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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson

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

Sunday, October 4th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The race for speaker of the House got a shakeup today as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced he will run for the post being vacated by retiring John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was critical of presumed front-runner Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) comments linking the Benghazi investigation to Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

“I am running for Speaker of the House of Representatives because I want to lead the way on tackling the toughest issues facing the United States of America,” Chaffetz said in a statement this morning.

“The American people have entrusted Republicans with the largest majority since the 1920’s, but with that majority comes a responsibility to get the job done that we were elected to do,” he added. “I came to Congress to help fix problems, and as Speaker I will fight every day to make that happen. I look forward to sharing my vision for the Speakership with my colleagues and the American people.”

Chaffetz, 48, was first elected in 2008, giving him two fewer years of congressional experience than McCarthy. He slept on a cot in his office when he came to the Hill to convey a message of fiscal responsibility.

“I’m very supportive of Kevin McCarthy, but those statements are just absolutely inappropriate, they should be withdrawn, Mr. McCarthy should apologize,” Chaffetz slammed McCarthy last week on MSNBC. “I just — I think it was absolutely wrong. It’s not — once upon a time it was myself and Trey Gowdy that were working on the Benghazi effort. It’s grown and expanded because we want to get to truth.”

“But to suggest that there was any sort of political motivation is absolutely — it’s not fair to Mr. Gowdy, it’s not fair to myself. And most importantly it’s not fair to those four families who lost those loved ones. That’s not why we’re doing this.”

McCarthy did backtrack his comments, telling Fox, “I did not imply in any way that that work is political, of course it is not. Look at the way they have carried themselves out.”

Chaffetz told Fox News Sunday this morning that his support for McCarthy dissipated because “things have changed and there’s really a math problem.”

“You need 218 votes on the floor of the House. There’s 246 Republicans that will vote, but there are nearly 50 people and a growing number that will not and cannot vote for Kevin McCarthy as the speaker on the floor. He’s going to fall short of the 218 votes on the floor of House,” Chaffetz said.

He stressed that McCarthy has majority of the conference support to win the closed-door secret ballot on Thursday. “But in many ways it doesn’t matter because the real vote is when you call that name out in front of everybody on the floor of the House.”

“But I just don’t believe that the nominee, if it’s Kevin McCarthy can actually get to 218,” Chaffetz continued. “That’s why I’ve offer myself as a candidate to try to bridge that divide. I think those 50-plus people find I’m a fair, even-balanced person, that I can bridge that divide between — there are more centrist members and some of the more far right-wing members. That’s why I’ve entered this race.”

Over the summer, Chaffetz stripped Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the insurgency against Boehner, of his Oversight subcommittee chairmanship as punishment for defying House leadership on fast-track trade authority.

“I think I learned from that lesson. That you’re not going to do things by cutting people off at the knees. I think I was a good leader and that I listened for an hour and 40 minds with my committee and reconsidered that decision,” he said this morning.

“We’ve got to win the argument and make case, not just knock people over the head if they don’t what we want to do. So, it’s a lesson learned. I think I’m better for it, and I think Mark is better for it, and we’re certainly good friends on this day.”

Chaffetz also responded to critics who charged he spent more time at the Planned Parenthood hearing talking about the organization’s finances with not enough questions about body-parts trafficking.

“We don’t have all the videos yet, but I do think it’s legitimate for a not-for-profit organization to question how they spend money. Exorbitant salaries, first class travel, charter airplane, they’re sending money overseas. These are not things that a not-for-profit needs,” he said.

“$127 million more in revenues than expenses and they want more federal money? I think we can tackle it both on trafficking in fetal body parts, but also about the finances.”

The only other name in the ring for speaker of the House is Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who unsuccessfully challenged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this year and received the support of 11 colleagues.

The full House vote will be at the end of this month.

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Obama: ‘All Kinds of Crackpot Conspiracy Theories’ About Gun-Control Efforts

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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President Obama today lashed out at “crackpot conspiracy theories” saying that he wants more gun control to “stay in power forever or something” or take all Americans’ weapons.

At a press conference to announce the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama was asked about comments from Jeb Bush on the community college massacre in Roseburg, Ore.

Fielding questions at a South Carolina event today, Bush said of calls for more gun control, “We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everyone else. It’s very sad to see. But I resist the notion — and I had this challenge as governor — because we had — look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Bush defended his comments later, saying, “No, it wasn’t a mistake. I said exactly what I said. Why would you explain to me what I said wrong? Things happen all the time — things — is that better?”

Asked about those comments at his press conference, Obama replied, “I don’t even think I have to react to that one.”

“I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting. And in terms of — and — and they can decide whether they consider that ‘stuff happening,’” Obama continued.

The president said he’s asked his team “to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

“Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place? But, as I said last night, this will not change until the politics changes and the behavior of elected officials changes,” Obama said. “And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis. And I will politicize it, because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.”

GOPs went after Obama today for politicizing the tragedy — something he admitted hours after the shooting that he was doing to bring legislative attention to gun control measures. ”Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” Ben Carson told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.”

“What I worry about is when we get to the point were we say we need to have every gun registered, we have to know where the people are, and where their guns are, that’s very dangerous,” Carson said. “And that I wouldn’t agree with at all.”

Obama charged that politicians aren’t passing more gun laws “because of politics.”

“It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear, and in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party, although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws,” he said. “And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a — a big dent in this problem. For example, you’ll hear people talk about, ‘the problem’s not guns, it’s mental illness.’”

The focus on mental health and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, though, is actually one of the bipartisan areas of agreement on guns where legislators could agree on potential solutions to spot and stop such shooters.

But Obama argued that “it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world. Tens of millions of angry young men, and most of them don’t shoot.”

“It doesn’t help us just to identify — and — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters. So — so we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this. The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them,” he said.

“And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change. The politics has to change. And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side, who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom or communistic, or a plot by me to take over and stay in power forever or something. I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there. Some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party, on occasion.”

Obama added that people in favor of more gun control are going to have to be a “single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.”

“We’re not going to stop all violence. Violence exists around the world, sadly,” he said. “Part of original sin, but our homicide — our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places that, by the way, have the same levels of violence. It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.”

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Kerry Suggests Peace Process Could ‘Eliminate’ Murders of West Bank Israelis

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the day after a West Bank couple was murdered in front of their four kids, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the peace process being pushed by the administration could end all of these slayings.

Rabbi Eitam Henkin and his wife Naama, both in their 30s, were driving with their family when a car containing at least two Palestinian gunmen pulled up and shot the couple to death. Their children, ranging from 4 months to 9 years old, were in the backseat, uninjured.

“Palestinian terrorists murdered yesterday a young mother and father leaving four little orphans. A gunman brutally murdered nine innocent Americans,” Netanyahu said before his meeting with Kerry in New York today, referencing the community college massacre in Roseburg, Ore. “I appreciated your strong statement of condemnation. I have to say that I have yet to hear any condemnation from President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.”

“Worse, I heard senior officials from his Fatah movement praise this action. They say this is the way to go. No, it’s not the way to go. The way to go for any conceivable arrangement is to fight terrorism and to make sure that terrorism reaps no rewards.”

A group linked to Fatah claimed it was behind the murders, while Hamas said “this operation was in response to the crimes of the Zionists.”

Kerry said that “our hearts go out to the families of the Israelis who have been lost, but our hearts also go out to the people in Oregon too, where we’ve had our own violence in our country.”

“So that’s really what brings me here today to talk to you about is the violence — too much, particularly in your part of the world. And you know this because you live with it every single day,” Kerry continued. “So we have a lot to talk about. I think there are ways to cooperate to take constructive steps that can address this over the long term, which is something we have worked on together and that we need to work on.”

“So we’re sharing with you the grief that Israel feels today,” he added. “I hope we can share also the efforts going forward that can reduce and maybe ultimately one day even eliminate any families having to go through these kinds of losses.”

Netanayhu then jumped back in, stressing that “any path forward requires one thing: you have to fight terror.”

“And the terrorists are there; the fanaticism, the zealotry is there; and we have no choice but to fight them,” the prime minister said. “But when we hear incitement that — worse, when we hear praise for the terrorists from our supposed peace partners, we say cut that out, start fighting terrorism. If you won’t, we will. But that’s the call that the international community must place on the Palestinian Authority.”

“But I want to make it clear: we’re going to fight these terrorists, and we’re going to fight them in ways that they will understand makes terrorism not worth its actions and not garner any rewards.”

Both Kerry and UN Ambassador Samantha Power ditched Netanyahu’s Thursday speech to the UN General Assembly. The State Department hasn’t yet commented on the circumstances behind the snub.

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Joint Tsk-Tsk Issued to Russia as White House Official Argues Putin Is Bombing Out of Position of Weakness

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The United States joined with France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom for a joint rebuke of Russia for its bombing campaign in Syria.

“We express our deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially ‎the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs and Idlib which led to civilian casualties and did not target Da’esh,” the statement says. “These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalization. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting ISIL.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Thursday that Russia is only targeting terrorist groups, but other nations have said they’re lumping secular opposition to Bashar Assad’s regime into that category.

“If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?” Lavrov told reporters at the United Nations.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who this week blasted the Obama administration for letting Syria get to this point, said at the Washington Ideas Forum today that “everybody knows that that is Free Syrian Army in a very vital area in that part of Syria” struck by Russia, Homs — “and that was about the first target.”

“My friends, it’s amazing when you think about it because if Putin had wanted to deceive us, he might’ve bombed some other targets first. First day of bombing after the military attache in Baghdad informed us an hour before the bombing started,” McCain said. “And now that you’ve seen the pictures and apparently a number of people were killed including seven children in this bombing attack by Russia, I mean, it’s a blatant, in your face move.”

“And then of course, just as he said there are no Russian troops in Crimea, they’re saying no, we were only attacking ISIS.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman said “the only way you can interpret this” is as “testimony to the lack of concern that Russia has about America’s reaction to their actions.”

“And there are plenty of ISIS targets,” McCain added. “But they picked the one place where Free Syrian Army enclave was, and a pretty successful one, one that’s been doing rather well in the fight against Bashar Assad.”

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told the forum that “what we are really seeing is an escalation of what Russia was already doing in providing military support to Assad.”

“I mean, one way to think about this is, and you know everybody is looking at Putin as if this is some offensive maneuver. Again, they have had bases in Syria for a very long time. This is their principal client state in the Arab world. It’s been collapsing. He’s trying to prop it up. I think that’s hardly someone who is in a strong position,” Rhodes argued.

“That’s, by the way, the same thing he’s facing in Ukraine. They had a client in Yanukovich. That collapsed out of the hollow rot of corruption. Now they are trying to grab a piece of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are rejecting them. So this is not someone who was operating from a position of strength. This is someone who is seeing, again, two of his principal partners in the world in a lot of trouble.”

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6 Airmen, 5 Contractors Killed in C-130 Crash; Taliban Claim They Brought It Down

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Six U.S. airmen and five civilian contractors were killed when a C-130 transport plane crashed in Nangarhar province.

The Pentagon said the cause of the Jalalabad crash, which happened shortly after midnight local time according to Afghan news sources, is under investigation.

“While we are still trying to determine exactly what happened, this is a reminder of the risks that our men and women face serving their country in remote places all over the world,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement. “Let us not forget the importance of their service, and the critical mission they died supporting. My thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”
“I also want to express my condolences to the families of the Afghans killed in this tragedy. We remain committed with our coalition partners to helping the people of Afghanistan build a secure and peaceful country.”

The Taliban claim they shot it down.

“At least 15 invaders of the US-Nato troop were killed when Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate shot down one of the enemy transporting military personnel late yesterday night in eastern Afghanistan,” the Taliban posted on their website.

“Our mujahideen have shot down a four-engine US aircraft in Jalalabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. “Based on credible information 15 invading forces and a number of puppet troops were killed.”

The Taliban have previously attacked the Jalalabad airport, killing five in a ground battle in December 2012.

Though they’re renowned for making wild claims about military successes, the Taliban have recently toned down their faux boasting a little bit as social media and effective local media in Afghanistan have called out their claims.

President Obama, who is holding a press conference later this afternoon to announce the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, issued a brief statement on the crash.

“In addition to the Americans we mourn, we also are saddened that Afghan civilians lost their lives in this incident,” Obama said. “As we mark this terrible loss of life, we are reminded of the sacrifice brave Americans and our Afghan partners make each and every day in the name of freedom and security. Their willingness to serve so selflessly will not be forgotten.”

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Hillary: Alabama ‘a Blast from the Jim Crow Past’ by Shutting Driver’s License Locations

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton alleged that Alabama has summoned “a blast from the Jim Crow past” by closing driver’s license offices around the state for budgetary reasons.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced in August that while they maintain 75 driver’s license districts and field offices across the state, “budget allocations do not cover costs and we operate with an $8.2 million deficit.”

Thirty-one satellite field offices that were open part-time closed on Thursday. On Jan. 1, all district offices across the state are scheduled to close leaving a dozen offices open statewide.

Alabama passed a voter ID law in 2011 that went into effect last year and requires government-issued identification such as a driver’s licenses or a free state photo ID card, or two poll officials to vouch for the identity of the voter.

Columnist John Archibald of AL.com charged that “every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed,” which “might as well just send an invitation to the Justice Department.”

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, though, said the 31 field offices owned by counties, not the state, that were de-staffed accounted for less than five percent of state driver’s license transactions, a total of fewer than 2,000 transactions in 2014.

Clinton issued a statement today to “strongly oppose” the office closures, “especially in counties that have a significant majority of African Americans.”

“Just a few years ago, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo ID to vote. Now they’re shutting down places where people get those photo IDs. This is only going to make it harder for people to vote. It’s a blast from the Jim Crow past,” she said.

“We’re better than this. We should be encouraging more Americans to vote, not making voting harder.”

Clinton renewed her push for automatic voter registration of all Americans when they turn 18, “and a new national standard of at least 20 days of early in-person voting in every state.”

“African Americans fought for the right to vote in the face of unthinkable hatred. They stood up and were beaten down, marched and were turned back. Some were even killed. But in the end, the forces of justice overcame,” she said. “Alabama should do the right thing. It should reverse this decision. And it should start protecting the franchise for every single voter, no matter the color of their skin.”

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Congressman Proposes Gun Licenses, Like Driver’s Licenses

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said one “common sense” gun regulation that should be enacted is the need for a gun license for anyone who wants to purchase a firearm.

“We know that if you have a universal criminal background check to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people, you will reduce gun deaths. We know that,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is running for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), told MSNBC.

“We know that the state of Connecticut passed a law that also says you that should have a permit to purchase a weapon just like you need to get a license to drive a car. You should get a license before you can go purchase a weapon,” he added.

Van Hollen cited a Johns Hopkins study “showing that in the state of Connecticut the number of deaths from gun violence went down by 40 percent” after that law was passed. “Maryland just adopted a similar law two years ago and the results will be coming. I just spent yesterday in Maryland with our Maryland attorney general, Brian Frosh, calling upon other states to adopt these laws,” he said.

“And I’ve introduced legislation to incentivize other states to do it because those states that are passing these common sense gun laws are seeing reductions in deaths but they’re also vulnerable to the negligence of other states who are not taking these common sense measures.”

Van Hollen argued that because of this spillover, federal legislation is needed and not just state laws.

“So we need to act on a state level but we also need to act on a congressional level, and it’s just scandalous and shameful that in the House of Representatives, we’ve never even had a vote on common sense gun legislation, never a vote on universal criminal background check legislation, never a vote on the legislation that I and so many others have introduced,” he said.

“Give us a vote. And you know, Mr. Speaker, one thing he might be able to do before he leaves at the end of October is let democracy work. Let the American people watch Congress, vote to decide whether or not they want to take these common sense measures that help save lives, just as the president said,” Van Hollen continued. “…If this were a disease, if this were a virus that was killing tens of thousands of Americans, we would have the scientists at the national institutes of health, we would have the folks across the country at the CDC, we would have all hands on deck. And yet we have this epidemic that’s killing Americans and nothing’s being done.”

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WATCH: Pelosi Snaps at Reporter for Asking If Unborn Babies are Human Beings

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) snapped at a reporter yesterday for asking her a question on abortion at her weekly presser.

“Funding for Planned Parenthood — is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?” asked Sam Dorman, a CNS News reporter who was seated in the front row.

“Why don’t you take your ideological questions — I — I don’t have –” Pelosi began.

“If it’s not a human being, what species is it?” the reporter interjected.

“Now listen, I want to say something to you. I don’t know who you are and you’re welcome to be here, freedom of this press. I am a devout practicing Catholic, a mother of five children. When my baby was born, my fifth child, my oldest child was six years old,” Pelosi said.

“I think I know more about this subject than you, with all due respect, and I do not intend to respond to your questions, which have no basis in what public policy is, that we do here.”

Since Pope Francis visited Capitol Hill last week, Pelosi has been name-dropping the pontiff often except on the issue of abortion.

“House voted to keep Government open; that’s good news, that’s good news. What’s not good news is that 151 Republicans voted to shut down government. 151, shut down Government, 91. Over 60 percent of the Republicans went that way,” she began her press conference. “It’s really very — it’s — so, as we go forward, hoping to be inspired by His Holiness, Pope Francis, who told us to work together for the good of people, to do so with transparency — no, openness was his word, and pragmatism.”

Pelosi told MSNBC after the pope’s address that “we all support the sanctity of life.”

When asked about Pope Francis’ shot at same-sex marriage in his speech — “Fundamental relations are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family” — Pelosi said she showed the pope a photo of her family before the address.

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

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Hillary: Battle ‘Absolutist Theology About the Second Amendment Being Sacrosanct’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Hillary Clinton called for a “national movement” to take on the National Rifle Association, as “my husband beat them, and he got an assault weapons ban which lasted for ten years and did have a positive effect.”

Campaigning in New England, Clinton told Boston ABC affiliate WCVB she’s “just sick of” news like the community college massacre in Roseburg, Ore. Ten were killed by a 26-year-old gunman who was also killed.

“And I feel an absolute urgency for this country to start being sensible about keeping guns away from people who should not have them. I’m going to be pushing this issue,” Clinton vowed. “Universal background checks, a long enough waiting period so that people can’t sneak in under the deadline because the full investigation wasn’t completed. I would like us to be absolutely determined, as I am, to try to do something about this.”

Touting her husband’s assault-weapons fight against the NRA, Clinton added that
“when gun control issues are put on national or put on state or local ballots for referendum, they pass in many instances.”

“So we’re going to go at this from the top down, namely go back to the Congress, go back to try and put together a sensible, bipartisan position that was supported before in the Senate to get to universal background checks,” she said. “But we’re also going to go from the bottom up.”

“I’m going to make this a voting issue, because what the NRA does in their single-minded, absolutist theology about the Second Amendment being sacrosanct, when we know that every constitutional right and amendment can be tailored in an appropriate way without breaching the Constitution, but what they do is to so intimidate and scare legislators because they make it into a single issue for voting. I’m going to try to do everything I can as president to raise up an equally large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance.”

Clinton says she’s “going to tell legislators, do not be afraid.”

“Stand up to these people because a majority of the population and a majority of gun owners agree that there should be universal background checks,” she said. “And the NRA has stood in the way.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has taken heat on the campaign trail for his past votes in support of gun rights yet defended his stances as appropriate for the culture of his home state, said this evening that “the shouting at each other must end; the hard work of developing good policy must begin.”

“We need a comprehensive approach. We need sensible gun-control legislation which prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them. We must greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities so individuals and families can get the psychological help then need when they need it,” Sanders said. “We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.”

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Obama on Oregon Shooting: ‘This Is Something We Should Politicize’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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A visibly irritated President Obama appeared in the White House briefing room this evening to declare after a gunman killed 10 at a community college in Oregon that “it cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”

The 26-year-old male shooter, now identified as Chris Harper Mercer, reportedly brought four guns onto the scene, including three handguns.

He discussed his plans in a chat room the evening before, where some advised him not to go through with it but many egged him on. He called it the “beta uprising” — going after guys he thought acted “alpha” superior to him and girls who turned him down. Some trying to discourage him said he’d “make us white people look bad” or make it “harder for us gun owners.”

The News-Review in Roseburg, Ore., citing a student whose teacher was shot in the head, said “the shooter was asking people to stand up and state their religion and then started firing away.” A person on Twitter who said her grandmother was in a room with the shooter said victims were asked if they were Christian: “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs.”

“As I said just a few months ago and a few months before that, and I’ve said each time we’ve seen one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama said, adding that words do “nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America next week or a couple of months from now.”

“We don’t know yet why this individual did what he did and it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months,” he said.

“…Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here, at this podium, ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it; we’ve become numb to this. ”

Obama added that “what’s become routine of course is the response of those who oppose any kind of common sense gun legislation.”

“Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out. ‘We need more guns,’ they’ll argue. ‘Fewer gun safety laws!’ Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country; they know that’s not true. We know because of the polling, that says a majority of Americans think we should be changing these laws, including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners,” he continued.

“There is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, argue that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence. We know that other countries in response to one mass shooting have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours. Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

The president went on to lament that “what’s also routine is somebody, somewhere will comment and say, ‘Obama politicized this issue.’ Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.”

Obama asked news organizations to list side-by-side tallies of the number of Americans killed by terrorism and the number killed by domestic gun violence.

“And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?” he said.

“This is a political choice that we make — to allow this to happen every few months in America. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When American are killed in floods and hurricanes we work to make communities safer… the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon?”

Obama said the American people should think of “how we get our government to change these laws.”

“When you decide to vote for somebody,” he advised, make a “determination on whether this continuing cause of death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.”

“I would particularly ask America’s gun owners… think about whether your views are being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you,” Obama added in a jab at the National Rifle Association.

“And each time this happens I’m gonna bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re gonna have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself,” he concluded. “I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president… but based on my experience as president I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say.”

This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. EST with the identity of the shooter.

Hillary: Battle ‘Absolutist Theology About the Second Amendment Being Sacrosanct’

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White House Pitches ‘Common Sense’ Gun Control as News of Oregon Shooting Breaks

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

With a community college shooting unfolding today in Oregon — current reports put the death toll as high as 13, with more than 20 wounded — the White House was quick to remind reporters that “sensible steps” should be taken “to protect our communities from gun violence.”

No information has been released about the shooter other than his age — 20 — and reports that he apparently warned of the shooting on social media (and got advice from others). The shooter was killed.

“There are some common sense steps — things like closing the gun show loophole and others — that have strong bipartisan support across the country. According to some polling data, there’s even a majority of Republicans that support closing the gun show loophole,” Earnest told reporters in the daily briefing as the news was breaking, reiterating administration talking points on gun control.

“We have not yet seen that kind of strong bipartisan support across the country translate into legislative support in the United States Congress that’s sufficient to pass legislation that would, again, implement these kinds of common sense solutions.”

However, Earnest said, “there’s no piece of legislation that can be passed into law by the Congress that would prevent every single incident of gun violence.”

The campus at which today’s massacre occurred, Umpqua Community College, had tough gun restrictions. Sheriff’s officials said they had no armed security guards on campus.

“But there are some common sense things that we can do, and I think the vast majority of the American people — the vast majority of the American people share the president’s view in wondering why Congress wouldn’t take those kinds of common sense steps,” Earnest continued.

“And it’s — the president’s been quite candid about how this is and has been a source of frustration for him. It has not at all been lowered on the priority scale. But at the same time, the president is quite realistic that we’ll need to see a fundamental change in terms of the way the American people communicate this priority to Congress before we’ll see a different outcome in the legislative process.”

Oregon’s senators did not include gun-control advocacy in their devastated reactions to the shooting.

“I am absolutely heartbroken by today’s news,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said. “I have been in touch with local officials to express my deepest condolences and offer my assistance in any way possible and I will continue to monitor this tragedy and its response.”

“Oregonians everywhere want Roseburg to know we’re praying for them,” tweeted Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Roseburg’s congressman, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), stressed that “once we know more about what happened today, I plan to work with my colleagues in Congress to find ways to prevent tragedies such as these.”

“Today’s shooting in Roseburg is a heartbreaking tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” DeFazio said. “I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Roseburg’s first responders for their work in responding to the event.”

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) already had a press conference scheduled for tomorrow to introduce new gun-control legislation that would block gun sales until background checks are complete.

Currently, gun retailers can move forward with the sale if law enforcement background checks are still pending after three days. Some businesses already block “default sales,” including Walmart. Senate Dems have been lobbying other retailers, Cabela’s, EZ Pawn, and Bass Pro Shops, to voluntarily follow suit.

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Carly: Planned Parenthood Activists Threw Condoms, Asked ‘Why Do You Hate Women?’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said pro-Planned Parenthood activists showed up at a recent event to throw condoms at her “and several of the activists were dressed up like birth control dispensers.”

Fiorina has been under attack from abortion-rights activists since her forceful comments in the last primary debate about undercover videos detailing the harvesting of body parts from abortion for research.

“It’s terrible to see a woman, the only woman running for president, attack Planned Parenthood that helps so many millions of women. It’s a sad day, but it’s the way it is. Not all women are going to fight for women. Carly Fiorina does not. She fights for herself, and she’ll say almost anything to get elected,” said her former Senate election rival, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Last night on Fox, Fiorina said the condom-throwing is “all part of their act to try and convince people that this debate we’re having about butchering babies is actually about birth control or women’s health.”

“It’s, of course, no such thing. It’s about butchering babies for body parts,” she said. “But nevertheless, they’re throwing condoms, hoping it will make a difference. I think the American people are smarter than that. And I will not be silent on this issue.”

Fiorina added that to say it’s “sexist to go after Planned Parenthood’s lies is pretty rich.”

“And in fact, when you mentioned those protesters who were throwing condoms at me — this woman said to me from among the protesters — I’m willing to sit down and talk to anyone — she said, why do you hate women? And at the time, I was surrounded by women of all ages,” she continued.

“It is part of the game they play. When Barbara Boxer says, well, you know, she doesn’t support women, this is part and parcel of Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric.”

Fiorina stressed that “Planned Parenthood has not, will not, cannot deny that this is happening because it is.”

“And if they care so much about women’s health, why is it that Democrats will not agree to use taxpayer funding to support pregnancy centers all around this country?” she added.

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Powell: ‘I Want to Continue to Be a Republican Because It Annoys Them’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who endorsed President Obama in 2008 and 2012, told the Washington Ideas Forum that there’s a special reason why he doesn’t change his party affiliation.

Powell confirmed that he’s still a registered Republican. “I want to continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” he quipped.

“I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national-level election in the future, not just in 2016,” he added.

Powell cited “pockets of intolerance” within the Republican Party that the GOP “had better figure out how to defeat.”

He also said that immigration rhetoric within the party is an Achilles’ heel.

“I think most Republicans understand that we need immigration, we are an immigrant nation, it is in our best interest to do it,” he said.

“…If I was around Mr. Trump — Donald, who I know rather well — I would say, ‘You know, Don, let’s see what happens — let’s tell all the immigrants working in Trump hotels to stay home tomorrow. Let’s see what happens.”

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Carter on Women in Combat Recommendations: ‘Less Interested in Who Said What, But Why’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Service leaders submitted their reports on women in combat yesterday to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter indicated it should take “months” to go through the recommendations.

The reporters include the service branches’ “recommendations on positions they plan to open to women, as well as any exceptions to opening all combat specialties to women.”

“When I myself review these reports over coming months, I will be focused on the quality of information and the analysis behind the recommendations. I want to hear from everyone, but I’m less interested in who said what, but why they are saying it,” Carter told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon.

“And to be clear, I will carefully review the information and analysis from all four services and Special Operations Command to make my final determination.”

Carter added that as secretary of Defense, “I’m committed to seeing this through, because attracting the best and staying the best means that wherever possible, we must open ourselves to the talents and strengths of all Americans who can contribute with excellence to our force.”

“As I’ve said before, everyone who is able and willing to serve and can meet the standards we require should have the full opportunity to do so,” he added.

Asked if the Marine Corps has asked for an exemption in order to bar women from some infantry units, Carter said he didn’t want to “characterize recommendations” that hadn’t personally been made to him yet.

“Remember the process here, which is the services are doing analysis. What they owe to, first, the chairman, and ultimately to me by the end of the year, is their analysis, their studies, and their thoughts, both about which specialties, if any, should be left closed to women. And importantly, how they intend to make any adaptations that are required,” he said.

“…The only point I wanted to make is I am going to be very facts based and analysis based. I want to see the grounds upon which any actions that we take at the first of the year are going to be made. That’s the frame under which I’ll be looking at.”

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Kerry Says Russia Agrees on ‘Urgency of De-Confliction’ After Striking Non-ISIS Targets

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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As Russia began striking Homs, Syria — not an area of ISIS control — Secretary of State John Kerry appeared with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at the United Nations today to reiterate “concerns” about Moscow plunging into the conflict at the behest of ally Bashar Assad.

Kerry said he voiced at the UN Security Council meeting, led by Russia today, “concerns that we have obviously about the nature of the targets, the type of targets, and the need for clarity with respect to them.”

“And it is one thing obviously to be targeting ISIL. We’re concerned, obviously, that is not what is happening,” he said, adding the U.S. and Russia agreed to “a military-to-military de-confliction discussion, meeting, conference, whichever – whatever can be done as soon as possible, because we agree on the urgency of that de-confliction.”

“…The foreign minister and I agreed that there is, even as we don’t have yet a resolution with respect to some critical choices in that political solution, we think we have some very specific steps that may be able to help lead in the right direction. That needs to be properly explored.”

Lavrov said that he and Kerry were following up on the requests of Presidents Obama and Vladimir Putin that the U.S. military coalition and “the military of the Russian Federation, who now engage in some operations in Syria at the request of the Syrian Government, get in touch and establish channels of communications to avoid any unintended incidents.”

“And we agreed that the military should get into contact with each other very soon,” Lavrvo added.

“…We all want Syria democratic, united, secular; Syria which is a home for all ethnic and confessional groups, whose rights are guaranteed; but we have some differences as for the details on how to get there.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the Pentagon today that wouldn’t “rule out” talking with his counterpart, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu, as “I think that these kind of contacts are good.”

Carter’s moving forward with the plan to which he and Shoygu agreed before bombing started, to “send a DOD team to meet with Russian defense counterparts, at a location that we agreed upon, to ensure that we avoid any inadvertent incidents over Syrian air space.”

“As we pursue the defense-level talks with Russia on Syria, I want to be absolutely clear that these talks will not, in any way, diminish our strong condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine, or change our sanctions and security support in response to those destabilizing actions,” he said.

The Defense secretary acknowledged “it does appear that they were in areas where there probably was — were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach.”

“And this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military, professionally,” Carter added.

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Senate Dems Want Smoking Age Raised to 21

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Asserting that their legislation would save 4.2 million years of life, a team of Senate Democrats today introduced a bill to raise the smoking age to 21.

The Tobacco to 21 Act, from Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and others, cites a recent Institute of Medicine report that concluded raising the minimum age of smoking would reduce “tobacco” initiation among teenagers and “lead to a 12 percent decrease in smoking prevalence.”

The bill would prohibit sale or distribution of any tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mark Takai (D-Hawaii).

“Thanks to tobacco control measures like banning smoking in public places and placing warning labels on cigarette cartons, far fewer people smoke now than did fifty years ago,” said Senator Durbin. “…We can help prevent a new generation from falling prey to this deadly epidemic by passing another commonsense measure to reduce youth tobacco use: raising the minimum tobacco age of sale to 21.”

Democrats efforts against tobacco have included urging Walmart to stop selling tobacco products, urging Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to ban tobacco sales at naval bases and aboard ships, and trying to tighten regulations on e-cigarettes.

“Raising the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 is a simple step that would save thousands of lives and millions of dollars by snuffing out smoking before it starts,” Blumenthal said. “This legislation would protect young people who are already more vulnerable to the harmful addictive effects of nicotine from the devastating effects of tobacco.”

“By shielding those under the age of 21 from tobacco, we will improve overall public health, decrease the number of smokers, and increase the health and well-being of young people in Connecticut and around the country.”

Schatz noted that this year his home state of Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. “It was an historic public health achievement that we should adopt nationwide,” the senator said.

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Anti-Redskins Group Slams Jeb Support, Says Team Name Harmful to Children

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Activists says Jeb Bush isn’t recognizing the harm done to children by Washington’s football team by supporting the Redskins name.

Bush told “The Arena,” a new show debuting Friday on Sirius XM’s POTUS channel, that the Redskins shouldn’t give into political pressure.

“I don’t think it should change it,” he said. “But again, I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”

The former Florida governor added: “We had a similar kind of flap with FSU, if you recall, the Seminoles. And the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided.”

“It’s a sport, for crying out loud. It’s a football team,” Bush said. “Washington has a huge fan base — I’m missing something here, I guess.”

The Change the Mascot campaign, which includes politicians, some Native American tribes and civil rights groups, responded to Bush in a statement noting “social science research has shown that the NFL’s promotion of the R-word racial slur has particularly serious effects on Native American children.”

“Recently, the governor has used offensive language to describe immigrants and he has denigrated America’s multicultural heritage,” Change the Mascot said, referencing Bush’s comments that the GOP’s message to minority voters “is one of hope and aspiration — it isn’t one of division and ‘get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff.’”

“Now he is endorsing the NFL’s preferred racial slur against Native Americans. That is disappointing, but sadly not surprising. In recent weeks it emerged publicly that one of his major donors is the Washington NFL team’s owner — a billionaire who has a direct financial interest in continuing to promote this racial slur,” the anti-Redskins campaign continued.

“What is surprising is that in promoting the use of this slur, the governor somehow believes he speaks for Native Americans and can assert that Native American people do not find this slur offensive. He clearly is missing something.  What is even more appalling is the governor’s declaration that because he personally doesn’t find this slur offensive, that makes it acceptable.”

A poll last year found two-thirds of Native Americans surveyed calling the name offensive. Tribes have been divided over the name even in protests.

“This should be a very simple open-and-shut issue in the 2016 campaign: No presidential candidate should be promoting this racial slur against Native Americans,” Change the Mascot said.

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Rand Paul: Cruz ‘Pretty Much Done For’ in the Senate

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unloaded on his colleague and rival for the presidential nomination yesterday by saying Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is “done for” in the upper chamber.

Paul’s comments to Fox radio came after Cruz tried to push a block on government funding earlier this week but couldn’t get a second from any of his colleagues to move to a roll-call vote.

Cruz also slammed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor again. McConnell responded yesterday: “I try very hard to stay out of the presidential race, and I think that’s probably a good rule for me and I think I’ll continue that.”

Paul, though, noted that “Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names, which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate, and as a consequence he can’t get anything done legislatively.”

Cruz has introduced 18 standalone bills and a few dozen amendments this Congress, and all except two — dealing with Obamacare repeal — have no co-sponsors or just a handful.

“He is pretty much done for and stifled and it’s really because of personal relationships, or lack of personal relationships, and it is a problem,” Paul continued. “I approach things a little different, I am still just as hardcore in saying what we are doing , I just chose not to call people liars on the Senate floor and it’s just a matter of different perspectives on how best to get to the end result.”

Paul noted that he forced a vote on Planned Parenthood in August, “but I try not to make it personal and I think in not making it personal and understanding other people have different perspectives and really this is a democratic republic, you have to woo people, you can’t hit them over the head.”

Cruz was on Fox last night but didn’t respond to Paul’s comments.

“We need leadership that actually leads. Right now, both Senate and House leadership — they believe that we must surrender to Obama on everything,” Cruz said. “It’s why people are so frustrated.”

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Obama Vows to Veto Bill That Would Make Iran Pay Judgments to Terror Victims

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House threatened to veto legislation that blocks sanctions relief to Iran until it pays its bill of court-ordered damages to victims of terrorism.

The Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act was introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) earlier this month. The House Rules Committee is marking up the bill today.

“The President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law, or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement described in section 135(a) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2160e(a)), until the President has certified to the Congress that the Government of Iran has paid each judgment against Iran,” states the legislation.

That includes claims adjudicated between March 4, 2000, and May 22, 2015.

Judgments that were linked in court to Iranian support or financing include victims of the 9/11 attacks, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1983 attack on the Beirut Marine barracks, and numerous other bus bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and hostage takings.

“Iran should not get a red cent in U.S. sanctions relief until it has paid its victims what they are owed,” Meehan said Sept. 10. “I oppose the Iran deal, but surely we can all agree that Iran should not reap any benefits from the U.S. until it has compensated the families of those whose lives were taken by Iranian terrorism.”

But the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement a short time ago that it “strongly opposes” making Iran pay up, arguing that “obstructing implementation of the JCPOA would greatly undermine our national security interests.”

“It would result in the collapse of a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement that peacefully and verifiably prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and in turn would allow for the resumption of a significantly less constrained Iranian nuclear program, lead to the unraveling of the international sanctions regime against Iran, and deal a devastating blow to America’s credibility as a leader of international diplomacy,” the OMB said. “This would have ripple effects, jeopardizing both the hard work of sustaining a unified coalition to combat Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and America’s ability to lead the world on nuclear non-proliferation.”

And, the White House reminded the House, terrorism apparently comes second.

“The Administration has consistently made clear that the purpose of the nuclear negotiations, and ultimately the JCPOA, was to address one issue only – the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and the need to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” the OMB notice continued. “This is the approach with which the United States was able to garner international support for our sanctions and achieve a diplomatic resolution.”

The administration claimed it “continues to work to explore all possible avenues for compensation, but will not do so in a manner that would connect this issue to the JCPOA, thereby jeopardizing its implementation and Iran’s fulfillment of the critical nuclear steps required under the JCPOA.”

President Obama will veto the bill if it makes it through to his desk, the OMB promised.

“As we address our concerns with Iran’s nuclear program through implementation of the JCPOA, the Administration remains clear-eyed and shares the deep concerns of the Congress and the American people about Iran’s support for terrorism,” the White House said. “We will continue to vigorously enforce our sanctions against these activities, none of which have been relieved under the JCPOA, and work closely with our partners in the region to counter them using a range of unilateral and multilateral tools.”

Meehan said “the principle and effect” of his bill “is simple: no sanctions relief unless Iran pays up.”

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British Jihadist Who Complained About Bad Manners Fields ‘Ask ISIS’ Q&A

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson


The British jihadist who complained about bad manners and dirty kitchens in the Islamic State is back with an “ask ISIS” Q&A, complete with advice to a Western woman fearful she won’t be able to compete with “pretty teenagers” to find a jihadist hubby.

Omar Hussain, a 27-year-old former grocery store security guard from southern England, goes by Abu Sa’eed Al-Britani since running off to join ISIS. He frequently writes PR, including an appeal for doctors to come to the Islamic State, and other missives including his gripe-fest about Arabs.

Today the United Nations levied sanctions against Hussain and three other Brits by the request of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of,” “recruiting for” and “otherwise supporting acts or activities of” ISIS.

Cameron’s office said the move “underlines the government’s determination that those who go and fight for ISIL and threaten Britain will face consequences for their actions.”

Hussain’s Q&A posts on his Tumblr account are recent, referencing Eid al-Adha last week and the Sept. 24 stampede at Mecca that killed several hundred.

“I feel sorry for them. They went to Hajj when the road of jihad was open,” he says. “Abdullaah Ibn Umar [7th century Islamic scholar] said, ‘One trip to Jihad is better than 50 trips to hajj.’ Waste of money.”

When one questioner comments on all the junk food in his pictures of Islamic State shops and asks if healthier choices are available, Hussain doesn’t resurrect his previous criticism of atrocious mealtime manners in his new home.

“Yes we can get meat, fish, nuts, tea, coffee etc.,” he replies. “I would take another pic for you, but all shops are closed today due to Eid.”

Asked about his own hijrah — pilgrimage to the Islamic State — he notes it’s “a long story, I got stopped in the airport and was questioned for about 3 hours and then let go by the blind kuffaar [nonbelievers]. Alhamdulillaah they believed every lie i told them (idiots! lol).”

Hussain said he used in Turkey “a fake syrian ID card which had a pic of a guy who looked nothing like me, lol.” He first joined the al-Nusra Front in Idlib but then went over to ISIS. With Nusra, he notes, Shariah was the law but “they never implemented anything.”

One woman tells Hussain she’ll be running off to the Islamic State soon, but is “concerned” she won’t find a husband because “I am not young and attractive and I also don’t know how to cook.”

Hussain assures her that he knows “brothers who wouldn’t mind marrying sisters in their 40’s,” and also stresses that since he and other Westerners in the Islamic State have been without their cuisine for so long “even the most basic of food cooked by a woman from the West will be amazing.”

As far as her looks, the British jihadi says all will be fine as long as she finds a “pious brother” who’s “unlike the Kaafir who gazes at 100 women everyday.”

Another asks why non-Muslim women in ISIS-occupied territory are forced to cover up from head to toe.

“We do not force them to cover up, this is just one of the laws of our country, if they wish to abide by them they are welcome to stay, if they wish to break the law of the country, then like every other country they will be punished for committing a crime, and here its a crime for a woman to publically cause temptation, as its immoral,” Hussain replies, adding that “the only people who have a problem with us having this law is perverts and paedophiles who love to gaze upon everything unlawful.”

Another asks what contraception is available or if they can exercise family planning in the Islamic State. “What other methods are available, its not something I’ve looked into,” he replies. Hussain has previously complained about not having found a wife.

He also fielded some religious debate, though without much patience for questioners.

“What evidence do you use to determine which books are reliable and which ones are just made up stories?” one asks, noting that the jihadi relies on the Quran while dissing the Bible.

“It seems like nothing I say goes into that thick skull of yours,” Hussain fires back. “…Read the Quran and then you will know for sure its a book sent down from God. As for the bible, then its full of contradictions and pornography.”

He tells another questioner that the fundamentals of Christianity, specifically the Holy Trinity, do “not make sense to anyone and no one can logically explain it.”

“Your line of argument is cancelling out debate and discussion, forcing people to blindly believe in something which is confusing and makes no sense,” Hussain states. “There’s no difference in believing that God is a monkey then.”

One questioner simply notes that he looks like the late al-Qaeda imam and recruiter, New Mexico native Anwar al-Awlaki.

“Yeah everyone says that about me,” the Brit replies.

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McCarthy on How He’d Differ from Speaker Boehner: ‘I Won’t Be As Tanned’

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked outside of a Republican caucus meeting today how he would be different than John Boehner (R-Ohio), should he win the Speaker’s gavel.

“I won’t be as tanned,” quipped the Bakersfield congressman.

“John is a very good and decent man. This is a man that came into this office, and if you looked at those that maybe want to fight, how did the House bank get shut down? John Boehner’s the last one standing who shut it down,” McCarthy continued.

“He then fought to get us a majority. Went into leadership, left, became a committee chairman. Then came back and fought for another majority. He’s one of the few standing that’s won two majorities. But everybody is different. There is a generational difference about us as well. I’m a little younger.”

Boehner, 65, first came to the House in 1991. McCarthy, 50, has been in Congress since 2007.

“But, look, I know what’s going on across the country, and I’m concerned about what we hear. A lot of people in Washington concerned about power and institutions. I’m concerned about making a difference in everybody’s lives,” McCarthy continued.

“We want to make sure that we’re closer to the people, that they feel this is their government, they’re in charge, and we serve them. Now, that’s not easy and it won’t change overnight. But that’s our mission.”

Emerging from a closed caucus meeting, Boehner said he hadn’t determined a timeframe yet for leadership elections.

“I told the members this morning, I have not decided when the leadership elections will occur. I asked for their input, and I got a little — few pieces of advice, but I would hope to make an announcement in the next day or two about that,” he said.

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Planned Parenthood Leader Tells Congress Only Apology Is for Discussing Body Parts in ‘Nonclinical’ Restaurant

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The head of Planned Parenthood declared at a House hearing today that “the latest smear campaign” of undercover videos showing discussions about brokering baby body parts “is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law — and once again, our opponents failed.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that “less than one percent of Planned Parenthood Health Centers are actually facilitating the donation of tissue for fetal tissue research,” and “in those health centers, donating fetal tissue is something that many of our patients want to do and regularly request.”

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) focused much of his questioning on “co-mingling” of Planned Parenthood funds including overseas and within their political action fund.

He showed Richards a slide noting the rise in abortions and decrease in breast exams by Planned Parenthood; she fired back that “it absolutely does not reflect what’s happening at Planned Parenthood.”

“I pulled those numbers directly out of your corporate reports,” Chaffetz said.

“Excuse me, my lawyer is informing me that the source of this is actually Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. So, I would check your source,” Richards retorted.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) asked Richards how many clinics receive the bulk of their revenue from abortion.

“I don’t know that answer,” Richards said. “…But I do think it’s important to understand that abortion procedures are probably more expensive than some other procedures that we — that we provide, which might — you know, might explain what you’re trying to get at.”

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called the hearing important because “it will reveal whether this committee is more interested in facts or fiction.”

“There’s no credible evidence before this committee that any Planned Parenthood employee agreed to any proposal to sell fetal tissue for profit in violation of the law. Republicans keep making this claim over and over again, but that does not make it true,” Cummings said, adding that Democrats on the panel wanted Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden to testify “but Republicans refused.”

“That brings us to the big question for my Republican colleagues. Do you really want to do this? Do you really? Do you want to align yourselves with the radical extremists who manipulate the facts? And most importantly, do you want to attack millions of women who have a constitutional right, affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, to make their own health care decisions with the advice of their doctors?” Cummings continued. “Based on the evidence of last week, it appears that you do. You threaten to shut down the government. You ousted your speaker. And now, you want to set up yet another select committee to investigate.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said the desire of Congress members to protect Planned Parenthood boiled down to donations.

“Politicians give money to Planned Parenthood, who give it back to politicians at election time, who get elected and give it back to Planned Parenthood, who give it back to politicians who get elected, and the game plays on,” Jordan said. “In 2012, in that election cycle, Planned Parenthood spent almost $12 million in advertising. Fact: $11,874,052, 100 percent of that went to Democrats. Every penny, every single penny went to Democrats. No wonder they are defending this repulsive game.”

Jordan asked Richards, “If the videos were selectively edited, heavily edited, if this was entrapment, if this was all untrue, then why did you apologize?”

Richards said it was “inappropriate” of a doctor featured on film in the first CMP video discussing body parts in a restaurant “to have a clinical discussion of — in a nonconfidential, nonclinical setting, and I told her that.”

She added that her apology for the “tone” in that video “did not reflect the compassionate care that we provide.”

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Gowdy Won’t Be Running for Any House Leadership Posts

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A House conservative who was among those trying to recruit Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) for House majority leader said the chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi won’t be running for any leadership positions.

“There’s been a lot of chatter today about Trey Gowdy running for Majority Leader,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said on his Facebook page.

“I just talked to Trey for 20 minutes. He made it clear to me, in no uncertain terms, that upon further reflection last night and today, he is OUT of any consideration for any leadership position,” Mulvaney wrote. “He wants to focus on his work on the Benghazi commission.”

“While I think he would have been a great majority leader, I absolutely respect this decision. He isn’t the kind of guy to leave a case midstream, and it makes complete sense to me that he has decided to stay and continue his work on Benghazi.”

A big moment for Gowdy comes on Oct. 22, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee.

Gowdy told Fox last night that the State Department handed over on Friday 1,000 pages of her emails “that they had never before given us.”

“In fact, it was a larger amount of emails that they gave us Friday than what they gave us earlier in the year when they claimed to give us everything,” he said. “So, less than a month before Secretary Clinton comes before the committee and three years after Benghazi, the State Department is still producing emails.”

“We still don’t have them all. They gave an index as part of the litigation. There are definitely Benghazi emails that they have not turned over, and they are not going it turn them over. They cite attorney-client privilege because Cheryl Mills was an attorney. So we would have to go to court for two years to be able to access that.”

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After Characterizing Interactions with Obama as ‘Nothing Extraordinary,’ Putin Shows 20 Minutes Late to UN Meeting

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House today was guarded about yesterday’s UN meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Moscow may have said everything with its lack of punctuality.

The Kremlin issued a brief statement about the bilateral meeting: “Vladimir Putin and President of the United States Barack Obama held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.”

But Putin showed up 20 minutes late for the meeting.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest brushed this off when asked this morning on MSNBC if that angered Obama.

“Well, anybody who’s been around the U.N. during the General Assembly knows it’s total chaos inside that building so people are running late frequently,” Earnest said.

He said Obama started the meeting without Putin.

“We did start the meeting on time and the meeting ran long, and the meeting ran long because it was a generally constructive conversation,” Earnest said. “The president has described in the past that he has a business-like relationship with Vladimir Putin. This is actually the first time that I’d sat in on one of their in-person meetings. And the truth is, that’s exactly what it was like.”

“There was an opportunity for the two men to be quite candid and quite direct. It was not tense, it was not heated… But they were also candid about where they disagree.”

Speaking to PBS before the General Assembly, Putin didn’t seem to care one way or the other if he met with Obama.

“Well, that’s his choice. We’re always open to any contact on the highest level at the highest levels of ministries, agencies, intelligence services. But if the president finds a few minutes to meet me, that will be great. I’ll be happy to meet with him. But if due to circumstances he’s not able to do that, well, nothing to worry about. We’ll have a chance to speak at the Group of 20 meeting,” Putin said.

The Russian president added there’s “nothing extraordinary” about their interaction.

“Let me repeat. Any personal meetings are prepared as a rule by our staffs. We’re ready. But I’m telling you for third time now that does not depend on us. That does not depend on us. If the Americans want a meeting, we’ll have a meeting,” Putin said.

When Charlie Rose pressed him on the point again, Putin snapped, “How many years have you been working as a journalist?”

“It’s difficult for me to give you advice as to what you’re prepared for or not prepared for. Why do you think you can give me advice in regard to what I’m ready for or not when it’s not my first term as president?” the Russian leader said.

Asked what he thinks of Obama, Putin said, “I don’t think I’m entitled to give any views regarding the president of the United States. That’s up to the American people. We have good personal relations. We’re quite frank with each other. Our relations are business-like. I believe that’s quite sufficient to comply with our functions.”

The White House pool report after the Obama-Putin bilateral was subject-lined: “95 minutes of nyet.”

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House GOP Meeting to Weigh Being ‘More Aggressive Rhetorically’ to Be ‘Perceived as Fighting’

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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House Republicans will be meeting behind closed doors today for what’s supposed to be a frank, air-your-mind session about the future of the caucus.

The member who proposed the meeting, Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.), told Fox last night that he sees the caucus as “damaged” but “fixable.”

“The idea of not moving and reflecting on the stepping down of Speaker John Boehner and moving headlong into a leadership election is a mistake,” Roskam said. “What we’ve got to do instead is reflect on this. And think what do we need to do to change and move forward. I think that there is some things to do. But one of the reasons that I called for a special closed meeting was to sort of pump the brakes on this all the way around.”

Roskam said he expects to hear all sorts of suggestions today, but he has some of his own, too.

“The House GOP needs to be more aggressive rhetorically against the administration. In other words, you’ve got to take the fight to the administration,” the congressman said. “And if you are perceived as fighting, then the political base says, you know what, I think, you look at the world the way I look at the world and I’m willing to listen to you when you are telling me what the next steps are. Part of our problem is that the House Republicans have been perceived as presuming we are going to lose and then reverse engineering from that loss. And I think people are tired of that.”

Next, Roskam said, Republicans must “unite around the definition of success.”

“Right now, there is a wide range of definitions within among House Republicans, what does success mean? What does it look like? Some people say only thing that’s successful is if you enact laws. Other people say, well, winning the debate, like Margaret Thatcher used to say before winning the vote, that’s success. Other people say this is a prelude to the 2016 campaign and let’s help our nominees,” he said. “We’ve got to have a shared understanding of what success needs to be.”

During this evening’s meeting, Roskam plans to “make an appeal that says we need to go on offense against the administration in a number of areas.”

“The administration has us on defense. Let’s put them on defense. And I’m going to suggest we start with Iran. The administration has made a massive mistake. Let’s hold them to account. I’ve got some ideas I’m going to share with my colleagues on that,” he said. “But my bottom line is be forward leaning into these fights. And if we do, then I think we create goodwill and a level of trust where if you go back to the political base and say these are subsequent steps we need to make, they can hear what you are saying.”

Roskam lost a leadership election last year for the post now held by Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), but hasn’t indicated if he’ll be running for something this time around.

“There is nothing to run for until we change the disposition of the House Republicans,” he said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially announced his candidacy for the speakership yesterday, tweeting, “I am running for Speaker to work with my colleagues and make the case to the American people for conservative principles.”

The only challenge he faces thus far is from Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who unsuccessfully challenged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this year and received the support of 11 colleagues. Webster is not well known on and off Capitol Hill, where he sits on one House committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure panel. The House Freedom Caucus has not said if it will officially back Webster or offer another candidate.

The race for majority leader is shaping up to be much more contentious, with Scalise and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) already splitting support for the job. Some are also trying to encourage Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to run.

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

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 7 Reasons Marco Rubio Should Get the Nomination

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

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

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

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

The findings were published today in Nature Geoscience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, September 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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