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

  • Charlie Hebdo Paris attack – latest
  • U.S. pols’ reax
  • 40-hour work week showdown today
  • Obama: On the road again
  • Senate day 2: Democrats – sort of – adjust
  • House day 2: “Bringing our team together”
  • GOP plans to kill Obama’s executive action
  • Sony hackers “got sloppy” – FBI


Charlie Hebdo Shooting – Latest
• There have been several arrests overnight, French PM Manel Valls has said, in the hunt for suspects in the deadly shooting Wednesday at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people died in the attack. France declared a national day of mourning today with a minute of silence at noon. Two armed suspects are on the run

• A shooting near a metro station in southern Paris today has killed a female French police officer and wounded another person. Police say it’s too early to draw a connection between this and the Charlie Hebdo attack. A BBC reporter from the scene says he has the impression police think it may be connected in some way – developing

• Two masked gunmen dressed in black and armed with Kalashnikovs entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo at 11.30 am Wednesday and opened fire on an editorial meeting. There are reports that they separated the men from the women. One of the cartoonists killed was a woman. All the other victims were men (BBC, AP, NYT, WSJ, me)

• The gunmen who attacked the magazine could be heard on video captured at the scene saying “Allah’u’Akbar,” “we’ve killed Charlie Hebdo” and “we’ve avenged the prophet.” Two eyewitnesses said they claimed to be from al Qaeda. One of them specified al Qaeda in Yemen

• Victims: Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47, who was under police protection; cartoonists Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, Geroges Wolinski, 80, Philippe Honore, 73, and economist and columnist Bernard Maris, 68

• All 12 victims have been identified. The gunmen headed straight for the paper’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier – widely known by his pen name Charb – killing him and his police bodyguard – earlier threats – first. The men used fluent, unaccented French as they called out the names of specific employees. The dead included four celebrated cartoonists

• Two gunmen strolled out to a black car waiting below, one of them calmly shooting a wounded police officer in the head as he writhed on the ground. The precision with which the gunmen handled their weapons and moved in formation suggested they had received military training, the police said

• The attackers fled to northern Paris before abandoning their car and hijacking a second one, police say

• Charbonnier’s last cartoon for Charlie Hebdo featured an armed man who appeared to be a Muslim fighter with a headline that read: “Still no attacks in France. Wait! We have until the end of January to offer our New Year’s wishes.” There’s a long tradition of satire in France

• Raw vid: One of two gunmen shoots dead a French police officer who is lying wounded on the sidewalk outside the building (graphic). The officer, Ahmed Merabet, 42, was Muslim

• Police are hunting today for two heavily armed men, one with possible links to al Qaeda. One of the suspects, Cherif Kouachi, was already known to French intelligence services, with a history of funneling jihadi fighters to Iraq and a terrorism conviction from 2008. He and his brother, Said, should be considered “armed and dangerous.”

• Kouachi, now 32, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He said he was outraged at the torture of Iraqi inmates at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad and “really believed in the idea” of fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq

• A third man, Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in a small town after learning his name was linked to the attacks. France raised its terror alert system to the maximum on Wednesday

• Both al Qaeda and ISIS have repeatedly threatened to attack France, which is conducting airstrikes against extremists in Iraq and fighting Islamic militants in Africa. Charb was specifically threatened in a 2013 edition of the al Qaeda magazine Inspire

• Victims: Caretaker Frederic Boisseau, 42, police officers Franck Brinsolaro (Charb’s bodyguard) and Ahmed Merabet (shot outside on ground), 42, proof-reader Mustapha Ourrad, Isa Cayat, psychoanalyst and columnist (only woman killed), Michael Renaud, visiting

• Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, expressed horror at the assault. “We strongly condemn these kinds of acts, and we expect the authorities to take the most appropriate measures. This is a deafening declaration of war.” Pope Francis today tweeted “#PrayersforParis”

• By Wednesday evening, an estimated 35,000, young and old, gathered at Place de la Republique. Some chanted, “Charlie! Charlie!” or held signs reading, “Je suis Charlie” – “I am Charlie” – the message posted on the magazine’s website. Piles of pens – symbolizing freedom of expression – and candles were laid across the square

• Vigils of hundreds and thousands formed in many other cities including London, Berlin, Melbourne, New York and Washington DC

• Treasured by many, hated by some and indiscriminate in its offensiveness, Charlie Hebdo has long reveled in provoking. In 2011, the office of the weekly was badly damaged by a firebomb after it published a spoof issue “guest edited” by the Prophet Muhammad to salute the victory of an Islamist party in Tunisian elections


• Charlie Hebdo and its biting satire, explained in 9 of its most iconic covers (warning: this link leads to cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad). The Economist tweeted Wednesday: “Many people died today for their drawings; to censor their life’s work is to kill them all over again” Agreed

U.S. Pols’ Reax
• President Obama, speaking in the Oval Office, vowed to “hunt down” those responsible for the “cowardly, evil attacks.” “The fact that this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press, also underscores the extent to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” he said (Hill, NJ, me)

• SecState John Kerry said the cartoonists and journalists killed were “martyrs for liberty.” They
[attackers] may wield weapons but we in France and the U.S. share a commitment to those who wield something that is far more powerful. Not just a pen, but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom, not fear. Free expression and a free press are core values.”

• House Armed Services Committee chair Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said “America stands with France. We do so not just because the French are our friends and allies, but because it is important for the free world to stand together against those who seek to intimidate us.”

• “To me, Congress having oversight certainly is important, but what is more important relative to these types of events is ensuring we don’t overly hamstring the NSA’s ability to collect this kind of information in advance and keep these kinds of activities from occurring,” said Sen Bob Corker (R-TN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

• “I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I believe our national security infrastructure designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

23 heartbreaking cartoons from artists responding to the Charlie Hebdo shooting (I think absolutely must-see – but could be perceived to be offensive, I suppose…) (Buzzfeed, me)

40-Hour Work Week Showdown Today
• President Obama formally threatened Wednesday to veto a bill changing Obamacare’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours to 40 hours a week. “This legislation could cause the problem it claims to solve by greatly increasing the number of workers for whom employers may have an incentive to reduce hours to avoid the requirement,” the WH said

• The GOP-led measure would raise the deficit by $53.2 billion over 10 years and move up to 1 million people into govt sponsored health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The measure from Rep Todd Young (R-IN) would also reduce the number of people receiving employer-based insurance by 1 million (Hill, NYT, TRNS, me)

• The projection from the CBO poses a messaging challenge to Republican supporters of the measure who are using it as their first attack on the healthcare law this Congress

• The law currently states that companies of more than 50 or more “full-time” employees – 30 hours or more per week – must offer medical coverage. Republicans argue the standard should be changed to the typical 40 hours per week and that the current definition is prompting companies to cut workers’ hours to avoid the mandate

• Supporters of the 30 hour standard say hour cutting would be much more frequent if the 40 hour bill became law given the higher proportion of Americans who might be affected. Some conservative writers have slammed the 40 hour bill for the same reason. The bill’s scheduled to receive a vote today
How the world’s newspapers responded to the Charlie Hebdo massacre (warning: contains graphic imagery) (Buzzfeed)
Obama: On the Road Again
• Seizing on a recent burst of momentum, President Obama kicked off a three-state tour to unveil what the WH is calling “spoilers” from his State of the Union address. It started Wednesday with lower insurance premiums for govt-backed mortgages – announced as Obama was flying to Michigan (AP, NYT, Hill, me)

• Under the proposal, the Federal Housing Admin will cut annual mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5 percentage point, to 0.85 percent. The WH said the reduction means new home buyers and those who refinance with FHA would pay $900 less a year than they would otherwise, in a bid to help more Americans own their own homes

• “We are entering into the new year with new confidence that America is coming back,” Obama declared at a Ford plant in Michigan Wednesday. Obama then flew to Phoenix – a symbol both of the housing market’s crash and its slow recovery. The premium rate reduction was to be the centerpiece of Obama’s speech there today

• In Knoxville TN on Friday, Obama is expected to tout the state’s new policy to pay for community college tuition. All three issues are expected to play central roles on Obama’s annual address to Congress on 20 January

• “Some of his announcements will be executive actions and others will be legislative proposals,” Obama’s senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote of the “spoilers” in an op-ed Wednesday on Medium. Republicans are likely to go ballistic about any new executive actions and won’t be too pleased that he’s sidestepping Congress as his first move of the year


Raw vid of the murderous attack at Charie Hebdo magazine

Senate Day 2: Democrats Adjust – Sort Of

• Democrats were adjusting grudgingly to their new and reduced role in the Senate on Wednesday, displaying some surliness and a lot of suspicion. Resistance came from the West Wing as well. The WH issued President Obama’s second veto threat in 24 hours by pledging not to sign a GOP bill that would redefine a full-time worker under Obamacare. Up to three, now

• Democratic leader Sen Harry Reid (NV), at home recovering from broken bones, dispatched his deputy, Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL), to read a defiant statement from the Senate floor. “I have no intention of just rolling over. I can’t,” Reid’s statement read. “Not when the middle class is teetering on the verge of extinction.” (NYT, me)

• Reid also heaped blame on the Republicans for making the Senate a dysfunctional body when they were in the minority. “The mistakes of the past – the gratuitous obstruction, and wanton filibustering – will not be a hallmark of the 114th Congress.” (we’ll see about the wanton filibustering and gratuitous obstruction…)

• The stinging remarks came just after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a speech critical of Democratic policies but brimming with optimism. “We’re only going to pass meaningful legislation if both parties are given a stake in the outcome. It doesn’t mean that we will always agree. But together we can commit to changing the way Washington operates.”

• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had a warning for Democrats. “Why did they lose? They feel like for some reason they weren’t liberal enough, they didn’t fight hard enough. Base politics has taken over in the Democratic Party. When base politics took over in the Republican Party, we ran into a ditch.”

• Charlie Hebdo’s editor Stephane Charbonnier said in 2012 that as a single man he didn’t fear retaliation, and that however pompous it might sound, he would rather “die standing than live on my knees.” (NYT)

House Day 2: “Bringing Our Team Together”

• Bad sign. Republicans in the House struggled to move past a shaky first day where Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was forced to quash a rebellion within his own ranks Tuesday after 25 tea partiers in the GOP conference didn’t vote for him as speaker, in an embarrassing rebuke (NYT, me)

• Boehner said Wednesday his conference was going to have “a family conversation” with the goal of “bringing our Team Together.” (Corleone family conversations always scared the bleep out of me) “I will come to a decision about how we go forward,” Boehner said (“Fredo, you broke my heart”)

• Reps Rich Nugent (R-FL) and Daniel Webster (R-FL), who led the insurgency, were swiftly dumped from their posts on the House Rules Committee. Reinstatement uncertain. Rep Ted Yoho (R-FL) said, “That would be something you would expect in China, Cuba, Russia or in a communist country … to, when you have a voice of dissension, to be punished.” (#ohgrowup)

• “If you don’t know how to run for leadership in leadership elections, then you shouldn’t be elected to Congress,” said Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA), saying he thought a majority of Republicans would like to see some punishment for the two insurgents. (Yoho, too)

GOP Plans to Kill Obama’s Executive Action

• House Republicans were also quietly laying the groundwork to introduce a bill next week that aims to finance the Dept of Homeland Security – funding expires end Feb – while stripping out money for the president’s recent executive action that would allow as many as five million undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. (NYT, Politico, me)

• Embedded in the text of the bill will probably be language to limit funding for carrying out President Obama’s executive action. No final decisions have been made, but they’re likely to use a measure written by Rep Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) that would explicitly bar any funds – even those collected by fees – to be used to carry out Obama’s executive action

• Republicans are also moving toward inserting language in the DHS bill to beef up border security. House Appropriations chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) said Wednesday that he hopes to release text of the DHS funding bill on Friday. There’s concern about withholding funds from the entire dept, fearing it could create a standoff

• “If they want to target immigration to retaliate against the president, that’s fine,” said Rep Peter King (R-NY). “But we have to make it clear at DHS, at a time when we saw this massive attack in Paris, that we can’t be cutting funding or programs which would protect Americans from a terrorist attack.”

• The House voted 416-5 to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act on Wednesday, sending the bill to the Senate TRIA is a federal program that was created following 9/11, allowing for the govt to repay business costs after catastrophic attacks that exceed $100 million in damages (Hill, TRNS)

Sony Hackers “Got Sloppy”

• FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the hackers behind the Sony Pictures cyberattack “got sloppy” and connected to the internet through North Korean IP addresses. Comey said nearly every time the Guardians of Peace would send emails threatening Sony or post statements online they would do so through hacked third-party proxy servers

• But “several times … they connected directly, and we could see them,” Comey said at an FBI-Fordham University cybersecurity conference. Comey said he was divulging that detail for the first time after successfully pressing for it to be declassified. “It was a mistake by them that we haven’t told you about before,” Comey said (Politico, TRNS, me)

• When the attackers slipped up and connected directly to their email or other portals, the FBI was able to track the intrusions back to IP addresses “exclusively” used by North Korean hackers, Comey said. The North Koreans would quickly switch off to proxy servers, but the FBI had already caught the true internet address, Comey said

• Comey also revealed that the bureau’s behavioral analysis intelligence unit at Quantico had analyzed all the communications by the hackers in terms of language, style and content, and they linked that back to past North Korean attacks, as well

• “They say, ‘Easy for us, it’s the same actors,'” Comey said. The FBI director said there’s not much he has a high degree of confidence in. But in this case, “I have very high confidence about this attribution, as does the entire intelligence community.” (think the Sony insider theory will live on, regardless)



Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Justin Duckham, William McDonald and Nicholas Salazar contributed to this report


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