TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.


In the News

  • Obama meets today on Ferguson
  • Rams players protest on Ferguson
  • Wilson resigns – no severance package
  • What happened in the grand jury room?
  • Ferguson: What they’re saying


  • Black Friday: Are we over it?
  • Can Congress avoid a govt shutdown??
  • SCOTUS: When is a threat a true threat?
  • Threats: Subjective vs objective
  • Qatar frees then detains U.S. couple
  • GOP staffer wigs out on Obama girls
  • Lords-a-leaping! 12 days = $116,000+


Obama Meets Today on Ferguson
• President Obama is planning a day of meetings at the WH today to respond to the unrest in Ferguson, and racially tinged anger across the country, after a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who’s white, who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Obama has no planned visit to Ferguson

• Obama this morning meets with members of his Cabinet to discuss federal programs and funding that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. Then he’ll sit down with young local and national civil rights leaders in the Oval Office (NYT, WaPo, Hill, me)

• “As the country has witnessed, disintegration of trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve can destabilize communities, undermine the legitimacy of the criminal justice system, create resentment in local communities and make the job of delivering police services less safe and more difficult,” – WH official on Sunday night

This afternoon, Obama will meet at the WH with elected officials, community and faith leaders, along with law enforcement officials, to discuss how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country

Rams Players Protest; Police Group “Disappointed”
• During the first St Louis Rams’ home game since the grand jury’s decision last Monday, five black players stood with their hands raised before trotting onto the field for pregame introduction. It was an apparent show of compassion and solidarity for Ferguson protesters (AP, KSDK, Fox, me)

• “I just thinking there has to be a change,” tight end Jared Cook said after the Rams’ 52-0 rout over the Oakland Raiders Sunday. “There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world.”

• Wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt came out together first, with the move obscured by a smoke machine. Cook, Stedman Bailey and Chris Givens then came out and stood together with hands raised in the fog. Coach Jeff Fisher said he hadn’t been aware the gesture had been planned by the players

• The St Louis Police Officers Assn said it was “profoundly disappointed” with what it called a “display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.” It called for the players involved to be disciplined and for both the league and the team to issue a “very public apology.”
Wilson Resigns, No Severance Package
• Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson didn’t receive a severance package when he resigned over the weekend, Mayor James Knowles said Sunday. Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow.”

• His lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, told AP that Wilson decided to step aside after police Chief Tom Jackson told him about the alleged threats on Saturday. Bruntrager said Wilson and the city were already discussing an exit strategy

• When asked Sunday if there were any changes to Ferguson’s leadership planned, Mayor Knowles said there were not. Many have called on Jackson to resign, but he’s told reporters he doesn’t plan to do so

• On Saturday night, as protesters gathered near the police station, many seemed unsatisfied with the news of Wilson’s resignation. “We want an indictment and we’re still going to stand for that,” said Alicia Street, 29, who lives in nearby Florissant. Protests continued nationwide throughout the weekend, and protesters briefly closed down 1-395 in Washington DC

• In a nationally-televised interview last week, Wilson said he had a clear conscience because “I know I did my job right.” He said Michael Brown had “the most intense aggressive face.” “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.” (dehumanizing Brown)
• Earlier Sunday, about 100 marchers led by the NAACP set off from the street where Brown was killed on a week-long walk to Missouri’s Capitol, 120 miles away. They invoked the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s 1965 march in Selma AL, the Freedom Rides and other civil rights era pilgrimages for justice

• Scores of people met at a church to sort out what comes next for the protest movement. Possible goals: firing the Ferguson police chief; urging passage of legislation requiring a special prosecutor to be appointed in cases like Brown’s involving the police; consolidation of small police depts; a requirement for annual reports from MO PDs on episodes of deadly force

• Also Sunday, Gov Jay Nixon sent state lawmakers a letter outlining what he called an urgent need to cover the ballooning costs of maintaining hundreds of National Guard troops and state police officers. The governor has called for a special legislative session

• The parents of Brown and the parents of Trayvon Martin, another keen killed in 2012 by a neighborhood watch volunteer, came together Friday night in Florida for a vigil. Martin’s father Tracy told Michael Brown Sr, “God has his hands on the situation, and he’s going to be OK,” according to AP

• Documents released in the Ferguson case (NYT)

What Happened in the Grand Jury Room?
• A review of thousands of pages of testimony from the Darren Wilson case shows that the forensic evidence and some witnesses’ accounts are consistent with Officer Wilson’s explanation of what happened: (NYT, me)• That he shot Michael Brown because the teen was charging forward in a threatening way and that Brown’s hands were not raised to the sky, but were at his sides. He also testified that Brown had one hand in his waistband. Brown was unarmed

• The testimony around this critical moment show that the prosecutors, and sometimes the jurors, often treated Officer Wilson’s account as the truth, leaving questions about it unasked

• But many witnesses contested all or parts of the account. They said Brown seemed to be trying to give up and was stumbling toward Wilson, perhaps hobbled by his injuries, before the fatal shots were fired. There were nine white jurors and three were black

• The materials reveal that some jurors raised concerns about their personal safety as they drew close to a decision, and that jurors not only listened to, but questioned, the dozens of witnesses (AP)
• While grand juries traditionally act as vehicles to gather evidence for indictments, this one treated the Brown case more as an impartial request, a move the county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, has portrayed as an effort to ensure fairness

• McCulloch was under pressure from the Brown family and its supporters to recuse himself because he’s the son of a police officer who was killed, of his family’s deep ties to law enforcements and his past dealings with police shootings. But McCulloch declined to step aside

• Some legal experts say the turn away from the grand jury’s traditional role dulled the jurors’ incentive to gather evidence questioning Wilson’s account and implicitly signaled that this case was different from other criminal inquests

• In addition, “It seemed the cross-examination of witnesses that conflicted with his
[Wilson’s] account was much more robust, and that there was very little cross-examination of him,” said Rachel Barkow, a New York University law professor who studies how prosecutors use their power&&&

• A downspout installer testified that he was sure he had seen Brown “kind of moving at him like, ‘I’m giving up,’ hands up.” A prosecutor said, “You didn’t hear him say that?” The witness said: “He said: ‘OK, OK, OK.’ That, to me, means – ” The prosecutor stepped in. “I just want to be clear. When you said that, that was what you are interpreting, right?”

• In contrast, Wilson described the moment: “And he had started to lean forward as he got that close, like he was going to just tackle me, just to go right through me,” The prosecutor responded, “Can you demonstrate for us how he was leaning forward?”

• Some experts questioned why Wilson – nominally the defendant in a process aimed at determining his guilt or innocence – had been among the first witnesses to testify, the reverse of usual grand jury procedure. But experts were divided on whether it would have benefited Wilson or not

• Given the physical evidence and the high bar to prosecution set by Missouri’s laws on self-defense and justifiable use of force by an officer, obtaining an indictment – let alone conviction at trial – might still have been unlikely, even under a prosecutor determined to get one

• The Justice Dept is conducting civil rights investigations into the shooting and the broader practices of the Ferguson PD
Ferguson: What They’re Saying
• “The president is in a very, very tough place” on Ferguson, Gov Deval Patrick (D-MA) said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. Patrick said he had the sense that the president “wants to go” to Ferguson. but probably worries about appearing to influence the ongoing federal investigation (WaPo, Hill, me)

• Dallas Deputy Police Chief Malik Aziz, on CNN’s State of the Union, criticized the police response in Ferguson as “failing.” “You have to either step up to the plate and believe in a real and true community policing philosophy or you get left behind.” Aziz is chairman of the National Black Police Assn

• St Louis Alderman Antonio French (D) said on ABC’s This Week that Ferguson’s police chief should resign. He also said: “I find Officer Wilson to be remorseless, cold, and frankly, a lot of his answers sounded like they were prepared by a lawyer.” French told Buzzfeed he has not been invited to the WH today

• Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Brown family, said on CBS’s Face the Nation that “his mother and father don’t think officer Wilson had any consideration for their child and they wonder if he ever had a conscience. That’s troubling to them.”

• Daryl Parks, an attorney for the Brown family, said on Fox News Sunday that the Brown family “have the option of a civil lawsuit, one, [on] a civil rights basis against Officer Wilson, two, against the police dept and the city of Ferguson if that time comes.”
• Full surveillance video captures Cleveland police officer fatally shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice within two seconds of arrival on the scene a week ago. Officers then failed to give him first aid for 3 minutes 49 seconds. Finally received aid when a detective and FBI agent arrived on the scene (WEWS-TV, Fox 5, Think Progress)

Black Friday: Are We Over It?
• Total retail spending from Thursday through Sunday sank 11% from a year ago to $50.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, which surveyed 4,600 consumers on Friday and Saturday. Shoppers spent an average of $380.95, down 6.4% from a year earlier (WSJ, NYT, Reuters, me)

• The trade group still expects total holiday sales through the end of the year to rise 4.1% to $616.9 billion The group said the number of people who went shopping declined 5.2% from last year to 134 million. (Retail greed serves them right – the fun of Black Friday has gone now the shopping’s started weeks before)

• Still, Walmart came out the “undisputed leader” in terms of traffic. Best Buy, Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s were busy Thanksgiving night. The sales period was a “lost weekend” for apparel unless it was at fire-sale prices, which it often was

• The Consumer Electronics Assn said about 45% of shoppers bought electronics, more than in any of the last three years. TVs were the surprise winner, helped by big deals on larger models

• The internet didn’t attract more shoppers or more spending than last year. We’ll see how the web does today – Cyber Monday – which actually started Sunday for many sites (recommend the app RetailMeNot – you can see deals at your favorite shops, in store and online)
• UN climate negotiators are meeting in Peru amid record-breaking temperatures for the year to date. 195 nations have committed to finalizing a new climate pact in Paris by year’s end. Long-standing divisions between rich and poor countries could again hinder progress (BBC)
Can Congress Avoid a Govt Shutdown?
• The 113th Congress is scheduled to conclude by 11 December, (we’ll see) and House Republican leaders are beginning to coalesce around a strategy to avoid a govt shutdown on 12 December. The idea is to keep the govt open while satisfying the base, which is furious with President Obama over his immigration executive order (Politico, Hill, Roll Call, Reuters, me)

• The likely proposal would fund nearly the entire govt through September 2015, but immigration enforcement related funding would be renewed on a short-term basis – probably spring 2015, according to several high-ranking GOP lawmakers and aides who described the plan as it stood before the Thanksgiving recess

• The House Republican Conference will hold a closed meeting Tuesday morning, and if there’s consensus early in the week on a way to respond to Obama, a bill could come to the floor as early as Thursday, a GOP aide said. There’s no indication that House Republicans are unified in a way to respond

• Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has several options with a bill: The leadership team is considering trying to pass a govt funding bill that could target some immigration enforcement funding (leadership preference), or they might directly respond to the executive action in a standalone bill

• A memo released last week from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service to Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said lawmakers could halt operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency by prohibiting the use of funds by a specific agency for a specific purpose – would apply to fees. It noted that courts could have different interpretations
SCOTUS: When Is a Threat a True Threat?
• Anthony Elonis, a former PA amusement park worker, was convicted in 2011 of threatening to kill his wife, shoot children at a kindergarten and slit the throat of an FBI agent. The threats were made on Facebook and raise the question: when do threatening comments made online cross the line into criminal activity? (AP, Hill, Guardian, TRNS, me)

• In a far-reaching case that probes the limits of free speech over the internet, the Supreme Court today will consider whether Elonis’ Facebook posts, and others like it, deserve protection under the First Amendment

• “Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?” he wrote in one of many posts. “It’s illegal. It’s indirect criminal contempt. It’s one of the only sentences that I’m not allowed to say.”

• In another post, he wrote: “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

• After he made threats to his former employer, an FBI agent visited him at home. This prompted Elonis to write: “Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the bitch ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat.”

Threats: Subjective vs Objective
• Elonis used a rapper-sounding pseudonym, Tone Dougie, on Facebook for posts and made references to his “art” and first amendment speech rights as well as using smiley faces to indicate some threats were “jokes.” (could be fakeout?)

• His lawyers contend he never intended actual violence and was merely sounding off during a dark period in his life. After two lower courts upheld his conviction, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether Elonis’s state of mind matters, as long as a “reasonable person” would feel threatened

• For more than four decades, SCOTUS has said that “true threats” to harm another person aren’t protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has been careful to distinguish threats from protected speech such as “political hyperbole” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks.”

• Depending on their decision, the justices could redefine the way threats of online violence are treated. The justices will decide to what extent, if any, they want to redefine “subjective” and “objective” intents to threaten violence in a digital age

• The subjective intent argument takes into account what the person was thinking and the context of the threat – whether they actually meant to carry it out. Elonis was convicted on an “objective” definition of intent with the court ruling that “a reasonable speaker would foresee the statement would be interpreted as a threat.” SCOTUS to date has avoided clarity on this
• Hong Kong police armed with pepper spray and batons have clashed with pro-democracy activists trying to surround govt offices, in some of the worst unrest in two months of protests over 2017 elections over the next chief executive (BBC)
Qatar Frees Then Detains U.S. Couple
• An American couple, Matthew and Grace Huang from LA, was acquitted of wrongdoing Sunday by an appeals court in the death of their adopted African daughter after a nearly two-year legal ordeal. But their attempt to leave Qatar was thwarted when immigration officials refused to allow them to depart Doha’s airport (BBC, NYT, WaPo, Hill, me)

• SecState John Kerry said Sunday, “I spoke with Qatari FM Attiya today and called on the govt to immediately implement the court’s decision and permit their return to the United States without further delay.”

• The couple were convicted of child endangerment over the death of Gloria, eight, in January 2013. They spent a year in prison before their case was heard for the first time. They say the little girl died of medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits that included periods of binging and self-starvation, a vestige of her impoverished upbringing in Africa

• The prosecution alleged she had died after being denied food and being locked in her room. According to a website campaigning for the couple’s freedom, Qatari police had accused them of starving Gloria to death in order to harvest her organs or to perform medical experiments on her body&&&

• Sunday, the appellate judge, Abdul Rahman al-Sharafi, discredited the prosecution’s case point by point in his ruling, a highly unusual development in the Qatari judicial system where prosecutors and the police are often heavily favored

• The case laid bare some ingrained prejudices in Qatar about adoption and multiracial families. Part of the original prosecution argument rested on suspicion that the Huangs, who are of Asian descent, could not possibly have adopted a black African girl and must have been seeking to sell her or her organs

• The Huangs moved to Qatar in July 2012 with the children (two other adopted children) because Huang had been hired as a public works engineer in Doha as part of its preparations for the 2022 World Cup tournament

GOP Staffer Wigs Out on Obama Girls
• I’d be remiss if I didn’t report on the hideously abhorrent behavior of Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Rep Stephen Fincher (R-TN), who read an article on conservative site Mad World News (well named) and then dumped verbal turkey poop all over Sasha and Malia on her own Facebook page (WaPo, Trove, Root, BBC, me)

• Several news outlets playfully chided the girls over their reactions to the president’s turkey pardoning, which they witnessed, but Lauten lashed out: “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play.” (irony apparently escaped Lauten)

• Then she got really mean to innocent young girls: “Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion.” (ow. And she’s supposed to be in communications, too)&&&

• “Act like being in the WH matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.” (What did they ever do to her? And why play into rape culture?)

• Then came the massive backlash – and then came the lame-oh apology – and then came the deletion of the apology from her page – and then the making of her Facebook page private

• Best bit: “After many hours of prayer, (she needed hours?) talking to my parents (really?) and re-reading my words online, I can see more clearly how hurtful my words were. Please know that these judgmental feeling truly have no place in my heart.” (but they obviously did). She pledged to “learn and grow” from the experience…


• Vid: President Obama pardons Cheese the turkey (Mac his sidekick got pardoned too), watched by Sasha and Malia, with much eye-rolling

Lords-a-Leaping! 12 Days = $116,000+
• The cost of six geese-a-laying spiked considerably this year, while eight maids-a-milking stayed the same, as did most of the items in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas, according to the 31st annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index (AP, me)

• A set of gifts in each verse of the song would set you back $27,673 in stores, an increase of less than $300 – or 1% – from last year. But internet shoppers would see a bump of about 8% over last year’s internet prices – up to $42,959 online

• Buyers looking to buy all the items each time they were mentioned in the song (lunatics) – 364 that is – would spend $116,273, a modest 1.4% increase from a year ago

• Partridge, $20; last year $15. – Pear tree, $188; last year $184. – Two turtle doves, $125; last year same. – Three French hens, $181; last year $165. – Four calling birds (canaries), $600; last year same. – Five gold rings, $750; last year same. – Six geese-a-laying, $360; last year $210. – Seven swans-a-swimming, $7,000; last year same

• Eight maids-a-milking, $58; last year same (underpaid). – Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $7,553; last year same. – 10 lords-a-leaping (per performance), $5,348; last year 5,243. – 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,635; last year same. – 12 drummers drumming (per performance, $2,855; last year same

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______________Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Shane Farnan contributed to this report


The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.