Friday, April 15, 2016

'It's On Us': White House Honors 10 'Champions of Change'

Hearing on U.S. Weapons Investments in Afghanistan

Defense Department officials, including Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, testify at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on Defense Department weapons contracts in Afghanistan. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

The Broadband Internet Bill

CQ Roll Call Technology Reporter Alisha Green discusses a House bill dealing with Federal Communications Commission regulation of broadband Internet rates. 

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Source: C-SPAN

'Flashback Friday': Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Barrier

Video courtesy of Jill Braff.

Trailblazers in Black History: The Supremes

Today in History: April 15th

First Read: Familiar Shots Fired Between Sanders and Clinton

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter. 

It was a status-quo debate, which benefits Clinton 

In last night's ninth -- and possibly final -- Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fired off the rhetorical weaponry that they had been accumulating over the last two months. And most of the shots sounded very familiar (In fact, as a colleague remarked, it sounded a lot like a college-dorm-room argument between the campus socialist and the president of the student body.)

Clinton knocked Sanders over that New York Daily News interview, his gun record, not raising money for Democrats, and for his inability (so far) to release his tax returns. Sanders countered by firing back at Clinton on judgment, Wall Street, for not being a consistent voice in raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and for her inability to release her Goldman Sachs speech transcript. It was a status quo debate - which benefits the frontrunner (Hillary Clinton) who leads in the polling in New York and in the overall delegate race, especially with Sanders traveling to Rome and Clinton raising money in California over the next two days. By the way, the New York Times is reporting that the Pope will NOT meet with Sanders while he's in Rome.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News 

First Read's Morning Clips: Trump Rips GOP Nominating Rules

OFF TO THE RACES: Trump rips GOP nominating process

In a strongly-worded Wall Street Journal op-ed, Donald Trump is doubling down on the idea that the Colorado delegate selection system and other contests are undemocratic and flawed. "My campaign strategy is to win with the voters. Ted Cruz's campaign strategy is to win despite them. What we are seeing now is not a proper use of the rules, but a flagrant abuse of the rules. Delegates are supposed to reflect the decisions of voters, but the system is being rigged by party operatives with "double-agent" delegates who reject the decision of voters. The American people can have no faith in such a system. It must be reformed... My campaign will, of course, battle for every last delegate. We will work within the system that exists now, while fighting to have it reformed in the future. But we will do it the right way. My campaign will seek maximum transparency, maximum representation and maximum voter participation." 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

U.S. Government 'Worse Than All Major Industries' on Cybersecurity

U.S. federal, state and local government agencies rank in last place in cybersecurity when compared against 17 major private industries, including transportation, retail and healthcare, according to a new report released Thursday. 

The analysis, from venture-backed security risk benchmarking startup SecurityScorecard, measured the relative security health of government and industries across 10 categories, including vulnerability to malware infections, exposure rates of passwords and susceptibility to social engineering, such as an employee using corporate account information on a public social network. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

'Let Them Sell Their Summer Homes and Jets': NYC Pension Dumps Hedge Funds

New York City's largest public pension is exiting all hedge fund investments in the latest sign that the $4 trillion public pension sector is losing patience with these often secretive portfolios at a time of poor performance and high fees.

The board of the New York City Employees Retirement System voted to leave blue chip firms such as Brevan Howard and D.E. Shaw after their consultants said they can reach their targeted investment returns with less risky funds.

The move by the fund, which had $51.2 billion in assets as of Jan. 31, follows a similar action by the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), the nation's largest public pension fund, and public pensions in Illinois.

"Hedges have underperformed, costing us millions," New York City's Public Advocate Letitia James told board members in prepared remarks. "Let them sell their summer homes and jets, and return those fees to their investors." 

Click here for the full article.

Anti-Gay Harlem Pastor Could Lose Church to LGBT Homeless Shelter

In the near-decade that Stacy Parker LeMelle has lived across the street from the Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church on Lenox Avenue, she has had to swallow a daily dose of outrage. There — on one of the most important streets in the history of black culture and in the middle of the city where the modern gay rights movement began — it stands: an official letter board sign used to regularly promote racist and homophobic hate.

"Jesus would stone homos," trumpeted one of the more jarring messages mounted outside the church in recent years, stopping many a passerby cold. "Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may take your man," read another.

At first LeMelle tried to ignore it, occasionally laughing at the proclamations when they became too much to walk past without yielding to some sort of emotional reaction. Eventually, though, she and her neighbors decided they had seen enough. 

Click here for the full article.

Peter Liang Manslaughter Verdict Stands: Judge Denies Motion for New Trial

A Brooklyn judge Thursday denied former New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Peter Liang's request for a new trial, clearing the way for his sentencing next Tuesday, April 19.

State Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun ruled that Liang's attorneys did not prove that 62-year-old Michael Vargas, known as Juror 9, committed juror misconduct during jury selection when he said no one in his close family had been accused of a crime. Vargas' father, Norberto Vargas, was convicted of manslaughter and served more than seven years in prison for "accidentally shooting a friend," according to a motion filed by Liang's attorneys — Paul Shechtman and Gabriel J. Chin — that quoted Vargas in an interview with the New York Daily News

 Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

G20 Finance Leaders Under Pressure to Boost Growth


Reuters, 15/04 16:01 CET

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Financial leaders from the Group of 20 major economies scrambled on Friday for a way to keep global growth from stalling amid concerns about a drop-off in international trade and the waning effectiveness of loose monetary policy.

The G20 gathering, the highlight of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington, came amid growing pressure on richer nations to boost infrastructure spending, deregulate industries and spur employment.

Earlier this week the IMF cut its 2016 growth forecast for the world economy, the fourth such move in less than a year.

In a statement to the G20 on Thursday night, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said governments could not continue relying on central banks to take the lead in spurring growth and should consider boosting spending. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Iran’s Soleimani in Russia for Talks on Syria, Missiles – Sources

Reuters, 15/04 15:55 CET

By Lidia Kelly and Parisa Hafezi

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani has flown to Moscow for talks with Russia’s military and political leadership to discuss the conflict in Syria and deliveries of Russian missiles, sources with knowledge of his trip said on Friday.

The main purpose of his visit was to discuss new delivery routes for future shipments of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, sources said, with one saying Soleimani wanted to talk about how Russia and Iran could help the Syrian government take back full control of Aleppo.

“General Soleimani travelled to Moscow last night to discuss issues including the delivery of S-300s and further military cooperation,” a senior Iranian security official told Reuters.

Soleimani met both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, one source said. A Kremlin spokesman said a meeting with Soleimani was not on Putin’s schedule. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

France Vows Crackdown After Rolling Protest Clashes

Reuters, 15/04 15:20 CET

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s interior minister on Friday ordered a crackdown on violent fringe demonstrators after they smashed shopfronts and cars on the edge of a bigger youth protest rally held overnight against labor law reforms.

Police used teargas and pepper gas late on Thursday to disperse mobile groups of mostly hooded youths who targeted cars, an auto showroom and a state job-search agency in central Paris. Violence was also reported in other French cities.

“There will be no let-up in the pursuit of these visionless people inspired solely by violence, no let-up in arresting them and bringing them to justice,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.  

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Erdogan Satire Video: Merkel Clears Path for Prosecution

Comedian Jan Boehmermann

The German government will not block a prosecution of a satirist who mocked Turkish president Recep Erdo─čan.

Angela Merkel said that despite divisions in the cabinet, the ruling coalition would pass the case to the law courts. Reports said that she herself had cast the deciding vote.

Comedian Jan Boehmermann sparked fury in Ankara by reading out a lewd poem about the Turkish president on German state TV channel ZDF.

Under German law, prosecution for the offence of insulting a head of state requires a green light from politicians. If the insult is deemed to be slanderous, the sentence must be between 3 months and five years in jail.

However Merkel added that she wants to change the law to prevent such charges being brought in future. 

Source: Euronews

Rousseff Asks Brazil Court to Halt Impeachment Proceedings

Source: Euronews

North Korea’s ‘Failed’ Missile Test is Potential Blow for Kim Jong-un

Source: Euronews

Whistleblowers Under Threat? MEPs Agree New Rules on ‘Trade Secrets’

EU lawmakers voted on Thursday to change the rules on protecting trade secrets in a move that critics believe could have a chilling effect on media freedom.

The vote follows three years of negotiations with the European Commission and EU governments. The EU executive first proposed the common rules in 2013.

It will introduce an EU-wide definition of what amounts to a trade secret; the aim is to protect European companies from spying by global rivals. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ISIS Targets American Imams for Believing Muslims Can Thrive in U.S.

 Photo illustration by The Daily Beast

By Katie Zavadski

ISIS just put three American imams on their kill list. One stunned preacher says it’s like a twisted episode of ‘The Walking Dead.’

Three American imams got put on ISIS’s hit list for promoting the idea that Islam and the West can coexist.

The terrorist group’s latest issue of propaganda Dabiq attempts to theologically justify an attack on the religious leaders in an article titled “Kill the Imams of Kufr in the West.” The men are worse than hypocrites, ISIS says, because they say Muslims can thrive in America.

“The person who calls himself a ‘Muslim’ but unapologetically commits blatant kufr [disbelief] is not a munafiq [hypocrite], as some mistakenly claim. Rather, he is a murtadd [apostate],” Dabiq claims.

The Daily Beast will identify two of the Americans with pseudonyms because of the direct threats on their lives. A third, who gave The Daily Beast permission to use his name, responded with dark humor.

“Nothing like a death threat with a danish and a latte in the morning,” Suhaib Webb told The Daily Beast.

This is the first time ISIS has put out a direct hit on U.S. imams.

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast

Politics in Action: Senate Substitute Amendment to H.R. 636

Senate Substitute Amendment to H.R. 636 – Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016
(Sen. Thune, R-SD, and Sen. Nelson, D-FL)

The Administration appreciates the Senate's bipartisan effort to advance an aviation reauthorization bill.  In the past, the Congress has managed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through a series of short-term patches, creating significant uncertainty for the FAA and undermining the agency's ability to make long-term capital investments and plan for the future.  Though the Administration believes that eighteen months do not provide the long-term certainty that the FAA needs to advance on its critical priorities, the Administration appreciates that the bill is intended to enable a longer-term dialogue about the future of our aviation system.

The Administration's priorities for a long-term aviation reauthorization bill include the need to ensure safety, serve the public interest, modernize the air traffic control system, and better align aviation resources with the needs of the National Airspace (NAS).  The bill contains some provisions that advance these priorities.  However, it also includes provisions that would undermine the FAA's ability to address critical challenges, like mandating controller hiring preferences and limiting FAA's ability to make business-like decisions about its services.

There are also a number of provisions within the bill that need to be improved, particularly as it relates to safety, security, and the environment.  For example, with regards to safety, while the Administration shares Congress' goal of fast and efficient integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the NAS, the FAA must be able to maintain regulatory flexibility.  The bill would direct the Department of Transportation to develop certification standards for small UAS so that companies could engage in the widespread transportation of property two years from passage.  This kind of overly prescriptive means of integrating UAS using legislation would disrupt the ongoing rulemaking process.  From a security perspective, the bill would require the Transportation Security Administration to establish screening and other measures at certain small airports, meaning the agency would be required to reallocate staff and equipment from higher-risk, higher-need facilities. The bill also includes provisions related to air tours over national parks, which could negatively impact the visitor experience and protection of park natural resources.

The bill also should do more with regards to infrastructure investment.  For the past seven years, the Administration has called on the Congress to provide flexibility to airports to invest in a stronger aviation system.  This bill misses an opportunity to improve airport infrastructure by not allowing for adjustments to Passenger Facility Charges in tandem with reforms to the Airport Improvement Program.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that strengthens our aviation system, improves safety, and maintains the leadership of the U.S. in global aviation. 

Source: The Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

President Obama Welcomes the Wounded Warrior Ride to the White House

The President and the Vice President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Ride to the White House, a cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being and raise awareness of our nation’s heroes who battle the physical and psychological damages of war. Building on the President’s efforts to honor and thank our veterans for their service, the kick-off event brings together former service members from numerous veterans organizations empowering and supporting veterans and their families across the nation.

President Obama Delivers a Statement on ISIL (Full Video)

Hearing on Electric Grid Security

Federal officials and energy industry representatives testified at a hearing on the threat of a cyberattack on the U.S. electric grid. Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, told committee members the federal government needs to address long-term response and planning should the nation’s electrical grid be taken out by a cyber or physical attack for lengthy amounts of time. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Hearing on U.S. Biodefense

Government Accountability Office and Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services Department officials testify at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on biological threats facing the United States. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN 

House Speaker Weekly Briefing

House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) briefs reporters on his recent visit to the Middle East region and responds to questions on a range of issues, including Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring, the budget, and presidential campaign. 

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Source: C-SPAN

House Minority Leader Weekly Briefing

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefs reporters and responds to their questions on a range of issues, including the budget, the presidential campaign, and immigration. 

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Source: C-SPAN

'The Trump Party': A Special Commentary by Mumia Abu Jamal

The commentary was recorded on March 19, 2016, and was provided by Prison Radio.

Information on Mumia Abu Jamal's case is available here.

Life Facing Bars: A Gang Prevention Documentary

Published on YouTube on March 19, 2014.

Life Facing Bars: A Gang Prevention Documentary is a 40-minute feature about gangs in California's Central Coast. It features ex-gang members sharing their experiences and dispelling the lies about the gang lifestyle. Our main audiences are local junior high and high school students and educating them about choices and consequences. 

Video courtesy of Matt Yoon.

Trailblazers in Black History: Coretta Scott King

Today in History: April 14th

First Read: Clinton, Sanders to Clash After Contentious Week

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Clinton, Sanders to clash in debate after contentious week

Remember last fall when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shook hands after Sanders exclaimed that "the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damned emails"? Well, those days are long gone, particularly after a combative week that sets up the final Democratic debate (?) of the 2016 campaign before the April 19 New York primary. Consider the back-and-forth over the past week:

Sanders called Clinton "unqualified" after the former secretary of state dodged repeated questions on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about whether Sanders was qualified.

After backing away from that line of attack, Sanders went after Clinton's "judgment" on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday: "In terms of her judgment, something is clearly lacking," he said.

The Clinton campaign seized Sanders' interview with the New York Daily News editorial board to hit the Vermont senator on his guns record and his plans to break up the banks. 

Click here for the full article.

Speaker at Bernie Sanders Rally Apologizes for Use of 'Insensitive' Term

Obama Administration Weighs Nixing 'Confidential' Classification

The nation's top intelligence official is considering letting spy agencies drop the lowest level of classification, "confidential," in an effort to shrink the gusher of secret documents flowing out of their offices.

The proposal by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, comes amid a simmering controversy over classified information that found its way on to the home email system used by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. 

But Clapper's proposal would have little bearing on the Clinton matter, because it would only apply to the intelligence community, not the State Department, said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence expert at the Federation of American Scientists who first called attention to it. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News 

Puerto Rico Faces Default as Congress Stalls on Help

Puerto Rico is facing a deadline for a multimillion-dollar bond payment next month as House Republicans struggle to find a way to help the island deal with its $70 billion debt.

A House committee canceled a Thursday vote on the issue as Republicans were divided on how Congress should weigh in. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has warned that a debt restructuring measure needs to be approved soon as the deadline for a $422 million bond payment looms in May. 

Puerto Rico has said it will likely default on the payment, which would mark the first time the island would default on general obligation bonds protected by the island's constitution. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Ex-Cop Peter Liang Sentencing Postponed, Juror Questioned for Alleged Misconduct

One of former New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Peter Liang's attorneys questioned a juror in court Wednesday afternoon over his alleged Facebook shares that were critical of police and about accusations he was untruthful during jury selection when he said no one in his close family had ever been accused of a crime.

Juror 9, 62-year-old Michael Vargas, took the witness stand before Justice Danny Chun in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn a week after Liang's attorneys, Paul Shechtman and Gabriel J. Chin, filed a motion asking for a new trial based on the allegations. Liang's attorneys wrapped up their questioning of Vargas late Wednesday afternoon, and prosecutors are expected to cross examine him tomorrow.

Liang's sentencing, originally scheduled for Thursday, April 14, was postponed until and is expected to take place on Tuesday, April 19. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Napster Co-Founder Sean Parker Pledges $250M to Fight Cancer

The Silicon Valley billionaire and Napster co-founder is putting his money behind a new cancer institute focusing on the emerging field of cancer immunotherapy. 

China Lambasts U.S. Rights Policies After U.S. State Department Report

Reuters, 14/04 11:34 CET

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. rights policies have gone from bad to worse, China said on Thursday, in its annual rebuttal of a State Department report on human rights around the world that criticised China’s “severe” crackdown on lawyers.

The U.S. “wantonly infringed upon” civil rights and faced “rampant gun-related crime”, said the lengthy report, issued by China’s State Council, or cabinet, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Human rights have long been a source of tension between the world’s two largest economies, especially since 1989, when the United States imposed sanctions on China after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

China’s report follows Wednesday’s release of the U.S. report, which criticised Beijing’s “severe” crackdown on Chinese lawyers and law firms handling cases China considers politically sensitive.

The U.S. report described human rights policies in 199 countries, and also focussed on rights abuses in the Middle East.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: Euronews

China Court Rules Gay Couple Cannot Marry

Source: Euronews

Shock Election Defeat for South Korea Ruling Party

Source: Euronews

‘Moral Crisis’ Could ‘Destroy’ EU, Warns Bulgarian President

Source: Euronews

The Consequences of the Panama Papers

Source: Euronews

Terror Suspects in Court in Brussels Amid Abdeslam Nuclear Claims

Source: Euronews

Volodymyr Groysman is New Ukraine Prime Minister

Source: Euronews

US Health Experts Confirm Microcephaly Link with Zika Virus

Source: Euronews

South Korean Researchers Develop a Smart Patch for Diabetes

Source: Euronews

“Bring Back Our Girls” Parents Mark Second Anniversary of Abduction

Source: Euronews

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Operation Educate the Educators: Recognizing and Supporting our Military-Connected Students

Remarks by Dr. Jill Biden and Education Secretary John King at a White House Convening on Operation Educate the Educators: Committed to Recognizing and Supporting our Military-Connected Students.

Blurred Lines: Politics and Entertainment

Mark Warren talked about a piece in the April 2016 edition of Esquire Magazine titled “The Inevitable Takeover of Pop Politics,” which argues that the line dividing politics and entertainment has become blurred.This program was part of a “Washington Journal” series highlighting recent magazine articles. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

A Message for Women Across America: Domestic Violence PSA

Video courtesy of Megan Q.

Trailblazers in Black History: Mary J. Blige

Today in History: April 13th

First Read's Morning Clips: Trump vs. the RNC

OFF TO THE RACES: Trump vs. the RNC

Donald Trump is aggressively attacking the "rigged" delegate system, saying "It's a phony deal."

And he said at a CNN town hall last night: "I know the rules very well, but I know it's stacked against me by the establishment."

Reince Priebus responded to Donald Trump's complaints about the GOP delegate selection process, saying "give us all a break."
The Washington Post calculates that Cruz is poised to block Trump from winning on a second ballot in Cleveland.

On Paul Ryan's announcement yesterday: Perry Bacon Jr. writes that Ryan's running a campaign -- it's just not for president.
Our newest NBC 4/ Marist poll of Maryland shows big leads for Trump and Clinton. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

NYC Transit Workers Union Endorses Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders accepts the endorsement from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and talks income inequality, the minimum wage and trade policies. 

Click here for video.

Source: MSNBC