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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
  • Democratic town hall: Iowa
  • Grand jury indicts 2 behind Planned Parenthood videos
  • Obama: Rethink solitary confinement
  • Fox News: Trump afraid of Megyn Kelly
  • Obama weighs in on 2016
  • SCOTUS: Juveniles/life in prison/review
  • Obama to propose expanding retirement plans
  • Escaped Calif inmates: Were they helped?
 
Democratic Town Hall: Iowa (Hill, Hill, Politico, me)
• At a Des Moines CNN town hall Monday night, the Democratic candidates didn’t meet face to face. The event featured three back-to-back interviews by Chris Cuomo. All candidates were high energy – it was the final forum before next Monday’s hotly contested Iowa caucuses. Polling shows Bernie Sanders edging out Hillary Clinton in the Hawkeye State
 
• After viewing a Clinton campaign ad that cast her as most prepared to be commander in chief, Sanders got to his feet and pillaried the former SecState for voting to authorize the war in Iraq. He framed himself as the only candidate who has stood up to Wall Street. He said he opposed Keystone and Trans Pacific Partnership – while she’s been slow to come around
 
• “Experience is important, but judgment is also important,” Sanders said. But Sanders didn’t leave unscathed. Explaining his “Medicare For All” healthcare plan, at one point he turned to the camera to declare: “We will raise taxes, yes we will.” Clinton allies pounced on the remark, which could easily be used in a campaign attack ad (will that bother him? guessing not)
 
 

• Graphic: Who’s leading the Iowa and New Hampshire polls? (NYT)

 

• After viewing Sanders’ “America” ad, Clinton smiled broadly and said: “I think that’s great.” But she took a side-swipe, saying that you “campaign in poetry and govern in prose.” (Obama said that Monday) “I respect him greatly, and what he’s done in this campaign. But I believe I’m the better person to be the Democratic nominee and president of the U.S.”
 
• On her private email server, Clinton argued that “nothing that I did was wrong” and that it “was not in any way prohibited.” (better when contrite) “So again we’ve answered every question and we will continue to do so. But maybe being faster – trying to scramble around to find out what all of this means – I probably should have done that quicker,” she said (that it?)
 
• The primary drama surrounding Martin O’Malley (yes he was there) is what will become of his caucus-goers if they don’t hit the minimum threshold of 15%. “My message to the O’Malley supporters across this state is this – hold strong at your caucus,” he said, adding that he’s always been drawn to a “tough fight.” (didn’t seem delusional when he was my governor…)

 

• The federal govt is closed again today as Washington DC struggles to dig out of a massive snowstorm. the U.S. capital was at a standstill Monday. Schools will be shut at least until Wednesday. New York was quicker to return to business. Officials have reported at least 36 storm-related deaths in 11 states (AP)
 
Grand Jury Indicts 2 Behind Planned Parenthood Videos (Reuters, Hill, NYT, me)
• A Harris County, Texas, grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists in a case involving (heavily edited) covert videos on fetal tissue procurement talks with Planned Parenthood and found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the health group, DA Devon Anderson said Monday, describing the investigation as “lengthy and thorough.”
 
• The grand jury decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Gov Greg Abbott (R-Texas), who accused Planned Parenthood of the “gruesome harvesting of baby body parts.” No evidence was provided by Texas to back the claim (the grand jury was investigating PP. To indict the activists instead, in a Republican state, is stunning)
 
• Planned Parenthood has denied the accusation and called the probe politically motivated. Several Republican-controlled states tried to halt funding for local Planned Parenthood operations after the videos were released. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted for tampering with a governmental record, said prosecutors
 
• The two were involved in sting covert videos last year in which a discussion was held with a Planned Parenthood official on the procurement of fetal tissue. Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress that released the videos, was also charged with violating a prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor

 

• The Zika virus, linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains, is likely to spread to nearly all of the Americas except Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization warned. There’s no treatment and no vaccine. It’s spread via mosquitoes and possibly human semen (Reuters)
 
Obama: Rethink Solitary Confinement (USA Today, Hill, me)
• President Obama, in a WaPo op-ed today, has ordered the Bureau of Prisons has to significantly curtail the use of solitary confinement – including an outright ban on the use of restrictive housing for juvenile offenders. He’s adopting the recommendations of a Justice Dept review of the use of solitary in federal prisons
 
• “How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing the effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” Obama wrote. “It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our common humanity.” Some Republicans oppose the president’s move
 
• As of last Nov, 8,625 federal prisoners – about 5% of the total federal prison population – were in solitary confinement, with 1,071 locked up alone for more than 90 days. The Bureau of Prisons would regularly re-evaluate those placements, offer more mental health treatment and eliminate the use of solitary for low-level infractions
 
• Solitary for juveniles would be banned outright, though few are charged with federal crimes. Jasmine Heiss of Amnesty International USA said the DoJ’s recommendations “represent a momentous break with this shameful legacy, and an acknowledgement that tens of thousands of human beings should not be condemned to live in a cage.”

 

Fox News: Trump Afraid of Megyn Kelly (Hill, Politico, me)
• Fox News issued a fiery response to Donald Trump on Monday, suggesting the GOP frontrunner is afraid of confronting anchor Megyn Kelly at Thursday’s debate. The comments came after Trump said on CNN: “I’m not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I don’t like her, she probably doesn’t like me but that’s OK, but she has to be fair. I don’t think she can treat me fairly.” (ie suck up)
 
• A Fox News spox shot back in a statement: “Sooner or later Donald Trump, even if he’s president, is going to have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists – we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.” (this gins up the potential ratings nicely for them – i’m stocking up on popcorn)
 
• Trump said he “probably” would participate. “I’m not 100%, I’ll see. If I think I’m going to be treated unfairly, I’ll do something else. … But that doesn’t mean I don’t do the debate. I like doing the debates. I’ve won every single debate according to every single poll … so I want to do the debates, they’re good for me. … Maybe I know too much about her.” (what is that about??)
 
• Trump and Kelly have been feuding since the first GOP debate in August 2015, where Kelly challenged Trump on past comments he made that were derogatory towards women. Following that debate, Trump came under fire for saying that Kelly was coming after him with “blood coming out of her wherever.”
 
• “I might be the best thing to ever happen to her,” Trump said. “Whoever had even heard of her before the last debate?” Kelly, who hosts “The Kelly File,” with over 300 episodes aired, has opted not to participate in arguments with Trump (Trump’s narcissism is so off the charts now that this story is like a textbook in itself)
 
Obama Weighs In On 2016 (NYT, Politico, AP, Hill, me)
• President Obama said Hillary Clinton is “wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out” but her experience had taught her to “campaign more in prose than poetry.” In an interview with Politico, Obama said. “I think Hillary came in with the – both privilege and burden of being perceived as the frontrunner.”
 
• Obama said Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) “came in with the luxury of being a complete longshot and just letting loose.” Sanders has “tapped into a running thread in Democratic politics that says … why is it that we should be scared to challenge conventional wisdom and talk bluntly about inequality. That has an appeal and I understand that.”
 
• Obama said that Donald Trump and Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have stoked the American public’s anger. “This is an expression of frustration,” he said. It’s real within the Republican Party and the Republican base.” He called the GOP vision “unrecognizable” in the 2016 race
 
• But Obama expressed hope that, when voters get to the polls, they “will settle down and say, ‘Who do we want actually sitting behind the desk, making decisions that are critical to our future?'” (still got that hope and change thing going on – but the voters may want hope and change for something very different – and they may wake up with a nasty shock)

 

• The UN is expected to issue invitations today for marathon Syrian peace talks to start Friday in Geneva, but opposition groups signaled they would stay away unless the govt and its Russian allies halt air strikes and lift sieges on towns and were not optimistic. The aim would be six months of talks: ceasefire, followed by political settlement (Reuters)
 
SCOTUS: Juveniles/Life in Prison/Review (Reuters, Hill, me)
• The Supreme Court on Monday expanded its ban on mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for people who committed a crime before age 18. The ruling was 6-3, with conservative justices Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberals. Kennedy wrote the decision
 
• The court in 2012 had ruled that mandatory life sentences violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The justices, in their ruling on Monday, said that their 2012 ruling could be applied retroactively to inmates convicted before that decision was issued
 
• In a ruling that will affect up to about 2,300 other prisoners in similar positions, the court sided with black inmate Henry Montgomery, 69, convicted at 17 of killing a white sheriff’s deputy in 1963 in East Baton Rouge at a time when racial tensions in the region were boiling over
 
• Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the ruling along with fellow conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Scalia described the ruling as “a devious way of eliminating life without parole for juvenile offenders.”
 
• The decision said: “It would afford someone like Montgomery, who submits that he has evolved from a troubled, misguided youth to a model member of the prison community, the opportunity to demonstrate the truth of Miller’s central intuition – that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.”

 

• Scientists behind a “Doomsday Clock” that measures the likelihood of catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and new technologies, are set to announce today in Washington DC whether civilization is any closer or farther from disaster (AP)
 
Obama to Propose Expanding Retirement Plans (USA Today, NYT, me)
• Changes that President Obama will propose to employer-sponsored retirement plans could help 30 million American workers have access to retirement savings, the WH said Monday. Obama’s plan consists of a number of legislative proposals, which he’ll outline in the 2017 budget he’ll submit to Congress next month. They include:
 
• Offering tax credits to small businesses that automatically enroll employees in a 401(k)-style retirement plan; requiring companies with existing plans to offer them to long-term, part-time workers who work 500 hours a year for three years; and making it easier for companies to pool their retirement plans to bring down expenses through multiple employer plans
 
• The WH didn’t immediately reveal the proposals’ budgetary impact. (you kind of want to know that) The changes would give millions of Americans a tax cut by allowing them to defer taxes on their retirement savings
 
• Obama’s proposals would require action by a Republican-controlled Congress in an election year session. “These items shouldn’t be particularly controversial. A lot of these ideas enjoy bipartisan support and have bipartisan roots,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez told reporters Monday
 

Escaped Calif Inmates: Were They Helped? (AP, me)

• Three California inmates who sawed through a metal grate, crawled through plumbing tunnels and shimmied to freedom down a rope made from bed linens – details in AP story – likely had help to pull off the daring plan and also benefited from the complacency of jail staff, security experts said Monday. They’re still at large
 

• The inmates, including one charged with murder and one who allegedly cut off a man’s penis, vanished early Friday. Jail officials didn’t realize they were missing until roughly 16 hours after they were last seen, because an evening headcount was delayed by an assault on a guard (staged?)
 

• Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were all awaiting trials for unrelated violent crimes. The eerie similarities to last summer’s escape in New York point to complacency among guards and administrators, security experts said. Motion sensor cameras – $55 – can be installed along interior tunnels and pipes to catch inmates
 

• Thorough searches of dorms likely would have discovered the tools used or damage to the vent grill, a leading security expert said. A spox for the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept said the jail’s general policy is to do walk-throughs every hour to check on inmates. (not good ones, apparently) Feds are offering $50,000 in rewards for info leading to their recapture
 

• It’s unclear why the inmates – who were charged with violent felonies – were housed in a common dorm with more than 60 other inmates. Assignment to a large, busy room likely made it easier for them to avoid detection. Authorities believe Tieu and Duong remain in Southern California, possibly hiding out in the local Vietnamese community

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Victoria Jones – Editor

Talk Media News provides breaking news coverage of domestic and world news to more than 400 radio stations across the United States.