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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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Obama on Israel Relationship: ‘My Best Friends Are the Ones I Can Be Honest With’ If ‘I Think They’re Wrong’

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama argued for the Iran nuclear deal in a webcast to the Jewish community today, saying that Iran won’t be spending their sanctions-relief windfall on anything nefarious that they haven’t already been doing.

The event was hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and The Jewish Federations of North America, which earlier in the month heard from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Iran is a regional power; it’s not a superpower. The money that they’re obtaining is money that has been frozen under sanctions. They will get about $56 billion back, but they’re going to have to spend that to prop up an economy that’s been crushed by our sanctions,” Obama said. “Their economy will improve modestly, but there’s no analysis that’s been done by our experts that suggest that they are going to have a qualitatively different capacity to engage in some of the nefarious activities that they’ve done before.”

Obama took questions, and the first one posed to him was about opponents of the deal being called warmongers. “At no point have I ever suggested, for example, that somebody is a warmonger, meaning they want war,” he claimed.

“But in all this debate, what’s important to remember is that we’re all pro-Israel and we’re all family. And the Jewish members in Congress who are supporting this deal — I don’t need to give you their bio — I think they feel a commitment to Israel and having knowledge of the Jewish history that rivals anyone else’s. And those in my administration who care deeply about this issue and who are supporting this deal, their motives shouldn’t be questioned,” he said.

“And those who oppose it, my view is, is that they have a sincere concern because, just as the people in Israel have a sincere concern, when you have a regime that denies the Holocaust, that’s going to make you worried. You got to take that seriously. And so I recognize where the anxieties come from. But I think that it’s important for us to remember the bonds that hold us together more than — that go well beyond this particular issue.”

Obama added that he expects a revitalized relationship with Israel “pretty quick” after the deal goes into force.

“I’ve heard some suggest that the reason I’m calling for all this enhanced cooperation is to compensate for the fact that Iran is going to be more dangerous after this deal. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are things that I’ve been suggesting we need to be doing consistently,” he said. “And we will be much safer once this deal is in place and we know that Iran is not getting a nuclear weapon. But it doesn’t solve all the problems we have with Iran. And Israel knows that; we know that. So those conversations I think will move rapidly and I think they will move smoothly.”

On his relationship with Israel: “Sometimes I have arguments with friends and sometimes I have different views. What I’ve found after 54 years on this Earth is that my best friends are the ones who I can be honest with. And if I think that they’re wrong on something, I got to be able to say it. And if they think I’m wrong, they’ve got to be able to give voice to it. That’s what being good friends means.”

“…Does this deal solve every problem that we have with Iran? Not even close. Does it solve the biggest one that would cause what Prime Minister Netanyahu and others called an existential threat to Israel? That it does do.”

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O’Malley Slams DNC Debate Schedule in Front of Miffed Wasserman Schultz

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley got some evil looks from Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) when he slammed the sparse debate schedule at the DNC’s summer meeting.

O’Malley, who is polling far behind Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), began by reminding the Minneapolis crowd he’s “carried a lot of water for this donkey.”

“While the Republicans put their backwards ideas forward before an audience of more than 20 million Americans. We put our forward-thinking ideas on the backburner and try to hide them from the airwaves,” he said.

There are only six DNC-sanctioned debates, with the only Iowa debate two months before the caucus and only one debate scheduled in New Hampshire. The first Dem debate is Oct. 13 in Nevada.

“Four debates and only four debates — we are told not asked — before voters in our earliest states make their decision. This is totally unprecedented in our party. This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before,” O’Malley said. “Whose decree is it? Where did it come from? To what end? For what purpose? What national or party interest does this decree serve?”

“…And the New Hampshire debate is cynically wedged into the high point of the holiday shopping season so as few people watch it as possible. Is this how the Democratic Party selects its nominee, or are we becoming something else,…something less? Whatever happened to open debates and the fifty state strategy? Their party’s leading candidate scapegoats immigrant families. He launches racist attacks on entire ethnic groups of Americans — to the delight of David Duke and other white supremacists — and our response… is to limit debates?!”

O’Malley’s camp has previously slammed the DNC for “facilitating a coronation” of Hillary, and Wasserman Schultz rebuked Lincoln Chafee when he went after Clinton’s ethics.

The governor repeated one phrase several times in his speech: “We need debate.”

“We are the Democratic Party, not the undemocratic Party,” O’Malley said. “If we are to debate debates, the topic should be how many, not how few.”

Wasserman Schultz gave O’Malley a quick handshake and a dirty look after his remarks.

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Dem Senator: Congress ‘Complicit’ in Gun Murders Like Virginia Shooting

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said today that Congress has become “complicit” in murders such as this week’s shooting during a live news shot in Virginia for not passing more gun-control laws.

Killer Vester Flanagan, who murdered reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward and wounded Chamber of Commerce official Vicki Gardner near Roanoke, passed a background check to buy two Glock handguns weeks ago.

Murphy, who has been lobbying for more gun control since Sandy Hook, told CNN today that he feels this time “change is going to happen.”

“It may take a series of elections before we get there, but I think there’s clear momentum towards a comprehensive look at how we reduce violence. And the fact of the matter is that it has to be comprehensive. You can’t just change our gun laws. Yes, we should have these dangerous weapons off the street, criminals shouldn’t get guns,” the senator said.

“But we also have a broken mental health system and that deserves fixing as well and we shouldn’t wait to do all of it at one time. If we can’t get the gun laws changed because of the NRA control of Congress right now then let’s fix the mental health system. We should be starting this process now because it’s an absolute stain on this nation that there have been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in the year. We shouldn’t accept that in Congress.”

Murphy said his criticism is directed at “the entirety of Congress, especially those that have stood in the way of common sense gun measures like expanded background checks or reforms to our mental health system.”

“The fact is when our leadership in Congress stands up and says we can’t do anything, they are absolutely wrong,” he said. “And I believe that we have become complicit in these murders because people listen to highest levels of government. And when we say nothing about it, when we don’t even attempt to change the laws to try to stop this mass slaughter, then people get some signal that it’s OK to settle their grievances or to deal with their illness through gun violence.”

“I just don’t accept that we can do nothing and I’m speaking directly to the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate. They should be bringing anti-gun violence bills to the floor that can get consensus votes this fall or the Congress is complicit in these murders.”

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Charles Barkley: Blacks Have Always Voted Dem, ‘and They’re Still Poor’

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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“The Round Mound of Rebound” isn’t mincing words when he explains why he won’t come around for the Democrats in 2016.

NBA legend Charles Barkley told The Dan Patrick Show today that he personally likes Donald Trump. “The few times I’ve been around him, he’s always treated me cordial,” he said.

But he’s going with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

“He’s the guy that I’m supporting right now,” Barkley said. “You know, Dan, it’s tough for me to vote for a Republican but he’s the guy I’m voting for right now. He’s the leader in my clubhouse.”

Asked if he would keep voting Republican, “Sir Charles” replied, “Ah, well, I vote Democratic most of the time.”

“But the Democrats don’t have a candidate I really like,” Barkley continued. “Neither one of the parties is doing anything for poor people. They’re both full of it. Black people have been voting for Democrats their whole life, and they’re still poor. Republicans don’t do anything for poor people, either. So, I vote for the person I like the most and right now, it’s the governor of Ohio.”

Kasich’s other endorsements include Montel Williams, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and former Sen. Al D’Amato.

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Grayson: I’m Sort of the Trump of the Left, Except My Supporters Aren’t ‘Nuts’

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), vying for the Senate seat being vacated by presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said he gets why people call him the Donald Trump of the Left — except, he insists, his supporters aren’t “nuts.”

Grayson infamously said during the Obamacare debate that Republicans wanted sick people to “die quickly,” and recently said Planned Parenthood defunding proponents will shepherd in a new wave of deaths.

“Well, we’re both ahead in the polls so I feel good about that,” Grayson told MSNBC when asked about the Trump comparison.

“But, look, it is true. People have told me over and over again that I’m saying what they’re thinking but nobody else is saying. Those people saying that are good solid Democrats, they’re champions of justice and equality and peace,” the congressman said.

“When people say that about Trump, that he’s saying what they’re thinking and nobody else is saying, they’re nuts. So, that’s a pretty fundamental difference. And recognize how narrow his support base really is. Only 4 percent of the public ever votes in a Republican primary. He’s got 30 percent of 4 percent. We’re looking at the worst 1.2 percent in America.”

Grayson theorized that Trump is leading because “he’s thrown away the dog whistle.”

“It used to be you have to speak in metaphors in order to exhibit your racism. Now, you can just come right out and be racist. And some people like that. You know who likes that? The racists like that,” he said. “Why else would people feel so threatened by brown people if there are no brown people that live anywhere near them? Trump himself said that Ferguson, a situation that involved white cops, black citizens, was a result of people coming across the border and going to Ferguson. That just shows dementia and racism and discrimination and a mindset that’s foreign, literally foreign to foreigners.”

Grayson is challenging Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) for the Democratic nomination for Rubio’s Senate seat. Murphy defeated incumbent Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) in 2012. On the GOP side, Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly are eyeing Rubio’s seat.

He said he’s not picking favorites for the Democratic presidential nomination, but thinks Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is “a gem.”

“Biden has done something very important, which is he’s taken liberal values and put them inside the White House, in the inner circle. And that’s something that this White House has badly needed,” Grayson added.

The congressman said he hasn’t made his mind up on the Iran nuclear deal vote and won’t “until the ending.”

“I tell you this, not until I’ve seen all the classified information, because we have phone records from the ayatollah saying that ayatollah’s telling people that if there’s no deal, he’s going to have a bomb in three months. That’s one thing. If we have phone records from the ayatollah that’s saying if there’s no deal, he’s coming back to the negotiating table, that’s another thing,” Grayson said. “These are very important things I need to know.”

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Judge Blocks EPA Water Rule for 13 States Hours Before Implementation

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A judge blocked a controversial Environmental Protection Agency rule to “clarify” the definition of protected waters hours before it was set to go into effect Friday.

The EPA Waters of the United States rule covers “most” seasonal and rain-dependent streams, which account for about 60 percent of stream miles in the country, arguing they have “a considerable impact on the downstream waters.”

Wetlands “near rivers and streams” would be protected under the CWA, and “other types of waters [that] may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant.” Critics say this could be construed to even include ponds and ditches on private property.

The U.S. District Court in North Dakota granted a preliminary injunction against the rule going into effect — but that only covers 13 states that are parties in one suit against the regulations, and the EPA said others would be subject to the rule starting Friday. There are additional pending lawsuits as well, with more than half of the states in the nation participating.

Judge Ralph Erickson said in the injunction “the states are likely to succeed on their claim because (1) it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with [Administrative Procedure Act] requirements when promulgating the Rule.”

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R) lauded the ruling as agreeing with 13 states that believe the EPA rule “to be an unconstitutional regulatory overreach exceeding the authority Congress gave it to create rules for the Clean Water Act.”

“If implemented, it will have real impacts not only on farmers and ranchers, but also on small businesses across North Dakota and the nation,” Hoeven said in a statement. “That’s why we worked to pass a provision in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill in June that prohibits the EPA from implementing the regulation. We will continue to work, both in Congress and the courts, to either defund or deauthorize this burdensome rule.”

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the judge’s order “protects the state and its citizens from the serious harm presented by this unprecedented federal usurpation of the state’s authority.”

“This is a victory in the first skirmish, but it is only the first. There is much more to do to prevent this widely unpopular rule from ever taking effect,” Stenehjem added. “Still, I remain confident that the rule will be declared unlawful once all the issues have been presented.”

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) noted the timing of the partial implementation of the rule.

“The irony of this rule is not lost on millions of Americans. While the agency has been frantically working to regulate the trickle of small streams in Americans’ backyards, the EPA has failed at its core mission to protect the environment and is responsible for a toxic spill that polluted waterways impacting at least three different states,” Smith said. “The Waters of the U.S. rule should be halted until EPA can clean up its act and get its priorities in order.”

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Defense Secretary Tells Marines They’ll Be Protected from ‘Few Troubled Losers Who Are on the Internet Too Much’

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Asked at a Camp Pendleton event today how servicemembers can be adequately protected, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon has “taken some measures since Chattanooga” and is “going to take some additional ones.”

“Well, force protection is Job One for all of us. And that’s not just — not just abroad, but here at home. That’s the world in which we live. And there will be a few troubled losers who are on the Internet too much and so forth and decide to take up and — and attack Americans, including servicemembers. And we have to protect ourselves, and we need to protect you — the — without losing contact with the society from which we’re recruiting people,” Carter told the Marines.

At a memorial earlier this month for those killed in the shooting spree — Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells, 21, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26 — Carter said the “meaning” of 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez’s rampage was “yet unclear.” Abdulazeez raved about jihad on his blog and downloaded messages of late AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

The Defense secretary said today he’s “waiting for the services to sort out” their security recommendations, “and the only reason it’s complicated is that our facilities are some are in strip malls, if you’re talking about recruiting centers. Some are in isolated areas. Some are in Times Square.”

“And so we need to think through what’s the appropriate force protection posture for each one of those. But force protection and protecting those who protect us has to be Job One, and will until we inflict the final defeat on this particular movement, and I’m sad to say this, but the — terrorism is going to be part of our future, unfortunately, as far into the future as I can see. Because you — and not necessarily this particular kind, this Islamist extremist kind that was behind al-Qaeda and that was — is behind ISIL,” Carter continued.

“But other forms of extremism, it just exists, and I can’t tell you that once we defeat ISIL, this is going to be all over. There are going to be disturbed people and there are going to be radical people, and who knows what radical ideas they’ll have in the future. And one of our jobs is to protect our society. And in order for our people to do that and your families to do that, we need to protect our military.”

Carter was then pressed by a gunnery sergeant on whether the Defense Department will consider concealed carry permits.

“We are looking at a wide variety of force protection techniques, tactics, and procedures for the variety of our facilities, and obviously having armed people as we do at many of our facilities, not all of our facilities now, is an option,” he said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who was also at the event, noted Carter’s “cautioned” answer and said “Chattanooga taught us one thing, which is our uniformed service personnel need to at least not be guaranteed to be without arms.”

Carter was also asked about the most significant challenges he sees ahead in his tenure.

“We have had over the last year the ugly phenomenon called ISIL that originated in Iraq and Afghan — and sorry, and Syria, and which we must defeat and we will defeat, but it’s going to take some time and some effort, and that’s the effort and time that we’re expending. But they have got to go,” he said.

“And that was something that essentially emerged just last summer from the ashes of al-Qaeda and radicalism in that part of the world. And it’s going to be something that we’re going to have to defeat and we will defeat, and of course the Marine Corps will be part of that, of inflicting that defeat.”

The other thing he’s really worried about is Vladimir Putin and Russia.

“It seems that that’s the direction he wants to take them, towards one of more confrontation,” Carter said. “And we’re simply going to have to check that. Both on our own — in our own security interest and because we have important allies and friends in that part of the world, and we have important treaty commitments in the case of NATO.”

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Clinton on Anti-Abortion GOPs: ‘We Expect That from Some of the Terrorist Groups’

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Republicans are reacting furiously to Hillary Clinton linking terrorists and anti-abortion GOPs in a Cleveland speech today.

Clinton referenced Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in saying that Republicans would ban abortion without exceptions. “Now extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States,” she said. “Yet they espouse out of touch, out of date policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America.”

“We are going forward; we are not going back,” she added.

Republican National Committee press secretary Allison Moore said in a statement: “For Hillary Clinton to equate her political opponents to terrorists is a new low for her flailing campaign. She should apologize immediately for her inflammatory rhetoric.”

Bush tweeted that Clinton “compares pro-life Americans to terrorists, but defends despicable PP treatment of unborn? Her priorities are totally wrong.”

Kasich’s campaign tweeted, “Coincidence that Hillary came out swinging at @JohnKasich after polls show he’s the only one who beats her in NH?”

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ISIS’ British ‘Cyber Caliphate’ Leader Reportedly Killed in Airstrike

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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The head of ISIS’ “cyber caliphate” has been killed in an airstrike, a Syrian monitoring group said.

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a grassroots ISIS opposition group that has reporters within the Islamic State, broke the news about Brit Junaid Hussain. ISIS accounts on Twitter have had mixed acknowledgment and denial of the Birmingham man’s death.

He tweeted under the name Abu Hussein Al Britani, and was behind the sharing of home addresses of U.S. military personnel.

According to Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently founding member Hamood Almossa, “Hussain was known to have high capability of changing his position and hide well, to escape the coalition air strikes.”

“He used to move very carefully with 4 cars, each going to a different place. He didn’t spend more than 6 hours in one place, and stayed underground,” Almossa wrote. “All this didn’t allow him to stay alive serving ISIS, because the coalition forces managed [Tuesday] to kill him after attacking a group of cars near Abu Al Haif gas station in the city of Raqqa.”

“According to our correspondent in the city ‘The air forces targeted a car near the gas station, which killed 3 people, one of them is a high profile’. They our source confirmed that the person who died is in fact Junaid Al Hussain, with two of his men, one of them is European.”

However, this doesn’t mean the Cyber Caliphate is dead. Hussain trained an electronic army to not only hack but to utilize social media and dark places on the web to recruit and communicate with jihadists around the globe.

The U.S. government is reportedly still working to confirm the report. State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters yesterday he didn’t “have anything to speak to with respect to these rumors.”

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Jarrett on Gun-Control Push: ‘Everyone Should Be Able to Live in Our Country’

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said the administration is renewing its call for gun control because while Wednesday’s journalist murders in Virginia “may not have been a mass shooting… it felt like a mass shooting.”

Killer Vester Flanagan, who murdered reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward and wounded Chamber of Commerce official Vicki Gardner, passed a background check to buy two Glock handguns weeks ago.

Jarrett told MSNBC last night that the shooting was “just heartbreaking,” and “we’re just faced with another tragedy.”

“And we are once again asking ourselves, what more can we do? We know that the president took 23 different executive actions to try to make it safer for Americans. We know from our effort after Sandy Hook, that 90 percent of the Americans believe we need sensible gun legislation and we are continuing to call on Congress to act,” she said.

That poll to which the administration keeps referring is a Quinnipiac survey in January 2014 that asked the question, “Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?” Ninety-two percent responded “yes,” including 86 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats.

The same poll asked another question, too: “Do you support or oppose stricter gun control laws in the United States?” Fifty percent supported, while 47 percent opposed.

“And as the president said earlier, we really need a grassroots effort around our country that says, look, we may not able to save every life. But if we save just one life, isn’t it worth it? And that we can both respect the Second Amendment at the same time we can make sure the guns don’t get into the wrong hands,” Jarrett said.

She added that President Obama’s inability to push more gun-control legislation is “something that weighs on him heavily.”

“He shares it very openly when his staff and he’s obviously talked about it quite publicly. And he’s convinced that when you have 90 percent of the American people who want to do something, there is really no excuse for Congress not acting.”

Jarrett added that “the voices of the American people have to be heard in this dialogue.”

“And today may not have been a mass shooting. But I can tell you to the families of the victims, it felt like a mass shooting. And so, every time we lose a life and it happens too often in our country, it should be another wake-up call. When do we say enough is enough?” she continued.

“…Everyone should be able to live in our country. And, you know, the fact of the matter is, the United States is unique. Why is it in our country that we have so many of these incidents compared to the rest of the world, the developed world for sure? And so, if there are steps that we can take as a country, why aren’t we taking them?”

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New York Tabloids Pick Worst Possible Covers for Virginia Journalist Murders

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The New York Daily News sparked online outrage over its cover showing stills from the footage taken by the killer of Virginia journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Vester Flanagan was wearing a body camera when he approached the two, who were doing an early-morning live shot at a retail center at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke with a local Chamber of Commerce official, Vicki Gardner.

After fleeing the crime scene, Flanagan tweeted that people should go see his video on Facebook. He posted footage there that began with him silently standing and watching the live shot before opening fire. Facebook deleted the video, but not before some people had duped the footage and distributed it on YouTube.

Needless to say, people are angry with the paper’s decision to put those images on their cover.

 

 

Not like the New York Post was any better, though.

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White House, Clinton Make Gun-Control Push Hours After Virginia Journalist Murders

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton sounded off on gun control hours after two journalists were killed by a disgruntled former colleague near Roanoke, Va.

At the daily briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters he “did not have the opportunity to speak to the president about the tragic shooting that occurred earlier today in Virginia.”

“Obviously, the thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident,” Earnest said. “The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation. But as you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States.”

“And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country, and Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law- abiding Americans. And the president’s long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the president continues to believe that they should do so.”

On a campaign stop in Iowa, Clinton told reporters, “We have got to do something about gun violence in America, and I will take it on.”

“I believe we are smart enough, compassionate enough to balance Second Amendment rights” with gun control, she said, adding there are too many “needless, senseless deaths.”

“I feel this great heartache at what happened,” Clinton continued, saying the country can “not let yet another terrible instance go by” without addressing the “terrible killing that is stalking our country.”

“There is so much evidence that if guns were not so readily available… maybe we could prevent this kind of carnage.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who chaired Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said in a statement that “as we reflect with heavy hearts on this tragedy, it is appropriate to begin to ask questions about how we can prevent these senseless events in the future.”

“Keeping guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm our family, friends and loved ones is not a political issue; it is a matter of ensuring that more people can come home safely at the end of the day,” McAuliffe said. “We cannot rest until we have done whatever it takes to rid our society of preventable gun violence that results in tragedies like the one we are enduring today.”

Earnest said the lack of passing more gun control remains President Obama’s “greatest frustration” in office.

“We could do that in a way that wouldn’t undermine the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. I think, you know, there’s little argument about that, I think,” the press secretary said.

“There continues to, however, be, a very vocal portion of the U.S. population — I think it’s a minority and I think the polls bear that out — however, that has a lot of sway in Congress when it comes to issues related to guns. And the president has found that disappointing and frustrating, principally because he believes it’s bad public policy. And for us to not take common-sense steps to address what I think we all acknowledge what I think we all acknowledge is a pretty significant problem,” Earnest continued.

“But I think the president has also been disappointed that our political system hasn’t responded in the way that he would like. There’s clear — there are clear majorities in both the Democratic and Republican parties, according to many polls, for these policies. There are even some polls that indicate that there are clear majorities of gun owners that support some of these common-sense steps. But yet, we haven’t seen Congress take this action.”

Democrats Who Didn’t Let the #WDBJ Crisis Go to Waste

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Clinton Campaign Going After Sanders on Gun Rights

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Campaigning for Hillary Clinton this week in New Hampshire, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy went into inevitable territory as Bernie Sanders leads polls in the first-in-the-nation state: he attacked the Vermont senator’s gun-rights stance.

“It’s an anathema to my own,” Malloy said of Sanders’ platform during a meeting with Clinton organizers in Manchester, according to the Stamford Advocate. “I don’t understand it.”

“Her position among the Democrats is a lot more popular than his position,” Malloy said later. “There’s a difference.”

Sanders leads Clinton 42 percent to 35 percent in a new Public Policy Polling survey. And he’s leading in every category of Dems in New Hampshire: “somewhat liberal,” “very liberal” and moderate.

The senator leads Clinton among men and women, but seniors like 67-year-old Clinton over 73-year-old Sanders. With voters under age 65, Bernie leads 45 percent to 29 percent for Hillary.

Sanders voted against the Brady Bill when he was in the House, and his votes as senator have included joining with Republicans on the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which would have guaranteed veterans due process rights in being deemed “mentally defective” by the VA and having their ability to own a gun stripped away.

He’s been questioned about his position on guns on the campaign trail, and hasn’t swayed. “If somebody has a gun and somebody steals that gun and shoots somebody, do you really think it makes sense to blame the manufacturer of that weapon?” he said at a July forum when asked about his vote to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. “If somebody assaults you with a baseball bat, you hit somebody over the head, you’re not going to sue the baseball bat manufacturer.”

Sanders told MSNBC that month that common ground should be sought on gun legislation, like “nobody should have a gun who has a criminal background, who’s involved in domestic abuse situations.”

“We have a huge loophole now with gun shows that should be eliminated. There may be other things that we have to do,” he said.

“But coming from a rural state, I think I can communicate with folks coming from urban states where guns mean different things than they do in Vermont where it’s used for hunting. That’s where we’ve got to go. We don’t have to argue with each other and yell at each other. We need a common sense solution.”

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Trump Leads in N.H. While Kasich, Fiorina Make Gains; Sanders Trumping Clinton

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A new poll out of New Hampshire shows a commanding lead for Donald Trump and two candidates making big surges.

The Public Policy Polling survey shows Trump at 35 percent in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich is second with 11 percent and Carly Fiorina has 10 percent.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have seen big slips since their post-announcement peaks: from 14 percent to 4 percent for Cruz, and 12 percent to 4 percent for Paul. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has dropped from 7 percent to less than 1 percent.

Holding the middle at 7 percent in the new polls are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ben Carson has 6 percent.

Some more notes from PPP:

“-Bush is really struggling. Only 38% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of him to 41% with a negative one. This is largely a function of his unpopularity with conservatives- among voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ just 34% have a positive opinion of him to 48% who have a negative one. Only 3% say he’s their first choice for the nomination, putting him in a tie for 8th place with that group.

-Kasich is on the move because of his strength with moderate voters. He gets 20% with them, putting him second to Trump, and making up for his own trouble on the right- he gets just 1% with ‘very conservative’ voters. Moderates are 29% of the GOP electorate on this poll, a lot more than in most places.

-New Hampshire makes another state where Ben Carson is the most well liked Republican, with 62% rating him favorably to 17% who have a negative opinion. Carly Fiorina is not far behind him at 58/19. Besides those two and Trump, the only other Republican seen positively by a majority of primary voters is Marco Rubio at 50/27.

-Besides Bush, Huckabee, and Paul other Republican hopefuls with negative favorabilities even among the GOP electorate in New Hampshire are Lindsey Graham at 20/43 (-23), Chris Christie at 35/46 (-11), Jim Gilmore at 4/13 (-9) George Pataki at 27/32 (-5), and Rick Perry at 34/37 (-3).”

On the Dem side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is holding off Hillary Clinton, 42 percent to 35 percent. And he’s leading in every category of Dems in New Hampshire: “somewhat liberal,” “very liberal” and moderate.

Sanders leads Clinton among men and women, but seniors like 67-year-old Clinton over 73-year-old Sanders. With voters under age 65, Bernie leads 45 percent to 29 percent for Hillary.

Fiorina told MSNBC this morning that debate rules which average national polls should instead use polling from the early states to determine who gets primetime.

“I think Donald Trump is perhaps, as much as anything, a big wakeup call to the professional-political class, as well as the media, honestly. People are tired of both. And they don’t trust either one anymore. I think what Donald Trump taps into is a disgust with professional-political class, a belief that the game is rigged and that in part whether this is fair or not, the media helped rig it. I think people want truth telling in politics,” Fiorina said.

“…Having said all that, I think what presidential campaigns do is reveal character over time and under pressure. And I think character will be revealed of all the candidates over time and under pressure.”

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Gunman Kills Reporter, Cameraman During Morning Live Shot Near Roanoke (UPDATE: Suspect Is Former Anchor)

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Two Roanoke, Va., journalists were shot and killed during a live shot while doing an innocuous story on local development at the Bridgewater Plaza marina and retail center near Smith Mountain Lake.

WDBJ7’s reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photojournalist Adam Ward, 27, died in the 6:45 a.m. incident.

Police were searching for the shooter, dressed all in black and captured on the cameraman’s final footage.

The woman Parker was interviewing, Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was reportedly shot in the back and taken to surgery.

In the video, Parker and Gardner are speaking against a railing overlooking the complex. The shooter walks up and starts firing without a word. Ward swings his camera over to the gunman before collapsing, and the station cut back to the studio.

Local schools were put on lockdown as cops hunted in the area for the killer. The FBI’s Richmond field office was reportedly on scene.

 

 

UPDATE 11:30 EST: The suspect has been identified as Vester Flanagan, who uploaded a video of the shooting on Twitter under his on-air name, Bryce Williams. Twitter has removed the account.

Flanagan, 41, is a former news anchor fired from the Roanoke station in February 2013. He’s in a 2009 gray Ford Mustang, plate WZE 8846. More:

In the tweets, Flanagan hinted at possible motives for the shooting. He tweeted about filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint and alleged that the reporter had made racist comments. “They hired her after that???” he Tweeted. The slain producer, he claimed, complained to HR about him after working together one time. His final text tweet boasted about filming the attack.

 

 

UPDATE 11:50 a.m. EST: Flanagan has reportedly shot himself.

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Professor Who Grew Up in Virginia Tried to Wrestle Gun Away from Train Terrorist

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A professor originally from Virginia was revealed as the first passenger on a Paris-bound high-speed train to confront a terrorist who was hellbent on inflicting mass casualties.

Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, 26, was armed with an AK-47, box cutters and lots of ammunition, and caught the attention of Mark Moogalian when he went into the restroom with a suitcase. The gunman emerged with his weapon, and was rushed by the teacher:

Moogalian and his wife were seated facing each other on the high-speed train when she saw only his expression and the urgent “Get out, this is serious.” Then, Isabelle Risacher Moogalian said, she ducked behind some seats as he lunged to grab the assault rifle from the gunman’s hands.

“When my husband collapsed, I saw across the seats. He looked at me and he said ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.’ He thought it was over and he was going to die,” she told Europe-1 radio. The bullet struck him in the back and exited through the neck.

…Moogalian remained hospitalized Tuesday in the northern city of Lille, and his sister in Virginia said his role in trying to stop what French authorities are calling a terror attack was in character.

“Mark would give anything for anybody,” Julia Allen told NBC News. “He’s just that kind of person.”

Risacher said U.S. Airman Spencer Stone came across the wounded Moogalian and stanched the bleeding by holding his finger on the wound until paramedics could take over.

Moogalian runs a language school from a houseboat in the outskirts of Paris, according to the school’s website. Music and art are clearly his passions, as his personal website attests, with its range of sculpture, paintings, photos and downloads of music he performs in a duo with his wife. In the duo’s biography, they describe themselves as “largely bicultural, bringing the best of both worlds.”

“My husband is among the heroes of this story, and he nearly paid with his life, because just a few millimeters closer and the bullet would have sliced his carotid in exiting,” Risacher said.

Moogalian, 51, is a graduate of Midlothian High School in Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, and his Armenian family has deep roots in the area, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He’s been living in France for more than two decades.

He will be receiving the Legion of Honor, which British businessman Chris Norman, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and college student Anthony Sadler received in a ceremony with French President Francois Hollande yesterday.

A fifth hero was honored in stopping the attack as well. The Frenchman, who wanted to remain anonymous, reportedly warned passengers about the gunman before Moogalian tried to wrestle away his weapon. The others Americans stepped in and beat the Moroccan unconscious.

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EPA Misses Deadline to Turn Over Documents About Nasty Mine Spill

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Environmental Protection Agency missed a congressional deadline to turn over documents related to its spill of toxic sludge into a southwest Colorado River.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Aug. 10 requesting documents and materials relating to the work that caused the Aug. 5 spill as well as information on “whether the polluted water poses health risks to humans or animals.”

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sought documents on the chemicals in the mine waste and information on the waste water being treated in holding ponds at the mine site.

He asked for the documents no later than yesterday. Some were released to the entire public by the EPA, but the majority of what they requested has not been released or turned over, the committee said.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” Smith said today. “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on September 9th. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

Smith added that “even in the face of self-imposed environmental disaster, this administration continues to prioritize its extreme agenda over the interests and well-being of Americans.”

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is currently crusading on climate change action in Japan while President Obama, who has yet to visit the areas affected by the spill, is touring the U.S. to tout EPA’s latest regulation that will do little to impact climate change and will only further burden Americans with higher electric bills,” the chairman said. “It is no wonder the majority of Americans feel Washington no longer works for them.”

McCarthy has been called to testify before the committee Sept. 9.

Other panels that will undoubtedly seek the EPA administrator’s testimony include the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Sierra Club hasn’t said a peep about the spill since its initial reaction in which the environmental group blamed miners.

“The Animas River was sadly already contaminated due to the legacy of toxic mining practices. The company that owns this mine has apparently allowed dangerous conditions to fester for years, and the mishandling of clean-up efforts by the EPA have only made a bad situation much worse,” the environmental group said in a statement Aug. 11.

“As we continue to learn what exactly happened, it’s time that the mine owners be held accountable for creating this toxic mess and we urge the EPA to act quickly to take all the steps necessary to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.”

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Branded Non-Terrorists by U.S., Taliban Murder Mother and Son for Refusing to Feed Fighters

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House stopped calling the Taliban terrorists this year — “The Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group,” said spokesman Eric Schultz — for a couple of reasons.

First, they wanted to make the case that they didn’t actually negotiate with terrorists and trade five terrorists for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz said in January.

Second, the U.S. supports a peace deal with the Taliban so they can wrap the Afghan conflict up in a tidy bow after leaving — never mind the Taliban’s recent renewal of their al-Qaeda alliance, the reason we invaded in the first place after the 9/11 attacks.

And though the heinous crimes of the “non-terrorist” terrorist Taliban are many, Tolo News in Afghanistan reports a new gruesome one:

Taliban insurgents killed a woman and her son on Monday after they refused to provide insurgents with food in central Maidan Wardak province.

Head of Wardak CID police Mohammad Ayoub confirmed the incident and said the Taliban had asked residents in Chak district to feed them three times a day.

Ayoub said in addition to killing the woman and her son, the insurgents also torched the homes of several families who also refused to help the fighters.

“Taliban burned the homes when they got a negative response to their call for food and shelter,” Colonel Ayoub said.

Asked at yesterday’s State Department briefing about the strategy of not calling the Taliban terrorists, press secretary John Kirby said “we want to see Afghan-led political reconciliation continue to advance.”

“Yes, there’s been some violence as Kabul as recently as just a few days ago… the Taliban claim responsibility for some and others they didn’t, so I’m in no position to judge who’s responsible,” Kirby said.

“…As for the Taliban’s future, much of it is for them to determine if they’re going to renounce violence and renounce the terrorist type tactics that they use, and contribute to a meaningful reconciliation process in Afghanistan, well then we support that – an Afghan-led reconciliation process.”

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Love: CDC Should Be Investigating Planned Parenthood’s High Percentage of Minority Abortions

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be taking Planned Parenthood to task for its high percentage of abortions on minority women.

“We’re accepting the fact that black Americans make 12 — make up 12 percent of the population yet Planned Parenthood aborts 78 percent of minorities in this country. This is an issue that should be something that we’re both on the same side of,” Love, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Fox last night.

“We make up 12 percent of the population, and, yet, let’s look at who they’re aborting. This is an issue that the CDC should be taking on as far as I’m concerned. It should be something that, as an organization, if they’re going to do everything they can to help the black race they should be on top of this issue and oppose Planned Parenthood and the practice of aborting of these babies.”

The CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity says its mission is to “advance health equity and women’s health issues across the nation through CDC’s science and programs.”

Love said “we need to do what we can to make sure the American people do not forget what’s happening” in the undercover Planned Parenthood videos where staffers are discussing brokering body parts.

“Now, watch, this is what’s going to happen. The left and those who want to protect this organization are going to turn this conversation from killing of babies and shutdowns, health issues, and everything to kind of distort, distract, and divide Americans into thinking what’s actually happening isn’t happening, the fact that they are actually taking brain tissue from live babies. These are American babies,” she said.

“…What you’ll see is that the left believed that our people are pretty much — we believe that they’re assets that can be developed. Or they believe that they’re liabilities that need to be managed. We believe that human beings have the right to live, that our job is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And they don’t care about these things.”

The National Abortion Federation, which is suing the Center for Medical Progress over the Planned Parenthood videos, said in a statement today that “counsel for defendants notified the court that all defendants…plan to plead the Fifth Amendment.”

A preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled for Aug. 27 but has been bumped to an undetermined date.

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Obama: Reid and I ‘Figuring Out How We’re Going to Deal with the Crazies’

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

At a Nevada State Democratic Party fundraiser last night, President Obama lamented having to deal with “the crazies” as he pushed his agenda on Capitol Hill.

A little over 100 people attended the event at a private home in Henderson, Nev., which raised more than $300,000 for the Senate campaign of former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto.

“It’s hard for me to express how much I love Harry Reid but it’s easier to do it in a room of people who love Harry Reid,” Obama said. “Harry and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems. And then we talked about riding off into the sunset together.”

“Everything I’ve accomplished, I’ve accomplished because Harry Reid was there by my side. And I am forever grateful for his friendship and his strength, because the thing about Harry is he’s a great politician but he’s also a man with a lot of backbone and is willing to do hard things when it’s required, and that’s what you want out of a political leader.”

Obama said that after two weeks of vacation at Martha’s Vineyard he feels “refreshed, renewed, recharged, a little feisty.”

“Right now, we could be putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work rebuilding the infrastructure of this country, and yet we have a Congress that finances our highway bill for three months at a time,” he said. “That’s not what the greatest country on Earth does. That’s not how the Hoover Dam was built. That’s not how the Interstate Highway or the Transcontinental Railroad were built. That’s not how we sent a man to the moon, or invented the Internet — by failing to invest in our future.”

The president added that everyone around the world envies the United States, but “what’s holding us back is too often our political debates are not about what’s best for the country but what’s best for the next election.”

“We’ve been leaders in nonproliferation, which is part of the reason why I am so insistent that Congress not block a historic diplomatic effort when it comes to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. And I’m so appreciative of Harry Reid’s support for that effort,” he said.

Reid came out in support of the Iran deal two days ago, calling it “consistent with the greatest traditions of American leadership.”

Saying “the happiest person on Earth that I cannot run for a third term is Michelle Obama,” the president insisted that in order for America to lead in the world “we’re going to need not just a strong executive branch, not just a president who after a few gray hairs seems to know what he’s doing, but we also need a Congress that works, that functions.”

“And so we’re going to be observing, to some degree, what takes place in the election to come,” Obama continued. “But what I can say is this: Democrats are not perfect. There are times where we have disagreements within the party. There are some folks in our party who sometimes are dogmatic. But Democrats govern. Democrats are willing to do things that are hard.”

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U.S. Convenes First UN Security Council Meeting on Gay Rights

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
isisgaystoning

ISIS members prepare to stone a man accused of being gay in February

The Obama administration lauded as “historic” Monday’s first-of-its-kind meeting at the UN Security Council on gay rights, organized by the U.S. Missions at the UN and Chile.

Much of the meeting focused on the murder of homosexuals by ISIS, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and other groups in the region including the Al-Nusra Front, but UN Ambassador Samantha Power made clear that they want the agenda to be broader.

According to reports, Chad and Angola skipped the closed meeting.

Subhi Nahas escaped execution by fleeing to Lebanon after ISIS took his city, Idlib, Syria. “At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding,” Nahas said. “If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate too.”

A representative of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said they’ve counted at least 30 murders by the Islamic State on the allegation of sodomy. Those accused of being gay are thrown off tall buildings, beheaded, stoned or shot.

After the meeting, Power told reporters that images of what ISIS does to gays were displayed “so, if ever anybody was tempted to drift away or have their attention go elsewhere, the graphic, gut-wrenching photos of what is being done and the very real threat posed – even as we sat in this meeting today – in territory where ISIL is dominant.”

“Yes, it is true that ISIL has made it common practice, it seems, to target LGBT persons, but that is true also around the world very far from where ISIL dominates. You have countries that have criminalized LGBT status; you have societies, of course, that are every bit as unwelcoming as they were 20, 30 years ago, communities in that regard. But today’s meeting is a sign that this issue is getting injected into the mainstream at the United Nations,” she said.

Power stressed it was the first Security Council meeting ever on LGBT issues — “a small but historic step.”

“We just have to continue to create dedicated spaces and venues for conversations like the one we just had, raising awareness, showing LGBT people, or those being persecuted, that the UN cares, that the Security Council cares, that the General Assembly cares, that the Human Rights Council cares, that the Member States of the United Nations care – that’s extremely important,” she said. “But also each of us, as governments, has a responsibility to inject the treatment of LGBT persons into our bilateral relationships as well.”

Power added that when the issue of “how LGBT persons are being treated in particular conflict areas” comes up in future meetings “it’s also imperative that in addition to talking about the threat that ISIL poses to Christians, to Yezidis, to Shia, to any Sunni or anybody who doesn’t share their warped ideology, to cultural artifacts of the kind that have been destroyed monstrously here in the last couple days.”

“Alongside that, it is essential that the fate of LGBT persons also be raised and discussed, and we will work with our Council partners and colleagues to ensure that it isn’t just the United States raising it.”

Power made no mention of Iran, which hangs gays.

The meetings comes as the administration is under pressure from lawmakers to deny visas to diplomats’ spouses if the envoys come from a country that doesn’t recognize same-sex spouses of State Department personnel.

“This historic event recognizes that the issue of LGBT rights has a place in the UN Security Council,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters at the open of the daily briefing. “Around the world, the UN has documented thousands of cases of individuals killed or injured in brutal attacks simply because they are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT. This abhorrent practice is particularly widespread in ISIL-seized territory in Iraq and in Syria where these violent extremists proudly target and kill LGBT individuals or those accused of being so. No one should be harmed or have their basic human rights denied because of who they are or who they love.”

“We would like the thank Chile for co-sponsoring this event with us,” Kirby added. “The United States will continue to raise the plight of target LGBT individuals around the world and work to protect their basic human rights.”

The meeting even got a shout-out from the National Security Council, with spokesman Ned Price issuing a statement tonight on the meeting “of how better to protect the lives and dignity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons, who are frequently among the most vulnerable in conflict and post-conflict situations.”

“Today’s session focused on ISIL’s atrocities targeted against LGBT persons and those perceived to be LGBT in Syria and Iraq. In highlighting acts of horrific brutality that these individuals have endured, today’s discussion challenged the international community to develop better and more effective protections for LGBT persons,” Price said. “…Just as the United States will not relent in our efforts to defeat and ultimately destroy ISIL, we will continue striving for a world in which no one is subject to violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love.

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House Dem: Iran Deal ‘Makes War More Likely’

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Many of the Democrats who have come out against the Iran nuclear deal, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), are veteran lawmakers who have less to fear than young members in terms of repercussions from leadership or the administration for defying the president.

But a freshman Dem from Pennsylvania came out against the Iran deal Sunday in an op-ed declaring that the agreement Obama insists is an alternative to war will actually lead us to war.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is the sixth Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to come out against the deal.

He wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that, even after meeting with Obama in the White House Situation Room, he determined there were three reasons why he couldn’t support the deal.

“First, this agreement will inject at least $56 billion into the Iranian regime. This is a massive sum for a country with a gross domestic product of $400 billion,” Boyle wrote. “What does Iran currently spend its money on? It is the single largest funder of terrorism in the region. It funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, supplying it with more than 80,000 rockets, all located just over the Israeli border. It funds Hamas in Gaza. Remember those thousands of rockets that rained down on Israel last year? They too were courtesy of Iran. And Iran also funds the murderous Assad regime in Syria.”

“The administration’s response on this point is to claim that money shouldn’t be an issue when analyzing the nuclear agreement. But it is part of this agreement. It would be impossible to analyze this deal without weighing the inevitable impact these billions will have on the further funding of terrorism.”

Boyle also points to the lack of anytime, anywhere inspections and disputes the administration assertion that a 24-day notice is no big deal. “As a former top official at the International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed, 24 days is enough time for Iran to hide most weaponization activity,” the congressman wrote. “During a congressional hearing, I asked Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to dispute this fact. They did not.”

His third objection is that the deal does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power but merely delays it.

“The argument that a vote against this deal is a vote for war is disingenuous. Actually, the opposite is true,” Boyle wrote. Releasing billions of dollars to Iran will result in more rockets in Lebanon and Gaza. These will be used against Israel, as similar weapons have been for the last seven years. With more cash for more rockets, these attacks will likely happen again, increasing the odds that Israel again will respond militarily. Only this time, the Israeli wars with Lebanon and Gaza will last longer, and there will be higher casualty numbers.”

“The nuclear agreement with Iran doesn’t make war less likely. It makes war more likely.”

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There Are No ‘Secret Side Deals’ Between IAEA and Iran, Says Admin, Just ‘Confidential’ Deals

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration stressed today that there’s nothing secret about the pacts between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency — the documents that Congress isn’t allowed to view and the White House isn’t allowed to posses are simply confidential.

The Associated Press last week leaked text of one of the documents it was able to view and transcribe, called “separate arrangement II” and dealing with Iran’s self-inspections at the Parchin military complex. “Iran will provide to the Agency” photos, videos and “environmental samples taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and 2 points outside of the Parchin complex which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.”

“It is Secretary Kerry’s view that this is absolutely not a secret or side deal,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today, but are instead “confidential arrangements… the contents of which are confidential.”

“The fact that there is an arrangement between the IAEA and Iran is of course not secret or confidential. They do this typically around the world,” Kirby said. “So, it’s Secretary Kerry’s view that it’s neither secret, nor is it a side deal. It is — it is an appropriate arrangement between the IAEA and another nation to verify it.”

Still, Kirby said, he’s “not gonna comment on the veracity of leaked documents.”

At the White House, though, press secretary Josh Earnest seemed to vouch for the veracity.

“And now that we have seen what appears to be, or at least what the Associated Press has assessed to be, a near final document that’s been released, I think it’s hard for people to make the case that this is somehow a secret agreement,” Earnest declared.

The AP stressed that they did not see a “separate arrangement I.”

“It continues to be our view that this agreement is not a side agreement and it’s not a secret one primarily because this administration went to great lengths to brief every member of Congress about the contents of the agreement,” Earnest said. “…What is true is that typically agreements between the IAEA and countries around the world are held confidential. And the IAEA has agreements like this with hundreds of countries of hundreds around the world, in more than 100 countries around the world, including the United States.”

Earnest said he’s “confident” that the IAEA “will get access to all of the information they need and all of the access to the site that they need in order to conclude their report.”

“And there are some Republicans in Congress who have suggested that the IAEA will not get enough access to the site in order to write their report,” he added. “And that’s a pretty bold statement, considering that some of these same Republicans in Congress say that they don’t have enough scientific knowledge to determine whether or not climate change is actually occurring, but yet somehow they claim to have enough knowledge of nuclear physics to assess what kind of access the IAEA needs to Parchin.”

Kirby said “we are confident, remain confident that this deal in all its parameters will provide the IAEA the access it needs to do its job with the verifying.”

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Hollande Bestows Legion of Honor on Train Heroes

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

franceheroes

French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor on three Americans and a British businessman who beat down a terrorist on a high-speed train.

The three Americans grew up together: Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Oregon who just wrapped up a deployment in Afghanistan; Anthony Sadler, a senior at California State University, Sacramento; and Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who serves at Lajes Air Base in the Azores. The Brit, Chris Norman, is a grandfather of three and IT consultant.

A French citizen and a French-American were also going to receive the Legion of Honor later for their roles in stopping the attack.

The gunman, 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayob El Khazzani, was on the radar of Spanish authorities for his pro-jihad speeches there. He spent time in France and Syria, and was living in Belgium when he got on the train.

Hollande told Skarlatos and Stone, “You behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men.”

“A terrorist decided to commit an act. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives,” he told all of the heroes.

Sadler said of their actions, “Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.”

Separately, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Journal du Dimanche that “the tragedy which was prevented underlines the need for determined, meticulous, unrelenting, implacable and internationally-coordinated action – in short, the program of action of the Interior Minister and his services.”

“But it also reminds us of the reality of the global threat and the magnificent virtue of bravery,” Fabius added.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lauded his servicemen and the others “who stepped forward to prevent an even greater tragedy from taking place aboard that train.”

“Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why – on duty and off – ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said.

 

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State Dept.: It Could Have Made U.S. Hostages’ Situation ‘Worse’ if We Linked Them to Iran Deal

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department’s spokesman told CNN this morning that one reason U.S. hostages weren’t included in the Iran nuclear deal is because it could have made their situation “worse.”

Retired FBI agent Bob Levinson went missing nearly eight years ago, likely taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati marks his fourth year behind bars this week. Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini marks his third year in Iranian custody next month. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was seized more than a year ago and is awaiting a verdict from a closed-door espionage trial.

All have suffered mistreatment while in custody, including torture and new or worsening medical conditions.

Many lawmakers have argued that Iran needed to release the hostages before Washington even sat down at the negotiating table with Iran.

“We wanted to separate the condition of the Americans that are being detained with Iran,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told CNN this morning.

“They need to be home because they need to be home with their families,” Kirby added. “And linking them to the deal might have only made the situation worse for them. So we never missed an opportunity to talk to Iranian leaders about that.”

Hekmati has said he did not want to be included as a swap for concessions, fearing additional hostage-taking by Iran in response, but has criticized administration concessions as Tehran holds — and takes new — Americans.

In a recent letter to Congress, he wrote, “And in the midst of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program, as Secretary Kerry sits politely with the Iranians, shaking hands and offering large economic concessions to save them from economic meltdown, Jason Rezaian was added to the growing list of American captives, undoubtedly in hopes of milking more concessions from the U.S. government.”

“While I am thankful that the State Department and the Obama administration has called for my release and that of my fellow Americans, there has been no serious response to this blatant and ongoing mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and they continue on with impunity,” Hekmati continued in the letter dictated over the phone to his family from prison.

“As a war veteran who defended our nation in its time of need, I ask that you also work to defend my dignity and that of my fellow Americans by putting in place serious consequences for this serial hostage-taking and mistreatment of Americans by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for clearly illegal purposes. This has been going on far too long.”

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VIDEO: Veterans Note Iran Behind U.S. Deaths, But We’ll Totally Catch Nuke Deal Violations!

Monday, August 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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A think-tank and lobbying organization with Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter on the board of directors is running an ad in support of the Iran deal featuring veterans who say their colleagues suffered at the hands of Tehran’s involvement with Iraq insurgents.

The Truman National Security Project is running the spots as a 501(c)(4) called Veterans Against the Deal continues its ad campaign.

In the Truman video, Butch Bracknell — a Marine veteran, attorney and member of the Defense Council at the Truman project,  says, “They’ve trained and supplied insurgents who’ve killed my brothers and sisters in Iraq.”

Yet, Bracknell and two others veterans in the ad — Terron Sims, a Democratic Party activist and co-director for Virginia Veterans for Obama, and Ashkan Bayatpour, a former partner at the Truman Project, argue, if Iran cheats on the nuclear deal, “We will catch them.”

The Truman Project quickly came out in support of the deal more than a month ago, arguing “this historic agreement demonstrates the power of strong, forceful diplomacy and, if it is implemented and enforced properly, will make America and our allies safer and stronger.”

“The agreement closes off all of Iran’s potential avenues to a nuclear weapon, gives us access to their entire nuclear supply chain, and imposes the strictest monitoring and verification regime ever negotiated in the history of non-proliferation. If Iran cheats, we will know in time to take decisive action – and all options will be on the table,” said the statement from Executive Director Michael Breen on July 14.

“Many of us witnessed firsthand the damage done by an unnecessary war fought in the Middle East in the name of nuclear non-proliferation. This time, through tough American-led diplomacy, we have closed off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon without risking American lives.”

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State Dept.: We Totally Trust IAEA with Inspections Where Only Iran Can Inspect

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department said today that everybody shouldn’t worry about the Iran side agreements, because the International Atomic Energy Agency will do a great job with inspections where they’re not allowed.

Press secretary John Kirby was grilled about an Associated Press story focusing on a draft seen of one of the final inspection agreements. According to “separate arrangement II” — the AP didn’t see a “separate arrangement I” — Iran will take its own photos and video of Parchin and other military sites believed to be linked to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

“As we’ve said before, including in classified briefings for both chambers of Congress, we’re confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program. Issues that, in some cases, date back more than a decade,” Kirby told reporters at today’s briefing.

“Just as importantly, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements which are unique to the agency’s investigation of Iran’s historical activities,” he continued. “When it comes to monitoring Iran’s behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran’s current program remains exclusively peaceful, the overarching objective, as you know, of the JCPOA.”

He stressed that he wouldn’t comment on the “purported draft document” cited by the AP.

“I wouldn’t amend the secretary’s comments about this at all. I mean, unless you’ve seen every single arrangement that the IAEA has with every other country in which it has a program for monitoring nuclear activity, I don’t know,” Kirby said. “It’s routine that the IAEA has these arrangements with individual counties. Those arrangements are, as we’ve said, confidential by the nation itself and the IAEA. That’s what’s routine here.”

“And this is, and remains, as I think the secretary has described it, as a technical arrangement between those two parties, and it’s — regardless of that detail it’s not unlike, in terms of framework, the kinds of arrangements they have with other nations that have nuclear capacity.”

Congress has not seen the arrangements, a withholding that many lawmakers are calling a deal-breaker on the vote next month.

But Kirby says they should be satisfied because both houses of Congress were “briefed” on the deal.

“But because it is reflective of a relationship between the IAEA and Iran, it is not for the P5+1 to endorse or negate,” he added. “…That is what the P5+1 has endorsed: make sure that the IAEA is satisfied.”

“Not an expert on IAEA protocols, but I can tell you that Secretary Kerry remains fully confident that the IAEA will manage their part of these requirements just as ably and efficiently as they do anywhere else in the world.” But, he insisted, this inspections regime “is much more robust than in any other case around the world.”

“We have full confidence in the IAEA and in the inspection regimen that they will establish and set up to make sure that Iran cannot achieve nuclear weapons capability. We’re very comfortable with the arrangement.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said it should be a no-brainer: “International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period.”

“The standard of ‘anywhere, anytime’ inspections – so critical to a viable agreement – has dropped to ‘when Iran wants, where Iran wants, on Iran’s terms.’ For weeks, Congress has been demanding access to this document to assess the viability of the inspections measures,” Royce said. “Congress must now consider whether this unprecedented arrangement will keep Iran from cheating. This is a dangerous farce.”

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Peek at Iran-IAEA Agreement Shows Iran Will Use Own Inspectors on Military Site

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Congress has been rebuffed in its requests to see the deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, with many arguing that lawmakers can’t consider the deal as they’re entitled by law without knowing all the details.

But the Associated Press has seen one of those documents, and reports today that “Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms” — Parchin:

The document seen by the AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn’t differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue in public.

The document is labeled “separate arrangement II,” indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency’s probe of the nuclear weapons allegations.

Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”

That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won’t get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.

While the document says the IAEA “will ensure the technical authenticity” of Iran’s inspection, it does not say how.

The draft is unsigned but the proposed signatory for Iran is listed as Ali Hoseini Tash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs. That reflects the significance Tehran attaches to the agreement.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced his “no” vote today, and cited the IAEA agreements as one of many reasons why.

“While I remain deeply concerned with what I have been able to review in the Iran nuclear agreement, I am even more disturbed by the fact that there are agreements between the IAEA and Iran that Congress has not been allowed to read,” Isakson said. “These secret agreements will serve as a baseline, yet we will not be able to know where that line actually is. To vote for something that I am not allowed to read would be an injustice to the people I represent.”

Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he hadn’t read the agreements, and the administration doesn’t have a copy. The IAEA chief told lawmakers the agency won’t reveal anything about the agreements because of confidentiality.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted the existence of a side agreement as proof that the deal is a “sham.”

“After Iran spent years developing their nuclear capacity in secret while denying that they were doing so, we would now allow Iran to police these sites themselves,” McCarthy said in a statement. “This is a very serious development and should concern every member of Congress who supports or is thinking about supporting this deal. President Obama said that this deal is ‘not built on trust,’ but on verification.”

“This side agreement shows that true verification is a sham, and it begs the question of what else the administration is keeping from Congress.”

“Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the U.N. in an open and transparent way is remarkably naïve and incredibly reckless,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement. It is time for the Obama administration to come clean with the American people and provide all information about these secret side agreements between Iran and the IAEA.”

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More Than 15,000 .mil and .gov Email Addresses Revealed in Cheater Dating Site Hack

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hackers who swiped the information of millions of registered members of Ashley Madison — a dating site for cheaters — made good on their promise to release the data dump, and it includes a Washington spin.

Among the 36 million records released are more than 15,019 email accounts from .mil or .gov. Army addresses comprised the largest number of military addresses, at 6,788, while the Air Force only had 127 addresses on the list.

The government agency with the most users? Veterans Affairs.

The .gov extension includes address with federal agencies, state governments and foreign governments. A check of a sampling of addresses by PJM showed many addresses at federal government agencies that matched names of staffers there, and some that appeared fake.

An online listing of the .gov addresses revealed a handful using a mail.house.gov email, including one House communications director and a staffer at the office of the Chief Administrative Officer.

There were three Senate addresses: three Capitol Police, one at the office of the Sergeant at Arms, and one from the office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). It was the general press email of his office.

“The email address in question is press@cruz.senate.gov, a publicly and widely available forwarding address that is often entered into web contact forms by people with no connection to our office,” a Cruz aide told Roll Call.

The hackers said in a statement released with the data that they’ve “explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”

“Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters,” the statement continued. “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

Ashley Madison, a Canadian company, said in a press release that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Services and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the hack.

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society,” the company said. “We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.”

Users on imageboard website 4chan were breaking down the data dump into more digestible, searchable information, such as a British government list.

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Menendez ‘Certainly Sharing’ His Iran Deal Opposition with Undecided Senators

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said today that he’s sharing his Seton Hall remarks on the Iran nuclear deal — in which he ripped the agreement provision by provision — with other members of Congress.

Menendez was asked on Fox whether he’s whipping other Democrats to vote against the deal.

“I certainly am sharing the speech that I delivered yesterday at Seton Hall University to all of those colleagues that have not decided. I want them to have an understanding of the insights, of the countless hours,” the senator said. “Not every colleague sits on the [Foreign Relations] committee, not every colleague necessarily had all the access that I had. I want them to have a full understanding of both the flaws of the agreement and that there is also a Plan B, because I think many colleagues believe that the agreement is deeply flawed. But they’re hung up on the, ‘if not this, then what?’”

In his speech, Menendez laid out a “credible” alternate path forward in negotiations — something the Obama administration swears doesn’t exist.

He opined that President Obama jumped at the deal for “aspirational” reasons.

“There is a hope if you buy time and the Iranians comply exactly as they are supposed to over this period of time, that maybe Iran will change,” Menendez said of administration reasoning. “Maybe the forces of commerce and international integration will change. Maybe they’ll stop holding American hostages. Maybe they’ll stop exporting terrorism. But hope is not a national security initiative. And so I have to look at the deal not if everything is going to go well, but in fact looking at a 20 year history of violations of Security Council resolutions and other items. What if it goes bad?”

He noted that there are “more than a dozen” senators who haven’t decided how they’ll vote.

With his “no” vote and that of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), 11 more Dem defections are needed.

“But I would say simply say, this isn’t a binary choice between the agreement or war. Even members of the administration past and present, who came and testified before the committee when I asked him that question said, no that’s not the case. So that’s a false choice. And it’s a false choice to say that people who are against the agreement ere those who voted for the Iraq War. I didn’t vote for the Iraq War. So I’m on a totally different plane here.”

Menendez stressed “whether I was a deciding vote or not” is “not the basis” for his vote.

“The question for me this is one of the most significant national security non-proliferation issues we have had in quite some time, and so my view of this, as someone who has spent 23 years in the House and the Senate sitting on the respective Foreign Relations Committee, and pursuing Iran for the better part of 20 years,” he said.

“When I looked and said, why does Iran that has the fourth world largest oil reserves and the second natural gas reserves in the world even need nuclear energy for domestic energy consumption, that I had been following them and see how they’re deception delay and defiance of international community has gotten them to this point.”

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Corker to Vote Against ‘Fanciful’ Iran Nuclear Deal

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has determined that Congress should reject the Iran nuclear deal “and send it back to the president.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced his “no” vote yesterday in a Washington Post op-ed, the same day that the former Democratic chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), gave a long, scathing rebuke of the deal at Seton Hall.

“Rather than end Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, over time this deal industrializes the program of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Corker wrote.

“For a deal that must be built on verification and not trust, the inspections process is deeply flawed. Through verbal presentations regarding possible military dimensions, many in Congress are aware of the unorthodox arrangements agreed to by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the administration and our negotiating partners to keep from upsetting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Those actual agreements remain secret, but we know that at best they are most unusual and speak to the P5+1’s low commitment to holding Iran’s feet to the fire.”

The chairman added that “absent a clearly articulated policy for the region, this deal will become the linchpin of the United States’ Middle East strategy.”

“This abrupt rebalancing could have the effect of driving others in the region to take greater risks, leading to greater instability. Iran was fully aware of this, which helped the regime continually erode the deal to its benefit, and it will become an impediment when we try to push back against potential violations of the agreement,” Corker wrote. “Iran, on the other hand, does have a regional strategy that this deal will boost and strengthen.”

The time is ticking, he warned, as “under this deal that leverage will flip in approximately nine months, when most major sanctions are relieved.”

“The idea that a future president will somehow have the same options available as today, when Iran is poor and isolated, is fanciful,” Corker said.

He stressed that he :came to these negotiations with an open mind,” but witnessed “a very disappointing outcome for our country.”

“Throughout history, Congress has rejected or altered hundreds of international agreements, many of them multilateral. For the administration to say there is no other deal than this one is an effort to negate Congress’s important role and responsibility.”

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ISIS Beheads Top Archaeologist in Ancient City of Palmyra

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

When ISIS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in May, antiquities experts feared that their first move would be to destroy the 1st and 2nd century ruins in the Syrian town.

Now, they’ve beheaded the antiquities expert.

Khaled Assad, 81, was the former director general of Palmyra antiquities and museums, holding the position for four decades until his 2003 retirement. According to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, the archaeologist was arrested a month ago.

This week, they murdered him in the public square, then tied his body to a lightpost with hands at the top and his head resting at his feet. A photo was circulated online and a video is rumored to be in the works.

A sign was hung on Assad’s body listing the reasons for his beheading, the first being his attendance at “infidel” archaeological conferences as an official Syrian representative. They accused him of being the head of “idols” in the ancient city.

But some reported that, over the past month, ISIS tortured the archaeologist demanding to know where there were treasures that they could loot and sell. When he didn’t give them an answer, he was killed.

Last month, ISIS released photos of militants smashing a handful of statues in Palmyra with sledgehammers; they claimed they were simply punishing a smuggler. ISIS also destroyed a  2,000-year-old, 10-foot lion statue, and Syrian activists on the ground have reported the terrorists planting explosives around the ruins.

UNESCO has warned that ISIS is already trying to sell looted antiquities in markets including Europe, and “using the illicit trafficking, the selling of these objects in order to finance extremism and terrorism.”

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Carly Fiorina Trolls the TSA on Yelp

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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The site where you go to get user restaurant reviews now lets you sound off about government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration.

Said a blog post today on the Yelp website:

We are excited to announce that Yelp has concluded an agreement with the federal government that will allow federal agencies and offices to claim their Yelp pages, read and respond to reviews, and incorporate that feedback into service improvements.

We encourage Yelpers to review any of the thousands of agency field offices, TSA checkpoints, national parks, Social Security Administration offices, landmarks and other places already listed on Yelp if you have good or bad feedback to share about your experiences. Not only is it helpful to others who are looking for information on these services, but you can actually make an impact by sharing your feedback directly with the source.

Hence, Carly’s above contribution.

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Menendez a ‘No’ Vote, Details Better Iran Deal that Obama, Kerry Claim Doesn’t Exist

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Stressing that his vote is “much greater and graver” than supporting President Obama or not, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) delivered his verdict of the Iran nuclear deal in an address at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

In short, not only will Menendez vote against the deal but will lend his voice and vote to override the White House veto.

Menendez said his analysis of the P5+1 agreement began with one question: “Why does Iran — which has the world’s fourth largest proven oil reserves, with 157 billion barrels of crude oil and the world’s second largest proven natural gas reserves with 1,193 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — need nuclear power for domestic energy?”

“While I have many specific concerns about this agreement, my overarching concern is that it requires no dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for 10 years. Not even one centrifuge will be destroyed under this agreement. Fordow will be repurposed, and Arak redesigned,” he said.

“…The deal enshrines for Iran, and in fact commits the international community to assisting Iran in developing an industrial-scale nuclear power program, complete with industrial scale enrichment.  While I understand that this program will be subject to Iran’s obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, I think it fails to appreciate Iran’s history of deception in its nuclear program and its violations of the NPT. It will, in the long run, make it much harder to demonstrate that Iran’s program is not in fact being used for peaceful purposes because Iran will have legitimate reasons to have advanced centrifuges and a robust enrichment program.  We will then have to demonstrate that its intention is dual-use and not justified by its industrial nuclear power program.”

Menendez noted how Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman danced around his question of reauthorizing sanctions legislation that expires next year, claiming it was “too early” to talk about discussing having something to “snap back” to in the event of an Iran violation.

So the senator took his question directly to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, and got an answer on July 25: “It is clearly spelled out in the JCPOA that both the European Union and the United States will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing the sanctions and restrictive measures lifted under the JCPOA,” the Iranians told Menendez. “It is understood the reintroduction or reimposition, including through extension of the sanctions and restrictive measures will constitute significant nonperformance which would relieve Iran from its commitments in part or in whole.”

“Frankly, in my view, the overall sanctions relief being provided, given the Iranian’s understanding of restrictions on the reauthorization of sanctions, along with the lifting of the arms and missile embargo well before Iranian compliance over years is established, leaves us in a weak position, and – to me – is unacceptable,” Menendez said.

“If there is a fear of war in the region, it is fueled by Iran and its proxies and exacerbated by an agreement that allows Iran to possess an industrial-sized nuclear program, and enough money in sanctions relief to continue to fund its hegemonic intentions throughout the region. Imagine how a country like the United Arab Emirates – sitting just miles away from Iran across the straits of Hormuz feels after they sign a civilian nuclear agreement with the U.S., considered to be the gold standard, to not enrich or reprocess uranium? What do our friends think when we give our enemies a pass while holding them to the gold standard? Who should they trust?”

He proceeded to rip apart the inspections plan, noting that the administration argument that no other country expect Iraq “was subjected to anytime, anywhere inspections” neglects to recognize that “Iran’s defiance of the world’s position, as recognized in a series of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, does not make it ‘any other country.’”

“If the P5+1 had not achieved an agreement, would we be at war with Iran? I don’t believe that,” Menendez said of another administration argument — that it’s their deal or war.

He even provided a congressional path for the “better deal” that Obama swears doesn’t exist.

“We should direct the Administration to re-negotiate by authorizing the continuation of negotiations and the Joint Plan of Action – including Iran’s $700 million-a-month lifeline, which to date have accrued to Iran’s benefit to the tune of $10 billion, and pausing further reductions of purchases of Iranian oil and other sanctions pursuant to the original JPOA. I’m even willing to consider authorizing a sweetener – a one-time release of a predetermined amount of funds – as a good faith down payment on the negotiations.

We can provide specific parameters for the Administration to guide their continued negotiations and ensure that a new agreement does not run afoul of Congress. A continuation of talks would allow the re-consideration of just a few, but a critical few issues, including:

First, the immediate ratification by Iran of the Additional Protocol to ensure that we have a permanent international arrangement with Iran for access to suspect sites.

Second, a ban on centrifuge R&D for the duration of the agreement to ensure that Iran won’t have the capacity to quickly breakout, just as the U.N. Security Council Resolution and sanctions snapback is off the table.

Third, close the Fordow enrichment facility. The sole purpose of Fordow was to harden Iran’s nuclear program to a military attack. We need to close the facility and foreclose Iran’s future ability to use this facility. If Iran has nothing to hide they shouldn’t need to put it under a mountain.

Fourth, the full resolution of the ‘possible military dimensions’ of Iran’s program. We need an arrangement that isn’t set up to whitewash this issue. Iran and the IAEA must resolve the issue before permanent sanctions relief, and failure of Iran to cooperate with a comprehensive review should result in automatic sanctions snapback.

Fifth, extend the duration of the agreement. One of the single most concerning elements of the deal is its 10-15 year sunset of restrictions on Iran’s program, with off ramps starting after year eight.  We were promised an agreement of significant duration and we got less than half of what we are looking for. Iran should have to comply for as long as they deceived the world’s position, so at least 20 years.

And sixth, we need agreement now about what penalties will be collectively imposed by the P5+1 for Iranian violations, both small and midsized, as well as a clear statement as to the so-called grandfather clause in paragraph 37 of the JCPOA, to ensure that the U.S. position about not shielding contracts entered into legally upon re-imposition of sanctions is shared by our allies.

At the same time we should: Extend the authorization of the Iran Sanctions Act which expires in 2016 to ensure that we have an effective snapback option; Consider licensing the strategic export of American oil to allied countries struggling with supply because Iranian oil remains off the market; Immediately implement the security measures offered to our partners in the Gulf Summit at Camp David, while preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge.

In addition, Menendez said, Obama should “unequivocally affirm and Congress should formally endorse a Declaration of U.S. Policy that we will use all means necessary to prevent Iran from producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, as well as building or buying one, both during and after any agreement.”

He’s also not buying the administration argument that P5+1 partners won’t come back to the negotiating table, as they “will still be worried about Iran’s nuclear weapon desires and the capability to achieve it.”

“At this juncture it is important to note that, over history, Congress has rejected outright or demanded changes to more than 200 treaties and international agreements, including 80 that were multilateral,” he said.

Menendez slammed the deal as being based on hope, and “hope is part of human nature, but unfortunately it is not a national security strategy.”

“I know that the editorial pages that support the agreement would be far kinder, if I voted yes, but they largely also supported the agreement that brought us a nuclear North Korea… I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.”

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Hillary Decries High Cost of College While Selling ‘Back to School’ $40 iPhone Case

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t want the next generation to be bled dry by their student loans, but her campaign is taking a different approach with their back-to-school collection at the Hillary store.

The new items on the page included in her back-to-school tweet include a $55 polo shirt — plain navy blue with her “H”-arrow campaign logo (you can get a Ralph Lauren polo for less). The environmentally-friendly plastic drink tumbler will set you back $20.

Her iPhone case is an astounding $40 — you can get Marc Jacobs iPhone cases at Bloomingdales for less.

And never mind the $65 backpack:

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And so everyone can chuckle about her eons-ago baking cookies comment:

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But since some college students won’t be doing any baking unless there’s a special plant in the brownie mix, Hillary offers everything to make your rager complete — the difference being that the Party Pack has no clothes:

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And she’s also ready for tailgate season:

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And that spatula warrants a Weird Al flashback:

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