or make the fat broth [make things easier] for someone who is just vying to become a candidate.”

“The government … fully discredits and condemns any expression of a discriminatory character and [any expression] that specifically hurts Mexicans,” he told the Mexican website SDPnoticias earlier this month.

Peña Nieto told the UN on Monday that “with the growing inequalities, with a global economic crisis which shows no sign of abating, and with the social frustration which this causes, the world today is exposed to the threat of new populist movements, new populist movements of the left or of the right, but all of them present an equal risk.”

“The 20th century experienced and suffered from the consequences of individuals who, because they lacked understanding, a sense of responsibility or ethics, opted to divide their populations. Societies must be on the alert with regards to those who would take advantage of our fears and concerns,” he said.

“In the light of those whose hatred and animus, with the only agenda being that of fulfilling their own political or personal ambitions, in the second decade of the 21st century we must not repeat the mistakes that caused so much pain to the world in the past.”

The Mexican leader argued that “the time has come to reclaim and endorse the principles which define us as people,” including “respect for migrants, respect for women, respect for all races and religions, respect for diversity and political pluralism, but above all, respect for human dignity.”

“It’s a fact the present time is characterized by a migratory movement of millions of people who are searching for a better life. Unfortunately, on all continents, in all areas, the migrant experience is one of risk, rejection, discrimination and abuse. These conditions are made worse when, because of ignorance, bad faith or racism, or pure political opportunism, the migrants and their children are stigmatized and held responsible for the country destination’s own difficulties,” he said.

“Let us not allow this injustice to continue. Let us not allow democracies of the world to be robbed of their pluralistic and inclusive spirit. In the light of these visions of exclusion and discrimination, we have to unite our efforts to create a global scheme for protecting the rights of migrants which can deal with the challenges that we are facing. Throughout the world millions of migrants require a collective and effective response, a global response, which should come from the United Nations organization.”

Peña Nieto has been facing criticism at home over parts of his speech that commit Mexico to contributing more UN peacekeeping forces and for his characterization of Mexico as a country that respects human rights.

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‘A Reaffirmation of Precipitous Withdrawal’: Fifth-Largest City in Afghanistan Falls to Taliban

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Afghan officials are reporting that the fifth largest city in the country has fallen to the Taliban.

Kunduz, in the northeast corner of Afghanistan, succumbed to “a massive and well executed attack” beginning at 3 a.m. on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the country’s unity government.

“Insurgents closed off the only four access points into the city – effectively preventing troops from entering and civilians from fleeing. Officials said that the militants have also closed the airport road,” Tolo News reported.

“Heavy fighting has been ongoing throughout the day and so far the Taliban has seized the provincial council building, the offices of the local High Peace Council, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) building, UNAMA offices and other key official facilities including private banks. Officials also reported that the Taliban has overrun the local prison and freed all prisoners.”

Afghan officials said late Monday evening that the city will be retaken.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) called the reports “discouraging, but not unexpected.”

“President Obama’s failure to fully resource his strategy for Afghanistan forces our troops and their leaders to focus on meeting next year’s withdrawal deadline, rather than America’s security needs,” Thornberry said. “The fall of Kunduz to the Taliban is not unlike the fall of Iraqi provinces to ISIL — it is a reaffirmation that precipitous withdrawal leaves key allies and territory vulnerable to the very terrorists we’ve fought so long to defeat.”

Gen. John Campbell, who leads coalition forces in Afghanistan, will testify before the committee in October.

“I look forward to his assessment of how American and Afghan security can be enhanced if his forces are allowed to stay beyond the end of 2016,” Thornberry said.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming they have “no intention of transgressing against” Kunduz citizens’ “personal property, carrying out extrajudicial killings, looting or breaching the inviolability of homes rather it seeks to prevent such happenings.”

“The citizens of Kunduz should not worry about safeguarding their lives and properties. Carry out your ordinary livelihoods in absolute security. All traders, workers, staff of hospitals, municipality and governing bodies should continue their daily routines without any fear or intimidation. Mujahideen are their brothers and are committed to securing their lives and property. Mujahideen are not thinking of harassing or deriding anyone but have intentions of respecting and bringing serenity to their lives,” the Taliban said, adding that if the people “regret their former actions and renounce links with the opposition then the gates of forgiveness of the Islamic Emirate are open upon them.”

“The Kabul regime should openly admit its defeat, stop linking the victories of the Mujahideen to outside intelligence agencies and must not avenge their setbacks with blind bombardments and shelling of innocent people,” they added. “They should accept the progress of Mujahideen as a bitter reality and think about their future and the future of the entire country in a cool composed manner.”

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World’s Leading State Sponsor of Terrorism Calls for New World Order to Battle Terrorism

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations today that the Islamic Republic wants to lead an international coalition to go after terrorism.

The leader of the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism said the nuclear deal “is not the final objective but a development which can and should be the basis of further achievements to come.”

“Considering the fact that this deal has created an objective basis and set an appropriate model, it can serve as a basis for foundational change in the region. Our policy is to continue our peace-seeking efforts in the region based on the same win-win principle and act in a way that would lead to all in the region and the world benefiting from these new conditions,” Rouhani said.

The Iranian president stressed that “the gravest and most important threat to the world today is for terrorist organizations to become terrorist states.”

“We propose that the fight against terrorism be incorporated into a binding international document, and no country be allowed to use terrorism for the purpose of intervention in the affairs of another country,” he said.

“We are prepared to assist in the eradication of terrorism, and in paving the way for democracy and ensuring that arms do not dictate the course of events in the region. As we aided the establishment of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are prepared to help bring about democracy in Syria as well as Yemen. We support the consolidation of power through the votes of people rather than with arms. We defend the rule of the majority that respects the rights of minorities.”

Thus, Rouhani said, “through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we were not solely seeking a nuclear deal, we want to suggest a new and constructive way to re-create the international order, an order based on mutual respect, non-intervention in the internal affairs of others as well as on sustained cooperation and co-existence between the members of the United Nations.”

“…We may now devise a plan to resolve the problems of a shattered Middle East under the claws of brutality and savagery.”

Iran’s proposal for “a joint comprehensive plan of action to create a united front against extremism and violence… must create a collective and global movement to tackle regional problems in a serious manner through dialogue, prevent the slaughter of innocent people and the bombardment of civilians, as well as the promotion of violence and killing of other human beings, provide for the stability in cooperation with established central governments to maintain stability and once stability is established, build diplomacy and democratic governance in the Middle East region.”

Rouhani blamed terrorism on U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq and “unwarranted support for the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime against the oppressed nation of Palestine,” without which “today the terrorists would not have an excuse for the justification of the crimes.”

“It is urgent for the United States government, instead of explaining the truth of the region and throwing about baseless accusations and pursuing other dangerous policies in defense of its regional allies who only cultivate deceits of division and extremism, this must be brought to an end and its actions must be made compatible with the realities of the region,” he said.

Rouhani also said he expects other countries to “not to allow the Zionist regime to remain the only impediment in the way of realizing this important initiative” — the nuclear deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly on Thursday.

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Rubio Refuses to Be Part of Trump’s ‘Freak Show’

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told National Public Radio this morning that he wants no part of the “freak show” being stirred by Donald Trump’s run for the GOP nomination.

Trump has taken some jabs at Rubio lately, saying last week that the 44-year-old lawmaker “is like a kid — he shouldn’t be running in this race as far as I’m concerned.”

Rubio, Trump told a crowd in South Carolina, “announced he was going to run because he’s overly ambitious, too young – and I have better hair than he does right?”

“I’m not interested in the back and forth — to be a member or a part of his freak show,” Rubio told NPR.

“I would just say this: He is a very sensitive person; he doesn’t like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly,” the senator continued. “His poll numbers have taken a beating, and he was embarrassed on national television at the debate by Carly Fiorina and others.”

“But this election is not going to be about Donald Trump,” Rubio added. “He thinks it is, but it’s not about him. It has to be about the issues confronting our country. And my sense of it is that every time issues become prominent, he will say something outrageous or do something outrageous so that he doesn’t have to talk about the issues.”

Trump hasn’t responded yet to Rubio on Twitter, but is scheduled to appear on CNN later.

In an interview with 60 Minutes aired last night, Trump was asked why he’s “so thin-skinned” to criticism.

“I don’t like lies. I don’t mind a bad story. If you did a bad story on me for 60 Minutes, if it were a fair story I wouldn’t be thin-skinned at all. You know, some of the media is among the worst people I’ve ever met. I mean a pretty good percentage is really a terrible group of people. They write lies, they write false stories. They know they’re false. It makes no difference. And frankly I don’t call it thin-skinned, I’m angry,” Trump said, adding he can take a punch “if it’s fair.”

In a new NBC/WSJ poll of likely primary voters, Trump has 21 percent support to Ben Carson’s 20 percent, with Carly Fiorina and Rubio tied with 11 percent support each.

The 7 Reasons Marco Rubio Should Get the Nomination

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NASA: ‘Water Is Flowing Today on the Surface of Mars’

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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NASA announced today that they have “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.”

The space agency said they used Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imaging to study “signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet,” which appear to “ebb and flow” and vanish at cooler times as well as “darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons.”

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

The findings were published today in Nature Geoscience.

Lujendra Ojha of Georgia Tech, lead author of the report, said researchers “found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration.”

“In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” Ojha said.

House Space, Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the announcement “reminds us why we must remain committed to American space leadership and Mars exploration.”

“We live in exciting times. Water is one of the most precious resources necessary for a human mission to the Red Planet,” Smith said. “The more evidence we find of it, the more encouraged I am for future Mars missions. We continue to learn that Mars is an active planet worthy of further study.”

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Obama Pledges More U.S. Participation in UN Peacekeeping Because of ‘Forces of Integration’

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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President Obama slammed reliance on “bellicose words and shows of military force” in a United Nations General Assembly speech that pledged more U.S. contributions to UN peacekeeping forces.

His address ambled into advocacy for peaceful means of confronting evils in the world, advocacy for democratic governments while saying there are “no easy answers” to violent dictatorships, and giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a pass by referring to the invasion of Ukraine as ”Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”

“Obama’s target audience at UNGA — himself,” tweeted one Syrian activist.

Obama noted that “we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.”

“We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s mission. Information is strictly controlled, the space for civil society restricted. We are told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that is the only way to step out terrorism, or prevent foreign meddling. In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs on innocent children, because alternative is surely worse,” he said.

Yet he lauded his lucrative agreements with theocratic Iran and communist Cuba as successes. The P5+1 deal with Iran, particularly, “is the strength of the international system when it works the way it should.”

“That same fidelity to international order guides our responses to other challenges around the world,” he said.

As president, Obama argued, “I am mindful of the dangers that we face. They cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies unilaterally and by force where necessary. But I stand before you today believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.”

“We cannot look backwards. We live in an integrated world, one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success. We cannot turn back those forces of integration.”

Obama told the General Assembly “we should celebrate the fact that, later today, the United State will join with more than 50 countries to enlist new capabilities, infantry, intelligence, helicopters, hospitals and tens of thousands of troops to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping.”

“These new capabilities can prevent mass killing and ensure that peace agreements are more than words on paper,” he claimed. “But we have to do it together. Together we must strengthen our collective capacity where order has broken down and to support those who seek a just and lasting peace.”

“Nowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria,” he added of the conflict that has dragged on for four and a half years and killed more than 300,000. “When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs. It breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all.”

“Lasting stability can only take hold when the people of Syria forge an agreement to live together peacefully. The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” he said, citing Assad’s biggest arms suppliers and most powerful backers. “We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.”

The president stated that the “most advanced democracies” still see “greater polarization, more frequent gridlock, movements on the far right, and sometimes, the left.”

“I understand democracy is frustrating. Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect,” Obama said. “At times, it can be dysfunctional, but democracy, the constant struggle to extend rights to more of our people, to give more people a voice, is what allowed us to become the most powerful nation in the world.”

He gave only slight mentions in his speech to Ebola, poverty, climate change, and gay rights.

“History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires, who believed that might always makes right and that won’t continue to be the case, you can count on that,” Obama concluded. “But we are called upon to offer a different type of leadership. Leadership strong enough to recognize the nations share common interests, and people share a common humanity. And yes, there are certain ideas and principles that are universal. That’s what those who shaped the United Nations 70 years ago understood.”


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Carson on Kanye: ‘Willing to Give Him a Chance’ at Presidency

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Now in a statistical tie with Donald Trump for first place in the Republican presidential field, Ben Carson acknowledged Kanye West’s fandom for his candidacy and said he did get an opportunity to talk with the Grammy-winning rapper.

In a new NBC/WSJ poll of likely primary voters, Trump has 21 percent support to Carson’s 20 percent, with Carly Fiorina and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tied with 11 percent support each.

Trump isn’t the only front-runner who’s lost ground, with Hillary Clinton now leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by only 7 points. She led by 60 points in June.

West told Vanity Fair in a new interview that “as soon as I heard Carson speak, I tried for three weeks to get on the phone with him.”

“I was like, this is the most brilliant guy,” West said. “…And I think all the people running right now have something that each of the others needs.”

Kanye announced his own presidential ambitions — for 2020 — at the recent MTV Video Music Awards, and told the magazine those plans are “definitely” still in the works.

“I want everyone to win. When I run for president, I’d prefer not to run against someone. I would be like ‘I want to work with you,’” said West, who was called a “jackass” by President Obama in 2009 (after West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs) and again in 2012 (“He is a jackass. But he’s talented.”).

Asked Sunday on ABC about Kanye, Carson said, “I did have an opportunity to to talk with him.”

“I was extremely impressed with his business acumen. He knows a lot about business,” Carson said. “And, you know, I talked to him about the possibility of maybe himself and some of the other people in the pop culture doing some — some music that might be uplifting, that might give young women a sense of their value and young men a sense of responsibility.”

“I think it could be a tremendous thing in our society,” the pediatric neurosurgeon added.

Asked if Kanye could be a good president someday, Carson replied, “Well, I’m certainly willing to give him a chance. We’ll see. He’ll be able to explain things and we’ll see if he resonates with the people.”

On the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Carson stressed that he “has served our country for many years and I certainly don’t see any reason to denigrate him in any way.”

“But, you know, it is time, probably, for new leadership,” Carson said. “There’s a lot of unrest and people who really feel that a lot of people have been sent to Congress over the last few elections, but nothing really has changed. And they want to see some results.”

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Boehner: ‘False Prophets’ Like ‘Jackass’ Cruz ‘Whip People Into Frenzy’ Over Plans That Won’t Work

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on one Sunday show — CBS’ “Face the Nation” — after his Friday surprise announcement that he’d be resigning from Congress in about a month.

And Boehner used the opportunity to make another firm announcement: There will be no government shutdown this week, despite the efforts of some conservatives to block Planned Parenthood funding.

“The Senate is expected to pass a continuing resolution [this] week. The House will take up the Senate bill. We will also take up a select committee to investigate these horrific videos that we have seen from abortion clinics in several states that really raise questions about the use of federal funds and raise questions about aborted fetuses that are born alive,” he said.

“I have got another 30 days to be speaker. And I’m going to make the same decisions the same way I have over the last four-and-a-half years to make sure that we’re passing conservative legislation that is good for the country.”

Boehner said he doesn’t “want to leave my successor a dirty barn; I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.”

But he made clear that the GOP caucus is in “disagreement,” not “dysfunction.”

“I was planning on leaving at the end of last year. When my friend Eric Cantor lost his primary election in July of last year, it was clear to me that I just couldn’t leave, that I had to provide a transition for the next leaders,” he said.

“I planned on serving through this year. And on November 17, I was going to make an announcement. And on Thursday evening, and Friday morning, I looked up and went, why do I want to put my colleagues through this, when I’m going to make the same announcement six weeks from now? Why do I want to put the institution through this? And so it was the right decision. Frankly, I thought we handled it the right way.”

Boehner was facing a resolution from House conservatives demanding that he vacate the Speaker’s chair.

“Winning that vote was never an issue. I was going to get the overwhelming numbers of — I would have gotten 400 votes probably. But why do I want to make my members, Republican members, walk the plank? Because they’re going to get criticized at home by some who think that we ought to be more aggressive,” he said.

He stressed that “our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where, if you won the majority, you got to do whatever you wanted.”

“They wanted this long, slow process. And so change comes slowly, and obviously too slowly for some.”

On his critics who say the GOP majority can and should shake up things more quickly, Boehner cautioned that “the Bible says beware of false prophets. ”

“And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had chance,” he said. “But over the course of the August recess in 2013, and the course of September, lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool’s errand really they were getting all this pressure from home to do this. And so we have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen.”

Asked for his opinion of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Boehner replied, “I’ll refer you to my remark at a fund-raiser I made in August in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.”

That was: Boehner telling attendees that Cruz’s presidential campaign had a silver lining because it kept “that jackass” out of Washington and on the road.

“I’m referring to that same remark,” Boehner confirmed Sunday.

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Obama: I Asked China to Stop Hacking, and They Said OK

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama said he got the word of Chinese President Xi Jinping that the People’s Republic will stop hacking the U.S., but members of Congress warned those could just be hollow promises.

“I raised once again our very serious concerns about growing cyber-threats to American companies and American citizens. I indicated that it has to stop,” Obama said in a press conference with Xi today. “The United States government does not engage in cyber economic espionage for commercial gain. And today, I can announce that our two countries have reached a common understanding on the way forward.”

“We’ve agreed that neither the U.S. or the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage,” he said. “In addition, we’ll work together, and with other nations, to promote international rules of the road for appropriate conduct in cyberspace.”

Xi said “confrontation and friction are not made by choice for both sides.”

“During my visit, competent authorities of both countries have reached important consensus on joint fight against cyber-crimes,” the Chinese leader said. “Both sides agree to step up crime cases, investigation assistance and information-sharing. And both governments will not be engaged in or knowingly support online theft of intellectual properties.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said that agreement “would be a big step forward if China abides by it.”

“Unfortunately, in light of its many long-running cyber-theft enterprises, there is little reason to believe China will live up to its commitments,” Nunes said. “These cyberattacks will almost certainly continue until the Obama administration puts forward a credible deterrence policy.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who has called for a select committee on cybersecurity in the Senate, stressed that “we cannot be blind to the damage already inflicted upon us by hackers linked to the Chinese government, who are widely believed to be responsible for the recent hack of the Office of Personnel Management and numerous commercial breaches that have undermined our economic security.”

“The United States must make every effort to hold those criminals accountable immediately,” Gardner said. “That’s why I’ve written two letters urging the president to use all the tools at his disposal to punish perpetrators of Chinese-sponsored cyber crimes.”

Even the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee noted “we can’t just believe what China says.”

“We also have to see what they do and continue to monitor their actions in cyberspace very closely,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said. “…In order for this agreement to be successful, everyone must do their part to uphold their end of the deal, including the United States. If we can get this agreement fully implemented, it will be a major achievement.”

As Gardner noted, “Cybersecurity is not the flavor of the week. This is the future of our national security.”


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CENTCOM: Syrian Rebel Unit Gave Quarter of Its U.S.-Coalition Equipment to al-Nusra

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

U.S. Central Command acknowledged today that a Syrian rebel unit that received U.S. equipment gave a quarter of it to the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front “purportedly” in exchange for safe passage through a Nusra-controlled area.

CENTCOM said it received the report at about 1 p.m. that a commander of a New Syrian Forces unit had gifted the U.S. ammo and vehicles.

That follows a tweet from Nusra earlier this week: a photo of a rifle provided by the coalition, now in their hands. “A big slap in America’s face,” the tweet said. “The new batch of Division 30 that entered Syria yesterday handed over all its equipment including ammunition, medium weapons and pick-up trucks to Jabhat al-Nusra in exchange for its safety.”

CENTCOM declared the claim to be false. They came to that verdict after the New Syrian Forces told the coalition that they weren’t missing any equipment and the photo had been ripped from an NSF fighter’s Facebook page. NSF said on their Facebook page that if the rebel major in question did turn over weapons to Nusra, “he will be handed over to the military court and charged with grand treason because these weapons are not his to give, they are owned by the Syrian people.”

“Today the NSF unit contacted Coalition representatives and informed us that on Sept. 21-22 they gave six pick-up trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected Al Nusra Front intermediary, which equates to roughly 25 percent of their issued equipment,” said CENTCOM spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder. “If accurate, the report of NSF members providing equipment to Al Nusra Front is very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines.”

Ryder added that “in light of this new information, we wanted to ensure the public was informed as quickly as possible about the facts as we know them at this time.”

“We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response,” he said.

This comes two days after CENTCOM said it had “no indication that any New Syrian Forces fighters have defected to Al Nusra Front, contrary to several press and social media reports.”

“Additionally, all Coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF fighters. Approximately 70 graduates of the Coalition’s Syria Train and Equip Program successfully returned to Syria over the weekend and are currently operating there as New Syrian Forces,” that statement continued.

“While the NSF do not operate under the command and control of the Coalition, we will continue to support and enable these anti-ISIL forces as part of the campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”

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‘Without Boehner, It May Get Even Worse’: Dems React to Resignation

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Congressional Democrats ripped into House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) resignation announcement as a sign of weakness and “a stark indication of the disarray” in the House Republican caucus.

At a press conference this morning, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the news “seismic for the House.”

Pelosi said she called Boehner this morning before the news broke, “just to see how we’re doing on the [continuing resolution],” and was told he was in a meeting and would call her back — then “the phones just lit up and that’s how we found out.”

“The American people are even now more closely watching what happens here because they’ve seen a speaker step down because those in his caucus are demanding a shutdown of government unless there’s a defunding of Planned Parenthood. Public awareness is the strongest, strongest opportunity we have for keeping government open and so even some of their Karl Roves and the rest of that, my understanding is, have spoken out against shutting down government,” she said.

Pelosi said she’ll stand again as the Democrats’ candidate for speaker. Four members of her caucus voted against her last time. “But it will be interesting to see who they nominate for speaker, that’s really the question,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor this morning that he was “stunned” by Boehner’s news.

“I have had a relationship with John Boehner for a long time. His becoming Speaker, of course, made those relations much more close. I have not always agreed and I wasn’t always happy with what John told me, but he never, ever misled me. He never, ever told me something that wasn’t true and I accepted that. I got where I understood John Boehner very, very well. His word was always good,” Reid said.

Boehner, Reid said, has had “a very difficult job,” juggling “this faction, that faction, that faction and a couple more.”

“But by ousting a man like John Boehner – a good man like John Boehner – he is a conservative Republican. But his problem is that John Boehner has been pragmatic. He realizes there comes times when you have to make a deal,” he said. “…To say that I will miss John Boehner is a tremendous understatement. I looked out for him in ways that I could, and he looked out for me in the ways that he could.”

“…Whatever I can do to make his life more pleasant, I’ll be happy to do that. Whether it’s setting up a golf game for him in Las Vegas or helping him in some government matter, I will do whatever I can. Because John Boehner, as far as I’m concerned, is a good man.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said House leaders, as Boehner prepares to leave at the end of October, should “seize immediately” on a clear path “for approval of a CR without continuing obstructionists efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.”

“Regardless of who succeeds him as Speaker, I hope this change in leadership will help bring Republicans together so the Congress can accomplish more, and move away from governing by crisis,” Blumenthal said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opined that “it appears that even a very conservative speaker like John Boehner is unable to control the extreme right-wing drift of Republicans in the House.”

“This is a party whose ideology is way out of touch with the American people,” Sanders said. “Without Boehner, it may get even worse.”

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McCarthy on Boehner Resignation: GOP Must ‘Focus on Healing and Unifying’

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who stepped into the leadership role after Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) primary defeat last year, said this morning that the GOP caucus needs to heal after leadership switches to a new speaker of the House.

John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had talked about resigning after two decades in Congress and was potentially going to use his 66th birthday (Nov. 17) to announce his decision, bumped up that timetable today.

Instead, he’ll step down at the end of October.

Votes for a new speaker will be split between the very conservative House Freedom Caucus, which was driving to oust Boehner but doesn’t have enough votes among its members — 42 — to win a speaker’s election, the conservative Republican Study Committee, and more moderate Republicans.

McCarthy has strong relationships throughout the GOP conference and won his leadership election with a strong showing of support.

Unless the Freedom Caucus can put forward a formidable enough candidate, such as chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), McCarthy is the front-runner for the speaker’s gavel.

And since the speaker is elected by the full House, with 218 votes needed, Democrats won’t get a simple majority but can influence the outcome. Boehner was aided in his last speaker election by Democratic no-shows for the vote, pushing the threshold down. Twenty-five GOPs voted against Boehner in that election, offering candidates such as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and members who no longer served in the House.

“Since I first came to Congress in 2007, John has been serving his constituents and his country with unparalleled passion. John has been a leader, mentor, and most of all friend throughout, and I learned not only from his experience but also from his unshakeable faith and principles. It takes profound humility to step down from a position of power, and John’s depth of character is unmatched,” McCarthy said in a statement after the morning caucus meeting at which Boehner emotionally announced his resignation.

“As our country has weathered difficult times at home and abroad, John has acted as a true statesman, always moving forward with the best interests of the American people close to his heart. He will be missed because there is simply no one else like him,” McCarthy continued.

“Now is the time for our conference to focus on healing and unifying to face the challenges ahead and always do what is best for the American people.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who might jump into the race as well, said he was “eternally grateful for the steady, principled leadership Speaker Boehner has provided the House, and for the friendship and mentorship he’s given me.”

“There is no Speaker in history who has done more to defend innocent human life, to combat a lawless executive branch, and to advance a conservative governing vision for our country,” Scalise said. “His humility, patriotism, and commitment to our values will be deeply missed.”

There’s been no comment yet from Jordan or the Freedom Caucus.

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Pelosi: ‘We All Support the Sanctity of Life’

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised Pope Francis’ Thursday speech to Congress, but said the line about the sanctity of life that brought the whole chamber to its feet was open to interpretation.

“We all support the sanctity of life,” Pelosi told MSNBC after the address. “We all rose up and applauded what he had to say there. But again, in terms of interpretation, how you hear it, how you respect it, you respect your own values in that regard. I think he left plenty of room for people to respect other people’s opinions.”

The pope said near the beginning of his speech: “Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: You are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.”

The pope later stressed that “the yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” he said, evoking another standing ovation and loud cheers from the GOP side of the aisle. Democrats stood and applauded, as well.

That came just a few hours before the Senate blocked a continuing resolution to fund the government on a short-term basis that stripped Planned Parenthood funding.

The vote was 47-52 and not party-line, with GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Dean Heller (Nev.) Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) all voting against moving forward. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted in favor of the measure.

Paul said he voted against the CR because it’s a CR. “Time and time again, the President and Congress fail to do one of their most basic jobs, which is to review and adjust federal spending and fund the government,” Paul said. “While I support all efforts to stop federal funding of Planned Parenthood, this bill is a clear representation of business as usual in Washington – too much spending and too much debt.”

Pelosi said she feels “quite certain that we will keep government open because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I know that there are those who want to express themselves as opposed to women’s — respect for women’s health, but have them express that,” she said. “But our higher responsibility is to get the job done for the American people.”

Pope Francis also took a shot at same-sex marriage in his speech: “Fundamental relations are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”

When asked about that, Pelosi said she showed the pope a photo of her family before the address.

“All 20 of us, my husband and I, our five children, our grandchildren, and he blessed the photo. It was for the 50th anniversary of our marriage. It was so thrilling for me,” she said. “So when he was talking about that, I was really thinking of my on family and the fact that he was in some ways inscrutable. He said what he needed to say.”

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Carson Has Kanye in His Corner: ‘This Is the Most Brilliant Guy’

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Kanye West is a Ben Carson fan — from the moment, the rapper told Vanity Fair in a new interview, he heard words come out of the pediatric neurosurgeon’s mouth.

Carson is at 16.3 percent in the latest Real Clear Politics national poll average, behind just Donald Trump at 24 percent.

“As soon as I heard Carson speak, I tried for three weeks to get on the phone with him,” West said. “I was like, this is the most brilliant guy.”

“And I think all the people running right now have something that each of the others needs,” he added. “But the idea of this separation and this gladiator battle takes away from the main focus that the world needs help and the world needs all the people in a position of power or influence to come together.”

West announced at the recent MTV Video Music Awards that he wants to run for president in 2020.

He told Vanity Fair those plans are still “definitely” in the works.

“I want everyone to win. When I run for president, I’d prefer not to run against someone. I would be like ‘I want to work with you,’” West said.

He does think the public sentiment is working in his favor of his presidential run, though, after “the six years of this misconception or the six years I went through of ‘We don’t like Kanye.’”

“And then as soon as I said that, it was like, ‘Wait a second, we would really be into that, because actually if you think about it, he’s extremely thoughtful. Every time he’s ever gotten in trouble, he was really jumping in front of a bullet for someone else. He’s probably the most honest celebrity that we have.’ I didn’t approach that because I thought it would be fun. It wasn’t like, Oh, let’s go rent some jet skis in Hawaii. No, the exact opposite. I sit in clubs and I’m like, Wow, I’ve got five years before I go and run for office and I’ve got a lot of research to do, I’ve got a lot of growing up to do,” West said.

“My dad has two master’s degrees. My mom has a PhD, she used to work at Operation PUSH. Somehow the more and more creative I get, the closer and closer I get to who I was as a child. When I was a child, I was holding my mom’s hand at Operation PUSH. I think it’s time. Rap is great. It’s fun. It’s fun to be a rock star, and I’ll never not be one I guess, but there’ll be a point where I become my mother’s child. With all the things I’ve done that people would consider to be accomplishments, what’s the point where I become the person that Donda and Raymond West raised? My parents’ child.”

But Kanye admits: “I hate politics.”

“I’m not a politician at all,” he said. “I care about the truth and I just care about human beings.”

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Obama’s Biggest Senate Climate-Change Critic Says Administration Needs to Listen to the Pope

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — an ardent foe of President Obama’s climate change policy — said Obama should indeed heed the words of Pope Francis.

“The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good,” Pope Francis said today.

“This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to ‘enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.’ We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said after the congressional address that lawmakers do have “an important role to play in how the United States cares for our environment.”

“When Congress and a White House administration work together, we can address environment policy in a way that improves the livelihood of Americans while also protecting and even bolstering future economic opportunity for our nation. I know this first-hand as an original sponsor of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990,” Inhofe said.

“Since the original Clean Air Act became law, Americans are breathing the cleanest air in several decades and we continue to reduce pollutants in our environment as a result of this policy. These environmental advancements have simultaneously taken place while our nation has increased its use of energy consumption by 47 percent, population has grown by 53 percent, and economic development has improved by 219 percent.”

Meanwhile, though, Obama “has taken a different approach during his time in office,” the chairman continued.

“He instead has worked for the past seven years to cut Congress out of environmental policy by way of regulatory overreach with his so-called Clean Power Plan. The president is even using these climate regulations to make promises to the international community that are unachievable and will have no measurable impact on his objective of changing global warming patterns,” Inhofe said. “…The president’s climate agenda stands to create more poverty, not less.”

“Congress does have an important role to play in our environment, and my committee has put forward bipartisan solutions, to include reforming the Toxic Substance Control Act, reauthorizing the Brownfields program, and sending EPA’s regulations back to the drawing board with suggested improvements from Congress. I hope the president will take heed to the Pope’s words, and he will consider the policies we are putting forward to care for our environment while also safeguarding America’s prosperity.”

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Pope to Congress: ‘Protect and Defend Human Life at Every Stage’

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Pope Francis crafted his speech to Congress by descriptions of the values of four great Americans — Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton — while reminding lawmakers of the relief portrait of Moses overlooking the chamber.

“On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being,” the pontiff said, gesturing at the plaque. “Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: You are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.”

“Legislative activity is always based on care for the people,” he stressed. “To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

And the protection of all life was the central theme of the pope’s address.

First, with the example of Lincoln, the pope talked about a world that is “increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion.”

“A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms,” Pope Francis said. “But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.”

“…The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.”

The pope lauded American democracy, quoted from the Declaration of Independence, and stressed that “all political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity.”

When he cited MLK, colleagues sitting around Civil Rights Movement leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) patted the congressman’s back. Lewis never took his eyes off the pope, yet looked emotional.

Pope Francis said so many decades after King detailed his dream, “I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of dreams.” That spurred a standing ovation from all lawmakers.

“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

At this point Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was emotional.

“Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected,” the pope continued. “For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.”

He added that “our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” which “presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions.”

“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal,” he said. “We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.”

The pope stressed that “the yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” he said, evoking another standing ovation and loud cheers from the GOP side of the aisle.

With a speech light on policy prescriptions, Pope Francis did say he supports the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ call to abolish the death penalty.

In citing the example of Day, and “her social activism, her passion for justice,” the pope called for “courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’” for the Earth as well as the poor. “In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead,” he said.

From the perspective of Merton, the pope talked about dialogue, noting, “A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

He took a stab at the arms trade, asking, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

That, he said, summed up “three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of the reason for his trip to the United States: the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

“I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without,” he said. “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”

Supreme Court justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor were in the front row during this reference to same-sex marriage.

“In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions,” he said.

“At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.”

Pope Francis rounded out his speech with “God bless America!” He didn’t linger in the chamber long to hear his standing ovation, but made his way to the speaker’s balcony overlooking thousands gathered on the Capitol lawn.

Flanked by congressional leaders, the pope prayed for the audience before leaving to meet with the homeless at St. Patrick’s Church.

“What a day. What a moment for our country,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who dabbed his eyes at least three times during the speech, said after the pope left. “I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.”

“The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us. With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility,” Boehner added. “Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another. Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”

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Pope Visits Nuns to Show Support for Their Lawsuit Against Obama Administration

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop in Washington on his busy Wednesday — to publicly show his support for the nuns who have sued the Obama administration over the contraception coverage mandate.

That came after the pope said at the White House on Wednesday that freedom of religion “remains America’s most precious possession.”

“And as my brothers in the United States have reminded us, all of us to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it,” he added in the English-language remarks, a reference to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fight against the birth-control coverage mandate in Obamacare.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told reporters that the pope’s decision to visit the Little Sister of the Poor was a “little addition to the program, but I think it has an important meaning.”

“This is a sign, obviously, of support for them” in their legal administration against the administration, he said — a visit “connected” to “the words that the pope has said in support of the position of the bishops of the United States in the speech to President Obama and also in the speech to the bishops.”

The Tenth Circuit ruled against the nuns in July, but the next month they received a reprieve from the contraception mandate until the Supreme Court decides whether they will hear the case.


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Obama on Eid: Pilgrimage to Mecca ‘Reminiscent of Principle Upon Which This Country Is Built’

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

After a morning with Pope Francis at the White House, President Obama marked Eid al-Adha with a lengthy statement noting that “regardless of race, religion, and gender we are reminded that our rich diversity is what strengthens our nation.”

Eid al-Adha — the “Feast of the Sacrifice” — begins this evening.

“As more than 2 million Muslims from around the world and across the United States mark the end of their holy pilgrimage of Hajj in Mecca, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Muslims around the world celebrating Eid al-Adha,” Obama said.

“This pilgrimage and Eid is about sacrifice, almsgiving, and equality. Thousands of Muslims around the world travel to Mecca and Medina, leaving behind all that is valuable and dressed in a simple white cloth – all standing shoulder-to-shoulder and equal before God. This experience signifies that no single person is more worthy than another. It is reminiscent of the principle upon which this country is built: e pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

Obama said the Islamic holiday “is also a time to give food, shelter and health services to those in need.”

“Muslim Americans have always joined with other faith communities and entities to assist those suffering from hunger and conflict here at home and abroad,” he said. “Once again, at a time of such desperate need, Muslim American organizations are among those at the forefront of attending to victims in this refugee crisis.”

“May the prayers for peace from those on pilgrimage as well as those of all beliefs be heard and answered. For all those celebrating, Eid Mubarak from my family to yours.”

Secretary of State John Kerry issued his own statement calling Eid al-Adha “a special time when Muslims pause to appreciate the importance of sacrifice and devotion.”

“It provides an opportunity for renewed spirituality, prayer, and reflection, and for families and friends to gather in celebration and thanks for the many blessings of God,” Kerry said. “But it is also a time for charity and for helping those who are less fortunate including the many adults and children forced to flee violence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.”

“Eid reminds us all of our common humanity and of our obligation to help one another whenever and wherever we can. The true spirit of these holy days can be found in the efforts of people of all faiths who sacrifice to provide humanitarian relief and assistance to those who need it most.”

Obama marked Yom Kippur yesterday by noting “the Day of Atonement is a time for humility, reflection and repentance, a chance to be honest with ourselves and one another about our shortcomings.”

“Through our prayers and through our actions, as individuals and as a community, we can better bridge the realities of our world with the ideals and values we share,” he said.

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Chicago Station ‘Extremely Embarrassed’ About Using Nazi Imagery for Yom Kippur Story

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson


WGN in Chicago has apologized for showing a Holocaust-era Jewish star to illustrate a story about holy day Yom Kippur.

Yes, they went there.

But the station claims it was just an accident.

“Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The artwork chosen to accompany the story came from a graphics image bank. Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the image was an offensive Nazi symbol,” the station said in a statement.

“We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse.”

WGN added they are “reviewing our in house policies and changes have already been made to make sure a hurtful oversight like this never happens again.”

“Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.”

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CBN Asked Trump, ‘Who Is God to You?’: Here’s How He Answered

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

In a video clip just released by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Donald Trump responded to a question about God by calling the Almighty “the ultimate” — along with praise of his own business deals.

“Who is God to you? What are some of your thoughts on this?” asked host David Brody, who spent time with the presidential candidate on his Southern California golf course. “Clearly, you’re a smart man, you’re a smart businessman, you’ve contemplated this before, or have you contemplated this?”

“Well I say God is the ultimate,” Trump replied. “You know, you look at this? Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it 15 years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal.”

“That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals,” he continued. “We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this, and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us.”

“So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.”

Trump is coming off a feud with Ben Carson earlier this month about faith.

Ben Carson was asked at a rally how he differed from Trump. “Probably the biggest thing — I’ve realized where my success has come from and I don’t in anyway deny my faith in God,” Carson said. “My humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life and that’s a very big part of who I am. I don’t get that impression with him. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t get that.”

Trump told CNN the next morning that the neurosurgeon was “perhaps an OK doctor,” adding “you look at his faith and I think you’re not going to find so much.”

“All of a sudden he becomes this great religious figure. I don’t think he’s a great religious figure. I saw him yesterday quoting something and he was quoting on humility and it looked like he had just memorized it about two minutes before he made the quote. So, you know, don’t tell me about Ben Carson,” Trump said. “…I have known Ben Carson, of him, for a long time. I never heard faith was a big thing until just recently when he started running.”

Carson said “it wasn’t meant as an attack.”

“I was primarily talking about me and what motivates me,” Carson said. “And there were those who took it and revved it into some kind of a big deal. And obviously it was interpreted that way after Mr. Trump heard it. But that simply wasn’t my intention.”

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Religious Liberty, Pope Says at White House, ‘Remains America’s Most Precious Possession’

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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In remarks with President Obama at the White House this morning, Pope Francis stressed that he’s in the United States to support marriage and religious liberty while giving “words of encouragement” to Congress.

There were 11,000 ticketed guests gathered on the South Lawn for the arrival ceremony, along with scores of media, military and staff. Roads within a block of more from the White House were blocked off under a gauntlet of tight security.

Obama and Vice President Biden, along with their families, greeted Pope Francis when he landed yesterday at Joint Base Andrews. Out of respect for the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, no evening events took place Wednesday and the pontiff slept at the Vatican ambassador’s residence.

“I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue in which I hope to listen to and share many of the hopes and dreams of the American people. During my visit, I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope as a brother of this country to offer words of encouragement to those who are to guide the nation’s political future, in fidelity to its founding basis,” Pope Francis said this morning, referring to tomorrow’s speech to Congress.

“I will also travel to Philadelphia for the meeting of families to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and families in this critical moment in the history of our civilization,” he said, referencing the World Meeting of Families that was the main reason for his trip.

“Mr. President, together we should never fear our citizens. American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to reject in every form of injustice and discrimination. With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned in efforts to build a just and vastly ordered society, respecting the deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty.”

That freedom, the pope stressed, “remains America’s most precious possession.”

“And as my brothers in the United States have reminded us, all of us to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it,” he added in the English-language remarks, a reference to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fight against the birth-control coverage mandate in Obamacare.

Pope Francis then told Obama that he found his air-pollution-reduction initiatives “encouraging,” adding that “when it comes to the care of our common home we are living at a critical moment of history.”

He then stressed the urgency of reaching out to “millions of people living under our system which has overlooked them.”

He quoted the “telling phrase” of Martin Luther King Jr.: “We can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”

“We know by faith that the creator does not abandon us. He never forsakes his loving plan or repents for having created us,” the pope continued. “Humanity has the ability to all together in building our common home. As Christians inspired by this, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.”

“…I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.”

Obama lauded the pope as the first from the Americas and “also the first pontiff to share an encyclical to a Twitter account.”

“You remind us that the Lord’s most powerful message is mercy. That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart, from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life,” Obama said.

“…Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty. It was the basis for so much of what brought us together. And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty. But around the world, at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and killed because of their faith, believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship, and the faithful are imprisoned and churches are destroyed. So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation.”

Obama praised the pope for reminding the country “that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us.”

“Your Holiness, in your words and deeds you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and one another, you are shaking as out of our complacency,” he continued. “All of us may at times experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right. I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better.”

Pope Francis was led to the Oval Office for a one-on-one chat with Obama, and afterward was going to take a spin in a Jeep Popemobile between the White House and Washington Monument.

He was then headed to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for a meeting with U.S. bishops.


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Hillary Announces She’s Against Keystone After Insisting Taking a Position Would Be Inappropriate

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

After months of saying she didn’t want to step into the State Department businesses by issuing her opinion on the Keystone XL pipeline, the former secretary of State decided she’s against it.

“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton told a community forum in Des Moines, Iowa, where she lags behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the polls.

“And unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues,” Clinton added. “Therefore, I oppose it.”

She elaborated that she was “in a unique position as secretary of State at the start of this process, and not wanting to interfere with ongoing decision-making that the president and Secretary Kerry have to do in order to make whatever final decisions they need.”

“So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this,” Clinton said.

She later told the Des Moines Register editorial board that she wasn’t expecting the Keystone question but “clearly, the time had come for me to answer the question.”

Bernie welcomed Hillary to the anti-pipeline party.

“As a senator who has vigorously opposed the Keystone pipeline from the beginning, I am glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision and I welcome her opposition to the pipeline,” Sanders said in a statement after Clinton’s remarks. “Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley hit harder, calling Clinton a follower instead of a leader.

“On issue after issue — marriage equality, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, children fleeing violence in Central America, the Syrian refugee crisis, and now the Keystone pipeline, Secretary Clinton has followed — not forged — public opinion. Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group,” O’Malley said.

“The American people want a president who will lead—not just someone who will tell them what they want to hear,” he added. “On many of these issues, I staked out positions and got things done—even when they were politically unpopular. That’s what’s at stake in this election: the difference between conviction and convenience, and the gulf between actions and words.”

At the end of July, Clinton was asked in New Hampshire about Keystone and said it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to answer the question because she “was in a position to set this in motion” as secretary of State. The project is caught up in the State Department review process as it crosses into the United States from Canada.

“I am not going to second guess [President Obama],” she replied. “I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide. If it is undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Sanders chided her at the time for being indecisive on the pipeline.

Today, Republican National Committee Reince Priebus took shots at her decision to finally announce a decision.

“Hillary Clinton insisted her work on Keystone at the State Department prevented her from taking a position on the pipeline, and now we know she was being blatantly dishonest,” Priebus said. “Clearly, Hillary Clinton’s rapid decline in the polls and the prospect of the vice president entering the race caused her to change course. But instead of backing a job-creating project the American public overwhelmingly supports, Hillary Clinton has sided with extreme special interests, reinforcing how out of touch she is and that she’ll say or do anything to get elected.”

Sen. Cory Garnder (R-Colo.) needled at Clinton: “Seven years after the application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline was filed, Hillary Clinton made the ‘Hard Choice’ to side with radical environmentalists against American jobs.”

“Constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline would create jobs here at home, move us further towards North American energy independence, and help reduce our need for oil from overseas,” Gardner said. “I’m disappointed by Hillary Clinton’s choice.”

The Sierra Club, though, cheered Clinton for “standing against” the “toxic” pipeline.

“Secretary Clinton has spoken about her commitment to tackling the climate crisis, so opposing this dirty, dangerous project is exactly what should be expected and exactly what is necessary for any credible climate champion,” executive director Michael Brune said.

“Now, as the opposition to Keystone XL mounts, the decision remains with the president, who has pledged to reject this project if it contributes to the climate crisis,” Brune added. “He has all the evidence he needs to do just that and reject Keystone XL once and for all.”

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Obama: Yom Kippur a ‘Chance to Be Honest… About Our Shortcomings’

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The visit of Pope Francis coupled with Yom Kippur have frozen a fair share of congressional activity in Washington this week.

Yom Kippur begins this evening. President Obama issued a statement on the Day of Atonement today before leaving to greet the pope’s arrival at Joint Base Andrews.

“As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather for the sacred service of Kol Nidre, Michelle and I extend our wishes for an easy fast to all those observing Yom Kippur,” Obama said. “The Day of Atonement is a time for humility, reflection and repentance, a chance to be honest with ourselves and one another about our shortcomings.”

“Yet Yom Kippur is also a day of hope. Through our prayers and through our actions, as individuals and as a community, we can better bridge the realities of our world with the ideals and values we share,” the president continued. “On this special day,  may our common humanity unite us, and may our common faith in a better future inspire us to continue healing our world. G’mar Chatimah Tovah.”

Secretary of State John Kerry separately called Yom Kippur “a time of profound prayer, repentance, fasting, and self-examination.”

“The High Holidays are a special time when Jews pause to reflect on the past year and recommit themselves for the year ahead. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, provides an opportunity for spirituality, prayer, and contemplation; for families and friends to gather in worship; and for a re-dedication to core values of the Jewish people — to pursue justice, perform acts of kindness, lift up those who are less fortunate, and advance the cause of peace,” Kerry said. “It also serves as a reminder for people of all faiths about the importance of humility and the need for charity and compassion toward those in material or spiritual need.”

“On the occasion of the end of the Days of Awe, we wish the Jewish communities in the United States and across the globe a happy and healthy start to the new year of 5776. Shana tova.”

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WATCH: Bernie Sanders Does His Best ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ Impression

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did his best Weekend at Bernie’s impression during a soul-food sit-down on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Sanders said he believes America is ready for its first socialist president.

“I think once we understand the way Democratic socialism means,” he said. “What is means is learning from countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway — they have free healthcare for all of their people. They have free college education for all of their people.”

Wilmore asked if the senator would be comfortable with a “Weekend at Bernie’s situation” should the 74-year-old be elected and expire in office.

“The good news is, I’ve been blessed with good health,” Sanders replied.

Wilmore handed a pair of sunglasses to Bernie, who imitated the slouch of dead character Bernie Lomax in the 1989 movie.

Wilmore also teased Sanders about being interrupted by Black Lives Matter activists, asking the senator about courting black voters and then interrupting him several times.

Conservation turned to Trump, when Wilmore asked Sanders, “You know what Donald Trump has that nobody else has?”

“Five billion bucks,” Bernie dryly replied.

The Comedy Central host said Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat was the thing, and gave Sanders a “Black Eyes Peas Matter” hat — since they were eating soul food.

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Trump: ‘No Problem’ with Muslim President If ‘Properly Vetted’

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Donald Trump says he doesn’t have a problem with a Muslim president if that person is thoroughly vetted first.

Asked last night on Fox about Ben Carson’s comments regarding electing a Muslim commander in chief, Trump said he has “a lot of respect for Ben Carson and I like him a lot.”

“I think that basically, if somebody can get elected, you know, they are going to be vetted and if somebody can get elected that’s what it is all about. It’s an electoral process. I would tend to go along with that,” Trump said. “You know, in this country, if you win an election.”

“But I would say this. You know, Ben was saying there are difficulties. And I think everybody knows what those difficulties are. And people want to be politically correct. But there have been difficulties. And a lot of people agree with Ben,” he added.

“I do think that Ben would also agree though if properly vetted. The proper people properly vetted going through an election, I think that anybody that is able to win an election will be absolutely fine.”

Pressed on whether he would support and vote for a Muslim candidate who had been vetted, Trump replied, “They would have to go through the long hard process. It’s a long, tough road…I can tell you, and it really is very revealing. And I would have no problem with it, no.”

“Of course, there is a difference,” between moderate and radical Muslims, he said.

“And we’re not talking about all. I know some people, some Muslims who are friends of mine who are great people, fantastic people and they are concerned with radicalism. Very, very concerned with radicalism, as much as you are, as much as I am,” the real-estate mogul continued.

“But you do have a problem with the radical Muslims and the whole thing that’s going on around the world. And, you know, a lot of people don’t want to hear about it. They think it’s not politically correct to say whatever you want to say about it, but the problem exists so we have to talk about it.”

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Taliban: U.S. Facing More 9/11s ‘Everywhere’ and at ‘Every Moment of Your Life’

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The new leader of the Taliban marked Eid al-Adha — the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” beginning Wednesday evening — with a warning to America that the terrorism that brought U.S. forces to Afghanistan isn’t over.

Mullah Mansour, who formally took over leadership of the Taliban when they admitted in July that one-eyed leader Mullah Omar had been dead for two years, faces not only challenge to his leadership post but challenges from “some other unscrupulous elements,” aka ISIS.

Thus, he called for a community effort — “all sympathizers, revered religious scholars and scholars of other fields as well as analysts not to spare their valuable views, advice, conceptions (roadmaps) and practical assistance in military, political, educational, social and moral refinement and discipline sectors in order to render a positive, excellent and efficient service and to design and implement efficient plans” — to boost the Islamic Emirate and their goal to establish a Sharia state.

“As our 14-years long Jihad against the occupation is nearing its victory and the enemy has faced defeat at every front, therefore, it is trying to create an atmosphere of discord and distrust among the Mujahdeen by utilizing propaganda stratagems,” added Mansour’s statement. “…So keep your ranks and files united in this critical situation.”

The mullah also tried to paint the Taliban as a protection of Afghans and ISIS as a haphazard destroyer: “Mujahdeen should be fully careful not to shed blood of innocent people during operations.”

Taliban attacks within the country will stop, Mansour said, when the Afghan government ends “the occupation” and revokes “all military and security treaties with the invaders.”

“The invaders have not done any fundamental work in Afghanistan in the past fourteen years despite announcement of billions of dollars of assistance, i.e. any fundamental work or of long-term benefits for the Afghans! All their projects are designed for short-terms and are of low quality and spurious. However, they have fully spread poison to harm the way of thinking and trigger internal hostilities among the Afghans,” he continued.

“The Americans and their allies should take a lesson from the bloodshed of thousands of their soldiers and the disability of tens of thousands of others as a result of injury that they themselves admit. Hence, they should not send more troops in order to be killed or become disabled or grapple with psychological disease as a consequence of the current Jihadic response of the Afghans.”

The Taliban leader added that Americans “occupied Afghanistan under the pretext of the September Event; now 14 years have passed since then, you were supposed to prevent other events like that of the 11 September, following the occupation of Afghanistan but you are facing incidents similar to September Event everywhere in the world and at every moment of your life.”

“You are targeted everywhere and your life is at risk,” Mansour said. “Therefore, you should revisit your policies of colonialism for prevention of these incidents and for your own security, rather than dreaming of illusory security by killing and occupying other nations.”

He added that fighters should “gain the support of the people in the performing of Jihadic activities” and “behave with them like a servant not like a ruler.”

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Reid: Until GOP Notes Contributions of Muslims in America, ‘None of Them Will Be Worthy of Leading This Nation’

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Ben Carson’s comments on not advocating a Muslim for president of the United States made it to the Senate floor yesterday as Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared no lawmaker who doesn’t recognize Muslim contributions is fit to be commander in chief.

Reid propped up a photo of the headstone of Kareem Khan of New Jersey, a Muslim who died at age 20 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Kareem’s rank was that of Specialist in the Stryker Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry division. By all accounts, he was a good soldier. He received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a medal for good conduct. Tragedy struck on August 6, 2007, as Kareem and three others were checking abandoned Iraqi houses for explosives, a hidden bomb exploded, killing all four soldiers. Like thousands of other soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kareem Khan sacrificed everything for his country. Kareem gave, as President Abraham Lincoln said, ‘the last full measure of devotion’ for the United States,” Reid said.

But Carson, the senator said, “denigrated Kareem Khan and all Muslim-Americans” by questioning their “devotion to the United States [and] integrity.”

“And then Ben Carson unilaterally disqualified every Muslim-America from becoming president of the United States,” Reid said. “Shame on him. Shame on any person who spews such vile, hateful rhetoric. The nearly three million Muslim in this country are part of the fabric of America. They teach in our schools, fight in our military, and serve in Congress.”

Those two congressional Muslims, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), “have represented their districts and states with distinction.”

“Sadly, this is just another example of Republican candidates refusing to speak for three million Muslim Americans. We saw it last week with Donald Trump, as he refused to denounce bigotry at his own campaign rally,” Reid continued. “If these Republican candidates are incapable of going to bat for America’s Muslim community, then they shouldn’t run for president of the United States.”

“I call upon every Republican to denounce Ben Carson’s disgusting remarks. That shameful intolerance and bigotry should have no place in America today. Sadly, it seems to have a lasting place in the Republican Party. Republicans should open their eyes and take note of the contributions of our country’s Muslim community. Until they do, none of them will be worthy of leading this nation.”

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Walker: ‘I Am Being Called to Lead By Helping to Clear the Race’

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced he was jumping into the 2016 presidential campaign just two months ago, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka had a single-sentence reaction to the union foe’s news: “Scott Walker is a national disgrace.”

Trumka was quick to pounce on Walker’s announcement today that he is suspending his campaign with yet another pithy statement from the union boss: “Scott Walker is still a disgrace, just no longer national.”

In a brief statement delivered to reporters without taking any questions afterward, Walker said he believed in President Reagan’s optimistic view of America but the Republican Party of today “has drifted into personal attacks.”

“In the end, I believe that voters want to be for something and not against someone. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear about how we can make them better for everyone,” he said. “To refocus the debate will require leadership. While I was sitting in church yesterday, the pastor’s words reminded me that the Bible is full of stories about people who were called to be leaders in unusual ways.”

“Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With that in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.”

The governor said he wants his dropout to usher in a wave of dropouts from the crowded field.

“I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner,” he said. “This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and – ultimately – to the future of our country.”

Just four days ago, the governor’s campaign released a video of his presidential vision titled “Won’t Back Down.” Walker’s political foes in addition to Trumka gleefully trumpeted the news of his dropout.

“From the beginning, Walker’s campaign showcased the unabashed hostility that the Republican field has for working people, the middle class, immigrants, and woman. No matter which Republican emerges as this reality show’s victor, voters will ultimately reject the Republican nominee’s jaw-dropping determination to cater to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson TJ Helmstetter said in a statement.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Walker’s former competitors for the nomination issued polite statements wishing the governor well.

“Scott Walker is a good man who entered the presidential race after winning three grueling campaigns in four years. I know many people are disappointed with Scott’s announcement and I respect what a difficult decision it must have been,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said. “He remains one of the best governors in the country and I have no doubt that he’ll continue the fight for conservative principles. Republicans are lucky to have Scott on our team, and I wish the best to him and his family.”

“I got to know @ScottWalker well—he’s a very nice person and has a great future,” Donald Trump tweeted.

“In the presidential race, his focus on new, innovative policy ideas made the entire Republican field better,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

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CAIR Calls for Carson to Drop Out of Presidential Race

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations today called on Ben Carson to drop out of the presidential race because of his comments on whether a Muslim should be elected to the White House.

Carson argued that Islam is not “consistent with the Constitution,” thus he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

CAIR called a press conference at which executive director Nihad Awad said he was “shocked” by Carson’s remarks and added they should “remind” the presidential hopeful “about a very important document in the United States, and that is the Constitution.”

“The protection of freedom of religion in America is a fundamental principle of our country, so whether you’re Christian, you’re Jewish, you’re Muslim, you’re Catholic, you’re black, you’re brown, you’re white — if you are born in this country, if you uphold the Constitution… if you’re fit to lead,” that’s enough, Awad said.

“Mr. Ben Carson is wrong today to assume and say an American Muslim cannot be president of the United States… We really urge politicians, the general public, community leaders, presidential candidates to repudiate his views, and we ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he’s unfit to lead.”

Separately, CAIR announced a Quran giveaway in response to Carson’s remarks called “Share the Quran.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at today’s briefing that he hadn’t yet heard CAIR’s call for Carson’s withdrawal.

“I think what is clear is that — you know, this goes to something that we talked about in this room quite a bit on Friday, which is that we have seen not just a tendency, but a willingness on the part of some successful Republican politicians, and let’s face it, Dr. Carson, in many of the polls, ranks second or third,” Earnest said. :So at least in the last few months, he’s been quite successful in elevating his status in the Republican party, and we’ve seen a willingness on the part of many of those candidates to countenance offensive views, all in pursuit of political support. And in the case of the Republican primary, in the pursuit of votes.”

“And — you know, I think what’s particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, is that we haven’t seen a significant outcry from all of the other candidates in the Republican race, and it’s for the same reason, because they’re chasing for the same votes.”

Earnest called Carson’s views “not something that’s consistent with the values of the vast majority of Americans, and — you know, ironically enough, I — I actually do think that the views articulated by Dr. Carson are entirely inconsistent with the Constitution, that does actually guarantee the freedom of religion in this country.”

“So ultimately there will be consequences and, you know, certainly those views will be taken into account by voters, both in the primary, but also in the general election,” he said.

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Hillary Explains What She Means by ‘Sorry’ on Private Email Server

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Hillary Clinton clarified in an interview aired on CBS Sunday that when she says she’s sorry for conducting State Department business on her personal email server, she’s sorry about what came afterward.

“I’m sorry that I made a choice that has raised all of these questions, because I don’t like reading that people have questions about what I did and how I did it,” Clinton told Face the Nation.

“I’m proud of the work we did at the State Department. And I’m really proud of all the career professionals I worked with. I’m proud of the people who came in with me. And we got sanctions on Iran, put together that international coalition. We got a new arms treaty with Russia. We did a lot of really important work,” she said. “And I want that to be the focus of what people know about my tenure at the State Department.”

Acknowledging that she’ll be faced with questions next month in an open hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi — the terrorist attack that led to the discovery of her private server use — Clinton insisted she “never felt any political pressure or did I feel any political reason to do anything other than what we tried to do, which was to immediately deal with the problems that were coming at us.”

“There were two things going on simultaneously. I and others said that we were attacked. There was no doubt about that. That video, which was still spinning through the world, was being mentioned on social media. We had people climbing the walls at our embassy in Cairo even before the attack in Benghazi,” she said.

“And we had a lot of other attacks. I had to call the president of one of our neighboring countries, Tunis, to try to get — in Tunis — to get them to help protect our embassy. So, I was worried about everything that was going on and how people were responding to that from North Africa to Pakistan, all the way to Indonesia.”

On the server, the Democratic presidential candidate claimed, she’s now being “as transparent as possible, more than anybody else ever has been.”

Clinton also chimed in on the congressional Planned Parenthood defunding effort, saying the undercover videos of body-part brokering were “misleadingly edited” and were “intentionally taken out of context.”

“I have seen excerpts from them. And I have certainly read about them,” she said. “…But so far as I am aware, what they did, despite the way it was portrayed, is within the laws that were set up for this.”

The former senator, secretary of State and first lady also said she should be consider as an “outsider” in a campaign season where voters are shunning Washington “insiders.”

“I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president,” Clinton said. “I mean, really, let’s think about that.”

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Wasserman Schultz: GOPs ‘Elevate and Validate Discrimination’ with Doubts on Electing a Muslim President

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Democrats are pouncing on hypothetical questions posed to GOP presidential hopefuls on whether they would feel comfortable with a Muslim in the White House.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said it’s “not so much what religion you are, it’s what you stand for” when asked to respond to Ben Carson’s comments that a Muslim shouldn’t be put in charge of the country.

Carson argued that Islam is not “consistent with the Constitution,” thus he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

“I don’t think that we’re really anywhere near that — probably that happening because they’re a small minority in our — in our population,” Paul told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. “But I think we — the hard part is, is while we are a very pluralistic society and we’re open to all religions, more free than any other country, the problem we have is that people have been attacking us have been all of one religion and it’s hard to separate that. And so I understand people saying, oh my goodness, you know, how could that happen?”

Pressed on if he would have a problem with Muslim commander in chief, Paul replied, “I try to see that as a separate thing, someone’s religion.”

“But I just think that it’s hard for us, we were attacked by people who were all Muslim. I think it’s really incumbent,” the senator continued. “And this is what I’ve been saying all along, civilized Islam needs to step up in a bigger way and say this doesn’t represent us. I know they do. But I don’t hear enough of it. I need to hear more of it. And I frankly think that Saudi Arabia’s often stoked the flames of radical Islam instead of trying to be helpful.”

Donald Trump told NBC over the weekend that having a Muslim president is “something that at some point could happen.”

“We will see. I mean, you know, it’s something that could happen. Would I be comfortable? I don’t know if we have to address it right now, but I think it is certainly something that could happen,” Trump said. “I mean some people have said it already happened frankly but, of course, you wouldn’t agree with that.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich told NBC “that’s such a hypothetical question.”

“The answer is at the end of the day, you have to go through the rigors and people will look things,” Kasich said. “But I — for me the most important thing about being president is you have leadership skills. You know what you’re doing and you can help fix this country and raise this country. Those are the qualifications that matter to me.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) blasted the “not one, not two, not three, but four GOP candidates for president” who “failed to clearly support the concept that a person’s religious beliefs should not disqualify him or her from being president.”

“It’s hard to understand what’s so difficult about supporting an American citizen’s right to run for president, but unsurprisingly, this left Republicans scratching their heads,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Of course a Muslim, or any other American citizen, can run for president, end of story. To think otherwise is not only harmful to our political process, but it elevates and validates discrimination in this country.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he was “very disappointed that Dr. Carson would suggest that a Muslim should not become president of the United States.”

“It took us too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president,” Sanders said. “People should be elected to office based on their ideas, not their religion or the color of their skin.”



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White House Adviser Jake Brewer, Husband of Mary Katharine Ham, Killed in Charity Bike Race

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A White House senior adviser and husband of HotAir’s Mary Katharine Ham was killed this weekend while riding in a local bike race to raise funds for cancer research.

The Washington Post reported that Jake Brewer, 34, lost control of his bike on a sharp curve, crossed the double-yellow line and was struck by an oncoming car. Ham confirmed his passing in a moving series of Instagram posts yesterday in which she confessed, “I lost part of my heart.”

Brewer and Ham, who married in 2011, have a 2-year-old daughter, Georgia. She is 7 months pregnant with their second child.

President Obama said the conservative commentator should consider the White House family.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Obama said he was “heartbroken” at the loss of his senior policy adviser in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“We set out to recruit the best of the best to join their government and help us harness the power of technology and data to innovate new solutions for the 21st century. Simply put, Jake was one of the best,” the president said. “Armed with a brilliant mind, a big heart, and an insatiable desire to give back, Jake devoted his life to empowering people and making government work better for them. He worked to give citizens a louder voice in our society.  He engaged our striving immigrants. He pushed for more transparency in our democracy. And he sought to expand opportunity for all.”

“I’ve often said that today’s younger generation is smarter, more determined, and more capable of making a difference than I was as a young man. Jake was proof of that,” Obama added. “Michelle and I are praying for all of Jake’s family and his many friends, most of all his wife, Mary Katharine Ham, their daughter, Georgia, and their growing family. They’ll always have a family here at the White House.”

Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith noted in a White House blog post that Brewer “lived and loved more in his 34 years than some people do in their whole lives.”

“A small sample of Jake’s work in just the past two weeks included: leading our participation in an event in the Bronx to help underprivileged young people learn to code; working with our colleagues to accelerate the President’s TechHire Initiative; and bringing together leaders from industry and government to use data to connect those with key skills to job opportunities,” Smith said.

John Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said he was “shocked and devastated” at the loss of Brewer: “a bundle of brains, energy, commitment, and compassion.”

Holdren vowed “our grief will be matched in the days ahead by our solidarity and determination to support each other and find every appropriate way to honor Jake and help his beautiful young family through this impossibly painful time.”

A GoFundMe drive launched by Townhall’s Guy Benson on Sunday has already raised more than $138,000 of the $200,000 goal of an education fund for Brewer and Ham’s two children.

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Netanyahu Calls Out Arms Transfers, ‘Creation of a Terrorist Front’ at Putin Meeting

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Russia today and publicly called out the Kremlin’s arms sales to enemies of Israel while appearing with President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s remarks at the start of the meeting between the two leaders were brief: wishing the prime minister happy Yom Kippur.

But Bibi got straight for the point after sharing his own pleasantries.

“Israel and Russia share a common interest to ensure stability in the Middle East. And I am here because of the security situation which is becoming ever more complex on our northern border,” Netanyahu said. “As you know, in recent years, and particularly in recent months, Iran and Syria have been arming the extremist Islamic terrorist organization Hezbollah with advanced weapons, aimed at us, and over the years thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired against our cities.”

“At the same time, Iran, under the auspices of the Syrian army, is attempting to build a second terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights.”

Netanyahu, who was last in Moscow in November 2013, stressed that it’s the policy of Israel “to prevent these weapons transfers, and to prevent the creation of a terrorist front and attacks on us from the Golan Heights.”

The meeting came as Russia sold an anti-aircraft system to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that will be operated in Syria by Russian troops. Meanwhile, Russia is supplying Iran with  S-300 surface-to-air missiles.

“Under these circumstances, I thought it was very important that I come here, also to clarify our policies, and to make sure that there is no misunderstanding between our forces,” Netanyahu continued. “And I must say something else, both from a personal standpoint and from a national one – in all of the relations between us, whether I agreed and also when we differed, our discourse has always been conducted with mutual respect and openness. I am certain that it will be this time as well.”

“And so it will be, prime minister,” Putin replied.

“Let there be no doubt about this: We have never forgotten that in the State of Israel live very many emigres from the former USSR. This has a special effect on our bilateral relations. All of Russia’s actions in the region will always be very responsible,” the Russian president added.

“We are aware of the shelling against Israel and we condemn all such shelling. I know that these shellings are carried out by internal elements,” he said. “In regard to Syria, we know that the Syrian army is in a situation such that it is incapable of opening a new front. Our main goal is to defend the Syrian state. However, I understand your concern and I am very pleased that you have come here to discuss all issues in detail.”

The pre-meeting remarks were released by Netanyahu’s office.

Putin’s office, meanwhile, only said of the meeting: “Vladimir Putin met with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Russia on a working visit.”

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American, Delta Airlines CEOs Meet with Kerry in ‘Fairness’ Bid to Block Posh Gulf Competitors

Friday, September 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Domestic air carriers are beseeching the Obama administration to protect their substandard service and block competitive foreign carriers from wooing too many American travelers.

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli met with American Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Doug Parker and Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson so the execs could “explain their concerns about alleged subsidies being provided to three Gulf airlines,” according to a readout of the meeting from the State Department.

That followed “several” meetings “in recent months” between Novelli and stakeholders in the Open Skies debate, which, the State Department acknowledged, “has expanded international passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoted increased travel and trade, and spurred job creation and economic growth.”

Kerry “also noted that U.S. agencies are continuing to review the U.S. airlines’ subsidy allegations and recommendations for U.S. government action, as well as the views expressed by other stakeholders and members of the public.”

Domestic carriers, including at the time United Airlines, began “quiet” lobbying of the Obama administration early this year, arguing that the government should restrict access for Emirates, Etihad Airlines and Qatar Airways — because of “unfair competition.”

The administration, they argue, should make it “fair skies.”

“By challenging open skies, you are not just challenging the aero-political situation, you are challenging the very essence of economic liberalization that the U.S. has championed for decades,” Emirates president Tim Clark told The New York Times then. “I hope the administration will not stand for this nonsense.”

Emirates Airlines trolled U.S. airlines with the commercial in the video above that highlighted their concern with passengers, serving of edible food and luxurious accommodations.

Open Skies agreements eliminate “government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.”

In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors declined to endorse the “big three” U.S. airlines’ push to freeze service from Gulf carriers.

“The freeze is the centerpiece of the Big Three’s agenda, and the fact that the mayors weren’t buying it represents a repudiation of the U.S. legacy carriers’ attack on Open Skies,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella said at the time. “The freeze sought by the Big Three would be retroactive to January 2015. New flights to the U.S. that have already been announced would be erased. Cities would be denied expanded access to key segments of the international travel market.”

“It is time for the Big Three to follow the example of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and finally drop their push to freeze and roll back job-creating air service routes,” Grella added.

State Department press secretary John Kirby acknowledged Thursday it’s really a matter for the departments of Transportation and Commerce.

“I’m not aware of final decisions that have been made with respect to these claims,” Kirby said. “In fact, that’s one of the reasons why these two CEO’s wanted to speak to Secretary Kerry to continue to discuss their concerns. So I’m not aware that this been resolved in anyway whatsoever. And again, the secretary respects the role of DOT and the Commerce Department in terms of working through this.”

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Catholic Congressman Says He’ll Boycott Pope Address Over Climate Change

Friday, September 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A Catholic congressman said he’s boycotting Pope Francis address to the House and Senate — the hottest ticket in town next week — because he fears the pontiff will spend too much time talking about climate change.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) wrote in his announcement that “media reports” state the pope will focus on “all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into ‘climate justice’ and …presented to guilt people into leftist policies.”

“If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly,” Gosar said. “But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.”

“…If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend. It is my hope that Pope Francis realizes his time is better spent focusing on matters like religious tolerance and the sanctity of all life.”

However, the content of Pope Francis’ speech — much of which is expected to be off-the-cuff — isn’t even known to the White House, which told reporters it wants to hear climate change talk from Pope Francis but fears and expects topics like abortion to come up.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Kenneth Hackett told CNN that Pope Francis will be talking about “the persecution of people and the jailing of people, human rights activists” in his first stop, Cuba, and won’t be making swipes at American culture in his criticisms of capitalism.

“He sees problems with the excesses of capitalism and just the excessive striving after profit so that it affects people; and people fall through the cracks and the poor are hurt. That’s where he will focus,” Hackett said. “He is somebody who has a great concern. He knows about hard work and he knows that Americans work hard every day and the majority of Americans are striving to feed their families and educate their kids. And that he will applaud. But it’s the excesses that he’s concerned about.”

Hackett added that the message to Congress won’t be different than what Pope Francis says elsewhere.

“He has strongly held values which he repeats over and over again. The care for creation. He’s concerned about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in parts of the world. He’s concerned, obviously, about people who fall through the cracks, the homeless, the migrants,” the ambassador said. “Every day in Europe, we see a new migrant flow. And — and he’s aware of that, as well. And he may raise that issue when he comes to the United States.”

And the pope’s speech to the United Nations will come after UN experts accused the Vatican last year of committing torture with its pro-life doctrine. “The Holy See condemns the torture of anyone, including those tortured and killed before they are born,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio at the United Nations in Geneva, fired back last year.

The main purpose of Pope Francis’ visit, though, is the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Nearly 31 percent of this Congress is Catholic, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who invited the pope — as well as the two previous popes. Gosar is part of a group of House conservatives trying to oust Boehner from his leadership post.

Each member of Congress only got one guest ticket inside the chamber for the address, and 50 to 200 tickets for the Capitol lawn, where the address will be shown on a jumbo screen — followed by a wave from Pope Francis on the speaker’s balcony. Demand for those tickets has been so great that lawmakers have largely used lotteries to distribute them.

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