In the wake of "Russian-backed separatists" seizing the major Ukrainian area of Debaltseve, a bipartisan group of senators have called on Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama Administration to increase their responsiveness to Russian international threats.
A bipartisan group of senators is calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to tighten sanctions on Russia and provide weapons to Ukraine after rebels breached this month's cease-fire agreement and seized the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve.
The senators, including top Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona, told Kerry in a letter that "it is time to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine and to consider imposing additional sanctions and penalties that will increase the cost of Putin's actions."
It remains to be seen if the Obama Administration increases its response to Russia or keeps taking a laissez-faire attitude to Putin's aggressive international expansionism.
By now, you’ve probably heard about cannabis-gate. DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz allegedly put a deal forward where she would switch positions on medicinal marijuana if a Democratic donor withdrew criticism of her for not backing a related statewide initiative last year; it was defeated by a narrow margin. John Morgan, the donor who slammed Schultz for not backing the measure, contributed heavily to the pro-medical marijuana campaign. Of course, Schultz has denied the consideration of any deal regarding this debacle.
Yet, there’s more; Democrats don’t want Debbie to run either. She’s turned off many within Democratic circles, with some viewing her management style as “self-centered,” according to Politico. Additionally, the publication reported that Schultz had allegedly prepared an “anti-woman” and “anti-Semitic” line of attack against President Obama when she felt he might try and replace her as DNC chair, a position that could come off as too partisan for independent voters in the Sunshine State if she ever mounted a Senate run [emphasis mine]:
Even if Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t leave his seat open for a White House run, Florida often tilts Democratic in presidential years, and Clinton would most likely be at the top of the ticket drawing out women and African-Americans in heavy numbers. A high-profile congresswoman with a strong base and proven fundraising record, Republicans and Democrats agree, has all the makings of a very competitive Senate candidate.
There’s just one problem: Many Democrats don’t want her to run for Senate either.
“I don’t think the Senate is a default position,” said Democratic consultant James Carville. “It’s not like, maybe you can be designated hitter.”
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is far from enthusiastic, according to sources close to the committee. Asked about Wasserman Schultz specifically, DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said only: “It seems like there’s no one in the United States Senate who wants to be a senator less than Marco Rubio, and there are numerous potential candidates who could beat him.”
Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, appears to have more liabilities, including what some of her milder critics refer to as “her capacity to misspeak” — like her accusing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker last fall of a record on women’s rights that was like “grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.”
No one is waiting for Wasserman Schultz to make up her mind — nor does anyone think she’ll clear the field if she did jump in.
“It’s not like other Democrats will say, ‘Oh she’s running, I better not run,’” Carville said.
Throughout her time as chair, Wasserman Schultz has turned off colleagues, other top Democrats and current and former staff for a management style that strikes many as self-centered — even for a politician — and often at the expense of the DNC or individual candidates or campaigns. Many top Democrats, including some she counts as supporters and friends, privately complain about her trying to use the DNC as a vehicle for her own personal promotion, and letting her own ambition get in the way of larger goals.
Wasserman Schultz has a different sense of herself. According to people who spoke with her, when she sensed Obama was considering replacing her as chair in 2013, she began to line up supporters to suggest the move was both anti-woman and anti-Semitic. Under fire last fall for her leadership, she took Obama’s decision not to remove her then as evidence of renewed strength and said she was confident no one could get her out of the DNC before her term is over at the beginning of 2017, according to sources who’ve spoken with her. She’s also been known to joke around the office about how having a vacation home in New Hampshire might one day be helpful in a presidential run.
Wasserman Schultz would be a strong Senate candidate in South Florida, and be able to pull Jewish and female voters elsewhere in the state, the logic goes, all likely helped by Clinton. But — especially if Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is on the ticket — she’d be much weaker in Tampa and the northern part of the state. Then there’s the chance that her DNC chairmanship could work against her, making her look hyperpartisan in the minds of independent voters.
This could be an entertaining Democratic primary. There are several names being tossed around, one of them being Rep. Alan Grayson.
1) It's only a matter of time until Obama's negotiating skills come back to bite us.
2) While we're at it, can we send someone to retrieve Hillary's State Department emails?
3) Are these toilet stalls?
4) How can Senate Republicans allow this to happen?
5) More skeletons to keep trapped in the Clinton closet.
He very well could be.
As a refresher, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is the first African-American to win a US Senate seat from the South since the 1870s -- and it wasn't even close. Raised by a single mother in trying circumstances, his rise to prominence is nothing short of spectacular. He also happens to be a Republican.
His work championing education reform among other issues, however, has clearly made him a popular leader on both sides of the political aisle, a new left-leaning PPP survey suggests. Voters in South Carolina not only widely admire him, but if his in-state approval/disapproval ratings are any indication, he's figured out something most Washington politicians never will [emphasis mine]:
PPP's new South Carolina poll finds that Tim Scott has quickly become the state's most popular politician- and is already one of the most popular Senators in the country in their home state. 50% of voters approve of the job Scott is doing to only 23% who disapprove. 72% of Republicans approve of the job he's doing, while only 45% of Democrats disapprove. That bucks the trend we see with most major politicians these days where they're as unpopular with the other party as they are popular with their own.
Scott's not on anyone's list of vulnerable Senators up for reelection next year, and our polling reinforces that he shouldn't be. In extremely hypothetical match ups with former Governor Jim Hodges (54/32), 2014 Lieutenant Governor candidate Bakari Sellers (56/28), and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott (55/27) Scott leads by anywhere from 22 to 28 points.
Sen. Scott, therefore, is currently a shoe-in for re-election, the poll finds. And while he's not necessarily boasting Chris Christie-level approval ratings circa November 2013, his internals across-the-board are rather impressive:
On Monday, President Obama will meet with the National Governors Association in Washington. The even could be a little awkward since over half of the governors in attendance have signed onto a lawsuit stopping Obama's executive amnesty program from taking effect.
On Tuesday, Obama will host the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, at the White House. The Islamic State will definitely be on the agenda.
On Wednesday, Obama will travel to Miami, Florida for a "immigration town hall" hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC. Expect an all out attack on District Court Judge Andrew Hanen who Democrats are now calling a bigot.
On Thursday, Obama will host a reception in honor of Black History Month.
On Friday, Obama will host President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, at the White House.
If you haven’t seen the recent execution of Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh by ISIS, you’re lucky. It’s absolutely horrifying. In the video, ISIS burned to death al-Kasasbeh, who was captured on December 24. It ends with them dropping concrete debris on his charred body, destroying the cage they kept him in as he burned alive.
This video, along with the beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and other nationals captured by ISIS, has newsrooms grappling with a potentially serious problem within their work environments: mental health issues. The rise in graphic footage is often left to younger social media editors, who might not be able to handle the horrific scenes of brutality. As a result, the chances of these staffers becoming afflicted with post-traumatic stress rises dramatically (via Poynter):
The ISIS video – one of several of the terror group’s propaganda films showing killings – prompted intense debate over whether or not news sites should publish such footage. In particular, Fox News received both ire and praise for its decision to post the video in full.
Not as common, though, were conversations about the journalists tasked with watching and vetting potentially upsetting user-generated content.
Bruce Shapiro, executive director of The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, says the traumatic impact of viewing disturbing footage is something that newsrooms must address. War correspondents aren’t the only journalists at high risk for post traumatic stress disorder, he explained.
“It’s emerging as a newly significant issue,” Shapiro said. “There’s a flood of very graphic footage – the likes of which we’ve never seen before – coupled with the competition for clicks and eyeballs and increasing speed of journalism. Executives are concerned and confused about what to do.”
“There’s an association with handling a flood of graphic imagery and the risk for PTSD, we all know that,” said Shapiro, citing a 2014 study
led by psychiatrist Anthony Feinstein. “What’s new is that the flood is constant.”
Shapiro notes that the journalists asked to verify potentially graphic footage are often less experienced than their colleagues. “Very often, the people watching this footage — social media editors, UGC editors — are young and not prepared to handle it. That’s a new challenge.”
It’s a challenge that social news agency Storyful is facing head on.
Storyful, which News Corp acquired for $25 million in December 2013, is a formidable verification outlet. Its team of journalists works around the clock discovering, verifying and obtaining rights to a wide variety of user-generated content. Global News Editor David Clinch says at any given time there are between 6 to 12 people assigned to finding and vetting UGC at Storyful.
According to Clinch, Storyful maintains a strict policy around staffers’ exposure to graphic footage. “We usually have a pretty clear idea of what we’re going to see. If it’s a video where we think there might be something gruesome, one of our senior editors will look at that. We don’t ask junior editors or new people to look at gruesome videos.”
“These are precious journalists – trained people,” said Clinch. “Why would we want them to get burnt out?”
Step one to ‘Countering Violent Extremism’: call up local business and religious leaders. Step two: encourage said leaders to engage in a heartfelt tête-à-tête with the potential terrorist.
Yes, thank you Minnesota. That’s its new open-minded plan to discourage locals from joining ISIS. And unsurprisingly, the federal government is backing the plan.
According to Yahoo News:
The nascent plan is one of many experiments supported by the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism strategy. Leaders from the federal program’s three pilot cities — Boston, Los Angeles and the Twin Cities — are meeting for a three-day summit at the White House this week to discuss how best to fight back against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) and other terror networks’ increasingly sophisticated recruiting techniques.
Last year in Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger spoke to relatives and friends of a few of the 20 young Somali men who had left the country to become foreign fighters and asked them what they thought went wrong. Everyone’s stories varied, except for one key detail: They had sensed a change in their loved one before he left the Twin Cities to fight with terrorists. They just didn't know whom to tell, or were scared to involve law enforcement officials.
Now, the U.S. attorney has devised a possible fix for that problem. He’s tasked religious and business leaders of the Twin Cities’ Somali population — the largest in the country — to create “community-led intervention teams,” to whom worried parents or friends can take their suspicions of radicalization without involving the police.
Twin Cities Muslim leaders are nervous that the U.S. Justice Department will use the so-called ‘community intervention team’ to spy on the Somali community. Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR, told the Star Tribune:
“Allowing the federal criminal prosecutor and law enforcement agencies to engage in social services and organize mentorship and after-school programs — only in the Muslim community … blurs the line between community outreach and intelligence gathering.”
The program, as a whole, seems pretty ridiculous. At the same time, Muslim leaders should take into consideration that the added scrutiny should not come as a surprise. It is a chance for the Somali community to show that it has nothing to hide.
For those of you who are anti-gun, or pro-gun control, this is a classic example of a good guy with a gun defending himself from a bad guy with a gun. On February 18, 25-year-old Terry Gillenwater attempted to rob the Good Family Pharmacy in Pinch, West Virginia, just outside the capital of Charlestown. It would be his last act.
In surveillance video, you see Gillenwater attempt to rob the pharmacy at gunpoint, but he did not expect pharmacist Rob Radcliff, who is also a concealed carry permit, to draw his firearm shooting him three times. The first and third shots hit Gillenwater’s shoulder and chest. The second hit his gun, disabling it, according to West Virginia’s Metro News.
Nevertheless, Gillenwater kept point his firearm at innocent civilians and attempted to shoot throughout the whole ordeal.
Metro News also mentioned that Radcliff and others administered first aid to Gillenwater, but to no avail; he died at the hospital. No charges will be filed against Radcliff:
A pharmacist who fatally shot an armed robber in his drug store won’t face criminal charges, Kanawha County prosecutor Chuck Miller said [last] Friday.
“Mr. Gillenwater had done some preliminary efforts to case the pharmacy,” said Miller. “He had done some search on his iPhone with respect to drugs in the pharmacy.”
Gillenwater had entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute OxyContin in December. The plea was deferred to allow him to enter a drug rehab program. The deferred status is designed to allow the charges to be dropped if the defendant successfully completes the course.
Miller said although every case is different, Radcliff’s action was reasonable. Under state law, Miller said everyone has the right to defend themselves against deadly force and the pointing of a loaded pistol a Radcliff and other unarmed, innocent customers and employees of the store met the threshold.
“We believe Mr. Radcliff was completely justified in his actions,” said Miller. “It’s unfortunate this young man died as a result of his own action, but that happens.
“I must say it took a great deal of courage for Mr. Radcliff to pull his weapon and fire in the face of a weapon being pointed at him that was fully loaded with a round in the chamber,” Miller said. “That takes a lot of nerve, but he was completely justified in doing so.”
To those who simply don’t understand what transpired here (looking at you Everytown, gun control advocates), this is called defensive gun use.
File this one under strange-but-true: The State of New York has stricter regulations for pizzerias and tanning salons than it does for abortion clinics. A new bill proposed by State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) seeks to change this disturbing fact, and would require the state to inspect abortion clinics every two years and report on these findings.
According to language in the bill, there is no current inspection requirement for clinics, and eight of New York's 25 clinics have gone without inspection for over a decade.
From the bill (emphasis added):
According to the Public Health Law, the Department of Health is required to supervise and regulate the sanitary aspects of businesses and activities that affect public health. It does not, however, require the Health Commissioner to conduct periodic inspections of abortion clinics on a periodic basis. A recent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request uncovered the fact that only 17 of the 25 abortion clinics in New York had been inspected between 2000 and 2012, and five of those 17 had received only one inspection during that time period. Eight abortion clinics received no inspections.
Restaurants in the state are inspected yearly, and tanning salons are inspected every two years.
Not inspecting abortion clinics can have deadly cases. The Women's Medical Society of Philadelphia, where convicted serial killer Kermit Gosnell regularly murdered newborn babies who survived their abortions, went 17 years without an inspection. The FBI's initial raid of the clinic in 2010 was on suspicion of the sale of illegal prescription drugs. They found much more than that. Investigators found severed human feet and hands stored in freezers, and toilets were clogged with fetal remains. Presumably this would have set off alarm bells in an inspection and would have resulted in the facility being shut down, but Pennsylvania ended regular clinic inspections in the early 90s.
People on both sides of the abortion spectrum should support this bill. At the very least, clinics should be held to the same standards as a tanning salon.
1) Given his past promises, this should end well.
2) You never know where Biden might end up next...
3) Finally, some job creation for ISIS we can support.
4) Some legacy.
5) We forgot how much Hillary Clinton likes to disappear when a controversial issue emerges.