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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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Jindal: Obama’s Reaction to Charleston Shooting ‘Completely Shameful’

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) slammed President Obama for his “completely shameful” reaction to the Charleston church massacre.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it,” Obama said in a gun-control message in the White House briefing room today.

Obama took a dig at Republicans on Capitol Hill, adding “the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.”

“But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it,” he said. “And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

Jindal told Fox that “today was not the moment” for Obama’s speech.

“Within 24 hours of this awful tragedy, nine people killed at a Bible study in a church, now, let’s stop and think about that. Nine people coming into the church who are saying — to praise God, to study’s God’s scripture, gunned down,” the governor said.

“This monster then says he is going leave some victims alive so they can go tell the world what he has done. Within 24 hours, we have got the president trying to score cheap political points.”

Jindal said Obama can “have this debate next week.”

“His job as commander in chief is to help the country to begin the healing process. Now is the time to be hugging these families. Now is the time to be praying for these families. Now is the time to be coming together. Thank God for law enforcement for capturing this monster, and there’s no other word for him, this monster, so quickly. He has got a job as president to help begin the healing process, to unify us. For whatever reason, he always tries to divide us,” he said.

Jindal acknowledged that he and Obama disagree on the 1st, 2nd and 10th amendments.

“But now is not the time. My point is, whether he and I agree or not, now is the time — look, there are children wondering, why do things like this happen? There are families at home trying to understand, how does it happen in a church?” he continued. “What the commander in chief should have done, he could he emulated what Nikki Haley did. What a great example, a great governor of her state, coming forward and speaking for the people of South Carolina, saying our hearts are broken and literally having that candid moment on TV.”

“You could see the emotion. You could see — that’s beginning the healing process. The president could have asked the country. He could have said, instead of talking about politics today, we’re not Democrats, Republicans, independents, blacks, whites. We’re Americans, and we all need to worship together. We need to — what would have been great sign is to call for people to fill those churches, because don’t let anybody be scared from going to church. We’re not going to deterred from lifting our prayers,” Jindal said.

“…Government is not going to eradicate evil. And that’s why it would be also a good time to call America to prayer. That president doesn’t seem to like to do that, but it’s an important, important part of our country’s tradition.”

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Washington Reacts to Pope’s Warning Against Turning Earth Into ‘Immense Pile of Filth’

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Few on Capitol Hill didn’t have an opinion on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical today, which urged people to preserve God’s creation instead of turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”

“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress,” the pope wrote. “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.”

“…Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was “concerned that his encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history.”

“We have been innovative with our energy supply, and for generations the United States has lifted people out of poverty through the development of our God-given natural resources, most prominently from fossil fuels. We have worked to make these resources cleaner and more efficient, and natural gas is a perfect example,” Inhofe said. “To unravel this fabric of economic opportunity would create more poverty, not less.”

President Obama said he welcomed the pope’s “decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.”

“I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources,” Obama said, adding that he’s looking forward to talking climate change with the pontiff when he visits Washington in September.

Secretary of State John Kerry eagerly jumped in with praise for Pope Francis, noting “the faith community – in the United States and abroad – has a long history of environmental stewardship and aiding the poor, and Pope Francis has thoughtfully applied those same values to the very real threat our planet is facing today.”

“The devastating impacts of climate change – like heat waves, damaging floods, coastal sea level rise and historic droughts – are already taking place, threatening the habitat all humans and other creatures depend on to survive,” Kerry said.

Catholic Republican lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke carefully on the new document. “Well, one thing we know about this Pope is that he’s not afraid to challenge everyone’s thinking on issues, frankly, one way or another, and I admire his dedication to the poor and his work to protect the sanctity of life,” Boehner said at his press conference today. “And frankly, I respect his right to speak out on these important issues.”

At her press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lauded the pope at length for writing “with beauty, with clarity and with moral force.”

“He quotes St. Francis at the beginning and, of course, for me, that is our patron saint of the city of San Francisco — our namesake, the pope’s namesake — and in our Song of St. Francis, which I quoted the first day I was sworn in as Speaker of the House, I quoted the Song of St. Francis: where there is darkness, may we bring light. And His Holiness is bringing light on this subject,” Pelosi said. “…We really must listen to His Holiness as we go forward.”

Pelosi was asked about another part of Pope Francis’ encyclical, in which he addressed transgender issues: “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” the Pope wrote, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

“I think that he is saying what I hear in church on Sunday,” Pelosi replied after some prodding by the reporter.

“It’s funny. I was going on one of these evangelical — I don’t want to say evangeical, but one of these shows — one of these preachers; you know, I went to see one of them once, and they said to me, but before you go, you better make sure he’s not anti-gay, he’s not anti-women’s rights in terms of a woman’s right to choose, he’s not this and that. And I said well, that’s interesting, because I’ll be going to 9 o’clock Mass where I will hear that and you’re going to think that’s going to block me from going to another religious service, which was, frankly, silent on the subject,” she continued.

“But getting back to encyclicals, one of my favorite encyclicals is Pope Benedict’s — was Benedict’s first encyclical. It was called ‘God is Love.’ And in it, Pope Benedict quotes St. Augustine, who was his favorite saint. And he says in there that Augustine said 17 centuries ago, any government that does not exist to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves. And then he, Benedict — Pope Benedict, His Holiness, goes on to say sometimes, it’s very hard to define what is justice, but you must be — you must be — he cautioned against the blinding glare of money and special interest. Read it. It’s very interesting.”

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See Pelosi’s Pick for the New $10 Bill

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Treasury Department is stripping Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill, to be replaced with a woman yet to be determined.

“Democracy is the theme for the next redesigned series and the Secretary will select a woman recognized by the public who was a champion for democracy in the United States,” Treasury said last night, stressing that even though they’ll have public input forum the final selection will not be a democratic one. “While the Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for final decision on all design features, he will receive regular updates on the public feedback as he considers new design aspects and the portrait selection for the $10 note.”

At her press conference today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was happy that Hamilton was getting the boot — and had some suggestions for his replacement.

“I would add Frances Perkins, who is the first woman Cabinet officer and the author of Social Security. She certainly has affected many lives,” Pelosi said, referencing the Labror secretary who served from 1933 to 1945.

“I’m a big fan of so many of the women who are being suggested, and any one of them, it would — it would be absolutely great. Who are they talking about? Well, in any event, any one of them would be great. But I would add her name to the list.”

The campaign to bump Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill suggested names of women in American history including Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks.

“All of them — all of them are women of courage who have made a difference, and I’ve tried to respect some of them when I was Speaker or — some of it didn’t come to fruition until after, but we got started even before, and that’s with a statue to Rosa Parks in the Capitol,” Pelosi continued. “The — Sojourner Truth, a bust of Sojourner Truth in the Capitol, Helen Keller — we have a statue to her. All of this when we came in and said interesting gentlemen, but we have others who have contributed to the success of our country.”

“So I’m pretty excited about it all, but — all of the names that have been suggested. You might want to look at some other denominations as well. Why should we be confined to one?”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement on the switch that “America’s currency is a way for our nation to make a statement about who we are and what we stand for.”

“Our paper bills—and the images of great American leaders and symbols they depict—have long been a way for us to honor our past and express our values,” said Lew. “We have only made changes to the faces on our currency a few times since bills were first put into circulation, and I’m proud that the new 10 will be the first bill in more than a century to feature the portrait of a woman.”

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Obama Raises Gun Control After Church Massacre: ‘This Violence Doesn’t Happen in Other Advanced Countries’

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama emerged for a brief statement on the Charleston church shooting today, stressing that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries” and “we as a country will have to reckon with the fact.”

“It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency,” he said in the White House briefing room with Vice President Joe Biden at his side.

Nine people, including a South Carolina state senator, were murdered at the historic Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study last night. The suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was captured today in North Carolina.

Obama said he knew the slain pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. “To say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel,” he said.

“Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”

The president noted the church’s “sacred” history, including how it was once burned to the ground in the pre-Civil War era because it was a base for the anti-slavery movement.

Obama promised “more of the Bureau’s best” would be joining FBI agents already on the scene in Charleston.

“Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise,” he said. “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

“Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear:  At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”

Obama said he recognized “the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.”

“But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively,” he said. “The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”

“The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.”

After his statement, Obama left to fly to Los Angeles for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

The suspect’s uncle told Reuters that Roof recently received a .45 caliber handgun as a birthday present.

Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, told NBC that a survivor told her the gunman sat next to the pastor for the Bible study, and said before opening fire, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Roof’s prior arrests were for trespassing and drug possession.

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Lindsey in Love: Graham Opens Up About Past Girlfriends

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Bachelor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), out with a new e-book to pair with his presidential run, has opened up about his past loves.

In My Story, Graham writes, “I’ve never married. I guess I attribute that to timing, too. The opportunity never presented itself at the right time, or I never found time to meet the right girl, or the right girl was smart enough not to have time for me.”

“I haven’t been lucky that way,” he says of marriage. “But I have a family,” he adds of his sister, who’s married with two children.

Graham says he had two serious relationships while overseas with the Air Force: a JAG officer named Carol and a Lufthansa flight attendant named Sylvia.

“She was a great lawyer and an even better person and we had a blast together,” he wrote of Carol. “But tours of duty end and people move on. Such is life in the military. Carol returned to the States, got married, raised a family, and served on Colin Powell’s staff.”

The relationship with Sylvia “became serious quickly,” he said. “At one point, I thought I would propose, or at least I entertained the idea.”

Asked about the relationship on CNN yesterday, Graham “her mother was elderly in Vienna; I wanted to go back to South Carolina, and she wanted to stay in Vienna.”

“But that time in my life, you know, I was raising my sister. I had gotten through law school. The Air Force had stationed me in South Carolina so my sister could finish high school,” said Graham, whose parents had died by this time in his life.

“When she was in college, for the first time I had some time to myself. And I enjoyed being a prosecutor, traveling all over Europe,” the senator added. “I met Sylvia, some other nice people, young ladies over there. That was probably the best time in my life.”

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Charleston Church Shooter Identified, But Still on the Run (UPDATE: Caught in N.C.)

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

dylanroof

Police have identified the Charleston shooting suspect at Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Eastover, S.C. Reports after 11 a.m. EST said he had been caught in North Carolina.

Officials said the shooter sat with church members in a Bible study meeting for an hour before opening fire. He reportedly said he wanted to kill black people before he started shooting, hence authorities investigating the massacre as a hate crime.

Six women and three men were shot to death, including pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41. All but one died at the church.

A federal law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that “it appeared from the surveillance images that the assailant may have worn a wig and a fake nose, and may even have dyed part of his skin.” The suspect’s nose isn’t the same shade as the rest of his face, and the hair is a heavy bowl cut.

He was wearing layers even though it was a hot evening in Charleston and was carrying a backpack. He drove a dark sedan.

He was driving a black Hyundai Elantra with South Carolina tag LGF-330.

The shooting was followed by a threat that the church would blow up in 86 minutes, but no explosives were found.

There were a handful of people who were in the church and survived the massacre. One woman said the shooter told her she was being spared so she could tell people what happened inside the church.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) said in a statement “there are bad people in this world who are motivated by hate.”

“Every decent person has been victimized by the hateful, callous disregard for human life shown by the individual who perpetrated these horrible acts,” Graham said. “Our sense of security and well-being has been robbed and shaken.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a campaign rally planned for Saturday in Charleston, called the shooting “a tragic reminder of the ugly stain of racism that still taints our nation.”

“This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust and a deep, deep sadness. The hateful killing of nine people praying inside a church is a horrific reminder that, while we have made significant progress in advancing civil rights in this country, we are far from eradicating racism,” Sanders said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and their congregation.”

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said “there is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture.”

“We are all trying to make sense of this senseless act. This is pure evil. It’s infuriating. Mankind’s capacity for evil is horrific,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. “I’m enraged by this ungodly act and my heart breaks for these families. I hurt for them. Every American needs to take a few minutes today, and in the days to come, to pray for the families of those murdered last night.”

charlestonwanted

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Nine Killed in Historic Charleston Church; Gunman on the Loose

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A gunman entered one of the oldest black churches in the country on Wednesday night and opened fire, killing a state senator and other church members who were attending a Bible study.

Charleston, S.C., Police Chief Greg Mullen told reporters, “I do believe this was a hate crime.”

The shooting began at 9:05 p.m. at the Emanuel AME Church, a congregation that dates back to 1791. One of the church’s founders was Denmark Vesey, who was executed after planning a slave rebellion.

Nine died in the shooting, including the pastor — State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, who was first elected to the statehouse at age 23. Al Sharpton tweeted that Pinckney helped lead a prayer vigil for Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by North Charleston police in April.

Officials didn’t have a number yet of those wounded in the mass shooting.

Police were searching for a white male in his early 20s, wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans, with a slender build, sandy blonde hair, and clean shaven. The FBI is assisting local police.

Officers briefly took into custody a photojournalist, Austin Rich, who has dark hair but was dressed in a grey shirt near the scene. “I understand that the officers were simply doing their job and they did it well. I was compliant and escorted across the street, to the Marriott Courtyard Hotel and then questioned,” Rich wrote on his Facebook page. “I gave them the details of where I was and who I was with. They asked several questions, checked my phone records and told me I was clear to go. I am thankful for the professionalism of the officers on duty, and have a tremendous amount of respect for them as well.”

In addition to the shooting, a bomb threat was later called into a nearby hotel where people had gathered.

Mayor Joe Riley, who has led Charleston since 1975, called the shooting “the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible… the only reason someone could walk into church and shoot people praying is out of hate.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said his “heart is breaking for Charleston and South Carolina tonight.” He was on a plane late Wednesday to return home from Washington.

“This senseless tragedy at a place of worship — where we come together to laugh, love and rejoice in God’s name — is despicable and can’t be understood,” Scott said. “Tonight we stand in prayer for Pastor Pinckney and his congregation, and the families who are enduring unimaginable pain at their loss.”

“We will come together as a city and as a state to lift those up who need us most right now. I hope for their sake, and for the people of Charleston, that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are swiftly brought to justice.”

“Thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families of tonight’s tragic shooting at the Emmanuel AME church,” tweeted Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who represents Charleston.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was due in Charleston on Thursday for an event, but canceled his visit in the wake of the shooting.

“Governor Bush’s thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families affected by this tragedy,” said a statement from his campaign.

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Brian Williams Off the Nightly News, But Destined for Fun New Role at NBC

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Tall-tale NBC anchor Brian Williams won’t be getting his anchor chair back, but will be staying at his network. Reports CNN:

NBC and Williams have come to a tentative agreement that will keep Williams at the network after his six-month suspension ends in August.

The decision, described by people with knowledge of the plan, ends months of speculation that Williams could leave NBC altogether.

Williams will not be returning to the “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair, the people said. Instead he will have a new role; the details of it are unknown to all but a very small number of executives.

“No one knows anything,” one anchor at the network complained Wednesday.

But that may change very soon: NBC could make an announcement about Williams’ future on Thursday, the people with knowledge of the plan said.

What might he be doing? It could be a number of things within the Comcast-owned company.

Inside NBC, speculation about Williams’ future has centered on MSNBC, its cable news channel, which is suffering from weak ratings. Another scenario could entail a roving reporter job, somewhat like Ann Curry’s job after she was forced off the “Today” show in 2012.

Or NBC could have a surprise up its proverbial sleeve.

In recent days, Williams’ attorney Bob Barnett has been ensconced in meetings with top NBC executives. Among the topics on the table: where, when and how Williams will express regret for the storytelling exaggerations that led to his February suspension.

Asked if Lester Holt will permanently remain at the helm of the nightly news, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter tweeted, “All signs point to yes.”

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Report: Actors Recruited for Trump’s Presidential Announcement Crowd

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

It apparently took a casting call to make a presidential announcement, according to The Hollywood Reporter:

Donald Trump’s big presidential announcement Tuesday was made a little bigger with help from paid actors — at $50 a pop.

New York-based Extra Mile Casting sent an email last Friday to its client list of background actors, seeking extras to beef up attendance at Trump’s event.

“We are looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” reads the June 12 email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and this is inclusive of that school of thought.”

The pay was listed as $50 for fewer than three hours of work. According to the email, Extra Mile was reaching out to potential extras in partnership with Gotham Government Relations and Communications, a New York-Based political consulting group that has worked with Trump in the past. Gotham GR had no comment.

Trump’s campaign manager denied the report when contacted by THR, saying “Mr. Trump draws record crowds at almost every venue at which he is a featured speaker. The crowds are large, often record-setting and enthusiastic, often with standing ovations. Mr. Trumps message is ‘make America great again.’ ”

Trump to Bloomberg News in an interview today that despite his success in the business world “I hear some pundit or some person say, he doesn’t deserve to be on the stage with a senator.”

“A senator is nothing, and I’m not saying — or senators are nothing, I’m saying certain people are zeroes, and I’m not supposed to be on the stage with these people? I mean, give me a break,” he said.

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Treasury to Go All Aaron Burr on the $10 Bill, Bump Off Hamilton

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is about to become the 21st century Aaron Burr by booting Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill.

Treasury was teasing a big announcement from its engraving office at midnight, until Nancy Lindborg, the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, broke the embargo by praising Lew’s decision in a tweet.

“Sec Lew announced 2day historic decision to feature a woman on new 10 dollar bill. About time! Share ideas on who to feature ,” Lindborg tweeted.

There had been a long-running campaign to put a woman on U.S. currency — but backers were lobbying for Andrew Jackson to be booted off the $20 bill.

“Andrew Jackson was celebrated for his military prowess, for founding the Democratic party and for his simpatico with the common man. But as the seventh president of the United States, he also helped gain Congressional passage of the ‘Indian Removal Act of 1830′ that drove Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States off their resource-rich land and into Oklahoma to make room for white European settlers. Commonly known as the Trail of Tears, the mass relocation of Indians resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay,” explained the Women on 20s campaign.

“Some argue that because Jackson was a fierce opponent of the central banking system and favored gold and silver coin or ‘hard money’ over paper currency, he is an ironic choice for immortalization on our money,” their reasoning continues.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was the first secretary of the Treasury, along with being the founding Federalist and one of our most influential Founding Fathers.

UPDATE 11:30 p.m. EST: The Treasury Department issued some answers on the Hamilton bump.

“While the design process is complex and much work remains to be done, Secretary Lew has made clear that the image of Alexander Hamilton will remain part of the $10 note. There are many options for continuing to honor Hamilton,” a statement said. “While one option is producing two bills, we are exploring a variety of possibilities. However, security requirements are the driving consideration behind any new design.”

Yes, they’re saying the reason they picked the $10 and not the $20 is national security.

“Currency is primarily redesigned as necessary to address current and potential security threats to currency notes. When recommending a note for redesign, the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) Steering Committee considers these primary goals: that U.S. currency utilizes unique and technologically advanced security features to deter counterfeiting, that it facilitates the public’s use and authentication, provides accessibility and usability, and maintains public confidence. Based on analysis of these criteria, in June 2013, the Committee recommended that the $10 note should be the next note to be redesigned, assuming no other counterfeit threats emerge.” The bill was last redesigned in 2006. Hamilton remained on the bill.

The last time changes in the selection of people to be honored on bills was made occurred between 1914 and 1928.

“Democracy is the theme for the next redesigned series and the Secretary will select a woman recognized by the public who was a champion for democracy in the United States,” Treasury said, stressing that even though they’ll have public input forum the final selection will not be a democratic one. “While the Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for final decision on all design features, he will receive regular updates on the public feedback as he considers new design aspects and the portrait selection for the $10 note.”

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Kerry Not ‘Fixated’ on Iran Nuke Military Dimensions; State Dept. Fixated on Slamming Reporters Warning of Concessions

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

State Department press secretary John Kirby chided reporters today for “absolutely, completely false” coverage indicating “that there’s a change in our policy with respect to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program or that it’s a concession about to be offered or changed.”

But the story was fed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday as he’s recuperating from a broken leg, Kerry was asked if concerns about the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program have to be “fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended on Iran as part of that agreement.”

“Is that a core principle or is that also negotiable?” Michael Gordon of the New York Times asked.

“The possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in,” Kerry replied.

“What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement to trigger any kind of material significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers.”

Kirby said today that “we’ve said we’re not looking for a confession; we’ve already made judgments about the past.”

“But the sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions,” he said. “Now, the negotiations are ongoing, and I’m not going to talk about the specifics of it. But I want to put a fork in it right now that there’s any kind of concession or change in the policy. It’s just not simply true.”

Kerry said he would go to Vienna when necessary for “what one hopes would be the closeout and should be the closeout of the negotiations with respect to the Iran nuclear program.”

The deadline for a final deal is June 30.

“Obviously, the stakes on that are very high. Our position has not changed. I’ve noticed some back-and-forth in the last few days,” he said. “But our positions have not altered one iota from what we declared both in JPOA itself as well as in my own interviews and in our discussions with people over the course of the last few months. So the talks remain tough. They’re critical. And just as I have said consistently, we’re not going to rush to an agreement for the sake of an agreement, and we’re not going to sign an agreement that we don’t believe gets the job done.”

Kirby told reporters “sanctions lifting is only going to occur as Iran meets agreed-to steps, including addressing the concerns IAEA has over possible military dimensions.”

But when pressed on whether sanctions relief is possible before the concerns over military dimensions were resolved, the spokesman said he wouldn’t negotiate from the podium.

“I think I’ve answered it as far as I’m going to answer it today,” Kirby said. “The whole reason that we’re having these negotiations and there’s a deal being worked is because we know they were working on a potential military program…What the secretary said was we’re not fixated on a single point in time.”

“I just said ad nauseum, that the IAEA’s concerns about possible military dimensions past and present, have to be fully addressed before there’s going to be a deal.”

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Obama’s Ramadan Message: ‘A Time to Reinforce Faith, Compassion and Forgiveness’

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama issued a statement marking the Islamic month of Ramadan, which begins at sundown:

As the new crescent moon brings in the holy month of Ramadan, Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those observing the month of fasting in the United States and around the world.

Ramadan is a time in which families and communities come together for iftars and prayers in festive gatherings that demonstrate the rich and diverse traditions of Muslim societies and cultures.

It is also a deeply spiritual time of reflection and renewal meant to increase thankfulness and consciousness of God’s mercy.  Muslims honor each day of Ramadan as a day of patient endurance through fasting, and each night as a night of gratitude through prayers.  It is a time to reinforce faith, compassion and forgiveness, and perseverance through adversity.  In this month of giving, Muslims around the globe reach out to assist those afflicted by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease.  And here in the United States, American Muslims join their fellow citizens to serve the less fortunate, hosting inter-faith activities that build understanding and remind us that we stand together as one American family.  The diversity and patriotism of America’s religious communities give strength to all of us, and our freedom to worship reminds us of the values we share.

I once again look forward to welcoming American Muslims to the White House for our annual White House iftar dinner to honor the month of Ramadan and recognize the service of American Muslims from across the country.  From my family to yours, Ramadan Kareem.

During the month, Muslims abstain from food or beverages from sun-up to sundown. The iftar dinner breaks the daily fast.

The Institute for the Study of War warned earlier this month that ISIS has staged offensives the past three Ramadans.

“ISIS can also be expected to commemorate its declaration of a Caliphate on the first full day of Ramadan 2014 by trying to build upon or surpass its declaration of the caliphate last year. ISIS could do so by accomplishing new military objectives, striking religious targets, or announcing a new political milestone. Regardless, ISIS is likely to begin and end Ramadan with attempted spectacular military offensive actions in Iraq and Syria.”

The one-year anniversary of the caliphate is June 29.

UPDATE: Secretary of State John Kerry chimes in with his Ramadan wishes:

Ramadan is a season for heightened reflection, worship, compassion, and community. For Muslims everywhere, this special month provides spiritual nourishment and reinforces appreciation for the universal value — and values — of humanity. It is also a time to reflect on awareness of the responsibility of people of all faiths to help those in need, including those stricken by poverty and the victims of conflict in such countries as Burma, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Ramadan underscores the beauty in community — one that eats, prays and works together – and that answers the sacred call that we desire for others what we desire for ourselves.

Along with many of our embassies around the world, the Department of State will once again host a celebration in honor of Ramadan. In the months to come, we will remain in constant dialogue with the governments of Muslim-majority countries and with Muslim communities at home and abroad. One of the great strengths of our nation is the diversity both of its citizens and of its overseas partners; and one of the core elements of our diplomacy is our desire to communicate clearly with others in support of the fundamental rights and dignity of every human being.

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Why Putin’s New Military Theme Park ‘Does Pose a Danger to Us’

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Putin at Patriot Park (Photo: Kremlin)

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee says the new military-themed park in Russia is one example of how Moscow is a threat to the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened “Patriot Park” in Kubinka yesterday with an exhibition of wares offered by the country’s arms dealers.

The Kremlin said Putin stressed “that Russian arms and military equipment remain in great demand on the global arms market and the arms order portfolio has been filled for years to come.”

“The president also expressed confidence that the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre where the Forum is taking place will become a platform for demonstration of the latest arms and equipment. On display today there is a variety of military products, including small arms and armoured tanks, combat robots and control systems,” the Kremlin statement continued. “The president toured the exposition. From an observation platform, he saw the latest samples of military equipment and arms on display outdoors, and then visited a number of pavilions that display, among other things, military uniform, high technology products and army information systems.”

Visitors to the park can play with grenade launchers, eat military rations for lunch and buy Putin tchotchkes at the gift shop, the Guardian reported.

Putin said the theme park would be “an important element in our system of military-patriotic work with young people.”

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told CNN “bizarre is a good word to use” for the theme park.

“But I think it would be a mistake to dismiss all of this,” Thornberry said. “Putin has an approach which includes internal propaganda and also propaganda for the neighboring countries. So he is trying to rev up this nationalism, rev up this idea that they are defending the motherland. And that is so they will ignore the damage that he’s doing to their country.”

“So, you know, in some ways it’s clever. But I’m not sure how long it will last. But it does pose a danger to us.”

Russia’s plans are about more than theme parks and games, as Putin announced this week the addition of 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to Russia’s stockpile.

“I think it’s consistent with what Putin has done before. It’s to try to escalate and intimidate us for standing with NATO allies. I think it’s perfectly consistent,” Thornberry said.

“The thing — the only thing — and Churchill said this back right after World War II, the thing that Russia respects the most is strength, particularly military strength. He has sensed weakness from the West. And he’s going to keep pushing and making these gestures until he sees something different.”

The chairman said defense cuts need to be reversed and “shoring up our allies all along Russia’s border is very important.”

“They are very nervous and they’re wondering whether NATO and the United States will stand with them,” Thornberry added. “So that reassurance so that we can stand together as an alliance against this sort of aggression, I think is one of the most useful things we can do.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest today called Putin’s 40 ICBM announcement “saber rattling.”

“What continues to be true is that saber rattling like this does nothing to deescalate conflict. And the United States has repeatedly stressed our commitment to the collective defense of our NATO allies. That is a commitment that we are willing to back up with action if necessary,” Earnest said. “And that stands in pretty stark contrast to the saber rattling that we’ve seen from Mr. Putin.”

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VIDEO: ‘Caucus Tease’ Jeb Bush Bilingually Slow-Jams the News

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush swung by Jimmy Fallon’s show yesterday to slow jam the news:

President Obama has previously slow-jammed student loan rates:

And Mitt Romney slow-jammed the State of the Union after losing to President Obama:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has slow-jammed the news, and demonstrated the “evolution of dad dancing”:

The Clintons have steered clear of the slow-jam, probably because of all the suggestive jokes Fallon would drop into the skit.

If the FCC equal-time rule applies to slow-jams, there may be a pack of candidates headed to The Tonight Show.

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RNC Official: ‘The More Candidates, the Better’

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The spokesman for the Republican National Committee insisted “the more candidates, the better” after Donald Trump became the 12th GOP in the crowded 2016 field.

“They are bringing more people into this party and they are out there campaigning in places that we don’t go, talking to additional voters,” RNC senior adviser Sean Spicer told CNN. “This is a very, very healthy thing for this party. I’m glad and I hope more people get into.”

Spicer steered clear of criticism of Trump’s announcement when pressed about The Donald’s more controversial statements.

“We have a historic crop of candidates seeking the Republican nomination…. It’s going to give the voters an opportunity to decide which direction they want to go and which vision is best. We’re definitely giving the voters throughout the country an opportunity to look at several different ways that we can go and it’s not going to be without choices when it comes to our nomination,” he said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to enter the race June 24. Govs. Chris Christie, John Kasich and Scott Walker could bump the field of candidates to 16.

“I think to the issue of illegal immigration, Mr. Trump and others have addressed that we need to be very firm on border security and look at ways to make sure America has fixed its immigration problem and allow for people whether it’s from wherever to enter the country in a more systematic way for our economy,” Spicer said.

“I think other Senators, business people, I think at the end of the day each one is going to try to figure out a message that they think resonates in a vision that they want to articulate the country. They are going to talk about their strengths, their vision is the best. I think in the case of Governor Bush, that’s playing off his years as being a successful governor. I think Senator Rubio, Senator Paul, Senator Cruz are going to talk about their solutions that they have found here in Washington. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I don’t think there’s anybody running for president or sitting at home that’s pleased with the things going on in Washington. One thing that all of the candidates are talking about is trying to find a pathway forward to some of the problems that people in this country face and make America a better country than it is today.”

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After Man Legally Brings AR-15 to Atlanta Airport, a Bill to Make Airports Gun-Free Zones

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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After a man legally brought his AR-15 into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a Georgia Democrat has introduced legislation to ban guns on airport grounds before the security checkpoints as well as beyond.

Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga.) Airport Security Act of 2015 would levy a prison term of up to 10 years for the offense, superseding any local laws that allow gun owners to carry on airport grounds.

Earlier this month, a Georgia man carried his loaded AR-15 into the Atlanta airport to drop his daughter off for a flight. He took pictures of his open carry in the terminal, which is legal under state law, and sent the photos to a local television station.

“It shouldn’t matter what I carry, just that I choose to carry,” the gun owner, Jim Cooley, said. “You never know where something might happen.”

Cooley was followed by Atlanta police as he carried the weapon; the department said they didn’t infringe on his gun rights yet at the same time wanted to ensure the safety of others at the airport.

Johnson said his bill, which has 15 Democratic co-sponsors, to stop that kind of carrying on airport grounds is just “common sense.”

“Airports are the gateway to commerce throughout the world and the front door to the communities they connect for millions of passengers who visit the United States each year,” the congressman said in a statement. “It defies logic that we would allow anyone other than law enforcement officials to carry a loaded gun within an airport.”

Both concealed carry and open carry would be prohibited in his bill, with the exception of local law enforcement and Homeland Security employees.

The area covered would range from the curbside pick-up and drop-off areas to the ticket counters, baggage claim, and any area of the terminal.

Airports would also be required to post signs marking the area as a gun-free zone.

If a traveler is carrying a gun, it would have to be unloaded and in a marked, locked case. A traveler could only carry a gun on airport property in this way within 24 hours of a ticketed flight.

Johnson said on the House floor Monday that Cooley was carrying his AR-15 “only to make a point that was to show he was legally able to carry his firearm in the airports.”

His actions, the congressman said, “undermine public security in the same way as yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

Below, a video Cooley posted of his encounter with an Atlanta cop at the airport.

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‘Not Very Happy’ Boehner Unleashes on GOP Caucus, Purges Whip Team After Trade Revolt

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unleashed on Republican trade defectors today, saying he expects his caucus to act like a unified caucus.

Thirty-four Republicans tried to keep the trade package from coming to the floor last Friday, with just enough pro-trade Democrats voting for the rule to pass 217-212.

After coming to the floor, Trade Promotion Authority passed 219-211, with 54 Republicans — including libertarian and conservative members — voting against the bill and 28 Democrats — ranging from liberals to Blue Dogs — voting in favor. Trade Adjustment Assistance crashed on a 126-302 vote with just 86 Republicans and 40 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saw killing TAA as their only way of stopping TPA.

But Boehner was burned by the defections on the rule vote, maintaining that the caucus can’t split on procedural votes, and made his displeasure known.

After a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Hill Club today, Boehner told reporters he’s “not very happy” about the defections.

“And I made it pretty clear to the members today I was not very happy about it,” he said. “You know, we’re a team and we’ve worked hard to get in the majority, we’ve worked hard to stay in the majority, and I expect our team to act like a team. And I, frankly, made it pretty clear I wasn’t very happy.

Boehner called wrapping up the trade deal “a large priority of mine” and said he and President Obama spoke yesterday — “matter of fact, we had several conversations yesterday — trying to find a way to move ahead.”

“I want trade promotion authority finished as soon as we can get it finished. And we’re looking for a way forward, when we find one, we’ll let you know,” he said. “This is important for America. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, it’s about our country and it’s about the people that we serve from one coast to the other.”

But lawmakers didn’t just get a stern lecture.

National Journal first reported today that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) gave the heave-ho to three conservatives on the whip team — Reps. Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Trent Franks (Ariz.) — for not keeping members in line.

“In the beginning of the year,” Scalise spokesman Chris Bond said, “Whip Scalise reaffirmed the longstanding policy, also held by his predecessors, that while Whip team members are free to vote their conscience on underlying bills, they are expected to vote as a team on procedural matters such as last week’s rule vote.”

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) noted at a Heritage Foundation event this morning that “voting against the rule is almost like committing a capital crime here.”

Labrador was one of those Republicans who voted against the rule.

“This is the second or third time that they negotiated with Democrats and then Democrats go back on their word,” Labrador said. “And they still don’t come to the conservatives.”

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Trump: ‘I Will Be the Greatest Jobs President That God Ever Created’

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Declaring to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” billionaire Donald Trump entered the Republican presidential contest today as its 12th candidate.

Trump went way off script for the long announcement in New York, starting off with a dig at Rick Perry’s sweaty airplane hangar announcement.

“Some of the candidates, they went in. They didn’t know the air-conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs… How are they going to beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen,” he said.

Mexico, he said, is “laughing at us, at our stupidity” as they import drugs and “rapists” into the United States. “And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump added, vowing to build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it.

“Islamic terrorism is eating up large portions of the Middle East. They’ve become rich. I’m in competition with them. They just built a hotel in Syria. Can you believe this? They built a hotel. When I have to build a hotel, I pay interest. They don’t have to pay interest, because they took the oil that, when we left Iraq, I said we should’ve taken,” he said, referring to the hotel ISIS refurbished and opened in Mosul.

Trump called the other Republicans in the very wide field “wonderful people.”

“They all want me to support them. They don’t know how to bring it about. They come up to my office. I’m meeting with three of them in the next week. And they don’t know — ‘Are you running? Are you not running? Could we have your support? What do we do? How do we do it?’ I like them. And I hear their speeches. And they don’t talk jobs and they don’t talk China,” he said.

“We have to repeal Obamacare, and it can be replaced with something much better for everybody. Let it be for everybody. But much better and much less expensive for people and for the government. And we can do it.”

Trump said when Obama was elected he thought the young president “would be a great cheerleader.”

“But he wasn’t a cheerleader. He’s actually a negative force. He’s been a negative force. He wasn’t a cheerleader; he was the opposite,” he added.

Some of his platform points?

  • “Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people, but we have people that are stupid.”
  • “I like China. I sell apartments for — I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them? … But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders, and we can’t sustain ourself with that.”
  • “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich. And by the way, I’m not even saying that in a — that’s the kind of mindset, that’s the kind of thinking you need for this country.”

He advocated sending “real junk” military aid, since the U.S. is “always losing this gorgeous brand-new stuff” to groups like ISIS.

To fight ISIS, he vowed to “find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.”

“I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And we won’t be using a man like Secretary Kerry that has absolutely no concept of negotiation, who’s making a horrible and laughable deal, who’s just being tapped along as they make weapons right now, and then goes into a bicycle race at 72 years old, and falls and breaks his leg. I won’t be doing that. And I promise I will never be in a bicycle race. That I can tell you.”

Trump also took a swipe at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Then I looked at Rubio. He was unable to answer the question, is Iraq a good thing or bad thing? He didn’t know. He couldn’t answer the question,” he said. “How are these people gonna lead us? How are we gonna — how are we gonna go back and make it great again? We can’t. They don’t have a clue. They can’t lead us. They can’t. They can’t even answer simple questions. It was terrible.”

He also slammed Jeb Bush: “Bush is totally in favor of Common Core. I don’t see how he can possibly get the nomination. He’s weak on immigration. He’s in favor of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can’t do it.”

“…This is going to be an election, in my opinion, that’s based on competence,” because “people are tired of these nice people.”

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Chafee: Clinton Scandals ‘Going to Catch Up with Her’ in Campaign

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who announced his run for the White House two weeks ago, said he think Hillary Clinton’s past will catch up to her on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think Secretary Clinton is going to prevail,” Chafee told CNN.

“It’s just going to be a succession of charges against her, ethical charges, her position on the war. I just think it’s going to catch up with her,” he continued.

“And then you’re left with Governor O’Malley, Senator Sanders, Senator — former Governor Chafee, and possibly Jim Webb. And I will take my chances in that scenario.”

Chafee called Clinton’s “evolution” on a trade deal “another example of Secretary Clinton doing her calculations before she takes a position.”

“She worked with President Obama in crafting the legislation, but now in crunch time, when the — especially all the unions are opposed to it, she just doesn’t have the courage to come out and take a position, and now just saying, support what Nancy Pelosi says,” he said.

“My question would be to her, did you and Nancy Pelosi talk prior to Congresswoman Pelosi taking that position? Because I know Secretary Clinton needs that union support. And so I wondered if she talked to Nancy Pelosi before Congresswoman Pelosi took that position.”

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Taliban to ISIS: Let’s All Get Along – But Let Us Lead in Afghanistan Ops

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Calling their method of sharia implementation “ideal,” the Taliban reached out to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a letter urging unity of purpose as they move forward in jihad.

The outreach comes as ISIS fighters have been streaming into Afghanistan, alarming officials concerned about a potential alliance but resulting in some deadly turf wars between Taliban and ISIS.

The message, from deputy Leader and acting leader of the leadership council Alhaj Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, urged ISIS to “increase trust and confidence” with the Taliban by consulting their leadership “regarding matters.”

“We hope and wish that other jihadi movements…support us in every manner to transform our jihad to victory. We don’t expect from them to divide the lines of the jihad and cause failure of mujahideen, and keep us away from the happiness of kuffar’s [nonbelievers] defeat,” he wrote.

If “divisions, disputes among mujahideen increase,” the Taliban warned, all of their “achievement will be wasted due to the divisions of lines and opportunity will be lost.”

“…Our advice to you is that in no part should you create such atmosphere where the services of these movements will be effected, disciplined dismissed, and cause internal disputes.”

Causing “blood shedding” among jihadists, Mansoor tells ISIS, is “very badly damaging your popularity and your future activities.”

He suggested that the troublemakers were simply carrying the ISIS banner, adding “due to your remoteness these selfish and bad people would misuse your name for such actions.”

Because they have similar goals, Mansoor wrote, ISIS should “assist and support” the Taliban in “keeping its unity and strengthening.”

“Important to bring to your attention that Islamic Emirates [Taliban government name] jihadist Policy against the crusaders and international Kuffar is unity of lines and special concentration on unity of jihad lines,” he said. “We have already tested bad experience of jihad lines division and differences during Soviet invasion and their severe and bad implications which resulted in waste of 14 years Jihad.”

“Until now Islamic Emirate has successfully eliminated all fitnas of disputes, conflicts and division by having unity of lines. And now if there are struggles to have brought another line jihad or leadership beside Islamic Emirates, this will deliberately assist in providing an environment of disputes and divisions. Therefore Islamic Emirates conditions the jihadist operations under the leadership of Emirates.”

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AQAP Confirms Leader Killed, Vows to Make U.S. ‘Taste the Bitterness of Defeat’

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed in a statement released through its media arm, Al-Malahem, that leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi was killed in an American airstrike in Yemen.

“We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation … that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi, God rest his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls,” Khaled Batarfi, a senior member of the group, read in the group’s nearly 10-minute statement.

“Let it be known to the enemies of God that their battle is not only with one person or figure, no matter how important,” Batarfi stressed. “To the infidel America: God has kept alive those who will trouble your life and make you taste the bitterness of defeat.”

AQAP’s commander of military operations, Qassim al-Raimi, has moved into the top spot.

It’s unclear if al-Raimi will assume the same leadership role in al-Qaeda that Wuhayshi filled.

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had to fill his old position as No. 2 in the organization after Abu Yahya Al Libi was killed in a 2012 drone strike. His choice? The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The hire reportedly took place in summer 2013, around the time when Obama talked about a defeated core al-Qaeda.

Al-Wuhayshi, 38, didn’t clear 5 feet in height. But he had jihad in his blood: the Yemeni attended religious schools, went to Afghanistan, became bin Laden’s personal secretary, oversaw al-Qaeda training camps, and hid in the caves of Tora Bora with his boss. When bin Laden went into hiding in the Abbottabad compound, Wuhayshi was one of the few to know his whereabouts.

He was held by the Yemenis for a few years before a prison escape, started a Yemen chapter of al-Qaeda, then announced the launch of AQAP to merge with Saudi extremist groups in a 2009 press conference.

Despite Obama’s drone strikes on Yemeni targets, AQAP flourished under Wuhayshi’s leadership and looked for new ways to attack, including the underwear bomb aboard a 2009 Detroit-bound flight that made it past security. AQAP is also behind the slick English-language magazine Inspire, which encourages “open-source jihad” following the tutelage of al-Qaeda’s long-distance teachings. It was from this magazine that the Boston Marathon bombers found their deadly explosives recipes. Wuhayshi deemed Western jihadists to be even more valuable than Middle Eastern ones because of their proximity to the “enemy.”

“Wherever there are mujaheddin, there is danger awaiting the disbelievers,” Wuhayshi said in 2010. “The mujaheddin are one body and if one of them is somewhere you would find fear and terror spreading in that place.”

Days before Obama’s declaration of a defeated al-Qaeda core to Camp Pendleton Marines in August 2013, Wuhayshi and Zawahiri jumped on a conference call with more than 20 leaders of affiliates including Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and new affiliates including al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.

Wuhayshi’s title was general manager for international operations, giving the jihadi with a reputation for ruthlessness and respect from the ranks as a close associate of bin Laden a green light to order terror attacks at will. AQAP claimed responsibility for the January massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Al-Raimi is in his mid-30s. Rumors of his death have been reported many times but always found to be unsubstantiated.

The new AQAP leader once apologized for an attack gone bad.

In December 2013, AQAP fighters attacked a Yemeni Ministry of Defense compound but one went to the hospital and killed many inside.

Al-Raimi quickly issued a video statement saying fighters had been ordered not to target the mosque or hospital.

“We confess to this mistake and fault. We offer our apologies and condolences to the families of the victims,” Raimi said. “We did not want your lost ones; we did not target them on purpose. This is not of our religion or our morals.”

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Jeb Jumps in: ‘The Presidency Should Not Be Passed from One Liberal to the Next’

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became the 11th Republican presidential candidate today with a speech heavy on red meat and light on foreign policy.

Bush was introduced by his son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, at the Florida rally, and his mom, 90-year-old Barbara Bush, was in the audience.

“The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary for a no-change election to hold onto power, to slog on with the same agenda under another name. That’s our opponents’ call to action this time around. That’s all they’ve got left,” Jeb said. “And you and know that America deserves better.”

He appeared to riff on former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s assertion that the presidency isn’t a crown to be passed between families, stating, “The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.”

Bush said he’s aiming for 4 percent growth as president and 19 million new jobs, touting 4.4 percent growth in Florida and 1.3 million new jobs during his tenure along with tax cuts and eight balanced budgets.

“A self-serving attitude can take hold in any capital, just as it once did in Tallahassee. I was the governor who refused to accept that as the normal or right way of conducting the people’s business. I will not accept it as the standard in Washington either,” he said. “We don’t need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington.”

“Because I was a reforming governor, not just another member of the club. There’s no passing off responsibility when you’re a governor. No blending into the legislative crowd or filing an amendment and calling that success. As our whole nation has learned since 2008, executive experience is another term for preparation and there is no substitute for that.”

Bush mentioned Baltimore, “where so many young adults are walking around with no vision of a life beyond the life of the life they know,” in touting Florida’s improvements in low-income student achievement.

“We stopped processing kids along as if we didn’t care, because we do care. And you don’t show that by counting out anyone’s child. You give them all a chance,” he said, advocating school choice.

“These have been rough years for religious charities and their right of conscience and the leading Democratic candidate recently hinted of more trouble to come. Secretary Clinton insists that when the progressive agenda encounters religious beliefs to the contrary, those beliefs, quote, ‘have to be changed.’ That’s what she said. That’s what she said. And I guess we should at least thank her for the warning,” Bush continued. “The most galling example is the shabby treatment of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Christian charity that dared to voice objections of conscience to Obamacare. The next president needs to make it clear that great charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor need no federal instruction in doing the right thing.”

“It comes down to a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother. And I’m going with the Sisters,” he added on one of his biggest applause lines.

Bush called it “a mystery to me why, in these violent times, the president, a few months ago, thought it relevant at a prayer breakfast to bring up the Crusades.”

“Americans don’t need lectures on the Middle Ages when we’re dealing abroad with modern horrors committed by fanatics. From the beginning, our president and his foreign-policy team have been so eager to be the history-makers that they failed to be the peacemakers,” he said.

“…By the way, just so that our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform so that that will be solved, not by executive order.”

He didn’t offer more details on that reform plan, but went into a family story — how he was “ahead of my time in cross-border outreach” when he met his Mexican wife, Columba.

“Across the plaza, I saw a girl. She spoke only a little English. My Spanish was OK, but really not that good. With some intensive study we got that barrier out of the way in a hurry,” he quipped. “…Whatever else I might or might not have going for me, I’ve got the quiet joy of a man who can say that the most wonderful friend he has in the whole world is his own wife.”

Bush called the campaign “nobody’s turn,” but “everybody’s test.”

“And it’s wide open, exactly as the contest for president should be,” he said. “The outcome is entirely up to you, the voters. It’s entirely up to me to earn the nomination of my party and then to take our case all across this great and diverse nation. As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language.”

With that, he offered some remarks in Spanish.

“I will campaign as I would serve. Going everywhere. Speaking to everyone. Keeping my word. Facing the issues without flinching. And staying true to what I believe,” Bush said. “I will take nothing and no one for granted. I will run with heart, and I will run to win.”

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Dems Will Be Using This Issue to Battle Jeb Bush

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

With more moderate views than some of the vast Republican field of presidential candidates, Democrats are indicating they’re ready to paint Jeb Bush as an extremist on social issues.

They’ve jumped on this passage from his 1995 Profiles in Character book: “One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior,” Bush wrote. “There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out-of-wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.”

Asked about that before reporters on Thursday, Bush said his views have “evolved” over the past 20 years but “to assume you can have a fatherless society and not have bad outcomes is the wrong approach.”

“We have a 40-percent plus out of wedlock birthrate and if you think about this from the perspective of children, it puts a huge — it’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today, and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives or purpose and meaning,” he said.

CNN noted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showing out-of-wedlock births have declined 7 percent since the late 2000s, and more of those births were in homes where the mother and father lived together.

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) stressed today that they’d not only hammer Bush over his book, but over a “scarlet letter law” in Florida during Bush’s tenure.

That 2001 law required women planning to put their babies up for adoption take out a newspaper notice listing sexual partners if they didn’t know the identity of the father.

Bush didn’t veto the law after it passed, but wanted the parental notification process revised. The law was found unconstitutional by state courts and original supporters of the law were eager to let it go by the time Bush repealed it in 2003. The replacement for the “scarlet letter” notification was a “father registry” where men could protect parental rights by adding their name to a database along with the name and address of the mother and date when they conceived.

Still, Wasserman Schultz told CNN this morning that Bush, in his book, “said that women who are single mothers should be publicly shamed.”

“Then in the scarlet letter law, which I did vote against, what he signed into law was a law that said that women should have to list their sexual partners in the newspaper, in a publication if they wanted to give their children up for adoption. I mean, that is how we make sure that fathers are held accountable?” she said. “This is the type of — when I say extremism, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to Jeb Bush.”

“Look, we’re talking about someone who is going to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America who believes that we should publicly shame women who have children, quote, ‘out of wedlock.’ And the way we should do that, if they want to give those children up for adoption is by making them publicly list their sexual partners. I mean, is this the mentality of someone who should be president of the United States?”

The chairwoman added “there are so many more extreme views that Jeb Bush has had.”

“He’s traded on his name throughout his career. He established offshore tax havens. You know, he sat on the board of a company that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars.” She indicated they’ll also be going after Bush on ending affirmative action.

On MSNBC, Wasserman Schultz called Bush “someone who now has been finally been called out for his belief that women who give birth to children out of wedlock should be publicly shamed.”

“And he allowed a bill in the — that passed by Florida legislature to become law that actually required women who wanted to give their children up for adoption, even if they had been raped or victims of incest, to publish their sexual encounters and their partners in a newspaper,” she added. “I think Jeb Bush is going to be, you know, just like his brother.”

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Mitt Says Hillary’s Eyes Say ‘Where’s My Latte,’ Wasserman Schultz Says He’s Drinking Kool-Aid

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney started a war of words — and beverages — with Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) over Hillary Clinton’s campaign kickoff speech.

Romney told MSNBC this morning that the Democratic nomination front-runner “touched the various places she needs to touch to try and keep her base intact.”

“Somehow when you see her on a stage or when she comes into a room full of people, she’s smiling with her mouth but her eyes are saying, ‘Where’s my latte?’ It just doesn’t suggest that she believes everything she’s saying,” he said, noting that Clinton “makes in one hour a multiple of what an average American will make in a year.”

Romney added that he’s “very impressed with the pre-campaign work that Jeb Bush has carried out” and thinks the best shot to beat Clinton is “a new generation of political leaders, whether it’s Jeb Bush or Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, John Kasich, you know, Carly Fiorina and on and on.”

Later on the network, Wasserman Schultz tore into Mitt’s remarks.

“If he’s asking where her latte, where is their Kool-Aid, because that’s the Republican’s drink of choice. The Republicans, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, their entire field, all sing off the same song sheet, drink the same Kool-Aid,” she said.

“They cut taxes for the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans. They want to go back to trickle-down economics that’s been tried and failed by their party over and over again. And, what Democrats are fighting for, like, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama, is to give everybody a chance to succeed and fight for middle-class economics.”

Wasserman Schultz said “the entire pack of Republicans, whether it’s Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or any one of a number of them have sung off the same song sheet because they are really focused on the extremist tea party agenda that they have to focus on in order to get their nomination.”

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Bill Clinton: Never Saw Hillary ‘Study a List of My Contributors’ for State Dept. Favors

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former President Bill Clinton said his wife was doing “economic diplomacy” work while secretary of State, but told CNN in an interview aired Sunday that “never saw her study a list of my contributors” to pair State Department favors with Clinton Foundation donors.

“And I had no idea who was doing business before the State Department. But what — I will say this. The — she believed — and I did too — I did the same thing when I was president, so I’m not — she believed that part of the job as secretary of state was to advance America’s economic interests around the world,” Clinton said. “…But I never thought about whether there was any overlap.”

He also answered polls that find his wife to not be trustworthy among American voters, insisting “I trust her with my life, and have on more than one occasion.”

“I think that anybody — the more people find out about her — anybody who is still really close to their best friend in grade school is by definition trustworthy, unless they were robbing stores together at 6 or 7,” Clinton quipped.

“I remember when Hillary was completely exonerated, when I was in the White House, in all that Whitewater business, when an official federal inquiry said that her billing records, they wished for her sake could have been found earlier, because they completely corroborated everything she’d said. And the next day, there was nothing in the media about it. There was stunning nondisclosure. So, now we have got social media, and we can have disclosure. And we can all live under the same rules. And it’s going to be fine. And I literally — A, I know her. B, I know the truth. And, C, I trust the American people. And it’s not happening 15 hours before the election. So, I feel good about it. I think that, you know, free speech in politics. And I think when people go to personal attacks this far before the election, it means that they’re scared of you. And they should be.”

The president clarified that Hillary never literally saved his life, but “whenever I had trouble, she was the rock in our family.”

“I mean, we will be fine, whatever happens here. You know, we’re going to come out of life ahead. And I think she — you know, she wants to serve,” he said. “And I want her to have a chance to serve, if the majority of the American people agree.”

Clinton predicted that Republican primary voters will select the candidate “they think has the best chance to win, in spite of the — because they figure the Tea Party’s taken over the House.”

“They have got all their ideological dreams fulfilled. And the reason I’m saying this is, it may be harder this year than before to figure out who is the most electable candidate. But I predict that, at some point during this process, whatever they’re debating and whatever the stories are, they will be a move by people who think they can influence the process to settle on the one that’s most electable, because they figure they already got what they need,” he said.

“…Do they need somebody who is new? Do they need somebody who is seasoned? Do they need somebody who has got a forward-leaning position on immigration, or will it disillusion their people and they will stay home? Do they need all this kind of — you know, they got all these decisions to make. But, in the end, it’s going to come down to who is the most electable candidate, because they want to win.”

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Immigration 2016: Dems Try to out-DACA Each Other, While Mitt Admitting Mistake Gives GOP ‘Chance to Win’

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

If Hillary Clinton’s opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination were chasing her on trade yesterday, today they’re getting out front on immigration.

Today is the third anniversary of the announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has given legal work status to 700,000 illegal immigrants.

“If it weren’t for DREAMers, their voices and efforts, DACAmented youth around the country wouldn’t be able to contribute their skills, work and ingenuity to the country they call home,” former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said in English and Spanish statements today. “These are the young New Americans who are doing what so many of our ancestors have done before them: making our nation stronger with their passion, their talent, and their love of country.”

“I’ve had the honor of working side by side many of these New Americans. I am proud of what we fought for together – passing the DREAM Act in Maryland and making sure that all New Americans regardless of their status could drive lawfully and safely in our communities.”

However, he said, “DACA is just a temporary solution, and it is a moral and economic imperative that we make sure DREAMers and other New Americans can fully contribute to our country.”

“I know the urgency to fix our broken immigration system,” O’Malley said. “I’m the only candidate in this race who has committed to tackle immigration reform in my first 100 days in office and the only one with a proven record of advancing New American rights.”

Last month, Clinton hired a DREAMer activist as her campaign’s Latino outreach director.

Campaigning in Nevada in early May with DREAMers — illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, named so for the DREAM Act — Hillary Clinton vowed “to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers – including many with us today – at risk of deportation.”

“And, if Congress refuses to act, as president I will do everything possible under the law to go even further. There are more people – like many parents of DREAMers and others with deep ties and contributions to our communities – who deserve a chance to stay. I’ll fight for them too,” she added.

Clinton’s campaign released a fact sheet on her plans for comprehensive immigration reform, stressing that anything from Congress “must include nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship.”

But the Dems aren’t the only one staking out their claims on immigration.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), vying for the Republican nomination, told CBS on Sunday that “Mitt Romney and Ann Romney did our party a great service by admitting that embracing self-deportation in 2012 was their biggest mistake.”

“They have given us a chance in 2016 to win,” Graham said. “You’re not going to self-deport 11 million people. You’re not going to be able to do that. I’m not going to be a Republican nominee wanting to try to do that. If you pass a criminal background check, I will allow to you stay here legally and earn your way to citizenship. It will be hard-earned pathway. But I hope every candidate on the Republican side will follow Mitt Romney’s lead and admit it was a mistake to embrace self-deportation. And I hope self-deportation is in our rear-view mirror as a party, because if it is not, we will lose in 2016.”

“…There are some people saying we need to limit legal immigration. To me, they’re just looking in a different world than I am. We will be down to two workers for every retiree in the next 20 years. We’re going to need more legal immigration. And I hope we will embrace a comprehensive approach that is realistic and humane.”

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Fiorina: Clinton ‘Actually Took an Interview,’ So ‘We Should Not Underestimate Her’

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina took to MSNBC this morning to go after Hillary Clinton’s official presidential campaign launch speech, noting that “if you’re a liberal Democrat, she did fine.”

The content of speech was “a long litany of left wing causes” and “deeply contradictory … in a lot of ways,” Fiorina said.

“I mean, she says wants to campaign for all Americans and then throws every Republican out there under the bus. She talked about being a champion for the middle class and then proceeds to talk about a set of energy policies that will raise energy bills for the middle class. She talked about money in politics. She’s going to raise more of that money than anyone else,” she continued.

“So, as usual, a deeply contradictory speech. But, hey, it was a good launch. It was a great rally. She had a good rally in Iowa. I guess she actually took an interview from The Des Moines Register. So, we should not underestimate her.”

Fiorina stressed that probably knows “more world leaders on the stage today than anyone running, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton.”

“Although I didn’t do photo ops with them, I had private meetings with them,” the former CEO said.

“I understand bureaucracies and what it takes to move them. Because our government is one giant, bloated, unaccountable, corrupt, inept bureaucracy now. I understand technology. I understand that guarding a server with Secret Service agents doesn’t keep it from being hacked, for example. And I understand executive leadership, which is making a tough call in a tough time for which you’re prepared to be held accountable,” she said.

“I think those things I just named are what’s required to do the job of president of the United States now.”

Fiorina then fielded a series of questions from the MSNBC hosts about Wall Street regulation, zero-base budgeting and applying the lessons of running a corporation to running a bloated bureaucracy.

“How long has the Veterans Administration not been serving our veterans? How long has the IRS been unaccountable? This latest hack from the Chinese, we should be able to deal with that. When I chaired the advisory board at the CIA, we knew ten years ago that the Chinese had a major strategy to hack into federal government databases,” she said.

“It’s inept. And I believe I have a set of experiences. I understand how you move bureaucracies. I think there are a lot of politicians who maybe know how to give speeches and know how to vote. But moving a bureaucracy is a very difficult task. And I think we need to lift the weight of this government, the ineptitude of this government, off the potential of this nation for every American.”

More: ROGER SIMON:  Keep Hillary-Slayer Carly Fiorina in this Thing.

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See Jeb Bush’s Official Presidential Campaign Logo

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Soon to be an official candidate for president of the United States, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush unveiled his Bush-less campaign logo today:

It’s pretty much like what he’s used in the past:

 

Bush’s announcement will be in Miami at 3 p.m. EST. Someone who already announced his candidacy in Miami jumped the gun by welcoming Jeb to the race.

“In politics, people throw around the word ‘friend’ so much it often has little real meaning. This is not one of those times,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “When I call Jeb Bush my friend, I mean he is someone I like, care for and respect. He and I have worked closely together for many years, on issues big and small. He is a passionate advocate for what he believes, and I welcome him to the race.”

Here’s the new campaign video in which Jeb fondly reflects on his exploratory committee months:

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And now, some goofs on his campaign logo:

 

 

 

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Clinton Opponents Chase Her on Trade, Which She Clarifies with Non-TPA Answer

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Hillary Clinton’s official launch speech, progressive? Pshaw, said her two opponents after her New York event, noting that she didn’t take a stand on the trade deal Dems have been trying to squash.

This was the only mention of trade in her speech: “Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Friday “Americans should be allowed to read this secretly concluded trade deal before their representatives are asked to vote on it.”

After Clinton’s speech, O’Malley sent out a fundraising email noting that Clinton didn’t “weigh in on the secretive TPP deal that could depress American wages and cost American jobs.”

O’Malley campaign strategist Bill Hyers released a statement saying the candidate has been “fearless and specific in the progressive agenda” including “stopping bad trade deals like TPP.”

This morning on CBS, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it was time for Clinton to “side with every union in the country, virtually every environmental group and many religious groups and say that this TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] policy is a disaster, that it must be defeated and that we need to regroup and come up with a trade policy which demands that corporate America starts investing in this country rather than in countries all over the world.”

There is no question that what our trade policy has been for many years is to allow corporate America to shut down plants in this country, move abroad, hire people at pennies an hour and then bring their products back to the United States. It is a failed trade policy and I would hope that the secretary joins Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and the vast majority of Democrats in the Congress in saying, ‘No. We’ve got to defeat this piece of legislation,’” Sanders continued. “If she joins us, we could stop this disastrous deal once and for all.”

So on a campaign stop in Iowa today, Clinton addressed House Democrats’ block of President Obama’s trade deal — voting down Trade Adjustment Assistance, which lost Friday, to stop Trade Promotion Authority, which narrowly passed.

“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible,” Clinton said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”

“The president actually has this amazing opportunity now. Let’s take the lemons and turn it into lemonade.”

However, Clinton danced around her position on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership or Trade Promotion Authority, why Pelosi is fighting with Obama in the first place.

“Either Clinton isn’t familiar with the very basics of TPA debate or she is being incredibly disingenuous,” tweeted Brendan Buck, communications director for the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“Pelosi bailed on Obama on TPA, not TPP. Comments about TPP dont answer Clinton’s position on TPA, the relevant one now.”

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Erdogan Lends ISIS a Hand, Pushes Fleeing Human Shields Back Into Their Hands with Water Cannons

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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After the Islamist AKP party cruised to defeat in last weekend’s parliamentary elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government announced the border would be closed to Syrians fleeing ISIS as “there is no longer a humanitarian tragedy,” in the words of Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş.

Kurtulmuş further claimed Wednesday that people were “fleeing strikes by coalition forces and the progress of Kurdish fighters in the region.”

He laid blame not on the Islamic State but on the anti-ISIS coalition for driving Syrian refugees into Turkey with “reasonless and meaningless” airstrikes.

More than 13,000 Syrian refugees fled across the Turkish border in the first week of June. But a chilling scene unfolded today as families trying to flee to safety faced two enemies with freedom visible on just the other side of the fence: Turkish troops firing water cannons at them, and ISIS forces right at the border, herding them back from the fence.

ISIS activists on Twitter claimed that the terrorists were there to distribute food and water to the refugees, which include Arabs and ethnic Turkmen, and save them from nearby Kurdish YPG forces.

The fear is that ISIS wants to keep the civilians there in Tal Abyad to use the Syrians as human shields as the YPG approaches. “Our people that have been forced to displacement during the ongoing operation against ISIS gangs can settle in Cizîrê Canton cities like Serêkaniyê and Hesekê, without being made to leave Syria and take shelter in other countries,” YPG General Command said in a statement. “The displaced people will be provided with every need of theirs. We will offer all kinds of support in order for our people to turn back home safe after the ending of the operation.”

 

In these images you can see the armed ISIS between the refugees and the fence, eye-to-eye with Turkish troops on the other side.

 

Many on Twitter have been accusing Erdogan of outright allying with ISIS, and investigative reporting by Turkish journalists reveals that Turkish officials have allegedly been selling electricity to the Islamic State:

Before the uprising in Syria broke out, Turkey was delivering electricity to Tel Abyad as part of a deal with the Bashar al-Assad regime to address the energy shortage in northern Syria. The Dicle Electricity Distribution Company (DEDAŞ) continued to deliver power to the northern Syrian city even after the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.

What is more intriguing, the Birgün report reveals, is that the delivery continued even after ISIL captured Tel Abyad, thanks to the alleged collusion between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in Turkey and ISIL, and has not been affected by later developments. The electricity is provided by three wires near the warehouse of the regional branch of the Turkish Agricultural Board (TMO), right on the border.

While locals in Akçakale sometimes face several cuts during the day, Tel Abyad residents do not endure such problems as DEDAŞ continues to provide electricity to the Syrian town uninterruptedly. The power cuts disrupt irrigation in the rural areas of Akçakale, leading to troubles in the agricultural sector. Turks are paying the price of the electricity provided to ISIL. DEDAŞ, in a written statement on Friday after the piece was published, denied claims of supplying electricity to Tel Abyad.

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Guantanamo Liquidation: Six Yemeni al-Qaeda Shipped to Oman

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Defense Department announced just after midnight that a six-pack of Guantanamo detainees was transferred to Oman.

Idris Ahmad ‘Abd Al Qadir Idris , a Yemeni, used to be a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and an al-Qaeda recruiter. A 2008 review found him to be a high risk to the United States.

Sharaf Ahmad Muhammad Mas’ud, also from Yemen, was captured fleeing Tora Bora. His 2008 review warned that without successful rehabilitation and reintegration “it is assessed detainee would seek out prior associates and reengage in hostilities and extremist support activities.” While in Gitmo he “preached Islamic extremism expressing a willingness to return to the fight,” and recited terrorist poetry to other inmates as well as leading “mass disturbances among the other detainees.”

Yemeni Jalal Salam Awad Awad was another bin Laden bodyguard who “expressed a threat to US forces at JTF-GTMO,” his 2008 review said.

Saa’d Nasser Moqbil Al Azani of Yemen trained at al-Qaeda’s Islamic Institute and was close to bin Laden’s religious adviser. He was captured in Pakistan with other al-Qaeda fighters and was deemed a high risk to the U.S. in his 2008 review.

Emad Abdallah Hassan of Yemen was also assessed to “likely reengage in extremist activities” without the means to integrate him into society as a law-abiding citizen. “Since transfer to JTF-GTMO, detainee has threatened to kill the guard staff,” the 2008 assessment said of the al-Qaeda recruiter who was picked to be one of bin Laden’s bodyguards.

Yemeni Muhammad Ali Salem Al Zarnuki served on bin Laden’s front lines in Kabul, recruited through the al-Qaeda network that moved fighters from Yemen to Afghanistan. He was also deemed a high risk in his assessment.

The Pentagon said “these men were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force” after review as directed in a 2009 executive order from President Obama. “In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States’ intent to transfer these individuals and of his determination that this transfer meets the statutory standard.”

“The United States is grateful to the Government of Oman for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Oman to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”

That leaves 116 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay. It’s the first transfer in several months, and in that time period the administration has come under renewed fire from Congress for potentially breaking the law with the transfer of a six-pack of detainees to Uruguay in December.

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Dems’ Answer to GOP Pill Bill: Put Birth Control OTC and Make Insurance Cover It

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Democrats are battling against the efforts of some Senate Republicans to put birth control over the counter, answering with a bill that would mandate insurance coverage of contraceptives even if the FDA approves use without a prescription.

Last month, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, which aims to encourage manufacturers of contraceptives to file an application for a prescription-to-over-the-counter switch (Rx-to-OTC switch) by allowing priority review for their applications and waiving the FDA filing fee.

The incentives would be available for FDA-approved OTC contraceptives sold to adults 18 and older.

The bill would then repeal the Obamacare prohibition on the use of health savings accounts, medical savings accounts, and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to purchase OTC drugs as well as repeal the ACA’s annual limits on FSA contributions.

Gardner voiced his support for OTC contraceptives in his winning battle against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) last fall. Udall tried to paint his challenger as anti-women’s rights.

“It’s time to allow women the ability to make their own decisions about safe, effective, and long-established methods of contraception,” Gardner said in a statement then. “Most other drugs with such a long history of safe and routine use are available for purchase over the counter, and contraception should join them.”

Original co-sponsors are Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — with Gardner, a strong showing by GOP freshmen.

But Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, rallied colleagues and abortion-rights groups this week against what she called a backdoor effort to pull contraceptive coverage out of Obamacare.

Her Affordability is Access Act would ensure that even after the FDA approves the Pill for over the counter sales, they would have to be fully covered by insurance.

In a call with representatives from NARAL Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Murray said women “should be able to get the comprehensive health care they need, when they need it — without being charged extra, without asking permission, and without politicians interfering.”

“Making approved birth control pills available over-the-counter is another important step forward in terms of women’s access to health care,” she said. “But anyone will tell you that if something is too expensive, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to get. It might as well be on the moon.”

“That’s why Democrats fought to ensure that contraception would be covered with no co-pay under the Affordable Care Act. We felt that women shouldn’t have to pay out of their own pockets for a critical part of their health care, just because their insurance didn’t cover it.”

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Obama Pulled the Community Organizer Card on House Dems During Trade Bill Guilt Trip

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was looking on the sunny side of Pennsylvania Avenue after the administration’s trade bill hit a wall today.

Trade Promotion Authority passed 219-211, with 54 Republicans voting against the bill and 28 Democrats voting in favor. Trade Adjustment Assistance crashed on a 126-302 vote. Just 86 Republicans and 40 Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

“God, you’re cheery,” one reporter noted to Earnest at the top of today’s briefing.

The 28 House Dems who voted for TPA, Earnest told reporters, “significantly overperforms expectations.”

“Again, there was a lot of skepticism about how much Democratic support the president would succeed in building,” he said. “And getting the support of 28 House Democrats is a good sign of the kind of bipartisan majority that the president was seeking to build.”

Earnest called the vote a “procedural snafu” and “entanglements” that “are endemic to the House of Representatives.”

“And I say that as somebody who is — does not have a lot of experience in watching the floor of the House,” he added.

President Obama, in his visit to the Democratic Caucus today, “rather forcefully” told lawmakers “he wasn’t elected by the Chamber of Commerce.”

“[Obama] tried to guilt people and then impugn their integrity,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told reporters after the meeting. “I was insulted.”

Earnest added to the guilt trip at the briefing. “We know that there are a lot of Democrats in the House of Representatives who ran for that job specifically to benefit middle class families and to make sure that they had a voice and somebody fighting for them in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “…The president had a productive visit with the House Democratic Caucus today.”

Tweeted Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, after the meeting: “Now President Obama wants to talk?”

And just what went on behind closed doors? As Earnest tells the White House version, “explained how, as a young man, he left New York and traveled to the south side of Chicago, where he tried to help a community deal with the closing of steel plants.”

“And he talked about all of the work that he’d done in the community there to try to help that community confront the powerful forces of globalization,” Earnest continued. “He went on to talk about how as a candidate for the United States Senate he traveled to Galesburg, Illinois, with then-Congressman — Democratic Congressman Lane Evans. And while in Galesburg, the president spent a lot of time with citizens in that community who were dealing with the closure of the Maytag plant there. That’s a plant that moved to Mexico. And he talked about the impact that that had on the community and on middle class families in that community.”

“And the president said that he ran for this office determined to go and fight for the people that he fought for as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, and determined to fight for the people that he met in Galesburg, Illinois.”

Earnest insisted that Obama “strongly encouraged Democrats to make up their own mind — and when they did, to play it straight.”

The press secretary was asked “what it felt like to have John Boehner bail out the president today with procedural moves.” Boehner’s moves enabled TAA to come back to the floor next week for a re-vote.

“I think that what you have seen over the last — certainly over the last week and the ground work has been laid in recent months, effective coordination between the White House and the speaker’s office to make progress on a shared priority,” Earnest replied.

“…I think that’s a testament to the president’s leadership ability, too, that he’s willing to set aside his own differences with them to try to find common ground on this.”

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The Breakup: Pelosi Bucks Obama, Boehner as Key Part of Trade Bill Crashes

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The House narrowly gave President Obama’s fast-track trade authority today — but soundly shot down another bill in the package necessary for the overall trade plan.

Trade Promotion Authority passed 219-211, with 54 Republicans — including libertarian and conservative members — voting against the bill and 28 Democrats — ranging from liberals to Blue Dogs — voting in favor. (See the roll call here.)

That’s the fast-track bill which allows the president to negotiate a deal without congressional amendments. Lawmakers just get an up-or-down vote on the final product.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voted yes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted no.

“We have an opportunity to slow down,” Pelosi said on the floor today in her bucking of Obama. “Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for America’s workers.”

Boehner said on the floor that the House needed to pass TPA “not for the president, not for ourselves, but for our kids and our grandkids.”

“We want to make sure that agreement isn’t rushed, and that it isn’t kept secret. And we want to make darn sure that there’s less authority for the president and more authority for the American people,” Boehner said. “That’s what this bill does. It is a means to an end, and that end is more free trade that is good for our economy and our country.”

However, the House shot down a key element of Obama’s trade package.

Trade Adjustment Assistance crashed on a 126-302 vote. Just 86 Republicans and 40 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. (See the roll call here.)

Pelosi also voted against this as “its defeat is the only way we will be able to slow down fast track.”

This, despite the White House personally lobbying Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders this morning, then addressing the full caucus.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said he voted in favor of TAA as it “improves the current program because it reestablishes coverage for service sector workers and those who have lost their jobs to increased competition with countries like China.”

“The global economy, technological advancements, and increasing competition will continue to pressure workers and it is essential and only fair that we support and retrain those who lose their jobs as a result. With the Medicare cuts off the table, I voted in support of the House Trade Adjustment Assistance bill because it reestablishes critical training and support to these workers that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Smith said. “Our nation’s economy and success depend on our workers, and the strategy of opposing TAA to stop Trade Promotion Authority risks killing this critical program.”

The Senate passed both last month. Obama said at the time that both bills were key “toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements.”

“I’m confident that the Speaker of the House, if he hasn’t said so already, would be happy to tell you that if trade adjustment assistance doesn’t pass this week, it’s very unlikely to pass before the end of the year,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest warned lawmakers on Thursday. “And what that means is it means that if you’re a member of Congress and you vote against trade adjustment assistance this week, you are adding your name to the death certificate of trade adjustment assistance — because it will go away. And that is a source of significant concern to the president and, I know, many other Democrats on Capitol Hill, because we know how critically important trade adjustment assistance is to middle-class families all across the country.”

Boehner, however, moved to bring the losing portion of the trade plan, TAA, back to the floor next week for a re-vote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lauded the House vote as “a victory for America’s working people and for the environment.”

“It is clearly a defeat for corporate America, which has outsourced millions of decent-paying jobs and wants to continue doing just that,” said the presidential candidate.

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Keep an Eye Off the Coast for Jet Ski Smuggling, Border Patrol Warns

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Considering some of the ways coyotes smuggle human cargo in cramped containers across the sweltering southern border, hopping on a jet ski on the Pacific Ocean seems like a first-class ticket.

The Border Patrol reports that it’s had two cases this week of illegal immigrants using this method to cross into the United States.

But they’ve needed other eyes to alert them to the crossings.

At about 5 a.m. yesterday, the Border Patrol said in a statement, they received an alert from the Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC), which consists of military and San Diego Port Authority police, and “a concerned citizen’s phone call.”

“They both reported a suspicious jet ski, which was heading northbound from Mexico along the coastline near Imperial Beach,” the release said. “JHOC alerted agents that a person had been dropped off near Imperial Beach Boulevard. Agents responded and located a 32-year-old Mexican national man hiding among the rocks on the beach.”

“An immigration inspection revealed that the man was illegally present in the U.S.  He was placed under arrest by agents and transported to a local Border Patrol station for processing.”

On Sunday, a man and a woman were arrested for illegally crossing via jet ski. They were “dropped off near the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado and arrested shortly thereafter.”

In March, three men were picked up by Border Patrol after their jet ski lost control near the Imperial Beach pier. Their group included another jet ski; both turned back toward Mexico after being spotted. They tried to cross after midnight.

In February, a pair of jet skis dropped off four illegal immigrants, one a juvenile, at Coronado Silver Strand State Beach. They were arrested by Border Patrol, but the jet ski operators fled back to Mexico. They tried crossing at about 10 p.m. Another incident on the same beach that month resulted in the arrests of a man and a woman, brought illegally into the country at about 5 a.m. The male had an outstanding warrant out of San Diego County for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

The agency asked the public to keep an eye out for suspicious activity along the California coast, and call 911.

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