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Bridget Johnson

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

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Today’s issue of the New York Times features a comprehensive story on the Muhammad cover of the new Charlie Hebdo issue, but doesn’t show a picture of the cover.

TIME magazine declared “Here’s What to Expect in the Next Issue of Charlie Hebdo” — without a picture of magazine cover. CNN headlined “Charlie Hebdo puts Mohammed on its new cover” without a picture.

NPR didn’t run the cover, with a lengthy statement explaining why: “Just because offensive images are part of a story does not mean a news organization must publish or post them with its news reports,” it says in part.

The Wall Street Journal did show the cover, as did the Los Angeles Times. So did USA Today, which last week ran an op-ed justify the terrorist attacks from radical cleric Anjem Choudary followed by a column from the editorial page editor explaining why they decided to be so edgy.

The Washington bureau chief for German newspaper Die Welt, which not only ran this cover but got banned by Egypt for running other Mohammed representations in a 2008 special Islam issue, lashed out at American outlets that refused to run the cover in a blog post.

“Today is the day that American journalism lost me,” wrote Clemens Wergin:

“I used to think that some of its newspapers and magazines represented the gold standard of international journalism. After the Islamist massacre at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and the reaction of American media to it I come to believe that maybe we should start talking about a new gold standard of  hypocrisy instead. Of course I am talking about most of the media’s refusal to print any of the cartoons of the satire magazine about the Islamic prophet Muhammad, even the less abrasive ones.

…And what did leading American media companies like NBC, CNN, the New York Times and others do? They again refused to show the cover. A disgrace to the surviving editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo  just as well as its dead members. It is a disgusting and morally appalling refusal to let Charlie Hebdo speak in its own distinctive voice.

It is not that I don’t understand where you, my American colleagues, come from. You are not a fan of the iconoclastic, anti-clerical tradition of Europe where fighting against the church during many centuries meant fighting against power or fighting against the legitimizing force allied to the absolute power of kings and emperors. You didn’t need to, because your many and diverse faiths never were accomplices to the abuse of power in the way the old faiths of Europe were. But still I find it somewhat hard to believe that you get at each other’s throats in most aggressive ways when it is about political ideas or party affiliation, but the realm of religion is largely exempt from the battle of ideas and therefor taboo for the art of ridicule. Most media companies in the US that didn’t show the cartoons said they didn’t want to offend people of faith. A fair argument. If it didn’t violate the most sacred duty of journalism, the duty to inform.

…It seems that in this case with thousands of media companies worldwide publishing the cartoons the risks for any one operation to be singled out by Islamist Fascists would have been pretty small. You didn’t want to take the chance anyhow? Fine. But would you please spare us in the future all this journalist bullshit about speaking truth to power? It is easy speaking truth to power if you criticize and ridicule you own democratic government which won’t kill you or put you in jail for speaking your mind or publishing unfriendly or over-the-top cartoons. But when you are ready to be intimidated by the new Fascist thugs in the world even in those little things and in such a crucial moment you’d better stop all that self-aggrandizing talk about the bravery of the free press.”

Read the whole post.

 

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Saudi Cleric Ruins Winter by Declaring Snowmen Anti-Islamic

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

There have been some very creative snowmen (and snow camels) photos coming out of Saudi Arabia as the region deals with a recent snow dump. So count on a cleric to come ruin their fun. From Al-Arabiya:

A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has whipped up controversy by issuing a religious ruling forbidding the building of snowmen, described them as anti-Islamic.

Asked on a religious website if it was permissible for fathers to build snowmen for their children after a snowstorm in the country’s north, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid replied: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.”

Quoting from Muslim scholars, Sheikh Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.

That provoked swift responses from Twitter users writing in Arabic and identifying themselves with Arab names.

“They are afraid for their faith of everything … sick minds,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another posted a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a “snow bride” wearing a bra and lipstick. “The reason for the ban is fear of sedition,” he wrote.

A third said the country was plagued by two types of people: “A people looking for a fatwa (religious ruling) for everything in their lives, and a cleric who wants to interfere in everything in the lives of others through a fatwa,” the user wrote.

A few of the soulful snowmen and snowcamels being crafted by rebellious and creative Saudis:

 

 

 

 

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Keystone XL Bill Clears Senate Cloture Vote 62-32

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline cleared a procedural hurdle 63-32 tonight on its way to President Obama’s veto pen.

The bill from Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) got solid support from the left side of the aisle. Democrats who supported the bill in December — Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.) — didn’t change their tune, and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Angus King (I-Maine) also voted “yes.”

“Our Keystone XL pipeline bill has gained the support of the American people and bipartisan support in Congress based on its merits,” Hoeven said in a statement. “This evening’s vote means it will now advance to the floor for open debate and every member will have an opportunity to offer amendments they believe will strengthen the bill.”

Under Congress’s authority enumerated in the Commerce Clause, the Hoeven-Manchin bill authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The pipeline, which has been held up by years of administration delays, is expected to transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, including 100,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.

The administration’s opposition to the bipartisan Keystone bill is pitting it against powerful labor unions. Last week, Teamsters president James P. Hoffa sent a letter to all members of Congress stressing that it’s “time to move forward without further delay.”

“Our posture and our position hasn’t changed,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters Friday. “This is a process that is still underway at the State Department. I don’t have any updates for you on that process. As you know, it’s undergoing rigorous review, and we’re going to wait for that review to be concluded before the president makes any decisions.”

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Erdogan Explains Everything About His Empire in One Awesome Display

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose latest drive to make kids learn Ottoman Turkish hasn’t gone over well with the Ataturk wing of Turkish society (or with their quest for EU membership), pulled out all of the stops to embellish his sultanate today. While welcoming Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Ankara, Erdogan hired 16 guys to dress as soldiers in various states of Turkdom over history, according to Hurriyet. Twitter took off…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Earnest: White House Criticism of Muhammad Cartoons Really About Protecting the Troops

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House press secretary Josh Earnest turned a question about the judgment of Charlie Hebdo in publishing Muhammad cartoons to a chiding about the “responsibilities” that  come with free speech.

And, criticism of controversial cartoons is about protecting U.S. servicemembers.

At today’s press briefing, Earnest was asked if, in the wake of last week’s brutal terrorist attack on the satirical magazine’s French headquarters, the administration stood by Jay Carney’s 2012 comments: “We are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad. And, obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory.”

Earnest said the full context of Carney’s comments needed to be understood. “What my predecessor also said, in the context of those very same comments, was that the publication of that material did not in any way justify an act of violence. That was true then, it was true last week, and it’s true today,” he said. “There is nothing that the individuals at that satirical magazine did that justified in any way the kind of violence that we saw in Paris last week. None.”

“At the same time, you know, it would not be the first time that there has been a discussion in this country about the kinds of responsibilities that go along with exercising the right to freedom of speech. And in the scenario, or in the circumstances in which my predecessor was talking about this issue, there was a genuine concern that the publication of some of those materials could put Americans abroad at risk, including American soldiers, at risk, and that is something that the commander in chief takes very seriously.”

Earnest stressed that Obama and his spokesman were “not then and will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.”

“But advocating and taking steps to protect American service personnel is different than criticizing or raising questions about the judgment underlying any satirical expression, be it to mock Islam or Christianity or Judaism or anything else,” a member of the press corps asked. “Where do you draw the line?”

“Well, I think it depends on the scenario,” Earnest replied.

“I think there are a couple of absolutes. The first is, is that the publication of any kind of material in no way justifies any act of violence, let alone an act of violence that we saw on the scale in Paris. And there is — this president, as the commander-in-chief, believes strongly in the responsibility that he has to advocate for our men and women in uniform, particularly if it’s going to make them safer, and the president takes very seriously his responsibility as commander-in-chief to do that, and that’s something that we’re going to continue to do in the future. Those are the absolutes, or at least two of them.”

But, Earnest continued, “when we are confronted with these kinds of scenarios where we’re balancing, you know, basic rights alongside very important responsibilities that must also be exercised, it’s going to always depend on the scenario.”

“But what won’t change is our view that that freedom of expression in no way justifies an act of violence the person who expressed a view, and the president considers the safety and security of our men and women in uniform to be something worth fighting for.”

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Earnest: ‘We Should Have Sent Someone with a Higher Profile’ to Paris

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged in today’s press briefing that the administration should have sent someone higher than the U.S. ambassador to Sunday’s anti-terrorism march.

But when asked what President Obama was doing on Sunday, Earnest said he wasn’t prepared to answer that question. Yet at another point in the briefing the spokesman confirmed “the president watched on television” the march.

“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” Earnest said. “That said, there is no doubt that the American people and this administration stand foursquare behind our allies in France as they face down this threat and that was evident throughout last week when you saw that the president’s top counterterrorism adviser here at the White House was in touch with her French counterpart minutes after this — the reports of this terror attack first emerged.”

“…Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there.”

“We at the White House should have made a different decision,” he said later in the briefing. “This was not a decision made by the president.”

“I’m not going to unpack the sort of planning and logistics that go into this decision,” Earnest replied when pressed on why Obama couldn’t make that decision if the buck stops with him. He later said Obama’s security precautions “would have had an impact on those who attended the march,” though the world leaders were separated from the rest of the marchers.

“I didn’t talk to [Obama] about his personal regret.”

Earnest at one point demanded that reporters name people who have criticized the administration’s decision. He then talked about how difficult it would be to arrange security for Obama with a few days’ notice.

It was pointed out to the press secretary that he made Nelson Mandela’s funeral on short notice. Earnest countered that they’d been planning that for “a number of years.”

He also said that the February summit on violent extremism announced over the weekend will not just focus on Islamic extremism.

Earnest did delve into terrorism, answering a question about Boko Haram with a monologue about lone wolves.

“The original author of this publication has been wiped off the battlefield,” he declared of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine — which is still going strong with better production values than when it was first launched.

He also defended the administration’s terrorism strategy, declaring that they’re “truly decimating” the “core al-Qaeda.” Though not mentioned by Earnest, AQAP’s leader is the No. 2 ranking official in “core al-Qaeda.”

Earnest began the daily briefing trying to steer the questions toward the Republican legislation to block Obama’s immigration executive orders. “Let me also note something else important that happened, which is that House Republicans put forward Department of Homeland Security funding legislation through the end of fiscal year 2015,” he said. “Unfortunately, Republicans have also unveiled plans to muck around with that legislation.”

He insisted that the French people “certainly” were not offended by the U.S. absence.

“Suffice it to say there should not be and there is not any doubt in the minds of the people in France or people around the world, and certainly not among our enemies, about how committed to a strong relationship that the United States is with France, and committed to the same kinds of values that they are. I think in some ways, most importantly, the people who understand this best of all are the French people themselves,” Earnest said.

“And I did note that the French ambassador was on television earlier today in which he described the French people as overwhelmed by the expression of solidarity and grief from all corners of the American people, including from the highest levels of the administration.”

More: 

Earnest: White House Criticism of Muhammad Cartoons Really About Protecting the Troops

 

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CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube Accounts Hacked by ISIS Supporters

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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U.S. Central Command had its social media accounts hacked today by apparent supporters of ISIS.

CENTCOM’s Twitter account has now been suspended. Their YouTube account shows two uploaded ISIS videos within the past hour: “O Soldiers of Truth Go Forth” and “Flames of War.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest noted that he didn’t have many details since the hack just developed, but said “this is something that we’re obviously looking into and that we take seriously.”

“There’s a difference between a large data breach and the hacking of a Twtter account,” he added.

One of the messages posted on Twitter under the CENTCOM account said, “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back.”

They also posted images of documents including contact information for military officers. “We can confirm that the U.S. Central Command Twitter account was compromised earlier today. CENTCOM is taking appropriate measure to address the matter,” a defense official told CNN. Officials also told the network it “does not appear” that any of the posted documents were classified.

An Anonymous Twitter account said it traced the hack to an account in Maryland. “FBI, you’re welcome,” the hacktivist group said while posting the associated IP addresses.

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UPDATE 7 p.m. EST: Statement issued by CENTCOM.

Earlier today, U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube sites were compromised for approximately 30 minutes. These sites reside on commercial, non-Defense Department servers and both sites have been temporarily taken offline while we look into the incident further. CENTCOM’s operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command. CENTCOM will restore service to its Twitter and YouTube accounts as quickly as possible. We are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism.

In the meantime, our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted and that none of the information posted came from CENTCOM’s server or social media sites. Additionally, we are notifying appropriate DoD and law enforcement authorities about the potential release of personally identifiable information and will take appropriate steps to ensure any individuals potentially affected are notified as quickly as possible.

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One of the Best Charlie Hebdo Tweets You’ll See, from Iranian Cartoonist in Exile

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani was forced to flee his home country during the Green Revolution protests of 2009, and was granted political asylum in France. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper today that the murder of his friends and colleagues at Charlie Hebdo will not stop his own provocation of Islamists in his own cartoons. And he tweeted:

 

Ramezani had told his Charlie Hebdo friends to be careful, because he of all people knows Islamic fundamentalists “never forget.”

“In my opinion, freedom of expression is our heritage, we need to protect it. Do we need to protect the offices of Charlie Hebdo for example, or all newspapers in the same way as the (French) National Assembly? I think yes, as of today yes we do. It’s expensive, but it’s the price we have to pay,” he told Euronews.

Ramezani elaborated on the dangers of being a cartoonist in Iran to online magazine Sampsonia Way last year. “The most dangerous theme is Islam, its symbols, and the prophet. It’s also dangerous to cover the leaders of the Islamic regime of Iran, especially the mullahs. If, by accident, a cartoonist offends any of these, he or she could easily be executed for insulting Islam or the revolution,” he said.

“I think for neutral cartoonists it’s becoming less dangerous. For governmental cartoonists it’s becoming perfect as they are getting bigger budgets and more power from the authority. And finally for the exiled cartoonists it’s becoming more dangerous because of the harassment, cyber-attacks, and even some physical risks, even if they’re living outside of the country.”

 

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House Conservatives Want Assurance from Boehner That He’ll ‘Use Power of Purse’ on Immigration

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A group of House conservatives is urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to “respect the will of the people by using the power of the purse to rein in the president’s actions” on immigration.

With a Feb. 27 expiration date for Department of Homeland Security funding, Republicans are moving forward with a bill from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) to defund the executive orders and remove President Obama’s discretion in granting work permits and federal benefits outlined in the order.

House conservatives want Boehner’s assurance that he’ll see it through.

The Friday letter, led by Reps. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), references leadership’s block of Mulvaney’s cromnibus amendment to defund the immigration executive actions at the end of the 113th Congress. In December, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) denied a vote on the amendment, saying that they were running out of time and couldn’t add anything “extraneous” to the spending bill.

The conservatives wrote that they were told the spending bill wasn’t “the right vehicle,” but were “guaranteed by Leadership that the House would stand its ground against the President’s unconstitutional actions in January.”

“Now we ask that Leadership honor their commitment, and bring the FY2015 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to the floor, with language removing all available funding streams to implement the President’s executive action,” the letter states.

“We all agree that Congress must take steps to address our broken immigration system. But the crisis facing the House isn’t about immigration; it is about defending the separation of powers and the rule of law. As established by our founding fathers in the Constitution, only Congress has the power to establish the rule of naturalization, make, or change the laws. These changes cannot be determined at the President’s sole discretion. Therefore it is incumbent on Congress to honor the Constitution, and respect the will of the people, by using the power of the purse to rein in the President’s actions.”

The 56 conservatives who signed the letter “respectfully request that the House stand firm in its efforts to oppose the President’s executive action and place comprehensive restrictions on the funding for its implementation as soon as possible in the 114th Congress.”

The lawmakers have asked Boehner to give them a prompt response.

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Feinstein: Leave Petraeus Alone, He’s ‘Suffered Enough’

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Gen. David Petraeus “has suffered enough” and shouldn’t be pursued for prosecution by the Justice Department.

“He’s the four-star general of our generation. I saw him in Iraq. He put together the Army field manual. He put together the awakening and how it worked out. He, I think, is a very brilliant man,” Feinstein told CNN.

“People aren’t perfect. He made a mistake. He lost his job as CIA director because of it. I mean, how much do you want to punish somebody? Now, I don’t know whether he directly gave material to her or not. I know she had access to classified data by her own classification. So, it’s murky.”

Petraeus stepped down from the CIA in 2012 after federal investigators determined he gave classified information to mistress Paula Broadwell.

“But, be that as it may, it’s done. It’s over. And he’s retired. He’s lost his job,” Feinstein added. “I mean, how much does government want?”

Attorney General Eric Holder said he wouldn’t comment on “an ongoing matter.”

“I will say that, frequently, those things that are leaked to the media are done so by people who are not in a position to know, and are frequently inaccurate,” he told CNN.

“We have done this investigation, I think, in an appropriate way. An appropriate determination will be done. And it will be done in a way that I think the American people will ultimately decide was fair to everyone who was involved.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who took the gavel from Feinstein when the Senate switched to GOP control, noted that President Obama said in his announcement of Petraeus’ resignation that the affair “did not reach a level that put national security in jeopardy.”

“And I think the statute of the law says it has to reach that for there to be a prosecution. I’ll let the FBI and the Justice Department work through this. But I always will go back to what the president told us when he announced the resignation of David Petraeus,” Burr told ABC.

“The burden of proof is on the Bureau and on the Justice Department, I think, to present to Americans where it was and why the president was wrong.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it a violation of Petraeus’ rights for the DOJ to leak the investigation information.

“This man is unique. He is one of the great leaders. Ask anybody who served under him. He — with the — he was an architect of the surge which turned Iraq around. He may have saved thousands of American — young Americans’ lives,” McCain told CNN. “And, obviously, he deserves better treatment than have a leak to The New York Times about a recommendation, which is a violation of his rights and any citizen’s rights.”

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Kerry on ‘Quibbling’ Over White House Skipping Paris March: I Was First in the World to Condemn Attacks

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry called concern about no high-level U.S. representation “quibbling,” telling reporters in India that he asked his scheduler to fit in a trip to Paris as soon as possible.

The New York Daily News ran photos of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Kerry on its cover today with the headline “You let the world down.”

Holder was already in Paris for security talks, but declined to attend the march. The U.S. ambassador to Paris, Jane Hartley, went instead.

More than 40 world leaders attended the Sunday event which drew an estimated 1.5 million in the streets of Paris in a show of solidarity against terrorism, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania, EU President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

An administration official told CNN, “As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. — don’t forget several public statements from the President, his call to [French President Francois] Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy.”

Speaking at a press conference today during his visit to Gujarat, Kerry said “the relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment.”

“It’s an ongoing, long-time relationship that is deeply, deeply based in the shared values, and particularly the commitment that we share in freedom of expression,” he said, adding that he’d asked his team to pencil him in for a Paris visit ASAP — Thursday.

“As I said on the first day, and as the president said on the first day that these terrible events took place, it will take — no single act of terror, no two people with AK-47s, no hostage-taking in a grocery store is ever going to prevent those who are committed to the march for freedom to continue to march and to ultimately see all people enjoy their rights, and to be able to share the protections that come with that freedom,” Kerry continued.

“The president and our administration have been coordinating very, very closely with the French on FBI matters, intel, law enforcement across the board, and we will continue to make available any assistance that may be necessary. For the United States, that relationship is a constant, and it is ongoing. And I look forward to having a chance to share thoughts with my friends in France personally, when I get there.”

When pressed on the absence of any high level U.S. officials and whether it was a mistake, Kerry insisted that the U.S. “has been deeply engaged with France from the moment this horrific event took place.”

“I personally — I think I must have been one of the first people in the world to have gone out publicly and spoken to the people of France about this, to our shock and horror and our very, very strong connection with the French at that moment. And the president also went out within hours and spoke about it,” he added.

“And we have offered, from the first moment, our intel, our law enforcement, and all of our efforts. And I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit, in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was there in the march. Our ambassador was there in the march. Many people from the embassy were there in the march.”

But as French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud noted on his personal Twitter account, Nuland marched not in Paris but at a Sunday event put on by the French Embassy in Washington. She was the highest-level U.S. official there, even though the French Embassy is just a 15-minute drive from the White House.

Neither Obama nor Biden had anything on their schedules Sunday.

“And I believe that, as everybody knows, I have been here in India for a prior planned event,” Kerry said. “I would have personally very much wanted to have been there, but couldn’t do so because of the commitment that I had here, and that’s important to keep those kinds of commitments. But that is why I am going there on the way home, to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there. And I don’t think the people of France have any doubt about America’s understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial.”

 

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In Lieu of Sending Representative to Paris March, White House Announces February Extremism Summit

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House didn’t send a representative higher than the U.S. ambassador to the massive unity march in Paris today, but did announce it would hold a summit on violent extremism.

There was no reason given for why President Obama or Vice President Biden weren’t sent to the rally. Neither had anything on their schedules. Secretary of State John Kerry went ahead with a previously planned India trip.

The only thing on Obama’s Monday schedule is welcoming the San Antonio Spurs to the White House.

Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for security meetings, but didn’t attend the march. Ambassador Jane Hartley went.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania, EU President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were among about 50 world leaders in attendance.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was at French President Francois Hollande’s right side during the march. A Malian immigrant, Lassana Bathily, saved a number of Jews at the kosher grocery store by putting them in the freezer, turning off the cold, and escaping through a service elevator to give all the details of the hostage standoff to police. Hollande helped Mali in 2013, when French troops drove terrorists out of Timbuktu and other parts of the country following a brutal 10-month imposition of sharia.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement this morning that on Feb. 18 they will host “a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris.”

“This summit will build on the strategy the White House released in August of 2011, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, the first national strategy to prevent violent extremism domestically,” Earnest added in an administration back-pat.

“Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts rely heavily on well-informed and resilient local communities. Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have taken the lead in building pilot frameworks integrating a range of social service providers, including education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders, with law enforcement agencies to address violent extremism as part of the broader mandate of community safety and crime prevention. The summit will highlight best practices and emerging efforts from these communities,” he continued. “At the same time, our partners around the world are actively implementing programs to prevent violent extremism and foreign terrorist fighter recruitment. The summit will include representatives from a number of partner nations, focusing on the themes of community engagement, religious leader engagement, and the role of the private sector and tech community.”

“Through presentations, panel discussions, and small group interactions, participants will build on local, state, and federal government; community; and international efforts to better understand, identify, and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad.”

Earnest said more details would be released at a later date.

More: Smiling Mahmoud Abbas Marching in First Row

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Netanyahu, Abbas to Join Anti-Terrorism March; Only U.S. Representative in Paris is Holder

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is joining the world leaders scheduled to gather in Paris on Sunday in a show of public defiance against terrorists.

Netanyahu also issued a special statement to Jews in Europe, stressing that he’ll be convening a special team of ministers right away “to advance steps to increase immigration from France and other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism.”

He spoke with French President Francois Hollande after the siege on the kosher supermarket in which four people were murdered and 15 hostages rescued. He also spoke with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls about increased security at Jewish institutions and a broader strategy to strike back at Islamic extremism.

More than a million people are expected to pour into the streets of Paris tomorrow starting at 3 p.m. local time at the Place de la Republique. Victims’ relatives are expected to lead the march with government leaders behind them.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania, EU President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are among those expected to attend.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be there, too.

“‘At this solemn moment of tragedy our hearts and minds are with you in the face of terrorism that has no religion,” Abbas said, according to the official Palestinian WAFA news agency. “The entire Palestinian people are pained by what has taken place.”

President Obama has nothing on his weekend schedule, and Vice President Joe Biden is in Wilmington, Del., with no events scheduled. Obama welcomes the San Antonio Spurs to the White House on Monday.

The administration sent Attorney General Eric Holder to Paris for anti-terror talks scheduled before the march. The Justice Department has not issued any statement about whether he’ll participate in the march as well. Holder is scheduled to appear on Sunday morning news shows, segments that he’d have to tape in advance if he wants to attend the rally.

Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting in Germany today with the sultan of Oman. “Certainly, he feels a special connection with the people of France,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday. “As we’ve noted in the schedule, we’ve announced he’ll be in India on Sunday, and that those travel plans have not changed.”

Netanyahu said he spoke by phone today with Celine Shreki, who was one of the hostages in the market.

“She told me about the terrorist’s inconceivable cruelty and of the heroism of the young Jewish man who attempted to seize his weapon and shoot him; he was shot by the terrorist and died about 45 minutes later,” he said.

The market victims were Yoav Hattab, Philippe Barham, Johan Cohen, and Francois-Michel Saada. Hattab was son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis.

“The terrorist organizations of extremist Islam have many and varied names – Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic State, Al Qaida, Nusra, Islamic Jihad and Boko Haram. They are all motivated by the same bloody hatred and the same fanaticism that knows no borders. They want to take humanity 1,000 years backward to a dark tyranny that we freed ourselves from after many generations. They simply want to take humanity backward,” Netanyahu said in a statement tonight.

“Further proof that these organizations are branches of the same poisonous tree may be seen in the fact that one of Hamas’s official organs praised the reprehensible murderers in Paris. It must be understood that this is a war against us all.”

The prime minister warned that “if we ignore the true root of the problem, if we ignore the fact that extremist Islamic terrorism seeks to exterminate Western civilization as a whole, including the Jewish People, if we ignore this – what we are now seeing in Paris will be only the beginning.”

“These are not frightening words or prophecies of rage, this is the simple reality and the time has come to recognize it.”

Netanyahu stressed the necessity to strike at the sources of terrorist financing and at “the centers of incitement that encourage these murderous acts throughout Europe.”

He also sent a special message to French Jews and all European Jews: “The State of Israel is not just the place to which you turn in prayer. The State of Israel is also your home… All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state.”

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Psaki: Boko Haram ‘Shows No Regard for Human Life’ by Wiping Out Villages

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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The State Department condemns “the recent escalation of attacks on civilians carried out by Boko Haram” in the wake of the Baga massacre, “which shows no regard for human life.”

“All those responsible for these recurring terrorist attacks must be held accountable,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Friday night.

“The United States abhors such violence, which continues to take a terrible toll on the people of Nigeria and the broader region, including Cameroon. We extend our sympathies to the loved ones of all victims of violence at the hands of Boko Haram,” Psaki continued.

“The United States is committed to working with Nigeria and its neighbors to end the scourge of Boko Haram. We urge Nigeria and its neighbors to take all possible steps to address the urgent threat of Boko Haram. Even in the face of these horrifying attacks, terrorist organizations like Boko Haram must not distract Nigeria from carrying out credible and peaceful elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”

The White House hasn’t commented since the extent of the Jan. 3 attack on Baga, in Borno state, came to light.

“The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, adding that they’re working to get more details from the terrorist-controlled area.

Survivors’ grisly tales have been surfacing. From Agence France-Presse:

Yanaye Grema hid for three days between a wall and his neighbours’ house, as Boko Haram fighters ransacked his hometown of Baga on the shore of Lake Chad in Nigeria’s far northeast.

The 38-year-old fisherman already knew the attack was serious: he joined civilian vigilantes to defend the town but their simple weapons were no match for the Islamists’ superior firepower.

“People fled into the bush while some shut themselves indoors,” he said of last Saturday’s attack.

“The gunmen pursued fleeing residents into the bush, shooting them dead,” he told AFP from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

But it was only after breaking cover on Tuesday night that he realised the true scale of the attack, which it is feared may be one of the worst in the six-year insurgency.

“For five kilometres (three miles), I kept stepping on dead bodies until I reached Malam Karanti village, which was also deserted and burnt,” he said.

Boko Haram has razed at least 16 towns near the shores of Lake Chad. Some people trying to flee across Lake Chad in canoes drowned when overloaded boats capsized.

From Voice of America:

One survivor said “hundreds” of insurgents rode into Baga on motorbikes and other vehicles, some throwing explosives. They set fire to buildings and triggered a fierce gunfight with Nigerian soldiers.

The soldiers resisted “for hours,” said an intelligence official in Maiduguri, telling VOA that they could not hold the town without reinforcements.

Insurgents had blocked the main roads. Residents fled into the bush or headed for Lake Chad to hop in canoes or try to swim away. Some drowned. Other residents were shot or injured. The number of dead and wounded is not known.

A fisherman who escaped told VOA some soldiers were peeling off their uniforms and begging for civilian clothes. He said they appeared to have run out of ammunition.

A new 17-minute video from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was posted Monday on YouTube.

“Oh Paul Biya, if you don’t stop this, your evil plot, you will taste what has befallen Nigeria … Your troops cannot do anything to us,” Shekau said to Cameroon President Paul Biya. The country’s government has been fighting infiltrating terrorists in the country’s north.

If the Catholic president Biya, who has vowed to “wipe out” Boko Haram, does not “repent,” Shekau said, “you will see what will come from Allah, the all-powerful who has control over everything in respect of chastisement and calamity.”

“Your troops are nothing. Even Nigerian soldiers couldn’t do anything to us. Even U.S. troops couldn’t do anything to us. Not even the troops of the whole world.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked Monday if Boko Haram’s gains meant that U.S. strategy in the region is not working.

“It shows that — that there is — you know, that they face a very serious threat in Nigeria. And you know, the — the United States is — it does have this relationship with Nigeria that we value. It’s a military-to-military relationship. We also share some other intelligence assets that have been deployed to fight Boko Haram,” Earnest responded. “But this is certainly something that we’re concerned about.”

At the United Nations this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon Boko Haram to be peaceful.

“I urge Boko Haram’s leaders to end the destruction of so many lives and communities, and immediately and unconditionally release the kidnapped school girls and all others. The international community cannot let human rights abuses continue with impunity,” Ban said.

“This is my personal appeal. As a father and grandfather and as Secretary-General, I will continue to actively explore with Member States what more can be done.”

The UN reported Friday that the number of Nigerians seeking safety in neighboring Chad has nearly quadrupled over the past 10 days.

Most of the 7,300 Nigerians have been taken in by villages in western Chad, where the government has requested international assistance with food and medical aid for the refugees.

A 10-year-old girl blew herself up in a crowded market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on Saturday. Boko Haram, which has been forcing children to act as suicide bombers, is suspected.

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All You Need to Know About Venezuela’s Regime in a Few Tweets

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Tweets from the Ayatollah today:

 

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Should the U.S. Rethink Visa Waivers for French Citizens?

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

This week’s Paris attacks have sparked discussion in Washington about the wisdom of the visa waiver program that makes it easier for French nationals — including terrorists — to come into the United States.

As the attack on Charlie Hebdo hit the headlines, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), one of the national security hawks in the upper chamber, told Fox that thousands of foreign fighters have trained with ISIS and are a “deep concern” as they may return to their home countries or move easily across borders with travel agreements.

“The problem is that we have a visa waiver program with France,” she said. “And so, if we don’t have track of all those individuals, they could also travel to the United States of America. So this is critical that we get control over who these people are and make sure that they cannot only go back and affect countries like France, like we unfortunately saw terribly with what happened in Paris, but also our country.”

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) noted that France has “a much more serious foreign fighter issue than we do.”

“And they also have a much more hostile inner population in the Muslim community in — in France than we do in the United States,” King said. “The overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are patriotic Americans. In France, they have more isolated communities of Muslims who are hostile toward the government.”

The Visa Waiver Program includes 38 countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. visa-free for fewer than 90 days when they meet certain requirements. The majority of included countries are in Europe, including nations such as the Netherlands where concerns run high about growing roots of radical Islamists.

“Besides 150 or whatever the number is that we have to worry about from the U.S., there could be thousands of Europeans who have gone to Syria who have come into the U.S. without having to get a visa. So we have to be very concerned. The number I’ve heard from France is at least 600 alone, and we know the Brits have let a lot get out. There’s certainly well over 1,000 anyway who could come into the U.S. without having to get a visa,” King told CNN.

“I think that we do have to take another look at the visa waiver program to see if there’s anything else that we should be doing and also we’ll have to see how carefully the Europeans are monitoring who goes and how much they’re sharing all of that intelligence with us. So we have to — this requires a full, I believe, full-scale investigation.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said his committee has “launched an investigation into these foreign fighters to determine how can we more properly identify them, both over there and then stop them from getting over here.”

“The difficulty here is identifying these individuals as they’re over there and stopping them from getting on airplanes to return to the United States or get on an airplane with an explosive device that they can blow up either western Europe or the United States,” McCaul told CNN.

Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.) noted that a plan to better share information on airline passenger lists has been stalled in European parliament since 2013.

“We have a situation where those E.U. citizens come to the U.S. without having to go through a visa process, just showing their passports, so… we will be safer here in the U.S. if they make those changes in Europe,” Keating said on CNN. “And I think, sadly, it took these events to bring that message home. I think you will see those changes in Europe, and they’ll make Europe stronger and safer, and it will make the U.S. stronger and safer as well.”

The two brothers who attack Charlie Hebdo, Cherif and Said Kouachi, were on the U.S. no-fly list. Both were native Frenchmen.

But House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the U.S. needs to revoke the passports of citizens who left to train with terrorist groups along with examining the potential danger of European citizens coming to the U.S. via the Visa Waiver Program.

“A French national’s passport and visa can be used to come to the United States,” Royce said this week. “…I worked very, very closely on this issue of the no-fly list with the FBI on what we can do to actually get all of the data from the Europeans in terms of whatever we have on any French national or German national, et cetera, who is doing that type of training or going out to fight with ISIS, because they — them returning to Europe is a direct threat to them eventually, potentially coming here.”

Ayotte said the bottom line comes down to good intelligence.

“And we need to be making sure that when we do capture terrorists that we fully interrogate them, find out what they know and make sure that we are developing good intelligence on not only ISIS, al-Qaeda, all the affiliated groups, in making sure that that intelligence is shared among our allies as well,” she said.

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Anonymous Launches #OpCharlieHebdo to Take Revenge on Terrorist Groups

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Anonymous has declared war on jihadists over the Charlie Hebdo attack.

In a French-language video labeled as “a message for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorists,” the hackers vow to shut down jihadist websites and social media accounts. “We are declaring war against you, the terrorists.”

It follows up on a Wednesday threat to stick it to the jihadists:

Freedom of speech has suffered an inhuman assault. Terrorists broke into the premises of the “Charlie Hebdo” newspaper and shot in cold blood several satirical cartoon artists, journalists and two policemen. The killers are still at large. Disgusted and also shocked, we can not fall to our knees. It is our responsibility to react.

First, we wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims of this cowardly and despicable act. We are all affected by the death of Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski, great artists that marked their talent throughout the history of the press and died for freedom. We do not forget the other victims killed and injured in the attack that were the targets of these murderers.

It is clear that some people do not want, in a free world, this inviolable and sacred right to express in any way one’s opinions. Anonymous will never leave this right violated by obscurantism and mysticism. We will fight always and  everywhere the enemies of freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo, historical figure of satirical journalism has now been targeted. Anonymous must remind every citizen that the freedom of the press is a fundamental principle of democratic countries. Freedom of opinion, speech and to publish articles without any threat, and stress is a right “inalienable.” Anonymous has always fought the slayers of these rights and will never allow a person to be shot down radically for publishing an article, a drawing, an opinion …

Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.

    We are Legion.
    We do not forgive.
    We do not forget.
    Expect us!

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Abu Hamza Sentenced to Life in Prison

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hook-handed Egyptian cleric Abu Hamza was sentenced to life behind bars in a Manhattan courtroom today.

The cleric, whose birth name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was sentenced for his participation in a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 that resulted in four deaths, a conspiracy to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999, and sending a follower to train and fight with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2000, according to the Justice Department.

Abu Hamza was extradited from the UK in 2012 and convicted this past May after a four-week-long jury trial.

A former nightclub bouncer, he rose to prominence as one of the most radical Islamist preachers in Britain. He lost both his hands and an eye in the Af-Pak region in the late ’80s.

“Abu Hamza is an unrepentant all-purpose terrorist,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin in a statement. “With today’s sentence, he is being held accountable for the many ways in which he supported terrorism and other terrorists through much of his life, including his role in a hostage-taking in Yemen, his plot to create a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil, and his facilitation of violent jihad in Afghanistan.”

“This case was charged over ten years ago and was tried after years of extradition proceedings—and is but one example of our resolve to pursue those who threaten the United States and our interests anywhere in the world, no matter how long it takes,” Carlin added.

“Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center,” Abu Hamza said after 9/11.

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Hollande: France Suffered ‘Horrible Anti-Semitic Act’ in Kosher Grocery

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

French President Francois Hollande branded the siege of a kosher grocery by AQAP-supplied terrorists a “horrible anti-Semitic act” in the heart of Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also told the media this afternoon that it would be a long-term effort and “great mobilization” to protect houses of worship in the country.

Hollande told the nation in a press conference that “the murderers have been taken off through a dual intervention, one in Dammartin-en-Goele, in a printing warehouse and another one at the Cours de Vincennes in the grocery — the kosher grocery store.”

The president expressed pride in the police proud “because when the order was given, they launched the assault simultaneously, with the same purpose in mind, to save the human lives of the hostages and to neutralize the terrorists who had committed murders.”

“But, even though France is aware that it has faced up to these tags and that its security forces are composed of courageous men and women, France also knows that it is not over yet with the threats. And hence I would like to issue a call for vigilance,” Hollande said.

“Together with the prime minister, I have strengthened our resources to protect all public places and make sure that we can get on with our lives quietly without being subject to any risks or threats. But we do need to be alert.”

Hollande also declared “unity is our weapon.”

“And we must show our determination to fight against anything that might divide us and to be implacable in our fight against racism and anti-Semitism, because today, in this kosher shop, it was obviously a horrible anti-Semitic act that was committed,” he said.

“Not being divided means that we should not paint people with a broad brush, and that we should beware of exaggerations. Those who have committed those acts, those fanatics, have nothing in common with the rest of the Muslim faith.”

Also, Hollande said, “We need to mobilize.”

“We must be able to respond to attacks with force when we need to use force, but also with solidarity. And we need to show that solidarity is effective,” he said. “We are a free nation that does not give in to any pressure, that is not afraid, because we carry an idea that is greater than us and an ideal which we are able to carry and promote wherever we’re threatened. And, once again, I’d like to salute our soldiers who make sure that we effectively fight terrorism.”

The president noted that many governments across the world have “expressed their solidarity” and some would be present during the mass unity demonstration on Sunday. “I will be with them. And I would like to call upon all the French people to stand up this Sunday for liberty, pluralism, all those values that are so important to us and which Europe, in a way, also represents, so that we’ll be even stronger after this trial,” he said.

“Long live the republic. Long live France.”

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Obama on Paris: ‘We’re Hopeful That the Immediate Threat Is Now Resolved’

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Before delivering remarks on college affordability in Knoxville this afternoon, President Obama said he’s “hopeful” that the spate of terrorist attacks in Paris is over.

Hayat Boumeddiene, wanted for involvement in the shooting of French police officers separately from the Charlie Hebdo attack, is still at large. She and her partner Amedy Coulibaly laid siege to a kosher supermarket in France; Coulibaly and four hostages were killed but Boumeddiene escaped.

“Because events have been fast-moving this morning, I want to make sure to comment on them,” Obama said. “I just spoke to my counter-terrorism adviser. We have been in close touch with the French government throughout this tragedy. The moment that the outrageous attack took place, we directed all of our law enforcement and counter-intelligence operations to provide whatever support that our ally needs in confronting this challenge.”

“We’re hopeful that the immediate threat is now resolved, thanks to the courage and professionalism of the French personnel on the ground.”

But, Obama added, the French government “continues to face the threat of terrorism and has to remain vigilant.”

“The situation is fluid. President Hollande has made it clear that they’re going to do whatever is necessary to protect their people, and I think it’s important for us to understand,” he said.

“France is our oldest ally. I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been directly impacted. We grieve with you.”

The president said to the French people: “We fight alongside you to uphold our values, the values that we share, universal values that bind us together as friends and as allies.”

“And in the streets of Paris, the world’s seen once again what terrorists stand for. They have nothing to offer but hatred and human suffering,” Obama continued. “And we stand for freedom and hope and the dignity of all human beings. And that’s what the city of Paris represents to the world. And that spirit will endure forever, long after the scourge of terrorism is banished from this world.”

“So, that’s important,” he said, before quipping “hell, no” apparently at an audience member before launching straight into his planned speech.

“Now, I’m in Knoxville not only because I just like Knoxville,” he said. “But I’m here today because one of my resolutions is to make sure that folks across this great country feel like they are coming back. And there is no doubt, thanks to the steps we took early on to rescue our economy and to rebuild it on a new foundation, America is coming back.”

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Cameron Going to France for Unity Rally; Will Obama Go, Too?

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

British Prime Minister David Cameron just tweeted:

 

Will President Obama go, too?

Obama is in Knoxville, Tenn., today to announce a manufacturing innovation hub. On Monday, he’s scheduled to welcome the San Antonio Spurs to the White House.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters on board Air Force One that “the president was updated this morning” on the unfolding situation in France. Agence France-Presse is now reporting five are dead in the siege of a kosher market in Paris, including a gunman said to be connected to the brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo this week. Cherif and Said Kouachi were killed north of Paris in a standoff with police.

Schultz said France was extensively discussed in the president’s daily briefing, according to the White House pool report, adding that national security officials have been in touch with their French counterparts on a “minute by minute” basis.

The spokesman said he didn’t know if Obama was watching live updates on the crisis.

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Lawmakers Read the Constitution on House Floor

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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For the third time, the House of Representatives read the whole Constitution on the floor of the lower chamber, with lawmakers taking turns to read sections of the document.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) led the reading. Republicans and Democrats mingled in a single-file line down the center aisle of chamber, holding papers with their assigned passages.

The reading started at 9 a.m. and ended before 11 a.m.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a figure from the Civil Rights Movement, read the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

Freshman Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) got to read the 2nd Amendment. Members got assignments on a first-come, first-served basis.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) read the preamble, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi read a section later.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) noted they “had more readers on hand than the Constitution is long.”

“There is no better way to start the 114th Congress than by reflecting on and recommitting ourselves to the fundamental founding principles enshrined in the Constitution,” Goodlatte said.

“The Constitution tells us that we, as representatives of the people, have explicitly limited powers granted to us by the people for a short period of time,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. “It makes clear that the people come first, and that government exists for the benefit of the people. In deference to our Constitution, Republicans began a tradition: On the House floor, at the beginning of each and every Congress, we read aloud the Constitution from the preamble to the 27th amendment. In this reading, we recommit ourselves to defending and preserving the Constitution in all of our actions as public officials.”

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Press Freedom Group: Charlie Hebdo Attack Highlights Danger of Blasphemy Laws

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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A press-freedom watchdog said the Charlie Hebdo attack needs to draw attention to the danger of blasphemy laws around the world.

Reporters Without Borders also called on newspapers around the globe to run cartoons from the French satirical magazine in solidarity.

The group said the terrorist assault on the magazine “served as a tragic reminder of the dangers to which journalists covering sensitive religious issues are permanently exposed.”

They published a 2013 report on blasphemy, apostasy and defamation laws that not only threaten the general population but pull journalists into a religious dragnet.

“Sadly, this report is still very relevant,” Reporters Without Borders said Thursday. “The ability of journalists to freely cover religious issues in a various ways, including the use of humour, is again being challenged both in France and the rest of the world.”

“Journalists are increasingly facing religious taboos and censorship that influential groups are trying to impose. Columnists, editorial writers and cartoonists are among the journalists who are most exposed to threats, prosecution and even physical attacks.”

The report included the 2011 firebombing of Charlie Hebdo‘s offices and the 2010 assassination attempt on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

On Wednesday, the press-freedom organization issued an “international appeal” for editors to begin publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Reporters Without Borders posted the Mohammed covers on their own website, as well.

“Renowned worldwide for its irreverent cartoons, Charlie Hebdo has always put its fight for freedom of information first. And now its staff has been decimated by an unspeakable act of violence that targets the entire press. Journalism as whole is in mourning,” the Paris-based group said.

“But freedom of information cannot shrink in the face of barbarity and yield to blackmail by those who assail out democracy and what our republic stands for. In the name of all those who have fallen in the defence of fundamental values, let us continue Charlie Hebdo’s fight for free information.”

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French Foreign Minister: Having to Watch People Coming Back from Caliphate ‘Radically New’ Challenge

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the world needs to take notice of the Charlie Hebdo attack for the change in method to targeted assassinations coupled with the pattern of immigration in the country.

“But what is sure is that the way in which this attack was organized and perpetrated shows that there’s a complete change in terrorist methods because not only what we know is that those persons are French nationals, but also that attack was targeted. They wanted to target journalists, in particular the attacks were often committed by foreign people and they were what one would call blind attacks. And yet these were targeted,” Fabius told CNN International.

“And this change is something that can be looked at together with another change, not just in France, but in other countries, too, in other relation, that is to say that we have many people who originate from Europe but they may originate from Asia or America or South America, who are — have connections with the terrorists’ operations in Syria and Iraq,” he added.

Fabius said they’ve counted about 1,000 people who have come back from Syria and Iraq, including 30 percent women, 30 percent young people and 20 percent people who have converted to Islam. “That is radically new,” he said.

Still, the foreign minister said the attacks are “the contrary of Islam.”

“They want to make divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims. And we need to have the reverse reaction, that is to say face with their will to — their wish to make us afraid. We need to be united,” he said.

“…Press freedom is a sacred principle. There is no democracy without freedom; there’s no freedom without freedom of the press. That does not mean that you always like what you read and maybe Charlie Hebdo sometimes has been provocative. That is their raison d’etre. But there are laws. If we’re not satisfied with what’s in the press, the United States and Great Britain or in France, there are possibilities to go to court.”

Fabius stressed it “is a time to reflect why these terrorists struck.”

“They struck because of what France is, what she is and what she does,” he said. “France is a country of freedom.”

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Obama: Barbara Boxer ‘More Than a Senator – She’s an Institution’

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama praised Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who announced she won’t run for re-election in 2016, as “more than a senator – she’s an institution.”

“She’s served the people of California for more than three decades with distinction, fighting for the issues that are close to their homes and hearts. Thanks to Barbara, more Americans breathe clean air and drink clean water. More women have access to healthcare. More children have safe places to go after school. More public lands have been protected for future generations. More Americans travel on safe roads and bridges. And more young women have been inspired to achieve their biggest dreams, having Barbara as an incredible role model,” Obama said in a statement this evening.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Barbara. She works as hard as anyone to get things done for the people of California. When she leaves the Senate at the end of this term, she will be missed greatly. But for now, I’m looking forward to working with her for the next two years, on behalf of Californians and all Americans.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama called Boxer after she announced her decision via a faux-interview video with her grandson.

“It was a particular honor to work with her on the Violence Against Women Act. You always knew in the Senate if you had Barbara on your side, you didn’t need much more,” Vice President Joe Biden said.

“I am sorry to see her go, but there are still two years left. And two years of Barbara Boxer is like having four to six years of any other senator.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a close friend of Boxer, was admittedly shocked by the news today.

“This will sound like an oxymoron to you — but she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known of. She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference.

“My granddaughter just took her grandson out for his sixth birthday. They were born a couple of months apart, so we’re very close from a family standpoint. Barbara — Senator Boxer had a shower for my daughter Christine like four days ago, five days ago that would be, and six years, and then the next day her daughter, Nicole, had the baby, Sawyer. So they’re just very close in age. And our family celebrations have been together over time, whether it’s weddings or babies or whatever. So a close, personal friendship. And of course, I wish the best for her in that regard personally. Officially, I think it’s a big loss for the country. But she knows her timetable.”

One of Boxer’s legendary foes on the environmental policies she pushed — Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who now holds the gavel of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — even issued a statement.

“Sen. Barbara Boxer and I have served in Congress for 28 years together, and it has been a memorable tenure filled with historic accomplishments,” Inhofe said.

“While Senator Boxer and I differ on most issues, we share a deep and mutual respect that has paved the way for true bipartisan efforts in passing vital infrastructure legislation. With two more years ahead of us, I look forward to working with Senator Boxer again on a transportation reauthorization bill, and will miss her when it comes time for her next chapter following 2016.”

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Ellison Says Terrorists ‘Don’t Really Care’ About Religion of Victims: ‘This Is All About Power’

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Keith Ellision (D-Minn.) said Islamic terrorists are picking their victims not by faith, but by which ones they can use to display their power.

Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, told MSNBC today that “it’s important to keep cool and to enlist allies and to adhere to the law and due process” while hunting for the Paris terror suspects and other terrorists.

“I think it’s important for authorities to know that the Muslim community is often the target of these terrorists who kill people under the veneer of Islam. And so, they have every opportunity to engage community members as allies against these murderous killers,” the congressman said.

“I mean, I think it’s important to remember, just in Yemen, these people killed 38 people. You guarantee that Yemenis were all Muslim. So they don’t really care. This is about power,” he continued. “And I think that we should bear in mind that these terrorists hope for a backlash. Let me say, they hope that government will overreact because then they will use people who are negatively affected and recruit and target them for recruitment. So it’s important that we are swift in justice, but very careful to adhere to the law and due process and to enlist community members all across the spectrum, including the Muslim community, to stand against these terrorists.”

Ellison referenced reports of revenge attacks against mosques and Muslim businesses. “Three mosques in France. So clearly, this is an issue of big concern that the imam in France issued a statement yesterday. There have been statements from a number of the Arab leaders around the Persian Gulf,” he said.

“Let me tell you, one of the great things that President George Bush did, right after 9/11, is he went to a mosque and he made it clear that this is a war against terrorists, not against people of a particular religious group. And I think this is important to bear in mind — terrorism is an unfortunate and cruel fact of the world we live in. And people of goodwill have to stand together against the people who would use violent extremism to advance their philosophy, no matter what it is,” Ellison continued.

“And I just want to assure people that these killers do not care who’s Muslim and who’s not. They are about power and terrorism and injecting fear. So we need to stand together in solidarity and we should never give them an opportunity to recruit among some Muslims who may have unfortunately been the victims of some backlash.”

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Jackson Lee: U.S. Can’t Use Lone Wolf ‘Excuse’ to Say ‘How Could We Possibly Know What They’re Doing’

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who has been briefed on the Paris attack as a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the latest terrorist attack just underscores “that we are in a new time and we cannot fight wars as we did in the Revolutionary War.”

“We need sophisticated tools, we need better intelligence and we need some of the resources that would allow us to penetrate some of these cells or individual actions,” she told MSNBC today.

Jackson Lee also took a dig at the lone-wolf excuse, adding, “I frankly believe that we cannot use an excuse that these are franchise terrorists and how could we possibly know what they’re doing.”

“I don’t want to use that excuse anymore on behalf of the American people or, in fact, in fighting global terrorism. So we have to be able to frame a pathway forward with our international allies as to how we weed out the likes of those who did that devastating deed yesterday,” she said.

But, the congresswoman said, that doesn’t mean returning to “the concepts of torture that we oppose.”

“We can define and design a sophisticated, penetrating vetting out of these individuals because of the vast utilization of the Internet, conversation, dialogue, family members, neighborhoods. We just need to, in essence, enhance our investigatory assets and realize that we can’t sit down on the job. We’ve got to be constant and vigilant to find and weed out individual franchise terrorists like these young men were, as well as those in Australia and as well as those in Canada.”

Jackson Lee said U.S. and French intelligence officials will converse more about what happened. “These are perpetrators that have already done a devastating deed, but more importantly, if it deals with those who have intent, then we have some lax and some latitude, if you will, on making sure that we prevent the terrorist act,” she said.

“But we don’t want innocent Americans to be entrapped by laws that we place when they are making conversations that are innocent conversations that happen to be dealing with individuals who may have different thoughts than what we have. We can find the balance, but what I will say is we can make no excuses that we cannot penetrate these random terrorist acts before they occur. We’ve got to turn a sophisticated direction to do that and to stop them.”

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said there were challenges for the French in monitoring brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, 32 and 34. Cherif had previously served time for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“He was under surveillance and he fell off the radar screen, not unlike Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber. So, I mean, the fact is there are about 5,000 potential jihadists in France right now, and it’s very difficult to monitor that volume, that number of people, that you’re concerned about. And it’s very unfortunate,” McCaul told Fox.

“All I can tell you about that right now is we do have the names of the individuals and they are running the names through the databases. And that takes — a vetting process. So we’re finding out all we can about these individuals,” he added. “Obviously, what we’re concerned about with respect to the homeland are any connections they may have to a wider cell or a plot that could take place not only in Western Europe, but the United States.”

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Mia Love Joins Congressional Black Caucus

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) has joined the Congressional Black Caucus, becoming the first Republican to do so since former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the Lone Star State’s first black Republican in Congress, did not join.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who turned down the chance to join the CBC when he was a freshman House member along with West, also did not join this year.

Love was sworn in to the caucus with other members in a Tuesday ceremony; all of the new members are women. Attending were Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

The new chairman this year is Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who is mixed race yet identifies as African-American.

Butterfield said the CBC’s priorities for the 114th Congress are criminal justice reform, reducing poverty, safeguarding social safety net programs, creating educational opportunities, strengthening historically black colleges and universities, restoring section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and ensuring corporate diversity.

“The composition of our Caucus brings a diverse set of experiences and viewpoints to address the unique challenges of African American communities. Every day, members of this Caucus go beyond their constitutional duties to lead in their communities. They are making a difference in the lives of millions of people. My colleagues are smart and intelligent legislators. Each of them was elected to Congress because they prepared themselves, served their community, and knocked down barriers,” Butterfield said at the ceremony.

“I am also mindful that we were elected to Congress because great men and women, over the past 150-plus years got their hands dirty (some gave their lives) to empower future generations. During the Reconstruction and Post-reconstruction era, 20 African Americans served in Congress. They advocated for educating the children of the former slaves. They advocated for building black high schools and colleges. They advocated for jobs and decency. They even sought to make it a federal crime to lynch.”

The chairman said the caucus “must tell the full story – for many black Americans, they are not even close to realizing the American dream.”

“Depending on where they live, an economic depression hangs over their head, and it is burdening their potential and the potential of their children. Black America is in a state of emergency today as it was at the turn of the century,” Butterfield continued.

“…America is not working for many African Americans and we, as the Congressional Black Caucus, have an obligation to fight harder and smarter in the next Congress to help repair the damage.”

Love has been getting backlash from some on the right for voting for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) instead of an insurgent challenger this week.

In 2012, she said she would join the CBC to “take that thing apart from the inside out.”

“It’s demagoguery. They sit there and ignite emotions and ignite racism when there isn’t,” Love told the Deseret News back then. “They use their positions to instill fear. Hope and change is turned into fear and blame. Fear that everybody is going lose everything and blaming Congress for everything instead of taking responsibility.”

She wasn’t on record with similar statements about the CBC during her successful 2014 run.

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VIDEO: Boxer Says She’s ‘Never Going to Retire’ from Politics Despite Not Running for Re-Election

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced via YouTube today that she won’t seek another term in the upper chamber come 2016.

Boxer, who took office in 1993, turned 74 in November. She lost the gavel of the Environment and Public Works Committee with the GOP takeover of the Senate in the last election.

She delivered the message via a faux interview with her grandson, Zach Rodham. “Grandma, have you made a decision regarding the 2016 Senate race?” he asks. “Has the constant fighting in the Senate been a factor in your decision?”

Boxer said that’s not a factor because the causes dear to her — the environment, abortion rights, civil rights — constitute “a fight worth making.”

“Has your age played a role in your decision?” Zach asks.

“Finally, the question reporters love to ask,” Boxer replies. “No, definitely not… Some people are old at 40, and some people are young at 80… I feel as young as I did when I got elected.”

“I am never going to retire,” she added. “The work is too important. But I will not be running for the Senate in 2016.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who won a special election in the same cycle as Boxer’s first win so is slightly senior in congressional ranking, is 81 and hasn’t announced any intention to retire.

Boxer said that by stepping down from the Senate she’ll “have more time to help people” through her political action committee. She added that she’ll work to ensure her Senate seat “stays progressive.”

“And I want to help our Democratic candidate for president make history. But you know what? I want to come home. I want to come home to the state I love so much, California.”

Boxer said she’ll be leaving Congress with “about a thousand” accomplishments, and will post 100 of these on her website.

The senator wraps up her video with a bit of a rap:

“The Senate is the place
where I’ve always made my case

For families, for the planet, and the human race
More than 20 years in a job I love
Thanks to California and the Lord above

So although I won’t be working from my Senate space
and although I won’t be running in that next tough race
As long as there are issues and challenges and strife
I will never retire, ’cause that’s the meaning of my life.”

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Senators Want to Chop Student Aid Form from 108 Questions to Two

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to reduce the current 108 questions on the form for federal student aid to just two.

Those would be: What is your family size? What was your household income two years ago?

The “Student Aid Short Form” would be a postcard and would let high school students know in their junior year via a reference table how much college aid they’ll receive.

The sponsors are Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Angus King (I-Maine).

“Simplifying the overly complicated federal aid application and giving students and parents the opportunity to receive aid information easier and earlier will be an important tool in helping them choose a postsecondary institution that is right for them,” said Isakson. “Additionally, by protecting students from over-borrowing and helping them to better understand their repayment options, students will be better equipped to responsibly repay their loans.”

The bill would also consolidate current student loan programs and restore year-round Pell grant availability.

Sponsors say it would discourage overborrowing by tailoring the amount available to how much you’re in school that semester. A part-time student, for example, would be able to take out a part-time loan only.

Repayment plans would also be streamlined. Students would either get a 10-year repayment plan or an income-based repayment plan.

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ISIS Beheads Street Magician for ‘Illusions and Falsehood’

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Imagine you live in a city seized by ISIS. Death and chaos are all around the caliphate. The entertainment you used to enjoy is banned, just when you need an escape more than ever.

One man in the besieged ISIS capital of Raqqa tried to provide that for residents. Make kids smile with a card trick, when everywhere they psychotic gunmen.

Blasphemy!

This horrible story from the Daily Mirror:

A street magician had his head chopped off by Islamic State thugs for entertaining passers-by with his tricks.

The talented performer, loved by children, was dragged away while performing in the jihadists’ “capital” of Raqqa in Syria.

He was later beheaded in a public square after his harmless stunts, similar to those of Bradford-born superstar Dynamo, were deemed to insult Islam.

A local who fled to safety in Turkey called his murder “barbarism and butchery.”

The street magician was arrested by IS thugs during an impromptu ‘show’ on a street corner as he tried to bring some much-needed cheer to the Syrian city.

He was beheaded in public in a square after the religious fanatics branded his harmless tricks as anti-Islam and an insult to God because they created ‘illusions and falsehood’.

They denounced the terrified magician’s show as haram – or forbidden by the Koran – because it was idle entertainment and kept locals from praying and attending the mosque.

The activist who fled said: “The magician was a popular man who entertained people with little tricks on the street like making coins or phone disappear.

“He was just called Sorcerer by people and children loved him. He was doing nothing anti-Islamic but he paid for it with his life.”

The story noted that before ISIS moved in, Raqqa was so tolerant it even had a casino.

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Boko Haram Leader Boasts ‘Even U.S. Troops Could Not Do Anything to Us’

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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As the world’s attention has been focused on terrorism in France, Cameroonians received a new message from Boko Haram that the North African “caliphate” intends to swallow their turf.

A new 17-minute video from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was posted Monday on YouTube.

“Oh Paul Biya, if you don’t stop this, your evil plot, you will taste what has befallen Nigeria … Your troops cannot do anything to us,” Shekau said to Cameroon President Paul Biya. The country’s government has been fighting infiltrating terrorists in the country’s north.

If the Catholic president Biya, who has vowed to “wipe out” Boko Haram, does not “repent,” Shekau said, “you will see what will come from Allah, the all-powerful who has control over everything in respect of chastisement and calamity.”

“Your troops are nothing. Even Nigerian soldiers couldn’t do anything to us. Even U.S. troops couldn’t do anything to us. Not even the troops of the whole world.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked Monday if Boko Haram’s gains meant that U.S. strategy in the region is not working.

“It shows that — that there is — you know, that they face a very serious threat in Nigeria. And you know, the — the United States is — it does have this relationship with Nigeria that we value. It’s a military-to-military relationship. We also share some other intelligence assets that have been deployed to fight Boko Haram,” Earnest responded. “But this is certainly something that we’re concerned about.”

Shekau directly addresses the people of Cameroon, which is about 20 percent Muslim: “Know that a man cannot be a Muslim without rebelling against democracy.”

After Boko Haram stormed a “key multinational military base” in Baga, Nigeria, on the shore of Lake Chad, it was reported this week that the terrorist group has captured “all local government councils” in northern Borno state.

“This is indeed a sad moment for my people who were plunged into bloodshed by the insurgents,” the region’s senator, Maina Ma’aji Lawan, told the BBC. “Security forces with active support of the youth have been working hard to protect the area from several attacks in the past. But due to the large number of the terrorists and dangerous weapons they used in the latest onslaught these patriotic persons were unable to resist them.”

The Nigeria Security Network marked July as the point when Boko Haram’s advancements entered “a dangerous new phase” — and the point when the terrorists began “to operate like a conventional army.”

While Boko Haram units outside of the northeast continue to stage “hit-and-run assaults” largely for “psychological effect,” in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states they are now “aggressively challenging the Nigerian military through direct confrontation in open and sustained battle,” including the reported use of tanks and artillery. As in Iraq, some government soldiers have fled from Boko Haram assaults. Units lack proper equipment or enough rounds of ammunition to take on the terror group.

“There is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram,” Lawan said. “The soldiers were trying to repel the attack but that wasn’t going to happen because a lot of the soldiers were without their guns and some were running into the town.”

Boko Haram is believed to have kidnapped some 18 female Nigerian soldiers in Baga.

Dozens of townspeople were murdered by the terrorists. Some people trying to flee across Lake Chad in canoes drowned when overloaded boats capsized.

 

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CAIR: ‘Marginalize Extremists of All Backgrounds’ Who ‘Widen Societal Divisions’

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the terrorist attack in Paris today, arguing that “extremists of all backgrounds” should be “marginalized” in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo magazine.

“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

“The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions,” Awad said.

“We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

The Muslim Council of Britain issued a much shorter statement: “The Muslim Council of Britain condemns this attack. Whomever the attackers are, and whatever the cause may be, nothing justifies the taking of life.”

The Muslim American Society, which was placed on the United Arab Emirates’ terror list in November along with CAIR, didn’t issue comment.

The U.S.-based Muslim Public Affairs Council condemned the attack and offered condolences in a series of tweets.

“We offer our condolences to the families of the victims & stand with all people of conscience,” MPAC president Salam Al-Marayati said.

From the 12 victims, MPAC singled out Ahmed Merabet, a 42-year-old French Muslim police officer killed by the terrorists.

They also praised former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean for saying that the attackers shouldn’t be called “Muslim terrorists.”

 

 

*****

Related, for more on CAIR: The Hypocrisy of Ibrahim Hooper and CAIR’s ‘Islamophobic List’, and #MyJihad: CAIR’s New Twitter Campaign to Whitewash Islam, and Why Is the Pentagon Listening to Hamas-Linked CAIR?

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Paul Blames de Blasio for ‘Telling Police to Get Involved’ with People Selling Untaxed Cigarettes

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said there needs to be a balance between recognizing that African-Americans are discriminated against in the criminal justice system and blaming all cops for that.

“I think that our police do by enlarge an excellent job. They are like the rest of the public — 98 percent, 99 percent are doing a great job. They are out every day risking their lives,” Paul told CNN yesterday, stressing that there was “no justification” for violent attacks on police.

“And so, I think there are just separate issues. I do think that there is an unease in our country, though. The violent people are an aberration. The violent people killing cops and things like that, which is awful, that’s an aberration. But there’s a lot of also just peaceful people out there that are — they feel unhappy and feel like that justice is not color blind.”

Paul noted that Martin Luther King “talked about there being two Americas: There are still people who feel like they are poor, they are unemployed and that they — everywhere they turn, there is a civil fine for this or for that.”

“In fact, I said repeatedly in New York, I blame the politicians. So, the same way the police are unhappy with de Blasio, I’m unhappy with de Blasio also because he was the one telling the police to get involved with people selling cigarettes that were not taxed properly,” he said in reference to Eric Garner.

The senator said Bill de Blasio “mistakes cause and effect” when talking about how he needs to teach his son to “take special care” in any encounters with police.

“I’ve said over and over again that there is a racial outcome to the war on drugs. But I’ve also said over and over again, I don’t think the police are targeting black kids. What I say is that the war on drugs has led the over-enforcement in certain communities,” Paul said. “So, far example, white kids are using illegal drugs, so are black kids. I don’t think the police said, oh, let’s go arrest black kids. I think because of where people live and where crime occurs, that there had been a disproportionate amount of black kids arrested.”

“So, I understand the sentiment of people in the African-American community who feel like justice is not color blind. But I don’t blame the police officer for saying, oh, the police officers are targeting them. I blame the politicians for writing these laws such that we’ve gone overboard with nonviolent crime.”

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Egyptian President Makes History by Attending Coptic Christmas Mass

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi made history yesterday, becoming the first Egyptian president to mark the Orthodox Christmas at a Coptic Christian Mass.

From Al-Ahram:

El-Sisi arrived at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbasiya district during the mass and gave a brief speech before leaving instantly.

He said that both of Egypt’s Muslims and Christians are celebrating this occasion, asserting that they are “one entity” in the world’s eyes.

He added that he had to come to congratulate the Coptic community and then apologised for interrupting the mass.

Video footage broadcast by State TV – covering the full mass – showed crowds cheering as El-Sisi entered the Cathedral with churchmen and saluted Pope Tawadros II.

Former Egyptian heads of state have visited the Cathedral including Gamal Abd El-Nasser and interim President Adly Mansour, but this is the first time for a president to attend the mass.

 

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