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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.
 

 
Quick News
  • Palin <3 Trump: Iowa boost?
  • Gunmen storm Pakistani university: 19+ dead
  • Michigan gov: “Sorry” for Flint water
  • SCOTUS to rule on Obama immigration plan
  • Senate vote on Syrian refugees today
  • Kerry to meet Russian FM: Syria
  • Family of American missing in Iran: “Desperate”
Palin <3 Trump: Iowa Boost? (NYT, Hill, Politico, me)
• Reality TV star, former Alaska governor (quit) and 2008 Republican VP nominee (lost) Sarah Palin, who became a tea party sensation, endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa Wednesday, providing him with a potentially significant boost just 13 days before the state’s caucuses. “No more pussyfooting around,” Palin said, standing next to Trump
 
• Her support came the day that Iowa’s GOP governor, Terry Branstad, said he hoped that Sen Ted Cruz would be defeated in Iowa, saying he was “heavily financed by Big Oil.” The 1 Feb caucuses are a must-win for Cruz, who is running neck-and-neck with Trump in state polls (Cruz has an Iowa problem – which means he has a 2016 problem)
 
• As Palin announced her backing, Trump stood wearing a satisfied smile (smug gloat, actually) as she scolded mainstream Republicans for “eating their own.” “He’s
[Trump] been going rogue left and right,” Palin said. “That’s why he’s been doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off his idea of the system.”
 
• Earlier, Cruz’s spox said: “I think it would be a blow to Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin has been a champion of the conservative cause,” – he went on to cite Trump’s previous support of liberal causes. Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin’s daughter, went ballistic in a blog post, and Cruz tweeted later: “I love @SarahPalinUSA. Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate.”
 
• “Are you ready … to go kick ISIS’s ass? Palin yelled at the Iowa crowd during her endorsement, to thundering applause. The Trump Palin show will campaign today

 

Gunmen Storm Pakistani University: 19+ Dead (BBC, me)
• An attack by suspected Taliban militants on a university in northwest Pakistan has killed at least 19 people and injured 50 – developing – may change. An army official said firing had stopped, but troops were still searching Bacha Khan University campus in Charsadda
 
• Four attackers were killed, the army reported, as the Taliban said four of its suicide attackers were involved. Taliban gunmen killed 130 students at a school in nearby Peshawar in 2014. Charsadda is about 30 miles from the city. Bacha Khan is a private university which opened in 2012
 
Today’s attackers struck at around 9:30 am local time, reportedly climbing over the back wall under cover of thick winter fog. Intense gunfire and explosions were heard. Students and staff ran to find cover in toilets and examination halls. “We saw three terrorists shouting, ‘Allah is great!’ and rushing towards the stairs of our department,” one student said
 
• A senior Taliban commander said the attack was in response to a military offensive against militant strongholds, but the Taliban’s main spox later said the Taliban hadn’t been involved. He condemned the attack as “un-Islamic.” The university is located in an open area some distance east of the town, surrounded by open fields, and therefore a soft target, the BBC reports

 

Michigan Gov: “Sorry” for Flint Water (NYT, Politico, me)
• Gov Rick Snyder (R) issued a sweeping apology to the residents of Flint for a contaminated water supply Tuesday in a State of the State address. He pledged to promptly release his emails about the issue and laid out new specifics. “I’m sorry, and I will fix it,” Snyder said (on the cheap seems like)
 
• Snyder was uncharacteristically blunt, contrite and emphatic. “I’m sorry most of all that I let you down,” he said. “You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
 
• The scandal of lead-tainted water in Flint has engulfed Snyder in the biggest crisis of his tenure. In the last few days, it has drawn attention in the WH and prompted accusations that the state has ignored a health risk in a largely black city. The crisis has spawned multiple investigations and several lawsuits
 
• Flint residents have been put at risk because of the high levels of lead leaching from water pipes, caused by a switch to less expensive water from the Flint River. Snyder cited repeated missteps by members of his admin, including misunderstanding regulations and failing to immediately identify the presence of lead in Flint’s drinking water

 

Gov Seeks $28m for Flint Water Crisis (NYT, Politico, me)
• Snyder also said that he was told the lead problem was limited to one household, and that worries about lead were raised as long ago as last February. He promised to seek $28 million in state funds for Flint residents to provide more bottled water, health care for children in the city, and improvements to the city’s troubled infrastructure
 
• Hours before Snyder spoke, the EPA said the state hadn’t responded quickly enough to the water emergency. President Obama, who last week signed an emergency declaration that made $5 million in federal assistance available, met with the mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, in DC. She has said it could cost $1.5 billion just to replace aging infrastructure. Questions remain:
 
• Why did state officials switch the source of its water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, known as a dumping ground for trash and pollutants? Why did it take months before complaints about the water’s odor and rusty color were taken seriously? Who knew about the lead problem, and when? Would it have happened if the city were populated by affluent white people?
 
• After the speech, Rep Dan Kildee (D), whose district includes Flint, rejected the idea that $28 million was enough to fix the Flint water crisis. “That is a fraction of the money that city residents have paid for poisoned water that they cannot drink,” he said. Snyder is term limited, so will not be running for re-election in 2018. Kildee is seen as a possible contender

 

SCOTUS to Rule on Obama Immigration Plan (WSJ, Politico, me)

• The Supreme Court said Tuesday it would rule on the Obama admin’s stalled plan to defer deportation of more than four million illegal immigrants, setting the stage for arguments in April and a blockbuster ruling on presidential powers in June – as the campaign heads into overdrive. The WH said Tuesday it had “a lot of confidence” in its legal arguments (well, it would)
 

• President Obama in Nov 2014 cited his executive authority in making changes in immigration policy to give a temporary reprieve to illegal immigrants whose children hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. The plan sought to prioritize removal of serious criminals while allowing parents of children to work without fear of deportation
 

• Texas and 25 other largely Republican-led states sued to invalidate the program. In Feb 2015, a federal district judge in Brownsville Texas halted the program, a decision upheld by the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court in New Orleans. Republican critics also argue the WH encroached on congressional authority over immigration policy
 

• Fifteen Democratic-leaning states and DC, plus leaders of major cities, have backed the admin. The WH has argued the Homeland Security Dept has legal discretion to defer deportation of certain classes of aliens, and must prioritize enforcement because it lacks the resources to remove all illegal immigrants now within the U.S.
 

• If the court rules in Obama’s favor, his admin will have seven months to try to roll out the program. The calculation for illegal immigrants for whether to apply may depend, in part, on the state of the presidential race and whether whoever is leading the field seems likely to continue Obama’s policies. GOP candidates have pledged to quickly dump the executive action

 

Senate Vote on Syrian Refugees Today (Hill, Hill, Politico, me)

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has teed up a procedural vote for today on whether to take up a House-passed bill that would “pause” the acceptance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Republicans will need 60 votes to overcome today’s procedural hurdle. If every Republican supports the bill they would need the backing of six Democrats (nail-biter)
 

• Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill) have suggested they have the votes to block the bill from moving forward. Reid said Tuesday that he would “have more to say” about the legislation today. A Democratic aide suggested last week that lawmakers hadn’t decided if they’d block Republicans
 

• Democratic leaders are considering helping Republicans start debate so they can pepper the GOP with amendments, according to aides. And they’d still have another chance to filibuster the measure before any final vote. “I wouldn’t call them Trump amendments, but there are a variety of amendments … we need to talk it over,” Durbin said (oh they’re Trump amendments…)
 

• If they’re able to overcome today’s hurdle, Republicans will also need 60 votes to end debate on the legislation. Either way, the WH has threatened to veto the House bill. The vote comes after the Justice Dept announced the arrest of two Iraqi-born Palestinians, who had entered the country as refugees, on terrorism-related charges

 

Kerry to Meet Russian FM: Syria (AP, me)

• SecState John Kerry is scheduled to meet today with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov in Zurich. Kerry hopes to move aside obstacles that threaten to delay the start of peace talks to end Syria’s war, seeking compromise with Lavrov on which Syrian opposition groups should be eligible to participate. Kerry will later head to Riyadh to discuss the same issue with top officials
 

• Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Assad, have severe differences with Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, the U.S. and Europe over which opposition groups should be considered terrorists and not allowed to be part of an 18-month political transition process that the UN has endorsed (whole thing could fall apart over this)
 

• The dispute is threatening to delay the planned 25 Jan start of UN-mediated peace talks. Monday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged countries supporting opposing sides in the Syrian conflict to redouble efforts on the issue. One U.S. official said it was possible the start of the talks could slip by a week or more
 

• The five-year Syrian conflict has now killed more than 250,000 people. The push for negotiations has accelerated with an estimated 4 million Syrians fleeing the country, overwhelming its neighbors and heading to Europe – and the plight of some 400,000 people trapped in besieged areas where an unknown number have starved to death

 

Family of American Missing in Iran: “Desperate” (Reuters, AP, me)

• The family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran eight years ago, said Tuesday it was “desperate for answers” on his whereabouts. Levinson’s son, Dan, told CNN Tuesday the family “can only hope they [U.S. officials] are really doing everything they can.”
 

Levinson, who disappeared while visiting Iran’s Kish Island in 2007, wasn’t among the five American prisoners released by Iran on Saturday as part of a prisoner swap with Washington. U.S. officials believe Levinson may no longer be in Iran, WH spox Josh Earnest said Tuesday, vowing that the U.S. would keep up the search for him (somebody knows something)
 

• U.S. officials believe that Levinson, who suffered from diabetes, died in captivity after meeting with an American-born Islamic militant on Kish Island. Iranian officials have repeatedly denied knowledge of his disappearance or whereabouts. SecState John Kerry said on Twitter on Saturday that Iran had agreed to deeper cooperation to locate Levinson
 

• Levinson’s family said he was working for the CIA in what amounted to a rogue operation at the time he disappeared. The family’s lawyer has told CNN the agency paid $2.5 million to avoid a lawsuit. The CIA conducted an internal inquiry into Levinson’s unauthorized relationship with the analytical division: three officials were fired and several more were disciplined – officials

• Nearly 10% of college graduates surveyed in a poll released this month believed that Judith Sheindlin, known on TV as “Judge Judy,” serves on the Supreme Court. Also, 40% didn’t know Congress has the ability to declare war. Poll was conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, interviewed 1000 students  (CNN)

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Victoria Jones – Editor