Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, according to his senior advisers, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington. Cruz, scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, will not form an exploratory committee but rather launch a presidential bid outright, said advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.
Even the Washington Post gave their verdict for the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative: four pinocchios. Meaning it didn’t happen. The shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson last summer in Ferguson, Missouri set off months of unrest and another national dialogue on race that devolved into chaos. When the Ferguson Grand Jury declined to press charges against Officer Wilson, who has since resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, it set off a second wave of rioting.
This incident, coupled with NYPD's involvement with the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, spawned the now discredited “Hands up, don’t shoot” war cry, black lives matter, the bogus statistic that a black person is killed every 28 hours by police, and the bizarre move to disrupt Sunday brunches.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee detailed the facts of the case. Again, the DOJ report noted that the physical and forensic evidence doesn’t back up the various testimonies–around 40–that claimed Brown had his hands up:
Some admitted to federal investigators they felt pressured to retell the narrative that was being spread after Brown’s shooting. Others recanted their initial testimonies saying they had heard it through media reports or via social media. A few witnesses said Brown had his hands out to his side with his palms up, as if saying “What?” Others said Brown’s hands were not raised, as he was charging at Wilson. A few said Brown’s hands were “balled up.”
Investigators narrowed down the “hands up” claim to a witness – Witness 128 – who had told his family and neighbors his inaccurate version of events as crowds gathered minutes and hours after the shooting, the report says. Another witness could not confirm what she saw because of her poor vision, but she heard a man running around the apartments along the street where Wilson shot Brown. The man was saying something to the effect of, “The police shot my friend and his hands were up.” The witness said that “quickly became the narrative on the street, and to her frustration, people used it both as an excuse to riot and to create a ‘block party’ atmosphere.”
A key passage from the report:
Investigators tracked down several individuals who, via the aforementioned media, claimed to have witnessed Wilson shooting Brown as Brown held his hands up in clear surrender. All of these purported witnesses, upon being interviewed by law enforcement, acknowledged that they did not actually witness the shooting, but rather repeated what others told them in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. … Witness accounts suggesting that Brown was standing still with his hands raised in an unambiguous signal of surrender when Wilson shot Brown are inconsistent with the physical evidence, are otherwise not credible because of internal inconsistencies, or are not credible because of inconsistencies with other credible evidence. In contrast, Wilson’s account of Brown’s actions, if true, would establish that the shootings were not objectively unreasonable under the relevant Constitutional standards governing an officer’s use of deadly force.
In the end, it as ruled that Officer Wilson acted in self-defense and was justified in killing Michael Brown. No civil rights charges will be filed against Wilson.
In a presser upon the release of the reports, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It remains not only valid – but essential – to question how such a strong alternative version of events [hands up, don’t shoot] was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.”
The Media Research Center puts the blame squarely on the media for fanning the flames, alleging these outlets weren’t interested in telling the truth.
One should have been skeptical from the account of events given by key witness Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown on the day he died. He alleges Wilson shot Brown in the back, and that he had his hands up. Johnson’s recollection of events had discrepancies, the evidence surely didn’t back it up, and he had a history of lying to police. In 2011, he gave authorities a fake name when he was suspected of a theft.
As for Eric Garner in New York, that’s a different story entirely as there is video evidence of officers putting Garner in what appears to be a chokehold. Garner died later that day. The Staten Island Grand Jury also decided to file charges against the police.
Lastly, while the Brown-Wilson portion of this tragic saga is over, the DOJ report about the Ferguson Police Department sheds light on some serious issues, including racial bias. Leon Wolf over at RedState has a great post about how conservatives’ pro-police attitude is blinding us to news stories and reports about law enforcement’s inexcusable behavior, which–at times–needs to be addressed:
Conservatives, on the other hand, have become highly resistant to assimilating information that strongly suggests that the Ferguson PD – as with many other municipal police departments in the country – truly is out of control, in that it recklessly violates the constitutional rights of the citizens of Ferguson and does so in a manner that has a clearly disproportionate impact on minorities.
Editor's Note: Some have emailed me about Eric Garner, citing that he died from heart attack on the way to the hospital that due to his weight and other health issues. While those were listed as contributing factors, the medical examiner "listed compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner's positioning on the ground while being restrained by police," as what caused his death. At the time, Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano told Hugh Hewitt there is a case to be made for "criminally negligent homicide." The chokehold has been banned by the NYPD since 1993. The Federalist's Sean Davis wrote that second-degree manslaughter was a "slam dunk."
Of course, there's still debate over these cases.
Yesterday marked the tenth-annual World Down Syndrome Day. While there were a variety of celebrations worldwide, perhaps the most touching came from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke about the importance of families and empowering individuals with Down syndrome.
Persons with Down syndrome face stigmatization, abuse and lack of support. Too often, their challenges begin early in life when they are excluded from quality education systems. Adequate access to health care, early intervention programmes and inclusive education, as well as appropriate research, are vital to the growth and development of individuals with Down syndrome.
The role of families is central to supporting persons with Down syndrome by promoting their equal status in society and empowering them to be their own advocates. At the same time, we must recognize our collective responsibility to create conditions for all persons with disabilities to make valuable contributions to our shared future. We must promote inclusive policies and raise awareness about social justice for people with Down syndrome, and do everything possible to enable them to live where they want and with whom, to form their own families, to administer their own assets and to pursue their own happiness.
I applaud all those who champion the rights and lives of persons with disabilities, and I urge others to support them. Let us use this World Down Syndrome Day to advocate for a more socially just and inclusive world.
In the United States and Europe, around 90 percent of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome are aborted. In other countries, babies born with Down syndrome are abandoned as newborns. That is extremely tragic, and parents should have some kind of support system to ease their fears about having a child with a disability. People with Down syndrome may have challenges, yes, but they are able to do many of the same things as someone without a disability, from modeling to singing in Eurovision.
Human rights begin in the womb, and every life is precious.
Starting today, Starbucks will no longer write “Race Together” on their customers’ cups in what they said was a planned phase out of their "visible" campaign to discuss race relations in America. The coffee chain said their attempt at healing the racial wounds of America would continue, and that they’re “leaning into it hard."
Starbucks baristas will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups starting Sunday, ending as planned a visible component of the company's diversity and racial inequality campaign that had sparked widespread criticism in the week since it took effect.
The coffee chain's initiative will continue more broadly without the handwritten messages, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said.
The cups were always "just the catalyst" for a larger conversation, and Starbucks will still hold forum discussions, co-produce special sections in USA TODAY and put more stores in minority communities as part of the Race Together initiative, according to a company memo from CEO Howard Schultz said.
The campaign has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as national protests over police killings of black males. Others questioned whether Starbucks workers could spark productive conversations about race while serving drinks.
The phase-out is not a reaction to that pushback, Olson said. "Nothing is changing. It's all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned."
He echoed the company memo, saying of the Race Together initiative, "We're leaning into it hard."
The campaign’s backlash has also met with mockery and hostility. Corey duBrowa, the senior vice president of communications at Starbucks, described "his life becoming a nightmare," deactivating his Twitter account last week. He’s since returned, but blocked a few users, which comes to no one’s surprise. Business Insider reported that his return to Twitter has been met with mixed emotions.
Regardless, I think many Starbucks customers have made their voices known with this haphazard campaign: they want their coffee without being harassed about race. Starbucks is a coffee chain, not a college classroom. It should stay that way.
With Yemen crumbling, the United States will pull out the last of its Special Operations forces–about 100 total personnel–from Al Anad airbase. This comes after we closed our embassy in the capital of Sanaa after Shiite Houthi rebels took control of the city, which led to a power sharing deal with the then-government under President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in January. Yet, this move prompted Hadi and his cabinet to resign en masse shortly thereafter:
The U.S. military is in the process of evacuating about 100 Special Operations forces members from the Al Anad airbase in Yemen due to that country's deteriorating security situation, sources in the region familiar with the situation told CNN.
Those being evacuated are the last American troops stationed in the Arab nation, which is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group also known as AQAP. The United States closed its embassy in Sanaa last month, after Houthi rebels took over the Yemeni capital. And hundreds of al Qaeda members escaped two Yemeni prisons Thursday and Friday, raising further security questions.
For years, the U.S. military has worked closely with Yemen's government to go after AQAP, together carrying out numerous attacks like the 2011 drone strike that killed prominent al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki. And U.S. President Barack Obama has hailed this cooperation as a pillar in his anti-terrorism campaign.
"Yemen has never been a perfect democracy or a island of stability," Obama said in January, promoting the policy of "partnering and intelligence-sharing with that local government" as the best approach in a bad situation.
"The alternative would be for us to play whack-a-mole every time there is a terrorist actor inside of any given country," the President said.
Earlier this week, Yemen was rocked by horrific bombings at two mosques by ISIS. Given that this administration has used this country as a blueprint for its counter terrorism operations, its collapse feeds into the narrative that the Obama foreign policy is “asleep at the switch.” Saudi Arabia, which has given billions to Hadi’s government, must be getting more anxious over this move by the United States given that the Houthis allegedly have Iranian ties; the Saudi view Iran as their chief rival in the region, according to the Washington Post. Earlier this month, a Houthi delegation flew to Tehran to strengthen economic and political ties.
Given the current situation, the United States faces future challenges in fighting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is one of the most aggressive sections within the terrorist organization. So far, the impact of Obama’s “Smart Power” foreign policy has yielded disastrous results.
Email-gate may have dominated the headlines over the past few weeks, but evidently the scandal hasn’t trickled down to the grassroots level—at least not yet. And perhaps it never will. To wit, a newish CNN/ORC poll, which conducted head-to-head hypothetical matchups between Hillary Clinton and all the leading presumptive Republican hopefuls, is anything but positive news for the GOP. Though Jeb Bush (16 percent) leads the pack of Republicans, no candidate even comes close to defeating Hillary Clinton one-on-one (via Bill Kristol):
…none of the top candidates in this field gets within 10 points of Hillary Clinton in a series of hypothetical general election matchups.
Rand Paul comes closest, with 43% saying they'd be more likely to back him while 54% choose Clinton. The two candidates who currently top the GOP field, Bush and Walker, match up equally against Clinton, with each carrying 40% to her 55%. Huckabee gets 41% to Clinton's 55% and Carson has 40% to Clinton's 56%.
Fortunately for Hillary, her approval/disapproval numbers are also above water (53/44)—although they’ve fallen markedly since last November (59/38). Nevertheless, a majority of Democratic voters (with leaners included) support her candidacy (62 percent) over rivals such as Joe Biden (15 percent), Elizabeth Warren (10 percent), and Bernie Sanders (3 percent). These figures are consistent with previous polls.
There is, however, one major caveat: it is only 2015. Just because she’s dominating the field right now doesn’t mean she will be when Democratic primary-goers head to the polls in 2016. By the same token, just because Republican candidates aren’t competitive against her yet doesn’t mean she’s unbeatable and her election to the American presidency is a fait accompli. Much can change before the primary season begins in earnest.
Parting question: How is that even possible?
Four years ago, German biologist Stefan Lanka made a curious bet: prove to him that measles is real, and he'll give you 100,000 euros. According to Lanka, measles is psychosomatic and caused by "traumatic separations." Another German doctor, David Bardens, took Lanka up on his offer and presented him with a host of evidence that the measles virus, well, exists. After Lanka dismissed the evidence, Bardens took him to court. The court, being members of society that possess brains capable of understanding that viruses are a thing, sided with Bardens and ordered Lanka to pay up.
From the BBC:
Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website.
The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings.
But the court in the town of Ravensburg ruled that the proof was sufficient.
Reacting to the verdict by the court in the southern town, Mr Lanka said he would appeal.
"It is a psychosomatic illness," he told regional paper Suedkurier. "People become ill after traumatic separations."
Lanka also does not believe that HIV is real.
A measles outbreak in the U.S. sickened hundreds earlier this year, and Europe has also seen outbreaks numbering in the thousands. A boy in Berlin died of the illness earlier this year. Declining vaccination rates are blamed for the surge in an illness once considered to be eradicated.
The measles virus is real, and people should be wary of making publicity stunt bets they don't intend on keeping.
In 2014, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group noted in its annual ranking of states’ transparency spending that Ohio’s checkbook was one of three states that could not be ‘effectively searched at all.’ It was dubbed a ‘lagging state’ and branded with a near-failing D- grade.
However, thanks to Treasurer Josh Mandel’s new online checkbook, which allows anyone to search through $408 billion in state spending over the last seven fiscal years, Ohio has soared from 46th place to the top of the list, earning a perfect score in U.S. PIRG’s 2015 report.
“Treasurer Mandel’s office has taken huge strides to ensure that information about state expenditures is accessible to the public. In the six years that we’ve released this report on spending transparency, this is the highest score that any state has achieved,” Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement. “As other states seek to improve their online spending transparency, they can look to OhioCheckbook.com as an example.”
Indeed. In an interview with Townhall last month, Mandel said he hopes what’s now been done in Ohio will set off a race for transparency nationwide.
“I'm doing this because I believe the people of Ohio have a right to see how their tax money is being spent,” he said in a statement. “My vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold the politicians accountable.”
The threat of failing may no longer be such a consequence for underperforming students in some Virginia schools. Why? School administrators in the city of Fairfax are prepared to ban zeroes to spare students’ feelings.
In Montgomery County, students cannot be given a score lower than 50 percent “unless they did not actually do the assignment or put in effort to do it,” said schools spokesman Dana Tofig. In Loudoun County, the grading practices regarding zeros varies school to school, said spokesman Wayde Byard.
Starting as early as this year, grades in northern Virginia could have more of an emphasis on “classroom effort,” and less on actual test scores, according to the report.
In addition to eliminating zeroes, schools could also allow students to turn in corrections on incorrect test answers.
Some perks! If I knew I could simply redo all my work, I wouldn’t have spent nearly so much time studying the first time around. This is the likely mindset many students will adopt knowing about the relaxed repercussions. Back in middle school and high school, when my teacher put my completed test on my desk with red ink that announced my grade, I knew it was permanent. Now, that red ink doesn’t even have to dry by the time students can apply the whiteout.
Some people believe this is in the student’s best interests.
Education consultant and grading expert Ken O’Connor said movements to standardize grading systems are picking up steam. He also said that giving students a zero is “morally and ethically wrong.”
“As soon as a kid gets even one zero, they have no chance of success,” O’Connor said, noting that the student has to then achieve perfect results to recover academically.
I have two words for Mr. O’Connor: Ben Carson. Actually, make that three words: Dr. Ben Carson. When Carson was in elementary school, he routinely received failing grades. With his mother’s urging and encouragement, however, he turned those scores around and became one of the most renowned neurosurgeons in the world. It’s obvious that his early struggles in school pushed him to not only overcome, but to excel.
Student representatives in Virginia, however, argue that the new grading system would provide an easier path for students to get into college. That sounds nice and all, but did they consider the student’s well being when he or she makes it into a college for which they’re not qualified? After being so coddled in middle school and high school, they’d be in for quite a shock dealing with the often merciless university workloads. Oh by the way, good luck convincing your professor to give you a do over.
Students don’t need to be shielded from ‘F’s. Do you know anyone who has made it through school who did not fail at least one assignment? That doesn’t mean they’re stupid – it just means in that particular instance they perhaps didn’t work quite as hard or study quite as much as they should have. I imagine that grade did not return the next time. Failing grades are not death sentences – they’re wake up calls. They gave Dr. Carson and his mom a steely determination to succeed - and they can have the same response today.
Don’t ban zeroes, Virginia. Consider how rewarding it is for both student and teacher when those failing grades turn into perfect scores.
What is it with this party? Senate Democrats have really personified the “you shall not pass” war cry for anything abortion-related as of late. First, they’re filibustering what was an extremely bipartisan bill to combat human trafficking until their staffs missed the non-controversial Hyde Amendment language, which was added as a rider (standard operating procedure for most spending bills) to the law. Democrats knew this language was going to be in the law because Republicans told them months in advance. Heck, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) aide found the language, but failed to inform the senator before the bill went to the judiciary committee for a vote; it passed unanimously.
Now, Senate Democrats have built the abortion wall higher, rocking Rep. Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner’s deal on Medicare. It’s a step towards entitlement reform, and it’s sort of odd seeing such bipartisanship between Boehner and liberal stalwart Pelosi over Medicare’s sustainable growth rate. The dreaded method to keep Medicare costs controlled. It’s pretty much vilified by the medical community and regarded as a “failed policy.” So, what’s the Boehner-Pelosi?
Via Roll Call:
It’s no accident most Americans haven’t heard much about a potential deal eliminating SGR and making changes to Medicare. A long-term bill is still in question, and final details are still being hammered out. But every day without an uprising on SGR is a day closer to a deal.
It looks increasingly likely lawmakers will agree to ditch the yearly fixes to the payment formula for Medicare doctors and pay for it — at least some of it — by making changes to private Medigap plans and by forcing wealthier seniors to pay more.
Of course, the “fixes” being discussed now aren’t the most ambitious changes ever. But they are “changes” adjacent to the word “Medicare.” Sources close to the negotiations say most of the real savings would come from lowering income thresholds for aspects of Medicare that are already means-tested, such as prescriptions and doctor visits, or by increasing the percentage that these wealthier seniors have to pay for their premiums. Currently, means-testing on Medicare kicks in at $85,000 per year for individuals and $170,000 for couples.
Democrats in recent years have insisted any real changes to entitlements be coupled with tax hikes, but they’ve dropped that demand with SGR. And that could be a breakthrough for future negotiations.
Such negotiations aren’t likely to happen while Boehner is speaker. And, of course, this deal could fall apart. But GOP leadership is pushing the yet-to-be-released bill as a win for conservatives, particularly when the long-term savings are considered. Leadership acknowledges the deal would add to the deficit over the next 10 years. But proponents say skeptics should look further out and measure the proposal’s long-term savings against the fact that Congress typically doesn’t pay for SGR anyway.
BUT, Senate Democrats have an issue over abortion language (here we go again) regarding the funding of community centers providing medial services in low-income communities. Yet, Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office is arguing that the provisions don’t add to existing restrictions on federal funding of abortion. So, two top pro-choice Democrats are fighting over … abortion? It’s come to this, I guess:
An emerging bipartisan House deal changing how Medicare reimburses doctors ran into turbulence in the Senate Thursday over abortion, spotlighting a rare public disagreement between Congress' two top Democrats.
Some Democratic senators — including Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. — expressed concern that the tentative House agreement would write restrictions on abortions at community health centers into law. The centers provide medical care for millions of low-income Americans in every state.
Aides to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Medicare agreement's health center abortion language would expire after two years and represents no change from existing restrictions.
The dispute comes as the Senate remains entangled in a separate abortion battle between the two parties that has stymied work on a popular bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking.
There have been abortion curbs at community health centers for years. Senate Democrats say those limitations have been imposed by an Obama administration executive order that applied broad legal curbs on abortions to the health centers, and there is no need for a law that specifically targets those centers.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the proposed language "represents no change in current policy for health centers, and would have no operational impact at the health center level."
The roughly $200 billion Medicare deal between Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would block a 21 percent cut in doctors' Medicare fees that otherwise takes effect April 1. It would change how doctors are reimbursed for Medicare patients in the future and provide fresh money for a health program for low-income children.
The measure also contains $7 billion for the health centers over the next two years. Obama's 2010 health care law provided extra money for the health centers, but those additional funds end Oct. 1 and the $7 billion would keep the health centers at current levels.
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues obtained by Townhall, Rep. Pelosi assured her members that the abortion language is nothing new, and it’s not an expansion of Hyde since the provision expires:
Dear Democratic Colleague,
I am pleased with the progress we are making on a bipartisan bill to replace the broken SGR formula for Medicare physician payments – at long last ending our cycle of yearly ‘Doc Fix’ patches, providing certainty to our seniors and stability to providers. This new system transitions Medicare away from a volume-based system toward one that rewards value, ensuring payment accuracy and improving the quality of care for seniors.
This emerging bipartisan, bicameral agreement includes important victories for low-income seniors, children and families. The package will increase the quality of care for many older Americans, by providing additional funding for initiatives that help low-income seniors pay their Part B premiums. At the same time, we are funding access to health care for poor children through an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program at the same rates that were provided for in the Affordable Care Act. This funding is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.
Lastly, in this emerging agreement, we were able to expand funding for community health centers (CHCs) by $7.2 billion for two years under the same terms that Members have previously supported and voted on almost every year since 1979. It is important to note that this proposal expires, unlike the Senate language in the trafficking bill that codifies Hyde. This proposed language represents no change in current policy for CHCs and would have no operational impact at the health center level.
Nevertheless, who thought Boehner and Pelosi could be featured in a Planned Parenthood tweet blasting them for their “#HydeAndSneak” attacks on women. Moreover, a Pelosi-Reid conflict over abortion.