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

  • Saudi Arabia to bury king today
  • Abdullah: Obituary
  • Yemen: U.S. fears chaos
  • House passes alternative anti-abortion bill
  • Netanyahu/Congress speech flap
  • 2016ers to rumble at “Koch primary”
  • Obama to India tonight
  • Pols: Get a warrant for GPS!
  • First UN meeting on anti-Semitism
  • Deflategate: They don’t know nothing
  • Deflategate: Pols talk balls


Saudi Arabia to Bury King Today
• Saudi Arabia will bury King Abdullah in an unmarked grave today, hours after it moved to ensure a smooth transition by appointing a new king and crown prince to quell fears of dynastic instability at a time of regional turmoil. Oil prices jumped today as news of Abdullah’s death added to uncertainty in energy markets already facing some of the biggest shifts in decades

• Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, now takes over after Abdullah’s death Thursday, as the ultimate authority in a country that faces unprecedented tumult in the region and difficult long-term domestic challenges compounded by the plunging price of oil. VP Joe Biden will attend Abdullah’s funeral (Reuters, BBC, me)

• Salman must navigate a white-hot rivalry with Shi’ite Muslim power Iran playing out in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain, open conflict in two neighboring states, a threat from Islamist militants and bumpy relations with the U.S.

• Reputedly pragmatic and adept at managing the delicate balance of clerical, tribal, royal and Western interests that factor into Saudi decision making, Salman appears unlikely to change the kingdom’s approach to foreign affairs or energy sales – and, in fact, Salman today vowed to continue the same “correct” policies as Abdullah

• President Obama said in a statement, “As a leader he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions. One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”
Abdullah: Obituary
• King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died Thursday aged 90. In control of a fifth of the world’s known petroleum reserves, he also bore the title of custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. Yet he spoke as plainly as the Bedouin tribesmen with whom he had been sent to live in his youth. He refused to be called “your majesty” and was described as ascetic

• His profile abroad increased in the 1970s when he became an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and a supporter of pan-Arab unity. Abdullah believed that it was only Arab solidarity that could make oil and Arab cash into a formidable weapon to counter the power of the West. In 1980, Abdullah took the lead in averting war between Jordan and Syria

• Abdullah spoke out against violence in the Middle East. In 1991, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Abdullah was reluctant to support the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, believing that negotiations with Saddam Hussein was a preferred option to war, but was overruled by then-King Fahd (BBC, NYT, me)


• Following the September 11th, 2001, attacks, Abdullah toned down Saudi Arabia’s annual birthday celebrations in deference to the U.S. but then publicly criticized what he saw as the negative media portrayal of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis

• In 2002, the Arab League adopted Abdullah’s proposals for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. Abdullah announced a massive clampdown in 2003 following the first of a series of militant attacks in Saudi Arabia, believed to have been caused by Islamist groups angered by the country’s pro-Western stance

• Abdullah allowed women to work as supermarket cashiers and appointed a woman as a deputy minister. In 2011 Abdullah extended to women the right to vote and run in future municipal elections. Women study beside men at university. But he would not allow women to drive and women are punished for appearing in public uncovered

• Abdullah contested al Qaeda’s militant interpretations of the faith as justifying, even compelling, terrorist acts. He ordered that textbooks be purged of their most extreme language and sent 900 imams to re-education sessions. He had hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded. Harsh punishments for minor infractions continue today in Saudi Arabia



• At the end of their first round of “productive” talks after 50 years, American and Cuban delegations in Havana sat at parallel tables. Both sides acknowledged that “profound differences” remain. It could take weeks even to schedule the next round of talks, they said (AP, me)
Yemen: U.S. Fears Chaos
• The resignation of the president, prime minister and cabinet of Yemen Thursday took American officials by surprise and heightened the risks that the Arab world’s poorest country would become even more of a breeding ground for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo this month, among other deadly attacks

• The resignation of President Hadi brought full circle Yemen’s Arab Spring revolution, which ousted former President Saleh in 2011 amid massive popular protests. Now Saleh, who has lately made himself an unlikely ally of the Houthi rebels who toppled the govt, is poised to return to the forefront of Yemeni politics (NYT, me)

• But some experts warned that the country might be hurtling toward partition – and civil war. Meanwhile, a senior State Dept official said Thursday night that the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa was being reduced “in response to the changing security situation.” And the Pentagon said it was “trying to sort out recent events.”

• Although the Houthis, who are believed to be financed by Iran, are strongly anti-American, they’re even stronger opponents of al Qaeda. The Houthis are dominated by a Shiite Muslim sect, the Zaydis, while al Qaeda is rabidly anti-Shiite

• The collapse of Hadi’s govt began last week when the Houthis staged what his supporters called a coup, surrounding the presidential palace and effectively putting the president under house arrest. A deal for the Houthis to withdraw fell through. Reports said Houthi leaders were considering the possibility of forming an inclusive presidential council to govern the country
• The Senate worked through the night Thursday to get through amendments on legislation to approve Keystone, which is headed for final passage next week. Democrats were ticked off that several of their amendments were tabled in the middle of the night (Hill)

House Passes Alternative Anti-Abortion Bill
• House Republicans on Thursday passed an alternative anti-abortion bill after yanking their originally planned legislation from the floor in a last-minute scramble. The new bill would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion. Passed 242-179. Rep Richard Hanna (R-NY) was the sole GOP no.There were three Dem ayes (Hill, TRNS, me, TRNS)

• The WH said it would veto the bill, arguing that the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions is already illegal under federal law. GOP leaders scheduled the vote for the same day as the annual anti-abortion March for Life, on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision

• But leadership pulled the original measure after complaints from House GOP women and centrists who objected to language granting the victims of rape an exception from the ban on abortions after 20 weeks only if the rape was reported to police. DoJ estimates that nearly 70% of rapes go unreported, often due to victims’ fear of retribution

• Rep Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), who voted for the measure, said he wasn’t sure how his own two daughters felt about the legislation, and he understood female lawmakers’ concerns. “I’m not a professional on women’s issues by any chance,” he conceded

• Rep Charlie Dent (R-PA) quipped: “Week 1, we had a Speaker election that didn’t go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week 2, we spent a lot of time talking about deporting children, a conversation a lot of us didn’t want to have. Week 3, we’re debating reportable rapes and incest, not an issue that a lot of us want to have a conversation about. I just can’t wait till Week 4.”
Thursday’s YouTube Interview with President Obama – with YouTube creators Bethany Mota, GloZell Green and Hank Green. GloZell presented Obama three tubes of green lipstick, including one for “your first wife.” Obama: “My first wife? Do you know something I don’t?” A clearly mortified GloZell repeatedly apologized (#obamasecretmuslim…)
Netanyahu / Congress Speech Flap
• President Obama will not meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu when he travels to Washington in March to address a joint session of Congress, the WH said Thursday, citing a policy against receiving foreign leaders close to their elections. Netanyahu’s election will be just two weeks after his visit to the U.S. (NYT, Hill, Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, me)

• Obama is clashing with lawmakers in Congress over a bid to pass legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran if talks aimed at preventing the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon fail. Netanyahu has been vocal in his opposition to those talks, arguing that Iran can’t be trusted to refrain from developing weapons capable of striking Israel

• Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Netanyahu, who was originally asked to speak on 11 Feb, had requested to change because he intends to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington in early March. Netanyahu is invited to speak about the threat from radical Islam and Iran

• State Dept spox Jen Psaki said Thursday that the admin had “been expressing our displeasure pretty clearly publicly” over the invitation. “There’s no question the process here was a bit bizarre and certainly a bit unusual,” she said to CNN

• Bloomberg reports that Mossad is at odds with Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations. Wed, SecState John Kerry said an unnamed Israeli intel official had said the new sanctions bill would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.” Some Israeli sources are trashing the Blooomberg report

• As part of President Obama’s plan to simplify the tax code and help the middle class, he’s proposing a radical change to the 529 college savings plans held by millions of families: Money could no longer be withdrawn tax-free – the new rules would apply only to new contributions (NYT, me)
Rubio / Cruz / Paul to Rumble at “Koch Primary”
• The annual highly sought-out donor event hosted by Charles and David Koch in California is one of the most difficult parties to crash. And definitely no press. This year’s conference, held over this weekend, will be a bit different (NYT, TRNS, me)

• Freedom Partners, the trade assn representing several hundred donors that provide funding for Koch-linked organizations, announced that it will make available to the press video of a forum featuring three potential presidential candidates

• The three GOP contenders – Sens Marco Rubio (FL), Rand Paul (KY) and Ted Cruz (TX) – will participate in the event, called the “American Recovery Policy Forum” on Sunday night. Jonathan Karl, ABC News chief WH correspondent, will serve as the moderator

• It effectively marks an early stage of what Republican strategists call “the Koch primary,” a behind-the-scenes campaign to win the affection and imprimatur of two of the most influential donors in the country, along with the sprawling political organization they’ve built along with their allies

• “Our goal in 2015 is to help inform the national debate around key domestic economic issues, and this forum is the beginning of that conversation,” said James Davis, a spox for Freedom Partners

Obama to India Tonight
• President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama head to India tonight for a three-day visit that includes Monday’s Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. “From the time the president took office, he’s made increasing U.S. engagement with India top foreign policy priority,” said Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes (Time, USAToday, WaPo, Reuters, me)

• In addition to climate change, national security issues will be on the agenda, including ongoing Indian tensions with Pakistan, the wind-down of the war in Afghanistan, and nuclear negotiations with Iran. (Obama is not going to Pakistan as well, unlike previous presidential visits) Other topics will include education, space exploration and nuclear power development

• Obama will be the first American president to attend India’s Republic Day, which is to celebrate its constitution and the founding of its democracy independent of Britain. Obama’s a guest of Indian PM Narendra Modi, who came to the WH a few months ago and issued the invitation

• Obama is scheduled to give a speech Tuesday on what Rhodes called “his vision for the future of the U.S.-Indian relationship.” The first couple cap their trip Tuesday with a visit to the Taj Mahal, the 17th century architectural marvel built by a Mughal emperor to house the remains of his beloved wife. Also Tuesday, Obama and Modi will appear on a radio show together

Pols: Get a Warrant for GPS!
• Lawmakers in both parties are pushing to require that police have a warrant before tracking people’s locations via their cellphones and other GPS devices. Members of the House and Senate introduced a bill Thursday which would protect info about people’s locations from the police and other people (Hill, me)

• In 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police need to obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car. The high court didn’t address rules for other types of tracking, however, such as the geolocation tools in someone’s cellphone or a driving aide (creepy)

• “This law will settle the controversy and provide specific and clear guidelines to ensure the valuable and effective technology is not abused,” said Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), one of the bill’s authors. Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rep Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep John Conyers (D-MI) are co-sponsoring the legislation – (heroes)

• The new bill would require a warrant before police obtain info from an outside party – such as a phone company – or through the use of Stingray devices, which track cellphone locations by replicating phone towers

• Additionally, the bill would create criminal penalties for people who secretly use an electronic device to track someone else’s movements and would ban companies from sharing users’ location info without their consent. The bill was previously introduced in 2011 and 2013, but it’s so far failed to move forward

• The Obama admin has quietly abandoned a proposal to put raw U.S. telephone call data collected by the NSA under non-governmental control, several U.S. security officials said. They think it’s unworkable for legal and practical reasons. They’re still considering having telecom firms collect and retain the data (Reuters, me)
First UN Meeting on Anti-Semitism
• French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy challenged the world at the first-ever UN General Assembly meeting devoted to anti-Semitism to counter the rising hatred of Jews, which he denounced as “radical inhumanity” (AP, TRNS, me)

• In a keynote address on Thursday, Levy decried that “faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins.” The UN was established on the ashes of the Holocaust after World War II, and one reason was to fight the “plague” of anti-Semitism, Levy noted

• The assembly was held in response to the global increase in violence against Jews and was scheduled before the killing of four French Jews at a kosher market during three days of terror in Paris earlier this month. Paris was just the latest attack to raise fears among European Jews, following other killings in Belgium and southwestern France

• A surprise speaker was Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdallah Al-Moualimi, who told the meeting that Islamic countries condemn all words and acts that lead “to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia.”

• U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the world to stand up against anti-Semitism and take action to end “this monstrous global problem.” She noted that even in the U.S., nearly two-thirds of religion-driven hate crimes in 2012 targeted Jews, according to an FBI report

• Pic: Actual service information sign in a London subway station from 21 Jan: “The service from this station is execrable, as in sub-standard. Passengers are strongly advised to turn around and use local buses. We apologise for the inconvenience. “Caveat emptor!” (Buzzfeed, me) (homesick now)

DeflateGate: They Don’t Know Nothing

• The two men most responsible for delivering wins for the New England Patriots both said Thursday they have no explanation for how footballs used to reach the Super Bowl were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch (AP, Globe, USAToday, ESPN, me)

• “I don’t know what happened,” quarterback Tom Brady said to reporters, hours after coach Bill Belichick repeatedly said “I’ve told you everything I know” and “I don’t have an explanation” to reporters after a long opening remark. Brady answered many questions (seemed to play with reporters)

• “I get the snap, I drop back, I throw the ball,” Brady said. “I don’t sit there and try to squeeze it and determine that

[conditions].” He likes the ball to be pumped to 12.5 pounds per square inch. “To me, that’s a perfect grip for the football. I would never do anything outside the rules of play.”


• “I have no knowledge of anything, any wrongdoing,” Brady said when asked who on the Patriots was responsible for the underinflated footballs. “I’m very comfortable saying nobody did it as far as I know.” With different approaches, Brady and Belichick sent a unified message: they have no clue what happened (shocked, shocked)

• Brady said he picks the game balls he wants to use several hours before kickoff, then doesn’t think about them at all. He said he didn’t know the protocol for handling game balls after he chooses them. ” Brady was asked if he was a cheater. “I don’t believe so. I feel like I’ve always played within the rules.”

• Belichick said, “I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or have talked about in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league. While neither man took responsibility for the underinflated balls, neither absolved anyone besides themselves of potential wrongdoing (bit of passive bus/ball throwing)

• Going forward, Belichick said, the Patriots will inflate footballs to a safe level to prevent them from dropping under allowable air pressure during games. Meanwhile, Brady poked fun at the hysteria over the controversy. “This isn’t ISIS, no one’s dying,” he quipped (oh yeah, he was trawling the press)

Deflategate: Pols Talk Balls

• “From the beginning, we knew the Patriots would do anything they could to win,” grumbled Colts fan Sen Dan Coats (R-IN). “We’re convinced that the score would have been just exactly the opposite had they not had deflated footballs.” (Hill, Bloomberg, me)

• “I can’t believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars they make, couldn’t at least determine how much air should be in a football and why it should be left up to the teams,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) trash talked to reporters. “I broke four ribs, but that’s so minor. They’re so meaningless it’s hard to believe,” the former boxer added dismissively

• Rep Jim McDermott (D-WA), a Seahawks fan, predicted: “They know they know have to pay $25,000. It’s like a slap on the wrist. Or maybe lose a draft choice, but that’s his decision. We played hard against Green Bay, made it, and we’re going to play hard against [the Patriots] and we’ll see what happens. It’ll be a good game, and I expect us to win by a few points.”

• “I’m calling on the NFL to work with the NFL Players Assn to restore the credibility of the game before the Super Bowl kicks off on Feb 1. I am seeking decisive actions ensuring all teams are playing according to the rules,” announced Sen Dean Heller (R-NV), noting that he represents the only state where betting on sports is legal – so he should know, he wagered

• FBI agents and Israeli authorities Wednesday arrested a 39-year-old man in Tel Aviv who allegedly infiltrated Madonna’s computer, stole unfinished songs and leaked them online. Here’s “Ghosttown” from her upcoming album “Rebel Heart” – one of six tracks which she released herself – think it should be the first single (me, Hill)

Sign up here for TRNS News Notes


Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, Loretta Lewis and Washington Desk 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.

Copyright © 2015 The Talk Radio News Service, All rights reserved.