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Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
 

At least 10 people killed, 15 wounded after blast in central Istanbul square

 

Quick News
  • State of the Union: The scoop
  • State of the Union: The dish
  • Paul out of main debate: Howls
  • Clinton, Sanders: Offense & Defense
  • White supremacists <3 Trump
  • Human traffickers exploit DHS failures
  • SCOTUS: Union fees
 
State of the Union: The Scoop (AP, Reuters, me)
Tonight’s State of the Union address at 9 pm ET will likely be President Obama’s last high-profile opportunity to speak to the public before voting in the 2016 race begins on 1 Feb. Politics will loom over the address. He is expected to stick to legacy themes. Aides said he would offer an optimistic view of the U.S.’ standing – compared with GOP 2016er’s gloom and doom
 
• The looming election means that prospects are low for Obama and Republican lawmakers getting much done together in Congress. Acknowledging that reality, Obama’s speech will have few of the policy proposals – laundry list – that typically fill the annual presidential address to Congress (drinking game: oh just have a drink – gonna be a loooong night)
 
• Expect to hear about progress on the economy, gun control, closure of Guantanamo Bay, reforming the criminal justice system and formally approving a sweeping Asia-Pacfic trade pact. On foreign policy, he’s likely to tout the Iran nuclear deal and improved U.S.-Cuba relations as achievements, and discuss the fight against ISIS
 
• First lady Michelle Obama’s guests will include Edith Childs, an elderly woman from SC who introduced Obama to the “Fired Up! Ready to go!” chant. A chair in Mrs Obama’s box will be left empty to honor victims of gun violence. The president has also asked a refugee from war-torn Syria to attend the address

 

• Will there be boos? “You lies?” Other rude shout-outs? Will a Supreme Court justice fall asleep again? The suspense! The drama! GOPer Sen Ted Cruz won’t be there, campaigning –  Marco Rubio and Rand Paul will – expect the cameras to looove them – so many drinking games in there – so little time – start now?
 
State of the Union: The Dish (Politico, NYT, Hill, me)
• President Obama’s final State of the Union will be tonight at 9 pm ET in the the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol. His speeches typically last about an hour. This is new House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis) first time sitting behind Obama – minus beard. Likely VP Joe Biden’s final SOTU address – he’s the best to watch for finger gun-pointing and reax
 
• Rising GOP star Gov Nikki Haley (R-SC) will give the brief post-address response. The youngest governor in America, the daughter of Indian immigrants and the third consecutive woman to deliver the response, Haley has promised (in contrast to GOP 2016ers campaigning) to deliver a more upbeat set of remarks
 
• Guests: Top Democrats have encouraged colleagues to bring Muslim-Americans to display the party’s open-mindedness after Donald Trump proposed to ban Muslims from the U.S. Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, briefly jailed over refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses, will attend. Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the SCOTUS case that legalized gay marriage, will attend – separately(!)
 
• The WH has joined Snapchat – yes, they’ve figured out a way to archive the messages. Today, they’ll carry exclusive behind the scenes images and video of SOTU prep. The WH will open to a live broadcast on NBC’s Today show today. Obama heads out to Omaha and Baton Rouge, La, on Wednesday and Thursday. YouTube Q&A on Friday. (milking this)

 

• VP Joe Biden told CNN that he told President Obama he might have to sell his house to care for Beau Biden’s family without his son’s salary. “And he got up and said, ‘Don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house,” speculating Obama would be “mad” he was retelling the story. “He said ‘I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need. I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe.” (CNN)
 
 
Paul Out of Main Debate: Howls (Politico, NYT, me)
• Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina have been booted to the undercard in Thursday night’s Fox Business News GOP primary debate in South Carolina as the number of main-stage candidates was cut to seven by stricter polling criteria. Paul, who is struggling, immediately cried foul and vowed not to participate in the event (nose off to spite face…)
 
• The seven candidates who will appear on the main stage in North Charleston are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jen Bush and John Kasich. Paul and Fiorina are set to join Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in the undercard – but “we will not participate in anything that’s not first-tier,” Paul told CNN Monday evening (buh bye)
 
• Paul’s campaign elaborated in a statement that multiple polls showed him well within the network’s criteria for qualifying and blamed margins of errors as a poor tool (bad workman…). “Creating ‘tiers’ based on electoral results of real votes might make sense but creating ‘tiers’ on bad science is irresponsible.” The downgrade could be a crippling blow
 
• Once seen as the rising star of the Republican Party, Paul has struggled in polls as his noninterventionist stance on foreign policy became a liability after the terrorist attacks in Paris. He has also seen his status as an outsider and anti-establishment candidate overtaken by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Sen Paul is up for re-election in Kentucky this year

 

• The House on Monday passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. Approved by voice vote, the measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back info. Unclear whether it will go on the Senate calendar… (Hill, me)

 

Clinton, Sanders: Offense & Defense (Guardian, me)
• Hillary Clinton and Bernie, locked into close Democratic primary races in Iowa and New Hampshire, sharpened their attacks on one another over gun control, tax policy and Wall Street reform at the Iowa Black and Brown forum hosted by Univision at Drake University in Des Moines on Monday (turning into a real race – poor Hillary, wasn’t supposed to be like this)
 
• Sanders defended his 2005 vote for a law that shields gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits, which Clinton has continued to hold up as evidence that he’s weak on gun control. “It’s not a mistake,” Sanders said of his vote. “Like many issues of legislation, it’s complicated.” Sanders has said he would be willing to revisit the law (he may be right – but a poor answer)
 
• On immigration, Clinton promised that she wouldn’t be the next “deporter in chief” if elected. But she couldn’t answer whether she would deport children, saying the issue was more complicated than that. When the moderators pressed her for a more straightforward response, Clinton said only that children would receive “due process.” (ouch, grandmommy)
 
• The fast-paced format drew frank responses. A college student asked Clinton to define white privilege and explain how she benefited. “Where do I begin?” she said. When asked if it was “off brand” for a democratic socialist to live in a mansion like the WH, Sanders replied: “I would consider it more like public housing.” (no mandatory drug test, though)
 
White Supremacists <3 Trump (Reuters, me)
• The American Freedom Party, a white supremacist group, said it has placed about 200,000 robocalls in Iowa urging voters to back Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican 2016 nomination because “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture,” spox Jared Taylor says on the call (not Trump supporters?)
 
• Taylor is also spox of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a supremacist group with historic links to the White Citizens Council, a segregationist organization set up in Mississippi in 1954. The group also attempted to buy radio time in Iowa but was rebuffed. The group may also target New Hampshire with robocalls, organizers said
 
• The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment (I’ll bet). Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” in his speech declaring his candidacy and said the U.S. should ban Muslims from entering the country following the massacre in San Bernardino. He also had an American Muslim woman who was protesting silently ejected from a rally
 
• Trump hasn’t sought the backing of white supremacist groups, but Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, said his members were most excited about Trump’s potential to disrupt the American political system, which could make it easier for them to break the South off from the rest of the U.S. “I’m looking for American politics to become pure chaos,” he said
 
Human Traffickers Exploit DHS Visa/Data Sharing Failures (NYT, me)
• Human traffickers used fiancé and work visas to bring dozens of victims to the U.S., exploiting a lack of data sharing between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Citizenship and Immigration Services within the Dept of Homeland Security, according to the agency’s internal watchdog – report out Monday
 
• Investigators found that from 2005 to 2014, 17 of the 32 known traffickers they examined used the visas to bring in victims who were exploited for either forced labor or prostitution. Plus, the report found that 274 suspected traffickers successfully petitioned federal officials to bring 425 family members or fiancés into the U.S.
 
• The report, by DHS’s Office of the Inspector General, comes as Congress is beginning to examine the visa program after the mass shootings in San Bernardino. Tashfeen Malik, one of the attackers, was granted entry to the U.S. under a K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa. Her husband was a U.S. citizen. Both died in a police shootout

• DHS auditors also found that some victims of human trafficking were people who had overstayed their visitor visas. Visa overstays have become a major focus of Congress. Nearly 20 years ago, Congress passed a law requiring the federal govt to develop a system to track people who overstayed their visas


 
• Since then, the govt has spent millions of dollars on the effort, yet officials can only roughly estimate the number of people in the country illegally after overstaying visas because the U.S. doesn’t routinely collect biometric info – fingerprints, iris scans, pics that can be used for facial recognition – of people leaving the country. Nearly 36 countries do it (why are we so lame?)

 

SCOTUS: Union Fees (Reuters, Hill, me)
• Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday expressed support for a conservative challenge to fees that public sector unions collect from non-members to pay for collective bargaining in a case involving California teachers that could erode the power of organized labor (think unions are going to lose this one)
 
• Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, two key votes on the nine-member court, both indicated they could side with the other three conservative justices in delivering a major blow to public sector unions by overturning a 1977 Supreme Court precedent
 
• The case could undercut organized labor’s influence by allowing public sector workers who aren’t union members but are forced under state law to pay “agency fees” equivalent to union dues to stop providing this money. The case is Friedrichs et al v California Teachers Association et al
 
• The 10 non-union teachers assert that California law violates non-union workers’ free speech rights under the First Amendment by requiring them to pay the “agency fees” towards collective bargaining activities
 
• The teachers union noted that state law requires the union to represent all workers during collective bargaining, the process in which unions negotiate contracts with employers on behalf of employees, regardless of whether they’re members. Roberts and Kennedy appeared unsympathetic to the union’s argument that non-members would become “free riders” if they didn’t pay fees
 
• Tributes are pouring on for David Bowie, who has died. Yoko Ono Lennon said, “As John and I had very few friends we felt David was as close as family.” Bowie’s producer, Tony Visconti, said, “His death was no different from his life – a work of art.” Mick Jagger said, “He was my friend. I will never forget him.” Pete Townshend wrote in a post: “David Bowie was my Salvador Dali.” (Guardian)

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Victoria Jones – Editor