Get PJ Media on your Apple

The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson

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

Kerry Compares ‘Radical Exploitation of Religion’ in Caliphate to Thirty Years’ War

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry told a belated Eid al-Adha celebration at the State Department yesterday — postponed because of his travel — that if he went back to college today he would “at least minor, if not major, in comparative religion.”

“I have found in my journeys through the world over these 29-plus years as a senator and now in the year and a half, year and three-quarters I’ve been Secretary of State, there is no place in the world where in one way or the other it isn’t affecting an outlook,” Kerry said.

“And even in places where people are nonbelievers or people have a different philosophy rather than one of the major religions of the world, there are themes and currents that run through every life philosophy, every single approach, whether it’s Native Americanism or Confucianism or – you can find that there’s been this passage through history from the scriptures – from the Qu’ran, from the Torah, from the Bible – that all come together, and even from other places, where they’ve been incorporated and inculcated through the sermons and preachings and teachings of religious leaders,” he added. “And we know this today.”

Kerry called the global situation “a very complex time, and there are many currents that are loose out there that have brought us to this moment.”

“The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions. There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for or is doing to people,” he said.

“And so we all have a larger mission here. And obviously, history is filled with that. I mean, you go back to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe and other periods of time, Protestants, Catholics, others who have fought. It’s not new to us. Tragically, it’s more prominent because media is more available today, the messaging is there, everybody is more aware on an instantaneous basis of what is happening. And of course it’s exploited by people who engage in this.”

Kerry lobbied for a two-state solution in the Middle East and reflected “deeply on how we will deal not just with the manifestation of the symptom, which is what the violence and the extremism is, but with the underlying causes which go to this question of governance and corruption and a whole issue of how you meet the needs of people.”

“And that’s where our partnership has to be not just for peace but for prosperity, shared prosperity, where everybody has an ability to be able to find a job, get the education, be able to reach the brass ring, and it is not just reserved for a privileged few,” he continued.

“And finally, we have to build a partnership for sustainability of the planet itself, and that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food.”

Read bullet |

Obama to Appoint Gore Recount Lawyer, Former VP Chief of Staff as Ebola Czar

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After huddling with a handful of advisers Thursday afternoon, President Obama told reporters he cold be open to the idea of an Ebola czar.

On Friday morning, CNN reported that Obama would name lobbyist and former Vice President Al Gore’s and VP Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain to the position.

The Democratic Party operative has worked as a lawyer since leaving the White House in 2011. He led the legal team fighting for Gore in the 2000 recount and was portrayed by Kevin Spacey in HBO’s Recount.

A day after pulling together his cabinet to talk Ebola, Obama met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

“The President’s advisors detailed for him the status of the investigation into how the Dallas healthcare workers were exposed to the virus and updated him on the contact tracing process, which allows health officials to identify and, as necessary, monitor all individuals who may have come into contact with the patients following their exposure,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “They also discussed the steps the President ordered to enhance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to respond rapidly, safely, and effectively upon the diagnosis of an Ebola case domestically.”

Obama told reporters that he had spoken with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, “who is on top of it,” regarding the trip of nurse Amber Vinson to the state while she was symptomatic.

“We don’t know yet exactly what happened,” he said of how the healthcare workers contracted Ebola from Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, mirroring the CDC’s head-scratching at how the protective system failed.

Obama also spoke with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and said Perry had “legitimate concerns in terms of making sure that the federal government is surging the kinds of resources that they need in order to handle any eventuality there, to make sure that folks not just at Texas Presbyterian, but potentially at other health care facilities, have the training and the equipment that they need.”

The president addressed the idea of a travel ban “because I know it’s been a topic consistently in the news.”

“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban, if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe,” he said. “The problem is, in all the discussions I’ve had thus far, with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting, that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa.”

“…If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we’ve put in place now, history shows that there’s a likelihood of increased avoidance. People do not readily disclose their information. They may engage in something called ‘broken travel,’ essentially breaking up their trips so they can hide the fact that they have been to one of these countries where there’s a disease in place. And as a result, we may end up getting less information about who has the disease. They’re less likely to get treated properly, screened properly, quarantined properly, and as a consequence, we could end up having more cases rather than less.”

Read bullet |

Kerry Meets Iran Counterpart; Nuke Deal Hung Up on ‘Sort of Everything’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A senior State Department official in Vienna told reporters that, after hours of talks on Wednesday, the hangup keeping Iran and the P5+1 from arriving at a nuclear deal remains “sort of everything.”

“We know where we are headed. We know what we each want the objective to be and we’re trying to narrow those gaps. But we have to do so in a way that ensures that all of the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down,” the official said on background, adding there are “possible” solutions on the horizon in regard to the Arak heavy water reactor and “many elements” to be dealt with including uranium enrichment at Natanz and Fordow.

“And then we want to make sure we shut down the covert path, and that is largely done through very specific and very meaningful and concrete verification and monitoring mechanisms. And each one of these pathways has layers and layers of detail, and you have to understand every one of those layers to know whether what you think you’ve gotten really works.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, met late into the evening “about whether Iran is willing to take verifiable actions to show the world that their program is indeed exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Iran also met separately with EU representatives. The State Department official said Iran “thinks it’s important to meet with the United States from time to time because not only do we hold a number of the sanctions that are of greatest interest to them, but we – they are also very interested in our views on what needs to be accomplished.”

The official compared the negotiations to “an amoeba that sort of moves in and out until all of the pieces lock into place.”

“We’ve been chipping away at some of the issues. Everyone has put ideas on the table to see if we can move the ball forward. We have and continue to make some progress, but there is still a substantial amount of work to be done.”

Kerry said this week that he doesn’t know if the administration will extend the deadline — yet again — for  an agreement by Nov. 24.

He quipped at a press availability in Paris on Tuesday that he’s “glad that all the pundits and speculators are doubting whether or not” a nuclear deal with Iran “can be reached” by the target date.

The official today said they’re keeping an eye on Nov. 24 because “if you take the pressure off yourself, then you never have to make hard decisions.”

“And deadlines help people to make hard decisions, and there are hard decisions to be made here. And we must. So we are all keeping the pressure on ourselves, and that includes Iran,” the official continued.

“In terms of mood, in a professional way, we all know each other pretty well now. You can tell when the deputy foreign minister jokes. He reads the transcripts of these backgrounders, and when he can joke, ‘Why don’t you just hand over the last one? You’re going to say the same thing,’ it’s reached a level of we know each other well enough to make jokes.”

The State Department official acknowledged that joking around with the Iranians “will not get an agreement done.”

Zarif said today that “experts” from Iran and the P5+1 “will discuss issues related to their differences in the negotiation within the next one or two weeks.”

“There are outstanding differences, but it doesn’t mean that these differences cannot be resolved,” Zarif told reporters, according to Fars News Agency. ”…Everyone believes that this issue can be settled since, actually, Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful program and a reality on the ground.”

The State Department official wouldn’t put a number on how far along they are in negotiations.

“You can’t put a percentage on it, because even if you thought you were 75 percent of the way or even 98 percent of the way there, that last two percent may be the most important 2 percent there is, may be the glue that puts it all together. So can’t put a percentage on it.”

Read bullet |

Earnest: Travel Ban Would ‘Drive Those Individuals’ Possibly Carrying Ebola ‘Underground’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told a House panel today that they “will consider any options to better protect Americans,” but White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that a travel ban is “not something that we’re considering.”

The White House’s reluctance to entertain the idea comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are getting louder, asking why even interim measures such as blocking non-essential travel or blocking travel for non-citizens can’t be considered.

“Currently, when individuals do travel from West Africa to the United States, they are screened prior to departure in West Africa. They are screened again once they enter this country. And they are subjected to heightened screening if they have traveled in these three west African countries in the last three weeks or so,” Earnest told reporters today.

“That is an indication that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the American public. That is our core priority. And that is why the president has directed that these heightened screening measures be put in place at the airports where 94 percent of travelers from western Africa arrive in this country.”

Earnest argued that putting into place a travel or visa ban “would provide a direct incentive for individuals seeking to travel to the United States to go underground and to seek to evade this screening and to not be candid about their travel history in order to enter the country.”

“And that means it would be much harder for us to keep tabs on these individuals and make sure that they get the screening that’s needed to protect them and to protect, more importantly, the American public,” he continued. “So we want to keep those lines of — of transportation open so that those individuals who seek to enter this country — and again, it’s a relatively small number, about 150 a day that enter this country. We want to make sure that those individuals are subjected to the heightened screening measures that the president put in place a week or two ago.”

He also stressed the administration refrain that it’s “important for us to keep this line of transportation open because commercial transportation is critical to ensuring that supplies and equipment can get to the region.”

“I know nothing about the commercial airline industry. But ostensibly, you’re not going to fly a bunch of planes to West Africa and then fly them out of there while they’re empty,” Earnest said. “So as a practical matter, you know, putting in place that travel ban would make it harder for the international community to respond to this incident and to mobilize the personnel and equipment that’s necessary to stop this outbreak at the source.”

The press secretary also denied a report from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who said that Frieden told him one of the reasons behind the reluctance to enact a travel ban is the desire to not harm the economies of the “fledgling democracies” in West Africa.

“It’s not. The reason that the travel ban in the view of this administration is not appropriate right now is because it’s not in the best interest of the safety of the American public. Again, people who are traveling from those three countries to the United States right now are subjected to intensive screening both on the ground in those three countries, but also upon arrival here in the United States of America,” Earnest said.

“If we were to put in place a travel ban, it essentially would drive those individuals underground. And it would make it easier for them to evade detection. They wouldn’t be screened at the airport before they left. And it would be harder to ensure that they were being screened when they arrived in this country.”

When asked how it would drive people underground, Earnest replied, “I don’t mean literally underground.”

“I mean that they would be below the radar of the transportation system, that they would now have an incentive to be less than candid about their travel history. If knowing that they could not travel to the United States by saying that they’d been in Liberia, individuals are much less likely, if they’re planning to travel to the United States, to disclose the fact that they’ve been in Liberia,” he said.

“What people need to have the facts about is the facts that there are screening measures that are in place to ensure that individuals who are traveling from West Africa don’t currently exhibit symptoms of Ebola when they try to enter the country. That’s much harder for us to do if we put in place a travel ban, because people will attempt to circumvent that ban and it will make it harder for us to ensure they get the screening we believe is necessary.”

Read bullet |

Nurses Union Asks Obama to Order Hospitals to Use Adequate Protective Measures

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A nurses union is trying to collect petition signatures urging President Obama to use his executive authority to mandate Ebola-protection standards among all healthcare employers.

National Nurses United said Obama’s action would be “the only way to adequately confront Ebola crisis” by mandating ”uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers, and the public.”

They’re asking for:

– Optimal personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center

– Full-body hazmat suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F1670 standard for blood penetration, the ASTM F1671 standard for viral penetration, and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50 — or a higher standard as appropriate.

– There shall be at least two direct care registered nurses caring for each Ebola patient with additional RNs assigned as needed based on the direct care RN’s professional judgment with no additional patient care assignments.

– There will be continuous interactive training with the RNs who are exposed to patients. There will also be continuous updated training and education for all RNs that is responsive to the changing nature of disease. This would entail continuous interactive training and expertise from facilities where state of the art disease containment is occurring.

– If the Employer has a program with standards that exceed those used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the higher standard shall be used. The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health care workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons.

America, the union argued, “should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.”

“Nothing short of your mandate, that optimal safety standards apply, will be acceptable to the nurses of this nation.”

Two nurses who treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas have fallen ill with the Ebola virus.

Briana Aguirre, a registered nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, told the Today show that “we never talked about Ebola and we probably should have.”

“They gave us an optional seminar to go to. Just informational, not hands on. It wasn’t even suggested we go … We were never told what to look for,” she said.

Aguirre said the “chaotic” scene after Duncan was admitted included the patient initially being placed in an area with “up to seven other patients.”

“I’ll be honest, I threw a fit. I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of their protective gear that left gaps uncovered. “In the second week of an Ebola crisis at my hospital, the only gear they were offering us at that time, and up until that time, is gear that is allowing our necks to be uncovered?”

The California Nurses Association got a hand from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today:

 

Read bullet |

Senator Doc: Obama Needs to Withdraw Nomination of Young Activist for Surgeon General

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

One of the physicians serving in the Senate called on President Obama to withdraw his 37-year-old nominee for surgeon general, an appointment that has stalled amid opposition in the upper chamber.

Vivek Murthy, a Harvard Medical School instructor who founded Doctors for Obama (which changed its name to Doctors for America), was nominated in November 2013.

Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak has been acting surgeon general since Regina Benjamin’s resignation in July 2013.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) put a hold on Murthy’s nomination in February, noting “the majority of Dr. Murthy’s non-clinical experience is in political advocacy.”

“Historically, the Surgeon General of the United States has been a position with the purpose of educating Americans so that they may lead healthier lives, rather than advancing a political agenda,” Paul wrote at the time to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to use that position to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) was among Democrats telling the White House he would “very likely vote no” on Murthy, and the nomination hasn’t come to the floor.

Reid could bring Murthy up for a vote after midterm elections, though, and argue that the nomination needs to be pushed through quickly because of the health crisis.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today urged Obama to pull the nomination, arguing that now more than ever American needs an experienced surgeon general.

“Americans are justifiably worried about the spread of Ebola and concerned that it could reach their families. In the middle of growing uncertainty, President Obama and his team need to do everything possible to give the American people more confidence that their government is working effectively to prevent any more people from contracting this deadly virus,” Barrasso said in a statement.

“Now more than ever, our nation needs to have an experienced and effective Surgeon General to help coordinate the government’s Ebola strategy.”

The senator, who as an orthopedic surgeon was president of the Wyoming Medical Society, noted that “it has been clear for almost a year that the president’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is not the right person for this consequential job.”

“His nomination has stalled in the Senate for months because members from both sides of the aisle are concerned that Dr. Murthy is primarily known for his advocacy for gun control and his fundraising capabilities on behalf of the president. These ‘qualifications’ will not solve the wide range of public health problems currently facing Americans,” he said.

“It is now time for President Obama to immediately withdraw Dr. Murthy’s nomination and promptly nominate an experienced professional who can help prevent the spread of Ebola and tackle other serious health challenges. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who has substantial experience in managing complex crises and delivering patient care.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling on Obama to bring in a former surgeon general to held coordinate the Ebola response.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today joined Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) call for an Ebola czar.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Nelson said. “This person should be at least temporarily based in a White House war room with direct authority from the president – someone like former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who has the requisite medical background and who served in that position under former president George W. Bush.”

Read bullet |

Jindal Unloads on Obama, Calls Ebola Crisis ‘Latest Nightmare’ Caused by President’s ‘Incompetence’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who used to run the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals and served at HHS in the Bush administration (and who may be eyeing a 2016 run),  just unleashed on President Obama on Twitter:

 

 

 

Read bullet |

TSA Director Announces Retirement

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Department of Homeland Security this morning announced the retirement of the director of the Transportation Security Administration.

The news comes just as airports will be shouldering a greater responsibility to detect possible Ebola victims.

FBI veteran John Pistole, 58, was sworn in as TSA administrator in July 2010. He plans to leave at the end of the year and move into academia.

In a statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson thanked Pistole “for his four and a half years’ service as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and 31 years of service to the nation.”

“Under John’s leadership, TSA launched its ‘Trusted Traveler’ program, TSA Pre ✓™, which over five million passengers per week now use at 120 U.S. airports. John brought to TSA extensive experience in national security, counterterrorism and fighting organized crime,” Johnson said.

“John Pistole has been integral in leading TSA’s transformation to a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting our transportation systems,” he continued. “Because of his efforts over the past four and a half years, our country’s transportation systems are more safe and secure. I am grateful for John’s contributions to DHS, TSA and our country.”

“I congratulate John on his career as a selfless public servant and wish him and his family the very best as he leaves TSA. I also thank John for his friendship, counsel, and devotion to duty.”

Read bullet |

CDC Director Tells House Chairman Travel Ban Would Hurt W. African Economy

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the subcommittee that will be holding a high-profile hearing on the Ebola crisis today on the Hill said the CDC director told him that the administration fears a travel ban from affected countries would hurt fragile West African economies.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will be testifying at the noontime Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, along with officials from the FDA, Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) told Fox last night that he was “initially” calling for the travel ban involving incoming passengers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“Look, when President Obama told us back in September that by screening people on airlines and telling flight attendants how to screen and what to watch out for and screening from Africa was going to work, it wasn’t going to work. And we had that evidence right from the onset when Mr. Duncan and others — I mean let’s face it, if you had a chance to come to the United States for healthcare, would anybody tell the truth? And I think no. I would not trust that,” Murphy said.

“The second thing is that if they are screening with these thermometers, you can mask that by taking some medication. You may be still carrying ebola but not symptomatic yet. That doesn’t work. So it’s two parts of this travel ban that I’m concerned about, making sure that American citizens have the right to return,” he continued. “But there needs to be restrictions on where they can be. A quarantine, other travel bans domestically, not getting on planes and traveling around.”

The White House confirmed yesterday that a travel ban is not on the table, and repeated the administration justification that the reason is to ensure an unimpeded flow of supplies and personnel into the region to battle the disease.

Murphy, though, said he talked with Frieden about a ban. “And he explained to me that what the concern was that these are fledgling democracies and if we put a travel ban that that may affect their economy and harm them,” the congressman said.

“And I see it as, look, we can still move planes in and out there with supplies. We can do a lot. And we can help in every other way with economics. We can provide a lot of support to these nations. And the United States is doing it both to government and nongovernment organizations. A massive amount of charity is going to help these people as we should. But I just don’t understand the concept of if we stop flights in travel that would be a problem. I think we need to do that because our first concern is, as he said, do no harm. ”

Murphy said lawmakers today will grill Frieden on “where this policy is coming from.”

“Every morning this president wakes up, his first concern should be the safety of our country — whether it’s ISIS, whether it’s a disease, whether it’s anything,” he said. “That should be his concern every day. He doesn’t need to appoint another czar. He doesn’t need lead from behind. He doesn’t need to appoint his way out of this. He needs to be the one.”

Read bullet |

Frontier CEO to Employees: Nurse ‘May Have Been Symptomatic Earlier Than Suspected’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Already under fire for its handling of the Ebola outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped another bombshell when it was revealed that ill nurse Amber Vinson checked with the agency before boarding a flight from Cleveland to Dallas.

The CDC told ABC News they deemed it OK because she wasn’t throwing up:

 A Dallas nurse who treated an Ebola patient contacted federal health officials before boarding a passenger flight Monday due to a slightly elevated temperature, but was allowed to board the flight because she was not exhibiting additional symptoms of Ebola.

Amber Vinson’s temperature was 99.5 degrees – below the 100.4 reading for a fever, according to a federal official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A fever is one of the symptoms of Ebola. Other symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. She was not asked to avoid boarding the flight.

 “The patient was not showing any other symptoms while on board the plane – no vomiting or diarrhea. The only symptom Amber was showing was the fever,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told ABC News.

Airline officials concurred, stating that Vinson’s only symptom at the time was the slightly elevated temperature. Vinson’s temperature continued to rise after the plane landed, authorities said.

CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN that Vinson “should have never gotten on that flight.”

And Frontier Airlines is paying for that CDC decision as well, reports NBC:

The airline that unknowingly transported an Ebola-stricken nurse on a flight from Ohio to Texas has placed six crew members on paid leave out of “an abundance of caution,” and said it was warned by health officials about “the possibility” that the passenger had symptoms during the flight.

Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel said in a letter to employees that the airline was told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday that nurse Amber Vinson “may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.” The airline says no symptoms were detected by the crew.

Needless to say, lawmakers from both parties aren’t happy.

Read bullet |

New Name for Battle Against Islamic State: Operation Inherent Resolve

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Pentagon finally has a name for the operation against the Islamic State: Inherent Resolve.

A press release from U.S. Central Command said the name “is intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.”

“It also symbolizes the willingness and dedication of coalition members to work closely with our friends in the region and apply all available dimensions of national power necessary – diplomatic, informational, military, economic – to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

At the Pentagon this afternoon, press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby wouldn’t confirm reports that the Defense Department had voted against the op name before relenting.

“But it is — that’s the name. It’s out there. And that’s what we’re calling it, and now we’re moving forward,” he said.

Inherent Resolve will be retroactively applied back to Aug. 8.

“I mean, the name, we believe — first of all, we — we talked about this name with our coalition partners, as well, you know, so that — that everybody had visibility on it and that there — and that there was a general sense of — of approval of it,” Kirby said.

“And what it says, what it means, and for us what it means is that we are going to stay resolved and determined to get after this threat. We’re going to do it in as fulsome a way as we can. And we’re going to do it for as long as required,” he continued.

“And the last thing I’d say is, we’re going to do it in partnership. And I think that’s where the inherent comes in, in the name. We’re going to do it in partnership with other nations, and there are some 60 now that are involved in this effort in various forms and fashions, but it’s very much a multinational, multilateral approach. And I think that’s what the name signifies.”

 

Read bullet |

Obama ‘Postpones’ Campaign Fundraising Trip to Deal with Ebola

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama postponed a campaign trip today after a second nurse in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters on a conference call that Amber Vinson should not have traveled while she was under self-monitoring after caring for Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week.

Vinson flew Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday. She reported a fever the next day.

Obama was scheduled to deliver remarks and take questions to a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event in Union, N.J., today, followed by remarks at a campaign rally for Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy in Bridgeport.

“The President’s travel today to New Jersey and Connecticut has been postponed,” the White House said in an update of the president’s schedule.

“Later this afternoon, the President will convene a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest planned on briefing reporters before the cabinet meeting.

The administration didn’t say which members of the cabinet would be in on the meeting.

It’s unknown if the White House plans to alter Obama’s fundraising schedule tomorrow in Long Island, where he will attend a DNC event. Last night, he attended a private DCCC fundraiser with Nancy Pelosi at a home in McLean, Va. Twenty-five dinner guests paid $32,400 each.

Vinson is reportedly quite ill, and will be flown to the Ebola treatment unit at Emory in Atlanta.

Read bullet |

U.S. Embassy Warns of ‘Imminent’ Al-Shabaab Threat on Western Targets in Ethiopia

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Just over a month after the White House said its assassination of Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane delivered “a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa,” the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia has put citizens on alert for an Al-Shabaab attack.

Al-Shabaab quickly named Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, aka Ahmed Diriye, a longtime senior adviser to Godane and former primary school Quran teacher, as its new leader and renewed its “pledge of allegiance” to al-Qaeda after the Labor Day attack.

Al-Shabaab vowed to ”not delay in punishing those who have perpetrated such heinous massacres,” and promised that the terror group would “only grow in strength and ferocity” after Godane’s death.

Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa advised citizens “to avoid large crowds and places where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent.”

“The Embassy has received threat reports of al-Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area. Restaurants, hotels, bars, places of worship, supermarkets, and shopping malls in the Bole Area should be avoided until further notice because they are possible targets for a potential imminent terrorist attack,” said the message to citizens. “While the exact location of this planned terrorist attack is not known, U.S. citizens should continue to maintain heightened personal security awareness.”

The Bole International Airport is about 5 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.

There is currently no State Department travel warning in effect for Ethiopia. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to regions at the Somali and Eritrean borders.

President Obama met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.

“They focused on counterterrorism cooperation, where Ethiopia has been a strong partner, particularly in efforts against al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

The Somali government says its amnesty program for Al-Shabaab fighters to turn themselves in has resulted in “hundreds” of fighters leaving the group, but the government is now being linked to the “unauthorized diversion of government weapons to Islamist militants with ties to al-Qaeda.”

The president of Somalia told PJM in August that the threat of Al-Shabaab and other al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa is not Somalia’s problem alone.

“Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, all of them, these are terrorist organizations — they are linked, they live for each other, they support each other and they are connected globally,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. “It’s not just an issue of one country or one region — it’s a global phenomenon that needs to be addressed globally.”

Read bullet |

President Graham? Senator ‘Nowhere Near’ 2016 Decision

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) easily sailed past a crowded primary of Tea Party challengers this summer, and is expected to defeat Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto in November to win a third term.

But some are wondering if the senator’s sights are set on 2016.

Telling the Arizona Republic last week that he and Graham are the “closest of friends,” 2008 GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the South Carolina lawmaker has his support.

“He’ll be looking at it,” McCain said. “One rationale is because, obviously, national security has assumed a much more prominent place in our political calculations. And Lindsey Graham is as experienced and knowledgeable as anybody in America.”

Graham told Fox last night that he’s focusing on the fact “I’m about to get re-elected, I hope, in three weeks.”

“I’m all in for getting re-elected to the United States Senate from South Carolina,” the senator said. “I know what it takes to run for president, the sacrifice you make, the money you have to raise, the network. I’m nowhere near there. I’m very much focused on winning my Senate race.”

Graham told The Weekly Standard that “if nobody steps up in the presidential mix” then “I may just jump in to get to make these arguments” about the challenge of trying to fix results of Obama policies.

“He’s a good guy, but after doing immigration with him—we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” Graham said of a Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) candidacy. “He’s no Obama by any means, but he’s so afraid of the right, and I’ve let that go.”

Graham stressed national security to Fox, saying “two years from now, if we haven’t defeated and destroyed ISIL in Syria and Iraq, that endangers our nation and puts the whole region into chaos.”

“I think what President Obama is doing is trying to do the least amount possible to get this issue behind him and leave office without have destroyed ISIL to keep a campaign promise not to go back into Iraq,” he said. “And that, to me, is dangerous and, quite frankly, pathetic leadership.”

“Our commander in chief is more worried about political promise than he is keeping the region stable and protecting our homeland. I hope the American people understand, the next time you vote for commander in chief, make sure you are voting for somebody who has the experience and the knowledge to get the job right.”

Read bullet |

Earnest: Obama ‘Pleased’ About His Record as Vulnerable Dems Keep Him at Arm’s Length

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama isn’t disappointed by vulnerable Democrats wanting him to keep his distance in tough election fights.

Obama travels to Bridgeport, Conn., today for a campaign rally with Gov. Dan Malloy, who’s locked in a tight re-election fight with GOP challenger Tom Foley.

Though Malloy is calling in Obama for help, some Senate candidates have not welcomed the president on the campaign trail or have released campaign ads distancing their policies from the administration, including Natalie Tennant in West Virginia, Mark Begich in Alaska, and Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Alison Lundergan Grimes, who just got her Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee support in Kentucky yanked, has refused to say whether she voted for Obama.

“The president is pleased on the record that he has amassed in his six years — almost six years in office,” Earnest said. “That from ensuring that we could recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to putting in place the policies that were critical to the success and rebuilding and renaissance of the American auto industry, the president shepherded over the process that reformed our health care system in a way that is paying dividends for small businesses and middle-class families all across the country.”

“On the president’s watch, we’ve seen the greatest reform of our financial system since the Great Depression in a way that has significantly enhanced protections for consumers,” he continued. “So if you take a look at the president’s record, the president is pleased with the success that he has had on behalf of the American people and pursuing the kinds of values that he wants.”

“So since he has a strong case to make, is he disappointed he is not out there more?” a reporter asked.

“Well, the president obviously has got a few things on his plate these days, but the president is looking forward to the opportunity to campaign with other candidates in advance of the midterms,” Earnest replied.

Earnest also denied that the beginning of the Obamacare enrollment period was bumped to Nov. 15 to help out the president’s party in midterms.

“I know that you are a very keen observer of the political process in this country, as you should be, particularly when we have such an important election coming up,” he said. “But so many of the important policy decisions that are made in this administration and in this White House are driven by something other than politics. And so I’d refer you to the Department of Health and Human Services for deadlines they’re establishing.”

Read bullet |

House Hearing Puts Ebola Front and Center in Key Senate Race

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A House in recess will come back together on Thursday as the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations grills the nation’s top health officials on what is being done to stop the spread of Ebola.

The hearing has campaign implications as well. A new CNN poll has Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) opening a 4-point lead over Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in his bid to oust the incumbent. It’s a time to be on the campaign trail — the purpose of this month’s recess — but Gardner will be at the hearing tomorrow.

He’ll also reiterate his call for a ban on flights from the West African countries at the epicenter of the outbreak.

“Ebola is a serious health threat and should not be taken lightly,” Gardner said in a statement Tuesday. “This hearing will give us the opportunity to determine the different routes we can take to prevent the spread of Ebola, including a travel ban on flights to and from the affected countries in West Africa, as well as 100 percent virus screening for passengers whose travels originated from or passed through West Africa.”

“A travel ban would help contain the virus and prevent it from being introduced in new places, as we’ve already seen happen in the United States,” he added. “Our next step must be to develop a series of deliberate measures designed to restrict the spread of Ebola to keep Coloradans, Americans, and the citizens of the world safe from this horrific virus. We can prevent future tragedies in the United States, but we must institute policies that assist in that effort.”

Udall is among the Democrats accusing Republicans of exacerbating the problem through budget cuts to Centers for Disease Control.

His spokesman told the Denver Post that the senator will support a travel ban “if health and preparedness experts” deem it “necessary to protect Americans.” CDC officials have argued that a travel ban would make the problem grow.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will be testifying Thursday, along with officials from the FDA, Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.

“Ebola has been on the world’s radar screen since March and yet the United States and the international community are still scrambling to stay ahead of and stop this outbreak. We remain gravely concerned about this ongoing threat and the committee will continue diligently investigating the response efforts and preparedness plans,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement. “The stakes could not be any higher, and as I have said before, we cannot afford to look back at this point in history and say we could have done more.”

In a letter two weeks ago to Upton, Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the committee needed to be asking questions about “stagnant or declining budgets” for public health agencies.

“Do CDC, USAID, other public health agencies, and U.S. military forces have adequate funding in place to address the immediate public health crisis in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea? How long will this funding last?” Waxman’s letter asked.

“Are CDC and other federal, state, and local officials adequately funded to address the costs – such as tracing, isolating, and diagnosing all potentially affected contacts – of the Dallas patient or any future potential patients with Ebola in the U.S.?… Are U.S. officials and officials in affecting countries adequately screening travelers to and from Africa to prevent importation of additional cases into the United States? Do Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have needs for additional diagnostic or other tools to prevent individuals with Ebola from entering the U.S. undetected?”

Read bullet |

Kerry: ISIS ‘Dead Wrong’ in Its Religious Justification for Slavery

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry said ISIS is “dead wrong” in its justification of slavery that appeared in the latest issue of its English-language magazine.

The Dabiq issue describes how Yazidi women and children were “divided according to the Sharī’ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations” and analyzes how “one of the signs of the Hour is the increased conquests and bringing in of slaves from the lands of kufr.”

“One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffār and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharī’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’ān and the narrations of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” the article states.

“Finally, a number of contemporary scholars have mentioned that the desertion of slavery had led to an increase in fāhishah (adultery, fornication, etc.), because the shar’ī alternative to marriage is not available, so a man who cannot afford marriage to a free woman finds himself surrounded by temptation towards sin. In addition, many Muslim families who have hired maids to work at their homes, face the fitnah of prohibited khalwah (seclusion) and resultant zinā occurring between the man and the maid, whereas if she were his concubine, this relationship would be legal.”

Kerry’s statement late this evening said “no one needed a reminder of ISIL’s depravity and evil, but now we have the latest example.”

“ISIL now proudly takes credit for the abduction, enslavement, rape, forced marriage, and sale of several thousand Yezidi and other minority women and girls—some as young as 12 years old. Just as despicably, ISIL rationalizes its abhorrent treatment of these women and girls by claiming it is somehow sanctioned by religion. Wrong. Dead wrong,” he said.

“ISIL does not represent Islam and Islam does not condone or honor such depravity. In fact, these actions are a reminder that ISIL is an enemy of Islam. The international community and religious leaders of all faiths have strongly and repeatedly condemned ISIL’s horrific acts; we urge them to reiterate their commitment by condemning in the strongest possible terms the commodification of women and children as spoils of war, including through their subjection to horrific physical and sexual violence, intimidation, and deprivation of liberty.”

Kerry added that “these acts transgress all definitions of human dignity and those individuals responsible must be identified and held fully accountable.”

“The United States will keep tracking ISIL’s abduction, enslavement, sale, rape, forced marriage, and abuse of women and girls,” he said. “We will keep working with the new Government of Iraq to respond to ISIL’s brutality against women and girls from all communities in Iraq, including vulnerable minority populations.”

Read bullet |

Kerry Won’t Say Whether Admin Will Extend Iran Nuclear Deadline Again

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry quipped at a press availability in Paris today that he’s “glad that all the pundits and speculators are doubting whether or not” a nuclear deal with Iran “can be reached” by the Nov. 24 deadline.

Kerry is leaving Paris, where he met today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to head to Vienna for discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

“They know more than I do,” he added of pundits and doubters.

There’s already talk of the administration extending the deadline for an agreement once again, and Kerry told reporters “I can’t tell you” when asked whether Iran would get another year of time.

“As I stand here tonight, I don’t have that answer and I’m not about to predict. I don’t believe it’s out of reach,” he said of a possible agreement. “But we have some tough issues to resolve, and I’m not going to prognosticate.”

“We need to continue to have some serious discussions, which we will, and we’ll see where we are. And I just think I’ll let the negotiation process speak for itself at this point in time. I don’t think anything is served by a lot of speculation at this point in time.”

Kerry said the U.S. and Russia “continue to work closely together on Iran, and this was a major topic of our conversation today.”

“Both of our countries are deeply invested in the P5+1 discussions together with our EU colleagues, and we are deeply committed to the diplomatic effort to try to reach an agreement that assures the international community of the fact that the Iranian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” Kerry continued. “As part of that effort, we have built a broad coalition of countries, including Russia and our P5+1 colleagues, in order to ensure that the international community is speaking with one voice on this.”

Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader with the final word over any deal with the U.S., has stepped up his scoffing at the notion of any agreement.

Two months ago, he tweeted that the negotiations simply served as “a valuable experience to learn that talks with US have absolutely no effect on reducing their hostility & are useless.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said today she was “aware of the Twitter activity of some officials in Iran.”

“There are a range of comments that have been made by Iranian officials. They have their own political audience, as we all know,” Psaki said. “Beyond that, I’m not going to speak to specifics of what’s going on behind the scenes, whether there – it’s on Twitter or not on Twitter or how consistent it is.”

Read bullet |

Obama’s Top Security Aide Meets New York Officials at White House

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism met at the White House today with New York City leaders two days before the commander in chief flies into JFK for a DNC fundraiser.

Lisa Monaco sat down this afternoon with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, the White House said, to “discuss strengthening federal, state, and local coordination on counterterrorism issues as well as the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.”

At the end of last month, Iraq’s prime minister warned that his country uncovered intelligence indicating ISIS planned to attack subway systems in New York and Paris.

On the Ebola front, JFK became the first airport to launch the administration’s enhanced screening procedures for passengers coming from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

“On counterterrorism, they reviewed threat streams overseas associated with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the Khorasan Group, and discussed measures to take to better protect the U.S. homeland from potential threats posed by these groups as well as homegrown violent extremists,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. ”They specifically noted the threat from foreign fighters, including Western passport-holders, and the comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to counter it.”

“On Ebola, they reviewed the status of additional airport screening measures that were implemented at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on Saturday and that will be rolled out later this week at Newark and other domestic airports. They also reviewed ongoing efforts to prepare hospitals and healthcare workers nationwide, including in New York City, to identify and treat Ebola patients safely and effectively.”

New York will be Obama’s last stop on a fundraising tour that begins Wednesday in New Jersey and swings through Connecticut and Rhode Island before Thursday’s DNC event on Long Island.

Last week at an interagency Ebola preparedness meeting, De Blasio said the city “is vigilant by our nature.”

“We know the kinds of challenges we face. Everyday there are a number of us who focus on the question of terrorism. That has created a vigilance in this city over years. It is a 24/7 reality,” the mayor said. “So the idea of having to be ready for something very challenging is not new to us. It’s what we do as New Yorkers. It’s particularly what this city government does and what all our partner agencies do.”

“We’ve faced terrorism. We’ve faced natural disasters. We now face the possibility of being affected by a pandemic. But the fact is, all of those other moments prepared us to handle whatever is thrown at us.”

In the White House press briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest didn’t elaborate on Monaco’s meeting with the New York officials.

Obama was attending a meeting on ISIS at Andrews Air Force Base this afternoon, followed by a DCCC fundraiser in Virginia this evening.

Read bullet |

Priebus Calls Ad Blaming Ebola on GOP Cuts ‘Desperation’ from ‘Idiotic Group’

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

The chairman of the Republican National Committee called a new ad blaming the spread of Ebola on GOP budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “desperation” as midterms near.

The minute-long ad comes from the Agenda Project, which in 2011 released an ad showing a grandma being pushed off a cliff in response to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Path to Prosperity.

“It was the president that actually has been telling the CDC, get this, to work on bike paths and get some of the walkways under control. I don’t know how that all relates to the CDC, but this is what the president’s directive was to the CDC, was to work on bike paths, while their budget was going up,” Chairman Reince Priebus told Fox this morning.

“So obviously, this is just desperation on the part of this idiotic group that also, as you — as you note, did the ad of Paul Ryan throwing granny off the cliff. I mean, it is a — an earned media-type hit.”

Priebus said the group is “obviously they’re walking this dangerous path of trying to point out blame on Ebola when, in fact, if you look at the president’s record on anything, as you know, from ISIS to the Secret Service, to the CDC, to Syria, to the border, I mean, you name it, for whatever reason, every single thing the administration, as well as these Democrats running for office touches, you know, it’s not turning to gold, I can tell you that.”

“It’s turning to something else,” he added.

Agenda Project spokeswoman Erica Payne told Talking Points Memo that the ad would first air in a “low six-figure buy in Kentucky,” where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is in a battle with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

“The others states are being decided now,” Payne said.

Read bullet |

UN, Human Rights Groups Criticize Afghanistan for Executing Gang of Rapists

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Amnesty International accused Afghanistan last week of “treating rape in a flawed way” in its trial and execution of a gang of five men in a case that stoked national outrage.

In late August, a group of men stopped a family convoy of four cars at night on Qargha-Paghman road, returning from a wedding in Paghman district. They beat the men and kidnapped four women, whom they repeatedly raped.

Both male and female protesters in Kabul cried out for the death penalty, hoping that handing down the ultimate sentence would discourage other criminals from committing such heinous acts. Last Wednesday, five men were hanged. Two other assailants received 20 years in prison, and three suspects are at large; Kabul police said one fled the country.

The women took the stand to testify against their attackers in a televised trial that gripped the nation.

President Hamid Karzai signed the death warrants of the convicted men before leaving office, and new President Ashraf Ghani let the death warrant stand.

Human-rights groups and the United Nations jumped on Afghanistan.

David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, said in a statement that there’s “no question that this was an appalling crime and the outcry and anger this case has caused is of course understandable.”

“But the death penalty is not justice – it only amounts to short-term revenge,” Griffiths said. “The death penalty is an abhorrent form of punishment and should never be used under any circumstances. The many fair trial concerns in this case only make these executions more unjust. It’s deeply disappointing that new President Ashraf Ghani has allowed the executions to go ahead.”

The men were charged under zina — the Islamic law against unlawful sexual intercourse, often applied to adultery. They were also convicted of robbery.

“President Ghani was placed in an unenviable position by the actions of his predecessor in this case, but regrettably failed his first test on upholding human rights and the rule of law,” Griffiths said. “These deaths cannot be undone now, but President Ghani must order an immediate moratorium on all executions as a first step towards total abolition or the death penalty.”

At the UN, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein wrote to Ghani to ask him to cancel the executions. The UN press release said Ghani was asked “to commute the death sentences to a suitable term of imprisonment” for the “five Afghans accused of armed robbery and gang rape.”

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said the “horrendous due process violations in the Paghman trial have only worsened the injustices of this terrible crime.”

Kine called the executions ”a grave miscarriage of justice.”

This week, Afghanistan is back to the business of building a state, with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah calling his first meeting of economic ministers today.

“The issue of the economy is important to the people of the nation — after security,” Abdullah said, according to Tolo News.

Read bullet |

Ayatollah Decries ‘Dark Points’ in American History for Columbus Day

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sure, he’s a day late, but Ayatollah Khamenei figured he’d get his digs in for Columbus Day:

 

 

The Ayatollah went on a tear against the U.S. back when the Ferguson protests started, saying people are “unsecure for having dark skins” in the U.S.

Read bullet |

CDC Director on Lack of Travel Ban: ‘The Bottom Line Is Reducing Risk to Americans’

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama added an afternoon Ebola meeting to his otherwise open Columbus Day schedule after a nurse was confirmed to have contracted the virus from a now-deceased Liberian patient in Dallas.

The Oval Office meeting was small, including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden joined via phone.

The White House said that the meeting was “to receive an update on the response to the diagnosis of a second Ebola case in Dallas, Texas.”

“The President was briefed on the status of the investigation into the apparent breach in infection control protocols at the Dallas hospital and remedial actions underway to mitigate similar breaches in the future,” the readout of the meeting continued. “Secretary Burwell and Dr. Frieden described the surge in personnel and other resources to Dallas to assist in the investigation as well as other measures to heighten awareness and increase training for healthcare workers throughout the country.”

“The President reinforced that this investigation should proceed as expeditiously as possible and that lessons learned should be integrated into future response plans and disseminated to hospitals and healthcare workers nationwide.”

Obama, who has a week of fundraising activities planned as the calendar closes in on midterms, told donors at a Democratic National Committee event in L.A. on Thursday that “the likelihood of any epidemic in the United States is extraordinarily small.”

The White House also released the details of call with French President Francois Hollande, who plans to build new Ebola treatment centers in Guinea.

“On the Ebola outbreak, the two leaders agreed that more must be done, and quickly, to establish treatment facilities in the affected African nations, and that all countries must play a role to stop the spread of this disease and to save the lives of those afflicted,” the administration said. “They also discussed additional measures that may be taken to stem the spread of Ebola outside the region already affected, including passenger screening upon departure and arrival.”

And Obama spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the White House said, “to review the international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the need for more robust commitments and rapid delivery of assistance by the international community.”

“Citing the threat the epidemic poses, the President stressed the need for all UN member states to support the UN appeal, and to provide the personnel, equipment, and supplies required to stop the epidemic at its source and halt the devastating impact of this crisis on the affected countries and their citizens,” said the readout from the call. “Both leaders agreed that, given the threat posed by Ebola, at this crucial juncture members of the international community must redouble their resolve and commitment to stay the course and decisively address the Ebola crisis.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled together his national security team on Sunday to discuss a game plan for stopping Ebola before it comes to their borders.

“The State of Israel is prepared in order to bar the possible entry of people with Ebola, as part of our effort to defend our borders against illegal migrants and terrorism,” Netanyahu said. “This is a global plague and we are cooperating with other countries in addition to guarding our borders; we are taking a series of steps to isolate those who are ill, if they arrive, and treat them, of course, in our healthcare system. We hope that this will not be necessary but we are prepared for any eventuality.”

The CDC director told reporters today that screening of passengers coming from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had begun at JFK airport in New York, with the intention of expanding the program to Hartsfield, O’Hare, Dulles and Newark. Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan passed through Dulles on his way to Dallas.

“On the issue of banning travel, I understand that there are calls to do this. I really tried to focus on the bottom line here. The bottom line here is reducing risk to Americans. The way we’re going to reduce risk to Americans is do the steps of protection I just went through and stop it at the source in Africa,” Frieden said.

“Today, CDC has 150 of our top disease detectives throughout the three countries and many of the counties, districts, and prefectures within the three countries helping to turn the outbreak around working along with the Department of Defense, with USAID, with the World Health Organization and with many other governments which are surging in to help stop it at the source,” he continued.

“If we do things that unintentionally make it harder to get that response in, to get supplies in, that make it harder for those governments to manage, to get everything from economic activity to travel going, it’s going to become much harder to stop the outbreak at the source. If that were to happen, it would spread for more months and potentially to other countries and that would increase rather than decrease the risk to Americans. Above all, do no harm. And that’s why we want to focus on stopping the outbreak at the source.”

The UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, told CNN International that he doesn’t think travel bans would be effective.

“People will travel, particularly if they are concerned about a disease like this. They’re frightened. They will cross road borders, they will get onto boats, they will get onto planes. And the real requirement is to test them very thoroughly before they get onto any form of transport,” Nabarro said.

Duncan was asymptomatic yet a carrier of the Ebola virus when he left Liberia, and didn’t register a temperature when screened at the airport. He also reportedly said he hadn’t had contact with Ebola patients.

“If you tried to have a blanket ban, our experience is it doesn’t work,” Nabarro continued. “All that happens is people try to get around it, they conceal their movements, they conceal their history and that can actually create a much greater likelihood of going underground. And diseases that go underground, they’re hard to control.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said the administration should stop flights from the affected countries “to give Dallas, Texas, and other communities a chance to catch up and work through this difficult problem.”

“They should isolate these areas,” the congressman told CNN. “It has grown the way it has because of people traveling. That is what we’re trying to deal with.”

Read bullet |

Hagel Unveils Pentagon Global Warming Strategy, Warns Climate Change Is ‘Threat Multiplier’

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap at the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru today, saying the Pentagon has “nearly completed a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability” due to global warming of more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities.

The 20-page document details three “broad adaptation goals”: “Identify and assess the effects of climate change on the Deparment,” “integrate climate change considerations across the Department and manage associated risks,” and “collaborate with internal and external stakeholders on climate change challenges.”

“Initial analysis indicates that four primary climate change phenomena are likely to affect the Department’s activities: Rising global temperature, changing precipitation pattern, increasing frequency or intensity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and associated storm surge,” the report states. “…The changing climate will affect operating environments and may aggravate existing or trigger new risks to U.S. interests.”

The report complies with a 2013 executive order in which President Obama ordered agencies to prepare the U.S. “for the impacts of climate change.”

“Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’…because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today from infectious disease to armed insurgencies and to produce new challenges in the future,” Hagel said in his remarks, which touched on organized crime and the illegal migration of minors yet focused on global warming.

“The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration,” he said. “We have already seen these events unfold in other regions of the world, and there are worrying signs that climate change will create serious risks to stability in our own hemisphere. Two of the worst droughts in the Americas have occurred in the past ten years…droughts that used to occur once a century.”

“In the Caribbean, sea level rise may claim 1,200 square miles of coastal land in the next 50 years, and some islands may have to be completely evacuated. According to some estimates, rising temperatures could melt entire glaciers in the Andes, which could have cascading economic and security consequences.”

Hagel argued that the climate trends “will clearly have implications for our militaries.”

“A higher tempo and intensity of natural disasters could demand more support for our civil authorities, and more humanitarian assistance and relief. Our coastal installations could be vulnerable to rising shorelines and flooding, and extreme weather could impair our training ranges, supply chains, and critical equipment,” he said. “Our militaries’ readiness could be tested, and our capabilities could be stressed.”

The secretary said the Pentagon “takes these risks very seriously,” and new assessments will result in the integration of “climate change considerations into our planning, operations, and training.”

The roadmap follows Hagel’s Arctic strategy released last year.

“To address the risks posed by climate change, we will work with partner nations, bilaterally and through organizations such as the Inter-American Defense Board and the CDMA. We will share our findings, our tools for assessment, and our plans for resiliency. We will also seek to learn from partner nations’ experiences as well,” Hagel said, noting that the U.S. has already completed joint military assessments on climate change with Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“I recognize that our militaries play different roles and have different responsibilities in each of our nations. I also recognize that climate change will have different impacts in different parts of the hemisphere. But there are many opportunities to work together.”

Hagel encouraged defense ministers to take part in the UN climate change conference this December in Lima, Peru.

“We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be proactive in addressing them,” he said.

Read bullet |

Rice: ‘Informal Consultations’ with Iran on ‘Regional Issues,’ But No ISIS Coordination

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the U.S. has had “informal consultations” with Iran but is not “in coordination or direct consultation with the Iranians about any aspect of the fight against ISIL.”

“We are not coordinating — we are doing this very differently and independently. Our coalition is comprised of some 60 countries. All of our core allies in the Gulf region of the Arab world, most of our NATO partners, many of our traditional partners from outside, including Australia. It’s a very broad-based, very comprehensive coalition that has come together to deal with the threat from ISIL,” Rice told Meet the Press on Sunday.

“And it’s gratifying that countries from all over the world share the same perception of the threat that ISIL poses. Iran may or may not be among those but they are not a part of our coalition.”

Rice the U.S. is still “engaging Iran on the nuclear issue” and “have had informal consultations on the margins of the nuclear talks about certain regional issues.”

“There’s no coordination,” she said. “There’s no collaboration on the anti-ISIL campaign.”

Iran’s supreme leader came out today with a scathing rebuke of the U.S. effort against the Islamic State.

“If anyone fuels the fire in this regard, he or she will definitely be helping sinister America and Britain which are the creators of the ISIL and al-Qaeda,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to Iran’s Press TV, urging Muslims to not get involved in the coalition.

“Shias and Sunnis shouldn’t help the enemy by desecrating their sanctities and provoking one another’s sentiments,” he said, calling ISIS and al-Qaeda a plot created by the West to challenge Iran.

Iran has given safe haven to al-Qaeda leaders including Muhsin al-Fadhli, who moved to Syria and started the Khorasan office at the direction of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked at Friday’s press briefing if the P5+1 nuclear talks deadline — already extended once — would be moved past Nov. 24.

“We believe there is sufficient time in the time that remains, adequate, sufficient, enough time to work through the issues we have to arrive at a comprehensive agreement by November 24th. It’s in everyone’s interests to get to a comprehensive agreement that assures the international community that Iran’s program is entirely for peaceful purposes, that they cannot get a nuclear weapon,” Harf said.

“By the 24th — next week, we’ll be going — as you know, the secretary will have a trilateral meeting with Cathy Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif. There’ll be a bilateral U.S.-Iran meeting the day before. There’s enough time. We know what the issues are. There’s a path forward here, but we all need to take it.”

Read bullet |

Poll: Republicans Hold Advantage Over Dems on Voter Trust to Handle Top Issues

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

galluptrust

A new Gallup poll released today found that voters are indicating more trust for Republicans to handle the issues that they rank as most important.

Seventy-five percent of voters said equal pay for women is extremely or very important to their vote, and Dems have a strong advantage over the GOP on the issue. On climate change, though, where Dems have a 20-point advantage, only 40 percent of voters said it was important to their vote.

Republicans came out ahead not just on economic issues and immigration, but have a 19-point trust advantage when it comes to dealing with the ISIS threat.

The parties are essentially tied on Obamacare and jobs.

Gallup notes that the GOP has made gains on trust to handle the economy:

gallupecon

Read bullet |

Paul: If GOP Doesn’t ‘Compete’ for Minority Votes, ‘We Won’t Ever Win Again’

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called his Friday trip to Ferguson, Mo., to meet with the NAACP “a beginning of the conversation” about race and Republicans.

“And I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we’ve made in the last several decades is we haven’t gone into the African American community, into the NAACP and say you know what, we are concerned about what’s going on in your cities and we have plans. They may be different than the Democrats, but we do have plans and we do want to help,” Paul told CNN on Friday.

“And I think beginning that conversation will change the country if those parties are competing for votes and both parties are bringing alternative ideas to the cities, then maybe some good will happen.”

Paul, who was out supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) re-election effort Sunday in his home state, said Republicans “haven’t tried hard enough” to court black voters.

“I think frankly for me it’s pretty easy because I believe passionately that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome,” he said. “I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think we’ve locked up thousands and thousands of people of color who would be much more productive if we were giving them job training in prison and getting them back out of prison or maybe never getting them in prison to begin with.”

The senator said he does believe the Republican National Committee understands the importance of outreach, as chairman Reince Priebus was recently at the Urban League with Paul.

“I want to be part of trying to let people across the country know the Republican Party is interested in people who live in difficult circumstances,” Paul said.

If the GOP doesn’t start winning minority votes, the senator predicted, “we won’t ever win again.”

“We’re a very diverse country. But if Republicans don’t go out and compete for African-American votes, don’t go out and compete for Hispanic votes, Asian-American votes, we will not win again in our country because the country is a diverse country now. And we can’t have one party that monopolizes the various ethnic group votes,” Paul continued. “So we do have to compete and if I do it, I plan on competing for all votes.”

When asked if he was qualified to be president, the senator replied, “I think other people have to make that judgment.”

“But what I would say is that what we need is somebody who has wisdom, somebody who thinks about issues, who isn’t entirely beholden to partisanship on one — from one party or the other,” Paul said. “And we need somebody who ultimately, if they were in charge of our nuclear arsenal, would not be rash, reckless or eager for war.”

Read bullet |

New ISIS Magazine Issue Faults ‘Crusader Media’ for Making Lone Wolf Attacks ‘Appear to be Random Killings’

Monday, October 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The latest issue of an English-language magazine released by the Islamic State encourages “lone wolf” attackers in the United States while chiding “crusader media” for not linking attacks with Islamist terrorism.

“At this point of the crusade against the Islamic State, it is very important that attacks take place in every country that has entered into the alliance against the Islamic State, especially the US, UK, France, Australia, and Germany. Rather, the citizens of crusader nations should be targeted wherever they can be found,” an article in Dabiq states.

“Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him. It is important that the killing becomes attributed to patrons of the Islamic State who have obeyed its leadership. This can easily be done with anonymity. Otherwise, crusader media makes such attacks appear to be random killings.”

The magazine didn’t reference specific attacks, but provided a few tips for keeping attacks simple and to the point.

“Secrecy should be followed when planning and executing any attack. The smaller the numbers of those involved and the less the discussion beforehand, the more likely it will be carried out without problems. One should not complicate the attacks by involving other parties, purchasing complex materials, or communicating with weak-hearted individuals. ‘Rely upon Allah and stab the crusader’ should be the battle cry for all Islamic State patrons,” an article states.

The magazine’s fourth issue, which features the ISIS flag photoshopped in the Vatican courtyard on the cover, features pictures of electricity maintenance and road cleanup in the Islamic State, along with an ISIS-run retirement home in Mosul. It contains a story of Ansar al-Islam in Iraq pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. It also contains lengthy essays that the IS claims were written by late American journalist Steven Sotloff and British hostage John Cantlie.

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted,” a statement from the ISIS spokesman says. “You claimed to have withdrawn from Iraq – O Obama – four years ago. We said to you then that you were liars, that you had not withdrawn, and that if you had withdrawn that you would return, even if after some time, you would return. Here you are; you have not withdrawn. Rather you hid some of your forces behind your proxies and withdrew the rest. Your forces will return greater in number than they were before. You will return and your proxies will not avail you. And if you are not able to return, then we will come to your homeland by Allah’s permission.”

The magazine says that would-be jihadists shouldn’t think twice before killing citizens from “crusader” countries.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling.”

The Dabiq issue includes another article praising slavery and its “revival,” using the capture of Yazidis as an example.

It describes how Yazidi women and children were “divided according to the Sharī’ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations” and analyzes how “one of the signs of the Hour is the increased conquests and bringing in of slaves from the lands of kufr.”

“One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffār and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharī’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’ān and the narrations of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” the article states.

“Finally, a number of contemporary scholars have mentioned that the desertion of slavery had led to an increase in fāhishah (adultery, fornication, etc.), because the shar’ī alternative to marriage is not available, so a man who cannot afford marriage to a free woman finds himself surrounded by temptation towards sin. In addition, many Muslim families who have hired maids to work at their homes, face the fitnah of prohibited khalwah (seclusion) and resultant zinā occurring between the man and the maid, whereas if she were his concubine, this relationship would be legal.”

The Dabiq issue also featured testimony “in support of the crusade headed by Barack Obama” of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a section called “In the Words of the Enemy.”

Read bullet |

Texas Lawmakers Want Administration to Add State to Ebola-Screening Plan

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration is coming under bipartisan pressure from Texas lawmakers to include airports in this “ground zero” state among those getting extra screening procedures for Ebola.

After the death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas this week, the White House announced more stringent screening procedures for incoming international travelers at five airports: JFK, Dulles, Newark, O’Hare and Hartsfield.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said these locations were chosen for the “additional layer of screening” because they “are the destination of 94 percent of individuals who travel to the United States from the three countries that are currently affected by Ebola right now.”

At a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing in Dallas today, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said “there was an error made by not designating Bush Intercontinental Airport as one of the sites to have this enhanced screening.”

“I’ve made a request to the president, to the secretary, and to the Centers for Disease Control, and I hope that this will be responded to. Again, this is a red flag. This is not hysteria. It’s based upon the travel that comes into Bush Intercontinental Airport,” Jackson Lee said. “Let me also say that it is not West Africa, and all of us must be restrained in how we define it. It’s particular countries such as Guinea, Liberia at this time, and Sierra Leone.”

The committee chairman, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske today requesting that Bush Intercontinental and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport be included among the enhanced screening locations.

Last year, more than 15 million passengers flew into both airports. Duncan flew through Dulles before arriving in Dallas.

“Because those traveling from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia  can transit to the United States from many other countries, we have concerns that the current decision to screen only at five airports may not adequately protect Americans and others traveling to America from the Ebola virus,” McCaul and Cornyn wrote.

“According the Administration, the enhanced screening will take place at five airports that receive 94 percent of the passengers from the three affected countries.  Where do the other 6 percent arrive? Will other major international airports be designated for enhanced screening procedures and additional resources if this limited initiative does not effectively mitigate against entry of potentially infected passengers?”

The lawmakers also asked how many people from Ebola-affected countries enter the United States through other ports of entry, such as sea ports and land border stations.

“What other Ebola-related measures are being taken at other vulnerable port environments, particularly at high traffic land border ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border? If none, why? Will U.S. Border Patrol apply enhanced screening procedures to those apprehended between land border ports of entry?”

Read bullet |

White House Doesn’t Deny Report of Executive Action to Close Gitmo; GOP Lawmakers Pounce

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

GOP lawmakers decried as “outrageous” a report that President Obama is planning to override a ban passed by Congress on relocating Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. in order to shut down the prison facility.

Some of those prisoners could come to the Naval brig at Hanahan, South Carolina.

“I have yet to see any plans or studies that show that transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to South Carolina or any other domestic location will make America safer,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. “We are talking about some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, including planners of September 11th and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. They should stay right where they are – in cells at the prison on Guantanamo Bay, far away from our schools and families.”

“It is also outrageous that this administration is reportedly preparing to once again circumvent Congress for its own political goals. The president may be searching for a way to keep a campaign promise, but perhaps he should take a look at the reality of the situation.”

Scott pointed out a summer Gallup poll that shows Americans consistently opposing the closure of Gitmo and relocation of detainees to the U.S. Just 29 percent think that should happen, while 66 percent oppose the detainees coming to American soil.

“Congress passed a bipartisan law barring the transfer of detainees to the United States,” Scott said. “If the administration attempts to push this idea forward it will meet serious opposition, period.”

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted that “as terrorists behead innocent Americans and civilians abroad, the only message we need to be sending our enemies right now is that we’re coming after them, not bringing them into our backyards.”

“The president’s number one responsibility should be ensuring the safety of the American people and supporting our men and women in uniform, not trying to make good on an ill-conceived campaign promise simply to mollify far left donors and energize his base before an election,” Cornyn said.

Obama is on the West Coast fundraising today, and White House spokesman Eric Schultz brushed off a direct response to the Wall Street Journal story in speaking with reporters outside the first event at the home of restaurateur Michael Chow.

“I can say that this is something important to the president, important to the administration, and something we are constantly working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress over,” Schultz said.

“For many years now we have always looked at options to do this,” he added. “Our position right now, our policy right now, is seeking support from Congress to lift the restrictions which we feel are misguided.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said “closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is a fanciful idea but importing vicious terrorists onto the United States mainland and giving them legal protections reserved for American citizens has been consistently rejected by bipartisan majorities in Congress who have worked together legally to prohibit the president from doing so.”

“The president’s stubborn naïveté distracts from ongoing threats to American national security and highlights the failures of his foreign policy agenda,” Foxx said. “As House Republicans continue our tireless pursuit of accountability, the president should immediately abandon any ill-conceived plans to bring dangerous terrorists to the American homeland.”

Read bullet |

Rand Paul Holds ‘Listening Session’ with NAACP in Ferguson

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

At the start of a “Weekend of Resistance” to protest police shootings around St. Louis, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went to Ferguson, Mo., today to hold a “listening session” with the NAACP and local leaders.

The Hands Up United protests are scheduled to run Friday through Monday, fueled by those frustrated with no indictment yet in the August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Recent protests, though, have centered around Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of Vonderrit Myers, 18, by an off-duty officer in St. Louis; police said Myers fired three shots at the officer first before the officer returned 17 shots.

Protest organizers say there’s no evidence Myers was “carrying anything other than a sandwich.”

“Serious doubt has been cast on the St. Louis City Police Department’s version of events,” said Ferguson October organizers in a statement. “We have serious questions about the right of an off-duty officer to wear his uniform when they aren’t on the job. We have serious questions about what the St. Louis City Police are calling a ‘pedestrian check.’ Most of us know this practice as ‘stop & frisk.’”

Paul’s office said the event he attended today, which included the NAACP, the Urban League, local business owners and church leaders, “centered around Sen. Paul’s belief that the underlying problem in Ferguson—and many other troubled areas of our country—is a broken criminal justice system that unfairly targets minorities.”

“I came to Ferguson today to listen to leaders in the community and to learn more about how we can fix the problems of criminal injustice together,” Paul said.

Paul has introduced since 2013 six pieces of legislation focusing on criminal justice reform. In the unrest following Brown’s death, the senator wrote a TIME op-ed condemning the use of surplus military equipment by local law enforcement to confront the protesters.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote in August. “This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.”

John Gaskin III, spokesman for St. Louis County NAACP, said in a statement that they were “encouraged” by Paul’s “decision to call a meeting with us to have a round table discussion and discuss common sense solutions.”

“We were honored to have an informative discussion about the Senator regarding ways that he can help to assist our civil rights agenda in Washington and help to end police militarization,” Gaskin added.

“I try to hear from people and maybe some in the community that Republicans haven’t been listening closely enough to,” Paul told CNN, adding that the meeting went “very well.”

“It’s good to begin that conversation,” the senator added, noting he “agrees with the NAACP on a host of criminal justice reforms.”

Paul was asked if courting the black vote could help his potential presidential campaign. “I think if we don’t, we won’t ever win again… if we do it, I plan on competing for all votes.”

Read bullet |

Malala, Kailash Satyarthi Share Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A young Pakistani activist for the universal right to education became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner today, along with an Indian activist working to end child labor.

Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai shared the prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” according to the Nobel committee.

Satyarthi, 60, founded the Save the Childhood Movement in 1980 and has survived numerous physical attacks, the most recent in 2011, while rescuing kids from sweatshops.

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the Nobel Committee said. “He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in October 2012 while going to school. She was targeted for speaking out against Taliban forces and speaking out for the right to go to school, free of fear, free to achieve whatever she wants without being under the thumb of Islamist forces.

“Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education,” the Nobel Committee said.

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.”

Read bullet |

‘If It Wasn’t So Tragic, This Would Almost Be Farce’: McCain on Obama Not Arming Kurds

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

“If it wasn’t so tragic,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of President Obama’s lack of support for the Kurds fighting for Kobane, “this would almost be farce.”

Kurdish officials report ”very, very intense fighting” as ISIS shells the city in its three-week advance, VOA reported. “We will continue resisting against IS terrorists but we need heavy weapons,” Kobane’s defense chief Ismet Hasan said. “If the U.S. can provide us weapons that are capable of eliminating their heavy weapons, like tanks and artillery, and continue air strikes against [the IS], we are confident we will be able to kill them all.”

The YPG fighters in Kobane have even lacked night vision equipment, allowing the better equipped ISIS to attack them in the dark.

“For John Kerry to dismiss the deaths of thousands of people and then our Pentagon touting 14 strikes, 14 strikes, in Kobani or the outskirts, because since we have no one on ground, there is no way of really identifying targets,” McCain told Fox. “And the brave Kurds, and I mean the Peshmerga, are very brave fighters. They don’t have the military capability, the arms and equipment that the ISIS has because ISIS has ours and we refuse to send weapons directly to the Kurds and the Peshmerga so they can fight better.”

McCain said he agrees with Turkey’s request for a no-fly zone, something the Obama administration is not on board with, “because what we are doing is immoral.”

“We are allowing Bashar Assad to destroy the Free Syrian Army. Every time we bomb ISIS, Bashar al Assad moves in and attacks with more intensity,” the senator said.

“By the way, these are the same ones — we are training 5,000 of them. We are going to send them back into Syria to be bombed by Bashar al Assad. This is really as convoluted and as immoral as I have seen the United States of America do.”

John Kerry has appeared to be open to a no-fly zone, while the Pentagon and White House have said it’s not on the table.

McCain noted “we keep hearing there’s a great debate in the White House” over the no-fly zone.

“I have heard that for so many years, it grows tiresome,” he said. “They tell me privately, hey, we are working on it, don’t worry, we’ll get it down, and it never gets done. I’m getting a little cynical.”

Read bullet |

Gwyneth Paltrow Gushes to Obama at Fundraiser: ‘You’re So Handsome I Can’t Speak Properly’

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama hung out with Gwyneth Paltrow at her Brentwood home Thursday night for a $15,000 a plate dinner benefiting the Democratic National Committee.

Paltrow introduced Obama to the crowd of about 200, including Julia Roberts and Bradley Whitford, gushing, “I am one of your biggest fans, if not the biggest.”

The actress, who announced the “conscious uncoupling” from her husband Chris Martin in March, also told the president, “You’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly.”

Citing equal pay and sustainable energy, Paltrow stressed, “It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass.”

With occasional references to her children Apple and Moses, Obama thanked Paltrow for her 2012 effort raising funds for his re-election among expats in London. “I wanted to go, but they said there are no voters that I can knock on doors in London,” he quipped.

The president called it “an interesting time in American history,” with headlines “dominated by news overseas.”

“We’re seeing a lot of tumult all around the world. The Middle East is moving away from an existing order towards something new, but that process is messy and dangerous,” he said. “And what we’re seeing with ISIL I think is an expression of some of the challenges we have in societies that have divided along sectarian lines, and young people who aren’t seeing any other opportunity other than hoisting a rifle, and a breakdown in basic order. And we are looked to to try to make sure that we rebuild something that can sustain itself.”

“And when I was at the United Nations last week, or two weeks ago, it was the United States that had to mobilize the world community to make sure we were going after ISIL and putting an end to the kind of barbaric killing that we’ve been seeing there.”

Obama moved to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, “where children not much older, and in some cases younger, than Apple and Moses, are dying on the streets alone.”

“Although I want to assure everybody that the likelihood of any epidemic in the United States is extraordinarily small,” he stressed.

Obama also said his administration had “mobilized the world community to blunt Russian aggression.”

“So what was striking when I was at the United Nations General Assembly is, despite sometimes the complaining that you get about the United States, and despite folks liking or enjoying picking out flaws and problems in our policies, when there’s a crisis around the world they don’t call Moscow, they don’t call Beijing — they call the United States of America,” he continued.

“We remain the one indispensable nation not just because we have capabilities that nobody else has, not just because of the strength of our military and our reach, but because of our values and because of our principles and ideals, and the things that we stand for.”

Obama said he was out campaigning because “imagine what we could do with a Congress that operated on some common sense.”

“Imagine what we could do not just on any particular issue — although it would make a huge difference for us right away to be able to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or to pass a minimum wage law, or pass a fair pay law — but just in terms of the mood of the country; in terms of people believing that once again we can do something in common,” he said. “Believing that we can rise above narrow, ideological interests. Believing that we can match the decency and common sense of the American people with our politics.”

Read bullet |

ISIS Makes Journalists Agree to 11 Rules ‘Subject to Change at Any Time’

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

According to Syria Deeply, the ISIS media office in Deir Ezzor came up with rules for journalists trying to document what’s going on in the Islamic State, including local Syrian journalists:

1 – Correspondents must swear allegiance to the Caliph [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi … they are subjects of the Islamic State and, as subjects, they are obliged to swear loyalty to their imam.

2 – Their work will be under the exclusive supervision of the [ISIS] media offices.

3 – Journalists can work directly with international news agencies (such as Reuters, AFP and AP), but they are to avoid all international and local satellite TV channels. They are forbidden to provide any exclusive material or have any contact (sound or image) with them in any capacity.

4 – Journalists are forbidden to work in any way with the TV channels placed on the blacklist of channels that fight against Islamic countries (such as Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Orient). Violators will be held accountable.

5 – Journalists are allowed to cover events in the governorate with either written or still images without having to refer back to the [ISIS] media office. All published pieces and photos must carry the journalist’s and photographer’s names.

6 – Journalists are not allowed to publish any reportage (print or broadcast) without referring to the [ISIS] media office first.

7 – Journalists may have their own social media accounts and blogs to disseminate news and pictures. However, the ISIS media office must have the addresses and name handles of these accounts and pages.

8 – Journalists must abide by the regulations when taking photos within [ISIS territory] and avoid filming locations or security events where taking pictures is prohibited.

9 – ISIS media offices will follow up on the work of local journalists within [ISIS territory] and in the state media. Any violation of the rules in place will lead to suspending the journalist from his work, and he will be held accountable.

10 – The rules are not final and are subject to change at any time depending on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between journalists and their commitment to their brothers in the ISIS media offices.

11 – Journalists are given a license to practice their work after submitting a license request at the [ISIS] media office.

Syria Deeply says a “number of journalists” signed an agreement to obey the rules — which, as noted by Rule No. 10, can be changed by ISIS at any time. Other journalists have fled; those who have exposed crucifixions and other ISIS horrors are threatened with the same fate.

Read bullet |