(The Root) -- I wish that when President Bill Clinton started spouting off the other day about the need for President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria's horrific civil war or risk looking like "a total fool," Obama had followed the example set by his wife when she was recently confronted by a heckler. I wish that Obama had leaped from his bully pulpit, got in Clinton's face and silenced him with a withering put-down. But of course, that didn't happen. Instead of resisting the intensifying pressure from political enemies like Republican Sen. John McCain of...
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reportedly received threats from a man who said he would kidnap, murder and burn the tea partier and his father.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office said 37-year-old Nick Gates demanded $3 million from Cruz and his father, according to the Houston Chronicle. Gates now faces a felony charge for making a terroristic threat and is being held at the Harris County Jail in Houston under a $10,000 bail.
An intern at Cruz's Austin office told investigators that a man called the office on June 5, saying that Cruz "owed him money or a bomb would explode," according to an arrest warrant filed in the case. The man, who identified himself as Abolfazi Akbori, called again the same day after the office had closed and left a threatening message on the office's voicemail system.
Another phone message was left at Cruz's San Antonio office containing threats that the caller "would kidnap, murder, and burn Ted Cruz and his father," the arrest warrant states.
The message states, "Ted has a choice. Give me three million dollars or lose the sun." The caller said that "due to government misconduct the sun would blow up and said he might be able to prevent the sun from blowing up if he receives three million dollars," according to the arrest warrant.
KPRC reports workers in Cruz's Texas and Washington, D.C. offices were given a photograph of Gates and made aware of his history, which includes a previous felony conviction for attempted retaliation after threatening a police officer that arrested him for drunk driving.
Cruz is one of several political figures to receive death threats in recent days.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, received a death threat from a man who said he wanted to "personally blow" his "head off." President Barack Obama has received several death threats throughout his time in office, most recently in March when a man allegedly posted tweets that claimed he was "coming to kill" Obama and his family.
Click here for more from the Houston Chronicle.
In an op-ed in Politico today, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken a firm stand against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. And that's great. It's about time that someone took on Bobby Jindal for doing all the stuff Bobby Jindal's been doing lately that Bobby Jindal is just sick to death of. Might as well be Bobby Jindal!
See, today, Bobby Jindal is letting the world know that he is tired of the way the Republican Party keeps on with this relentless, post-2012 election self-critique. "We've had enough," writes Jindal, adding, "Enough, already." In Bobby Jindal's estimation, "excessive navel gazing leads to paralysis" and "at present it looks as if the entire Republican party needs to go to counseling."
The overall level of panic and apology from the operative class in our party is absurd and unmerited. It’s time to stop the bedwetting.
Yeah, well, you'll have to forgive me if I point out that when I test all the dampened sheets for DNA, I get several matches for Bobby Jindal. I mean, it took all of two weeks before Jindal was publicly castigating his party's 2012 standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, who contended that he lost the election because President Barack Obama successfully promised "gifts" to young voters and minorities.
"That is absolutely wrong," Jindal said back in November, adding, "I absolutely reject that notion."
From there, Jindal basically fashioned himself the would-be king of the GOP "rebranding effort." At January's winter meeting of the RNC, Jindal demanded that those in attendance undertake a deep, navel-based pondering, telling his colleagues that they needed to stop being "the stupid party."
"I'm here to say, we've had enough of that," said Jindal, who just constantly has had "enough" of stuff.
"The Republican Party does not need to change our principles -- but we might need to change just about everything else we do," he told those in attendance, seeming to imply that a lengthy period of self-examination was necessary.
And as recently as a month ago, Jindal was still at it. At a Republican Senate Majority Committee fundraiser in Manchester, N.H., Jindal provided a keynote speech entirely centered around GOP self-reflection and self-critique, saying that the party needed "to make some changes." "I think we need to think seriously about where we go from here," said Jindal, suggesting that he was eager to do a lot of serious thinking about where the party should go from there.
Of course, a funny thing happened while Jindal was staking out turf as his party's most serious critic. First, his attempt at "innovating" -- his proposal to eliminate Louisiana's state income tax and replace it with a regressive increase in state sales taxes -- was met with stiff resistance "from the left, the center and the right." His popularity and clout diminished from there.
And so, the man who would rebrand his party has abruptly decided to rebrand himself. And with that comes a new plan for the GOP, which he helpfully laid out in Politico today:
At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don't know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon.
Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don't have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don't matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.
"Eventually," Jindal says, "Americans will rise up against this new era of big government and this new reign of politically correct terror." What to do until then?
"Put on your big boy pants," says Jindal, helpfully and substantively.
The short version of Jindal's new plan for GOP renewal, then, is basically 1) attack a bunch of straw men; 2) sit back and chill and enjoy a well-fitting pair of trousers; and 3) profit.
This is a far cry from the Bobby Jindal who suggested "we might need to change just about everything else we do," but I guess Bobby Jindal has had enough of that guy.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
GOP needs action, not navel-gazing [Politico]
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Last week, the United States announced that it was convinced that the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, thus crossing a line set by President Barack Obama that would trigger U.S. involvement in the three-year-long rebellion and resulting civil war. On CNN’s The Situation Room, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., made the case for U.S. involvement in Syria. Chambliss serves as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The United States has never stood by and seen innocent people slaughtered to the extent that's happening in Syria," Chambliss said. ...>> More
WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of Congress asks the director of national intelligence if the National Security Agency collects data on millions of Americans. "No, sir," James Clapper responds. Pressed, he adds a caveat: "Not wittingly."Then, NSA programs that do precisely that are disclosed.It turns out that President Barack Obama's intelligence chief lied. Or as he put it last week: "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner, by saying, 'No,' because the program was classified."The White House stands...
ACCORDING to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama risks looking like a "fool" if he decides not to intervene militarily in Syria's continuing civil war. Likening the situation to his decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999, Mr. Clinton said Tuesday that if he hadn't used force to stop Serbia's campaign of ethnic cleansing, critics might have said: "You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn't you do it?" Mr. Clinton believes that Mr. Obama could end up looking like a "total wuss" if he doesn't...
WASHINGTON -- Earlier this week, a group of friends and families of the Newtown, Conn. shooting victims piled into a bus and made the six-hour trek to Washington, D.C., to give the stalled background checks legislation a push.
The timing of their trip was intentional: Friday marked six months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre, and Newtown residents wanted to mark the anniversary by making sure Congress didn't forget what happened -- and what can be done to prevent more gun-related tragedies. For days, they held public demonstrations on the Capitol lawn, gathered with Democratic leaders at press events and hand-delivered letters to lawmakers signed by 80 gun safety organizations representing more than 10 million Americans in support of background checks legislation. They had private meetings with nearly two-dozen lawmakers still undecided on whether to support the background checks bill, and some even landed a meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
But as they prepared to head home on Thursday, some felt badly at the way they were received by lawmakers who remain opposed to background checks legislation. And they were ready to name names.
"The worst was a staffer for Sen. Flake. It was not good," said Sarah Clements, 17, the teen chairwoman for the Newtown Action Alliance whose mom is a teacher at Sandy Hook. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is regularly cited as someone who may be willing to support the gun bill, despite his vote against it in April.
"Basically, he hasn't changed at all. We expected there to be a little bit of movement, especially after his polling numbers got so low," Clements said, referring to Flake's popularity sinking after his gun vote. At one point, she said she tussled with Flake's staffer over the staffer's claim that the vast majority of people in Arizona don't support tighter background checks. "We proved to her that isn't true," Clements said. "She just didn't move on that."
Clements noted that she is one of several Newtown teenagers who came to Washington because they are "very close" to those impacted by the shootings and have "very compelling stories" that highlight the need for Congress to act.
"[Flake's staffer] is the one person that didn't even change after we told our stories," she said. "It was very hard to hear."
Po Murray, one of the leaders of Newtown Action Alliance, said the group's meeting with Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) was especially frustrating out of the 20 or so meetings the group had with lawmakers who still had not signed onto the bill. She said Holt told the group he strongly supports gun control but won't cosponsor the bill because it doesn't create a gun registry, something he said his state has. Notably, several lawmakers initially wouldn't support the bill precisely out of concerns that it would create a registry, but to ease their concerns, the bill now explicitly states that it will not.
"That's why he won't cosponsor this?" Murray said of Holt. "Then he said if it went to a vote, though, he would vote for it. So I'm like, what?"
Clements also remembered the meeting with Holt as one of the least pleasant.
"You should have seen me in Rush Holt's office," she said. "I was getting so frustrated. He kept contradicting himself so much, I kept pointing it out to him ... He kept interrupting us as well. That was not fun."
Requests for comment from Flake's and Holt's offices were not immediately returned.
Not that the meetings were all bad. Gina McDade, also in the Newtown group, listed some lawmakers who she said at least seemed to hear their position, even if they did not outright support it. Those members or members' staffers included Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Gene Green (D-Texas), John Barrow (D-Ga.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
"Pretty noncommittal," McDade said of her overall take on lawmakers' responses to the group.
She gave credit to some lawmakers for at least being straightforward about why they aren't supporting the bill. She said a staffer for Rep. William Enyart (D-Ill.), for one, told her, "I'll be honest with you: It's the NRA. We're dealing with the concealed-carry laws right now, which they're begging for us to pass."
McDade said that position "is not acceptable, but at least he was honest. I'd rather that then them lie to us and say, 'I haven't read the bill.'"
A request for comment from Enyart's office was not immediately returned.
In the two months since the Senate background checks bill failed, lawmakers have been scrambling to find the extra five votes needed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to move it forward. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said during a Thursday press event that he's been reaching out "to everyone" he can to get there, and suggested that even if he can round up two or three, Democratic leaders may be willing to put the bill on the floor again.
"If we're that close, we may want to bring it up in the hopes that those last couple of votes may come in the immediacy of the action," Blumenthal said.
At the same press event, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at least one GOP senator has been privately signaling support for the background checks bill this time around. He was mum on details.
"We've been doing well with more than one Republican," Reid said.
For this week, though, House and Senate proponents of the bill were happy to yield attention to the Newtown families. They fumed at the news that some of their colleagues, who remained nameless, were closing their doors to the families of gun violence victims trying to meet with them.
"I can't talk about who it was," Blumenthal said. "But there are senators, some of them very well known, who have said they will not meet. I think that refusal is unconscionable."
Those lawmakers should "have the guts to take a meeting" with Newtown families, said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
None of the Newtown Action Alliance members interviewed by HuffPost could point to an instance where a lawmaker said flat-out that they wouldn't meet with them. But they did name some lawmakers who said they had scheduling conflicts or were too busy to meet. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) canceled their meeting because of a scheduling mix-up, though he did meet with another Newtown group in town, Sandy Hook Promise. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told them she was too busy, and Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas) canceled their meeting.
An Ayotte spokesman responded that the senator had previously met with Newtown families in Washington. A request for comment from Gallego's office was not immediately returned.
As Clements was preparing to head home on Thursday, walking across the Capitol lawn with dozens of others wearing matching green Sandy Hook T-shirts, she said despite the bumps over the past few days, she thinks the group's efforts had an effect on lawmakers.
"It's frustrating when you get out of those meetings and you don't see movement. But what we have to realize is we're planting seeds," she said. "Even if this takes a long time, we're planting seeds. That’s what I continue to think about."
She may not have realized it, but there was movement as she spoke: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) added his name to the House background checks bill on Thursday. The bill now has 181 cosponsors.
Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., attracted some attention for a House floor speech on June 11, 2013, in which he said he’s ready to accept President Barack Obama’s "apology" for spending too much on climate change research. In his one-minute speech, Bridenstine -- whose state has been hard-hit by severe tornadoes in recent weeks -- expressed skepticism that human activity has historically caused either global warming or cooling. He went on to say the following: "Here’s what we absolutely know. We know that Oklahoma will have tornadoes when the cold jet stream meets the warm gulf ...>> More
As he has done all along, Barack Obama is edging his way up to the precipice in Syria, and even now the president very much does not want to jump in—not into America's third major war in the past decade. Even while announcing what was billed as a major shift of policy Thursday, Obama signaled that he is unwilling to put American boots on the ground or even to be seen as taking the lead in the conflict in Syria.Judging from the latest signals from the White House, Obama wants the newly announced U.S. military aid to the Syrian rebels to be kept to a stringent minimum, and he...
President Barack Obama's tour of sub-Saharan Africa this month was supposed to make history as his first stay extended stay in the region, but a report by the Washington Post this week has shifted focus onto the trip's price tag, which could reach upwards of $100 million.
When the first family departs on June 26 for a weeklong visit to the continent that will bring them to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, they'll kick into motion an expansive security procedure that is typical for any presidential travel.
The entire security apparatus is required to be present on the ground at each of Obama's stops, as his quick pace will leave little time for the entire detail to pack up and redeploy at the next location. The Post reports that this challenge has led to a requirement of 56 total support vehicles -- 14 of them limousines and three of them trucks carrying bulletproof glass panels to cover the windows where the first family is set to stay. All of these will be flown to their various positions by military jet.
Secret Service agents will also be flying to each of the African locations en-masse, ensuring that they have secured the premises prior to the first family's arrival. The Post reports that hundreds of agents will be needed for the operation.
All said, the cost is expected to run the federal government somewhere between $60 million and $100 million, an amount that the White House told the Post is almost entirely determined by what the Secret Service deems necessary in order to ensure the safety of the president and first family. But the fact that the report comes amid sequestration, which took a toll on the Secret Service budget earlier this year, is likely to bolster critics who have questioned the real impact of the cuts.
Obama's forthcoming trip is the latest evidence that presidential travel is both incredibly expensive and frequently controversial. When President Bill Clinton went to Africa in 1998, his trip came at a cost of around $42.8 million. President George W. Bush made two trips to Africa during his tenure, though information from the Government Accountability Office hasn't turned up a specific figure.
Of course, Obama's milestone trip to Africa isn't all about how much people are spending on it. The president is also expected to spend time re-affirming partnerships with the sub-Saharan powers and emphasizing the importance of global health programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention.
Barack Obama, watch your back. Chris Christie has a new BFF: Jimmy Fallon.
The New Jersey governor stopped by "Late Night" on Wednesday to perform guest vocals on Fallon's trademark bit, Slow Jam the News. Christie used the opportunity to explain his wisdom in calling for an October 16 election to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Frank Lautenberg, which was met with much criticism and a lawsuit for potentially being confusing for voters.
As in all the Slow Jam the News segments, Fallon coos R&B style interludes underneath the wonky political explanation, backed with a slow groove from house band The Roots. Typically, Fallon's NBC colleague Brian Williams delivers the news, but Obama did it once during his 2012 campaign.
Check out the clip above, where Christie jokes about the Senate vacancy, his weight and his chances of running for president in 2016.
Two weeks ago I rushed to a recording studio for a last minute job: to voice the words of a young French man named Nabil Hadjarab.
Nabil was just 22 years old when he was sold for a bounty to US forces and taken to Guantanamo Bay. He has been held there ever since without charge or trial. The US has since admitted that he was mistakenly arrested.
In 2007 Nabil was cleared for release. Then, in 2009, Barack Obama became President and promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Nabil - like all the detainees - thought that maybe, finally his time had come to be released from his indefinite detention. Instead, the President did nothing. He closed the office charged with closing the prison and since the start of the hunger strike conditions have steadily deteriorated.
In despair, Nabil - and the majority of those detainees still being held in Guantanamo without charge - reached for the tool of last resort for people with no voice and no power. Following in the footsteps of the suffragettes and the Irish before him by using literally the only method at his disposal to protest his ongoing detention, Nabil went on hunger strike.
He has now been striking for over 120 days. He is being force-fed, a gruesome and brutal procedure denounced by the medial ethics community as torture. Nabil doesn't want to die - none of the men in Guantanamo do. But despair at being held without any hope of release has rendered him willing to do so.
One of the biggest challenges Nabil faces is that he has been cut off from the world. His voice has been silenced. I passionately believe that everyone deserves someone to stand up for them, to fight their corner. The human rights charity Reprieve and I have made this film so that people can hear Nabil's own words and understand who he is. I hope that his powerful words will help people understand the travesty of Guantanamo, and will galvanise action for his release.
President Obama could end the illegal detention at Guantanamo Bay and close the prison tomorrow if he wanted to. Nabil could return to his family and home in France if only the US would ask the French government to take him.
Please watch this film, share it with your friends, and sign the petition. And as you eat your next meal, spare a thought for Nabil.
A new HuffPost/YouGov poll has found that while Americans are divided in their opinion of how President Barack Obama is handling the job of protecting the country against terrorism, they are more likely to give Obama bad marks when it comes to protecting constitutional rights.
According to the survey, 16 percent of Americans say Obama has done an excellent job at protecting the U.S. from terrorism, while 29 percent say he's done a good job, 20 percent say he's done only a fair job, and 29 percent say he's done a poor job.
But when it comes to protecting Americans' constitutional rights, an even larger proportion -- 45 percent -- said that Obama is doing a poor job. Eleven percent said he's doing an excellent job, 23 percent said a good job, and 15 percent said he's doing only a fair job.
Eighty percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents, but only 11 percent of Democrats, rated the job Obama is doing protecting constitutional rights as poor. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats rated the job Obama is doing on the issue as either excellent (27 percent) or good (41 percent).
The results come after recent revelations that the NSA is employing broad surveillance programs that collect phone data and information on online activities. While it's possible that respondents who rated Obama as doing a poor job of protecting Americans' rights might have something else in mind, the survey also finds that more think Obama has erred too far in the direction of defending against terrorism than going too far in protecting civil liberties.
Asked how Obama has handled the task of balancing the two, 33 percent said he's erred too far in the direction of defending against terrorism, 15 percent said he's gone too far in defending civil liberties, and 30 percent said he's struck about the right balance.
A 55 percent majority of Democrats in the poll said that Obama has struck the right balance, while 20 percent said he had erred too far in defending against terrorism and 6 percent said he had erred too far in protecting civil liberties. Republicans, on the other hand, were in broad agreement that Obama has not struck the right balance (only 10 percent said he had) but divided over what he was doing wrong -- 35 percent said he had erred in the direction of protecting against terrorism, and 31 percent said he had erred in the direction of protecting civil liberties.
Forty-one percent of independents said Obama was erring too far in defending against terrorism, while 11 percent said so about civil liberties and 23 percent said he had struck the right balance.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted June 7-8 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The divide between Democrats and Republicans in California is famously wide. The state that's currently sending both Nancy Pelosi and Darrell Issa to Congress was recently rated the single most politically polarized in the nation.
That polarization doesn't just extend to voting habits--it also manifests itself in all sorts of interesting, and often unexpected, ways.
In a recent study conducted by three University of Chicago political scientists, California Democratic and Republican parents even chose different names for their children.
Eric Oliver, the paper's lead author, who presented his findings at the Midwestern Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Chicago earlier this year, looked at over half a million babies born to California mothers in 2004 and matched up the birth records to U.S. Census and election data to determine where the children were born and the likely political leaning of their parents based on the neighborhood where their parents live.
Oliver told LiveScience that he decided to look at baby names as a way to determine the cultural gap between liberals and conservatives in a way largely separate from economics.
"Baby names kind of popped out as a possibility, largely because they're good barometers of taste, and they're remarkably free from market effects, because nobody is out selling baby names," he explained, noting that he initially didn't expect to find a significant difference between the two groups. "The fact that we would find any kind of systematic differences, much less the magnitude of differences that we found--I really did not anticipate that."
Oliver discovered that liberals tended to pick more feminine sounding names with "L" sounds and soft-"A" endings--such as Liam or Sophia--whereas conservatives' choices went towards the more masculine end of the spectrum with harder "K" and "T" sounds--like Kurt.
For example, compare the names of President Barack Obama's children, Sasha and Malia, to the names of the Palin brood--like Track, Trig and Bristol.
Additionally, college-educated liberals were more likely to pick relatively uncommon, "culturally obscure" names for their kids, while conservatives typically selected more traditional options.
The study also looked at the race and education level of the mothers and found that, while liberals across the board were more likely to pick uncommon names than conservatives, those demographic features also played a large role in child naming decisions. Whites and Hispanics were much less likely to give their kids an uncommon name than were Blacks or Asian/Pacific Islanders.
The types of uncommon names given also varied widely depending on the mother's education level. The uncommon names more educated parents give their children tended to be obscure cultural references, whereas less educated parents were more prone to giving names that are new spellings of already popular names.
Researchers found that the effect of political leaning on naming behavior has a much stronger effect on Whites than it does for mothers of other races.
However, for all political stripes, the higher one goes up the socioeconomic status, the greater the prevalence of names that are already very popular across the culture.
"Over the past decade, there has been much speculation about whether the ideological fragmentation of elected representatives is also evident in the mass public," wrote the study's authors. "Yet, at the same time, the effects of ideology are mostly confined to the better educated echelons of white, American society. So, yes Americans are divided by ideology, but it is an ideological division largely limited to its educated, white population."
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- President Barack Obama's national security adviser says the president described for China's leader the types of problems the U.S. has faced from cyber intrusions and theft of intellectual property.
White House national security adviser Tom Donilon gave no specifics but says Obama also underscored for Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) that the U.S. has no doubt that the intrusions are coming from inside China.
Donilon says Obama requested that the Chinese government "engage" on the issue and also understand that that type of activity is inconsistent with the kind of relationship U.S. desires to build with China.
Donilon addressed reporters Saturday after Obama and Xi concluded two days of meetings at a resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
* Leaders address tensions over cybersecurity
* Agreement to pressure North Korea on nuclear arms
* Eight hours of talks at desert retreat (Adds details)
By Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and John Ruwitch
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., June 8 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping over allegations of cyber theft on Saturday but they agreed at a shirtsleeves summit in the California desert on reining in North Korea.
The two leaders debated how to handle China's growth as a world power more than 40 years after President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to Mao Zedong's Communist China in 1972 ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.
While Obama publicly emphasized the U.S. desire for a "peaceful rise" by China, privately he laid out some specific examples to Xi of what the United States says is Chinese cyber thievery.
American officials have voiced increasing alarm at cyber spying from China that has hit U.S. businesses and Obama is under pressure to take steps to stop it amid controversy in America about the extent of his own government's counterterrorism surveillance.
The Washington Post reported recently that China had accessed data from nearly 40 Pentagon weapons programs.
Obama's message to Xi carried a warning, "that if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States property, that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship," White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon said.
Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi told reporters Beijing wanted cooperation rather than friction with the United States over cybersecurity. Xi had told a news conference with Obama on Friday that China itself was a victim of cyber attacks but that the two sides should work together to develop a common approach.
"Cybersecurity should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction, rather it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation," Yang said.
But while cyber attacks were a sore spot, the two leaders found common ground on North Korea, whose belligerent rhetoric, nuclear tests and missile launches have frustrated its only ally, Beijing, and raised tensions in the Asia Pacific.
American officials came away from the Obama-Xi summit believing that China is ready to work more closely with the United States on North Korea than it has in the past, but offered no specific concrete measures to be taken.
Donilon told reporters that Obama and Xi "agreed that North Korea has to denuclearize, that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and that we would work together to deepen cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization."
Yang told a separate news conference that Xi had told Obama that China and the United States were "the same in their positions and objectives" on the North Korean nuclear issue.
CHINA STILL N. KOREA ALLY
Beijing has resisted full implementation of U.N. sanctions against its impoverished neighbor out of fear a collapse of the reclusive state could trigger chaos on China's border.
Analysts cautioned that it remained unclear and probably unlikely that Beijing had changed its fundamental calculus about North Korea, an old Cold War ally that serves as a buffer between China and democratic South Korea, which hosts 28,000 U.S. troops.
"Going back a very long time, China and North Korea have a lot of problems, and don't particularly like each other, but they've needed each other and in a certain real sense they still do," Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center, a Washington thank tank.
In one tangible outcome of the summit, Obama and Xi agreed to cooperate in fighting climate change by cutting the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are greenhouse gases.
In talks that may set the stage for U.S.-Chinese relations for years to come, both Obama and Xi appeared to gain something from talks that both used to try to advance a new model of cooperation between the world's lone superpower and its rising economic competitor in Asia.
Obama, whose second term has gotten off to a rocky start at home, was able to break away from domestic political troubles and advance U.S. interests in Asia, even as he faces a new controversy over a government-run domestic surveillance program that in recent days has emerged as far more expansive than originally thought.
Xi was able to promote directly to Obama his desire for a "new model of major country relationship," in which China would be viewed as an equal global player.
Many questions remain unanswered about U.S.-Chinese relations in the wake of the talks. Concerns about the U.S. military "pivot" toward Asia were unresolved, while Washington's worries about China's military assertiveness are ongoing.
To that end, Obama urged Xi to de-escalate a contentious territorial dispute with Japan over remote islands in the East China Sea and deal with the matter through diplomatic channels, Donilon said.
A maritime territory dispute over islets in the East China Sea has escalated to the point where China and Japan scramble fighter jets and patrol ships shadow each other.
The United States, a formal security ally of Japan, says it is neutral about sovereignty over the islets, but opposes use of force or unilateral efforts to change the status quo.
For its part, China urged the United States to halt its arm sales to Taiwan.
Aside from the discussion of various disputes, the overall objective of the summit appeared to have been reached, as Obama and Xi simply got to know each other and injected some warmth into often chilly relations.
Obama also seized the opportunity to strike an even deeper personal bond with Xi by meeting the Chinese leader's glamorous wife, Peng Liyuan, a famous singer, for tea before bidding the couple farewell at the end of the summit.
There had been some talk that Obama's wife, Michelle, had snubbed the Chinese first lady by staying back in Washington, but the Chinese knew well in advance that Mrs. Obama needed to stay home while her two daughters finished the school year.
"Terrific," was how Obama described the sessions when asked by a reporter how the talks were going.
The Obama-Xi visit included a 50-minute one-on-one session on Saturday morning that included a stroll outside in the desert heat, and a Friday night dinner of lobster tamales, porterhouse steak and cherry pie prepared by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
China experts say if Obama and Xi can develop personal rapport - something lacking between U.S. presidents and Xi's notoriously wooden predecessor, Hu Jintao - and make at least some progress on substantive issues, the summit could gain historic significance.
"One would hope that there's a level of confidence that emerges from this meeting, and it's something that's very personality-specific," said Richard Solomon, a former assistant secretary of state. (Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Walsh)
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation Friday that would prevent the government from obtaining the phone records of Americans without "a warrant based on probable cause," following reports that the National Security Agency has secretly been collecting the records of millions of Americans.
The Guardian reported Wednesday that the NSA is collecting call data from millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret U.S. court order. The news, which comes on the heels of reports that the Justice Department had been investigating leaks involving the Associated Press and Fox News, prompted further concerns about government overreach.
It appeared to be the moment Paul, a vocal defender of civil liberties, was waiting for. He announced his bill, "The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013," in a statement Thursday, as his colleagues on Capitol Hill were busy defending the NSA program.
"The revelation that the NSA has secretly seized the call records of millions of Americans, without probable cause, represents an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," Paul said. "The bill restores our Constitutional rights and declares that the Fourth Amendment shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause."
Paul strongly condemned the surveillance, calling it an "astounding assault on the Constitution." He accused President Barack Obama of being more "bent towards authoritarianism" than former President George W. Bush.
Paul announced his measure before the Washington Post reported Thursday evening about a government program called PRISM, which tracks information from nine leading U.S. Internet companies. But he also introduced a bill last month that would extend Fourth Amendment guarantees to electronic communications. The bill would require judges to grant specific warrants to the government in order for it to obtain information on Americans' use of email, the Internet, credit cards, cell phones, and other forms of modern communication.
Obama said Friday he "welcomes" a debate on the issue of national security and privacy rights, but it remains unlikely that Paul's attempt to revisit the issue legislatively will gain much traction. Lawmakers acknowledged Thursday that Congress approved the NSA program and was regularly briefed on it. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee forcefully defended the steps as necessary to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism.
And although Paul has garnered national attention over his pledge to protect civil liberties, most recently through a 13-hour talking filibuster on the use of drone strikes, his own record is rather mixed. The senator has supported the surveillance of foreign exchange students from the Middle East and signaled support for the imprisonment of individuals who attend "radical" speeches. He has consistently opposed the Patriot Act, but opposes shutting down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Paul also received $4,800 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel for his 2010 Senate run, the maximum donation allowed that year, according to Federal Election Commission data. Thiel is also the founder of Palantir Technologies, a controversial defense contractor that profits from providing spy services to the CIA, FBI and other agencies. Paul's association with Thiel is nonetheless modest compared to that of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who during his 2012 presidential run received his largest donations from Thiel.
Paul Blumenthal contributed reporting.
Read the full text of the bill:
The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013
Might it be that it was Ronald Reagan and not Barack Obama who began to slow the rise of the seas? That is one conclusion that could be drawn from a new paper by Canadian physicist Qing-Bin Lu of Ontario's University of Waterloo. Instead of carbon dioxide emissions, Mr. Lu argues that ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halocarbons caused global warming. Thanks to the Reagan administration and the 1987 Montreal Protocol, CFCs have been phased out by developed countries. After a lag, Mr. Lu argues that global temperatures peaked around 2002 and predicts they are set to...
In the Rose Garden on June 4, 2013, President Barack Obama announced three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In unveiling the nominees, Obama criticized Senate Republicans, accusing them of consistently obstructing his court picks. While Obama acknowledged that Democrats "weren’t completely blameless when I was in the Senate," he added that today’s Republican opposition to his judicial picks "is unprecedented." "Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote," Obama ...>> More
The security policy of the U.S. government from Cheney to Obama has passed from secret surveillance of communications abroad to secret surveillance of all communications at home. In what stages did it happen? Some day the history will be written; for now, it is instructive to rehearse the facts. Five years ago, Barack Obama was a candidate for president who pledged to filibuster a congressional bill that offered amnesty to telecoms that illegally gave information on American customers to the government. When Obama backed down from that promise, he pledged, if elected, to have his attorney general investigate the surveillance of Americans and bring the laws of the land back within the limits of the fourth amendment. As it turned out, he made Eric Holder his attorney general, and the security policy of the Obama administration came to be defined by harsh prosecution of whistleblowers who revealed the facts of illegal searches and seizures.
Yesterday in the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald offered a startling glimpse of the program of systemic surveillance Dick Cheney innovated and Obama has refined. A FISA court order, obtained by Greenwald and linked in the article, compels the Verizon Business Network to furnish for the NSA "on an ongoing daily basis for the duration of this order. . .all call detail records. . .created for Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." This command is sweeping. It makes Verizon hand over to the FBI all "From" and "To" information about all phone calls made by all customers using Verizon. The order is dated April 25, 2013. It expires on July 19, 2013. It is classified "Top Secret," and due to be declassified on 12 April 2038. It is one of the approximately seven million documents which the Obama administration hides from most Americans every year.
This revelation is only the latest indication of the modus operandi of the Holder justice department. If anything has slowed the public challenge to the actions of the attorney general, it is that his infractions against the first amendment bruised different parties in such diverse ways. The Right has taken most seriously the language about "conspiracy" used to obtain secret warrants against the Fox reporter James Rosen; while the liberal side has been struck by the unraveling of the post-Watergate restraint on vendettas against investigative journalism. But the character of the FISA court order shows how far the abuses have reached beyond party. William Binney quit the NSA in 2001, in disgust at its policy of encroachment in the name of protection. Today on Democracy Now, Binney gave a precise idea of the extent of the data that Verizon is commanded to surrender to the Holder justice department:
NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it's been all the companies, not just one. . . .If Verizon got [a FISA order], so did everybody else, which means that, you know, they're just continuing the collection of this kind of information on all U.S. citizens. That's one of the main reasons they couldn't tell Senator Wyden. . .how many U.S. citizens are in the NSA databases. . . .If you collapse it down to all uniques, it's a little over 280 million U.S. citizens are in there, each in there several hundred to several thousand times.
Thomas Drake, whom the justice department harassed and prosecuted for whistleblowing on wasteful expenditures by the NSA, made a related observation in the same extended pair of interviews. With an indiscriminate generality of focus, such as this order demonstrates to be the rule in the Obama administration, "there's no need now to call this the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Let's just call it the surveillance court. It's no longer about foreign intelligence."
A generalized approach to prosecution emanates from the White House itself. Death warrants have been issued for "signature strikes" by drones on human targets whose names are unknown, and against whom no specific charges are stated. The justification? Their pattern of observed behavior is a "continuing and imminent threat" or a "continuing, imminent" threat. Well, a continuing imminent threat is a good deal like a chronic acute illness. It gives an automatic warrant for a doctor to prescribe x-rays and antibiotics every day for a lifetime. But our doctors, in this case, live in the sky and you cannot get a lawyer to sue them for malpractice. With the presidential jargon that christens assassination as "delivering justice" to terrorists and speaks of unknown victims as a "continuing imminent threat," this administration has been engaged in a purposeful corruption of language. But that corruption is necessary, since, without it, we might not accept the change of morale in which we are being invited gradually to acquiesce.
And what of your phone calls, reader? And what of mine? In the connection between the dates of certain calls and certain subsequent events, may it not be that a "signature" or pattern worthy of prosecution will be discoverable at some future date? Medical records also will be subject to the same interested construal if a government agency large enough and operating under secret orders can lay its hands on them. There is, in fact, a deep correspondence, which we tend to ignore, between the protection-state at home and the war-state the government operates abroad. Still, in the initial response to Greenwald's article and the court order, Republicans have been characteristically worried about the leak and not the contents of the leak; most Democrats have been silent; and a bipartisan inertia has appeared in comments by senators Feinstein, Graham, and Chambliss: they knew all along what was happening, they say, and Americans should be grateful for the acts of a state that has the goodness to protect us and the discretion to do it in secret. But there are fresh warnings, now, from Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, and from others too: Jeff Merkley and Barbara Mikulski and Dick Durbin, and a Republican, Mark Kirk, and an independent, Bernie Sanders. The warnings all say: the more we give to the government on the pretext of sheer protection, the more it will take and use as it pleases.
The press has scarcely begun its pursuit of the issues around the AP and James Rosen seizures. There is work to be done -- but now, with the Guardian disclosure, reporters may claim to question the government as direct and not as mediating advocates of the public. The president who has heard fewer unrehearsed questions from the press than any president in modern times should be made to answer for his experiments against the first and fourth amendments. Let reporters ask what data he supposes government is not allowed to collect. For it has come to seem on the face of things that there is nothing the Obama administration will not claim a right to know about us for our own good.
Even now, government aides are most concerned about "the magnitude of the leak." The question that troubles them is not, How did we come to this? but rather, Shall we prosecute the whistleblower? The pattern is so galling and tedious, and its harms so invisible to all but a few, that we may be tempted to relax and wait for the next election. But remember again the language of the court order. On an ongoing daily basis. All call detail records. Including local telephone calls. The next president will inherit this. No names, no records of words (not yet), no inculpating or exculpating evidence (just "signatures"), but still: these are outlines of the communicative behavior of upward of a million persons, with similarly compelling orders out to the other telecoms. The aim is to capture by index the whole of the U.S. population. The amazing and routine FISA order is a blind command for the opening of a thousand eyes.
The plainest rebuke to such procedures comes from the language of the fourth amendment itself.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The force of these word is to say: we do not live by secret laws, and we will not abide by general warrants. To the comforting reply by senators Chambliss, Graham, and Feinstein, who ask us to sleep well and sleep long, what can we say? In what country do they think they are living, and under what constitution?
President Barack Obama imagines a country where teachers know what's happening in their students' brains.
He wants "teachers to have an ability to assess learning hour by hour and day by day," a senior White House official said Wednesday. "That vision ... is really not possible with the connectivity we have today."
That's why on Thursday Obama will speak at a school in Mooresville, N.C., to unveil an initiative that adims to give 99 percent of America's public schools high-speed connectivity over the next five years.
The project, called ConnectED, also seeks to get devices into the hands of teachers and students so they can experience digital lessons and software designed for the classroom. Districts will be in control of their own purchasing. The plan would also use existing money within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to fund professional development to "help teachers keep pace with changing ... demands," according to a background memo provided by the White House.
Senior administration officials called the project "transformative," saying that fully digitized classrooms will prevent students from being bored, prepare them to eventually compete in the modern-day economy, help teachers keep better track of their students' learning and also spur improvements in educational product development.
The move to digitize classrooms comes just in time for states that are slated to implement assessments tied to the Common Core, a set of learning standards adopted by most U.S. states. The tests tied to the Core are primarily digital, a situation that poses a problem for rural schools that don't have the computers or the bandwidth to test entire classes at once.
Only one-fifth of educators say their school's Internet connection can support their lesson plans. Though schools are, on average, as well-connected as private homes, they have 200 times the number of Internet users.
"This is huge," said Sara Schapiro, who oversees the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of districts in 21 states. "At the current rate, the average Internet speed that schools have is not enough to support the assessments. ... We should deliver on the promise, a high level of connectivity that would let schools do the assessments the way they were meant to rather than printing them out."
The White House says the initiative will rely on expanding the Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program to give schools high-speed Internet and computer access. Officials estimate that over a limited period of time, ConnectED could cost an additional 40 cents per month, or $5 a year, on home phone bills.
The E-Rate program, launched in 1996, was supposed to offer high-speed Internet to schools and libraries for lower rates. But it has faced criticism for not delivering on its promise. A 2002 FCC Inspector General report cited the program's "inadequate competitive bidding requirements" and a lack of sanctions for schools and libraries found to be fraudulent. A Pro Publica analysis in 2012 concluded that "there is growing evidence that the program's crucial low-price requirement has been widely neglected by federal regulators and at least one telecom giant." The report found that 10 years after the program launched, AT&T was not teaching its employees to offer school districts these rates.
While many see potential in digital learning, school districts meanwhile face an almost Wild West of unregulated purchasing options in a new market. Digital learning initiatives are sometimes so unpalatable that Idaho's voters used a referendum on November's ballot to shut down the governor's one-to-one computer program for schools -- in part because it gave Hewlett-Packard a $180 million contract. On the other hand, Los Angeles is now developing a plan to put iPads into the hands of 600,000 students.
In addition to expanding access and keeping costs down, another goal of ConnectED, a White House official said, would be to keep better track of student data.
But moves to digitize student records have increasingly drawn concern from parents. inBloom Inc, a non-profit that runs a K-12 student database, has seen several states distance themselves from the project as parents protested what they considered its infringement on student privacy. Louisiana's education chief John White withdrew from the program in April, according to reports, and has said he no longer sees a need for the service.
Mooresville, where Obama will speak Thursday, may seem an unlikely site for education tourism. But since 2009, the small district has given laptops to students in the fourth grade and above to foster digital learning. The district has reported a climbing graduation rate, from 73 to 90 percent since 2007, and an increase in academic performance, with students proficient at their grade level increasing from 73 to 89 percent.
Mooresville's superintendent has said improvements came about not because of the laptops, but thanks to the instructional changes they heralded.
-- Authorities have returned to a Texas home linked to the investigation into ricin-tainted letters sent to New York City's mayor and President Barack Obama.
FBI agents wearing hazardous material suits were seen going in and out of the house in New Boston Wednesday. The house also was searched last Friday.
A law enforcement official has told The Associated Press that the search was initiated after the resident's spouse contacted the FBI. The official wasn't authorized to disclose information and spoke to the AP Saturday on condition of anonymity.
Davilyn Walston, the spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in the eastern district of Texas, confirmed Wednesday that a ricin investigation is ongoing in the district but declined to provide details.
New Boston is near the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders.
By appointing Susan Rice as his new national-security adviser and Samantha Power to represent the U.S. at the United Nations, Barack Obama is practically shouting a message to the Washington GOP: “I’m no longer afraid of you.”Flash back four years. Obama skipped over Rice and other campaign confidantes to name James Jones, a guy he barely knew, to head the National Security Council. Why? Because Obama was a liberal Democrat and Jones was a Marine General who could watch his back with the military, especially if Obama made decisions on Afghanistan and Iraq that...
In the Rose Garden on June 4, 2013, President Barack Obama named three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a pivotal moment in a long-simmering partisan fight over the nation’s second-most influential court. That prompted Republican lawmakers to sharpen their rhetoric, accusing Obama of trying to "pack" the court -- a phrase that invokes the 1937 proposal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to increase the size of the Supreme Court by as many as five justices. It’s no small charge: FDR’s scheme was seen, then and now, as a ...>> More