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.

Winter weather’s here!

In the News

  • Quack: Lame-duck session paddles in
  • Obama’s immigration action looms
  • Obama / Xi Beijing presser today – frank
  • Xi snubs NYT at presser
  • Surprise U.S. / China climate agreement reached today
  • Obama, Xi expected to unveil military agreements
  • Is Burma getting better?
  • GOP plan for Lynch: Immigration
  • WH focus on women and girls of color
  • MO gov prepared to use National Guard in Ferguson again
  • Israeli-Palestinian tensions soaring
  • Obamacare economist under fire for “stupidity” remark
  • Gruber apologizes: “Spoke inappropriately”


Quack: Lame-Duck Session Paddles In
• Fresh from an election that emphatically showed voter dissatisfaction with a gridlocked Washington, lawmakers return today for a lame-duck session that will provide the first crucial test of whether Democrats and Republicans can cooperate or if the next Congress will be another study in dysfunction (any bets?) (NYT, me) 
• Democrats want to use the remaining days of their majority to pass a govtwide spending bill, advance nominations, consider a Pentagon policy bill and perhaps enact surveillance law changes. Republicans want to clear away much of the legislative underbrush and renew some tax breaks so they can have a clean start in January
• The WH would also like to see govt funding assured through next fall and to fill some its executive and judicial branch vacancies. Democrats seem increasingly inclined not to use the lame-duck session to press for the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the new AG – and there may not be time
• Democrats say that she should be able to be confirmed in a Republican Senate (see below). And if Republicans block her, Democrats see some political advantage because Republicans would be killing the nomination of the first African-American woman to head the Justice Dept – a move that could provoke a backlash
Obama’s Immigration Action Looms
• Democrats are also watching to see if incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stick behind spending legislation that funds the govt through 30 Sept or if they bow to increasing demands from some lawmakers and conservatives to fund the govt on a short-term basis
• The conservatives argue that Republicans should retain govt funding as leverage against President Obama to deter him from his plan to reduce deportations of undocumented immigrants through an executive order
• The threat of action by Obama is hanging over the lame-duck session. “You don’t make a deal with someone by continuously poking your finger in their eye,” Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said
• While some Democrats want the WH to wait until a spending bill is approved, party leaders in the House and Senate support the president’s forging ahead with an executive order because they don’t believe congressional Republicans are serious about moving forward and can’t overcome internal opposition



Obama / Xi Beijing Presser Today
• At a joint presser today at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, President Obama and President Xi Jinping praised a climate deal reach today, a deal on technology trade and the easing of short-term visas announced during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. They also laid bare some differences (AP, NYT, WaPo, Hill, me)
• Obama pressed Xi on issues of human rights, saying that he wanted to reiterate to Xi “America’s unwavering support” to the human rights of all people. Obama stressed that the U.S. doesn’t favor Tibetan independence from China
• Xi said that China has “made enormous progress” on human rights, and said he and Obama had a “candid discussion” on the issue. “That is a fact recognized by all the people in the world,” Xi said, adding that on human rights, the work should never be considered “mission accomplished” and there there’s always room for improvement
• Obama pushed Xi on the protests in Hong Kong, saying the U.S. consistently speaks out “on the right of people to express themselves” and encouraged that the elections there are “transparent and reflective of the people there.”
Xi Snubs NYT at Presser
• Xi called Occupy an “illegal movement.” What happens in Hong Kong, he said, is China’s business, foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in those affairs and law and order must remain
• Xi appeared to dodge tough questions from a reporter for the New York Times, which paper was blocked in China in 2012 after a story on the wealth of the former PM and his family. China has also restricted or not renewed visas to the paper’s journalists
• Xi later answered the question, but before doing so he called on a Chinese journalist and appeared to read his answer from a sheet of paper. “Perhaps we should look into the problem to see where the cause lies,” Xi said to the NYT reporter The dodge move drew immediate complaints from the U.S. press corps.
• WH officials for weeks lobbied the Chinese for the joint presser at the request of American reporters, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to travel to Beijing. China resisted until the last minute, and then appeared to institute its own, unique rules – one question per side, not two
Surprise U.S. / China Climate Agreement Reached Today
• The U.S. and China today unveiled long-term plans to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change, a surprise move aimed at kick-starting a new round of international climate negotiations and blunting domestic opposition to cuts in both countries (WSJ, NYT, me)
• The level and time frame of the emissions targets are likely to disappoint some environmentalists, but leading experts concerned about climate change are pleased that China appears to be working in concert with the U.S. and EU, rather than taking the side of developing countries
• As part of its plan, the U.S. said today it would double the average pace of its carbon-dioxide reductions after 2020, eying an overall reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions between 26% and 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. Republicans are opposed
• For its part, China agreed today to stop increasing carbon-dioxide emissions by about 2030 or earlier, with fossil fuels falling to about 80% of Chinese energy use, U.S. officials said. Some had been pressing China, which is still seeking rapid industrial growth, to commit to 2025
• While Democrats praised Obama’s move, Republicans were quick to criticize him for using the EPA to set policy without congressional input and pushing the U.S. toward international commitments without a Senate-approved treaty (which he certainly wouldn’t get now)

Obama, Xi to Unveil Military Agreements Today?

• President Obama and China’s Xi Jinping are expected to unveil two agreements today designed to avert military confrontations, U.S. officials said, as the two leaders try to move beyond tensions that have dominated recent relations (WSJ, NYT, me)
• One of the military agreements covers a mechanism for notifying each other of major activities, such as military exercises, and the other sets rules of behavior for encounters at sea and in the air, according to people familiar with the negotiations
• A day earlier, Obama announced that their two govts had resolved lingering differences on a deal to drop tariffs on semiconductors and other information-technology products, which backers say could cover $1 trillion in trade
• Both men appear eager to recalibrate the relationship that’s largely failed to match the promise of their first summit 16 months ago at the Sunnylands estate in California
• The need for better working relations between the militaries has been underscored by China’s efforts to enforce claims to contested territories across the South China and East China seas. The agreements are part of a broader effort to encourage the Chinese military to adopt international norms, defense analysts said
Is Burma Getting Better?
• President Obama arrives in Myanmar/Burma this evening. On the eve of Obama’s first visit in 2012, which celebrated the nation’s historic shift from military rule, new President Thein Sein made 11 policy pledges on human rights concerns, ties with North Korea and anti-Muslim violence. Update on a few (these are excerpts) (AP, me):
Goal: Allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisons. Update: In early 2012, the govt agreed to the first Red Cross prison visits in seven years. Spox Ewan Watson said the agency has visited 28 detention centers this year. Rights activists say ill treatment of detainees persists
Goal: Allow blacklisted people to enter and leave the country. Update: Formerly blacklisted human rights activists, journalists and others have been allowed to visit. Exiled dissidents have returned. But some returning exiles can’t get citizenship. Some freed political prisoners face travel restrictions&&&
Goal: Initiate a process to assess the criminality of remaining political prisoners. Update: The govt says all political prisoners have been freed. But 27 prisoners are still held, according to a nongovernmental group tracking the issue. Rights groups say hundreds of new dissenters and peaceful protesters have been detained in the past year
Goal: (my language) sort out the problems in Rakhine state. Update: Attacks by Buddhist extremists have left hundreds of minority Rohingya Muslims dead and 140,000 trapped in dire conditions in camps. More than 100,000 Rohingya have fled by boat. Hundreds of the migrants have died at sea
• The main aid group, Doctors Without Borders, was expelled from Rakhine in Feb. A draft govt plan would enable the 1.3 million Rohingya to seek a form of citizenship but only if they categorize themselves as “Bengalis” – implies they’re illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Those denied citizenship would be put in camps and face deportation
• Despite two days of exhaustive negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on curbing Iran’s nuclear program, “real gaps” remain, an American diplomat said. Talks start again on 18 November, with a 24 November deadline looming. Thursday, Republicans will seek a vote on legislation requiring that Congress approve any deal (WSJ, me)
GOP Plan for Lynch: Immigration
• Senate Republicans plan to turn the battle over AG nominee Loretta Lynch into a larger debate over immigration. Lynch, who would be the first black female AG, is considered a strong nominee, with a long record as a federal prosecutor. The confirmation is likely to be held next year in the new Congress (Politico, me)
• The Republicans’ early strategy, according to comments from senators and several GOP aides close to the Judiciary Committee, centers on whether the president has the authority to bypass Congress on immigration – allowing Republicans to write their own narrative on the nomination
• Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) said in a joint statement: “The nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law. Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement on whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”
• The WH didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the strategy. Hill Democrats say the Republican plan could backfire. Other hot-button issues sure to surface: the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal, the contentious debate over voter ID laws and executive overreach, Republican aides said (should be lively – all they need is a Coke can)
• But the dominant issue will be immigration – and President Obama’s looming executive action that could potentially halt deportations for millions of immigrants here without legal status. Obama has promised to act on deportations by the end of the year
• The Rosetta Philae robot is on its seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. If Philae lands successfully, it will be the first time that a robot has landed on the surface of a comet (BBC)
WH Focus on Women and Girls of Color
• The WH is planning to focus on improving the lives of girls and women of color, after months of complaints that they were left out of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative for young men. WH aides plan today to convene a Working Group on Challenges and Opportunities for Women and Girls of Color. The admin will also release a report (AP, me)
• Under the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, businesses, foundations and community groups coordinate investments to come up with or support programs that help keep young men out of the criminal justice system and improve their access to higher education. Several foundations pledged more than $200 million over five years to promote that goal
• “Anything less than full inclusion in My Brother’s Keeper is “basically another frame for separate and still unequal,” said Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, exec director of the African American Policy Forum. Last June, she made the case for inclusion in My Brother’s Keeper to Obama in a letter that was signed by more than 1,000 women
• In the report being released today, the WH acknowledged the challenges facing girls of color: About 40% of Native American girls, 39% of black girls and 30% of Hispanic girls live in poverty, compared with 20% of all girls
• Black girls are 14.6% less likely, Hispanic girls are 12.8% less likely and American Indian/Alaska native girls are 16% less likely to graduate from high schools than white girls
MO Gov Prepared to Use National Guard in Ferguson Again
• As the regions around St Louis await a grand jury’s return, Gov Jay Nixon on Tuesday pledged that law enforcement authorities wouldn’t permit violence, and that the Missouri National Guard was part of a contingency plan. “I’m prepared to issue that order,” Nixon said of the possibility of calling up the guard (Guardian, NYT, AP, CNN, Fox, me)
• Authorities around the suburb of Ferguson are braced for further unrest amid expectations that officer Darren Wilson, 28, will not be indicted for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, which took place in sharply contested circumstances after he stopped Brown and a friend for jaywalking
• Intense protests in the days after Brown’s death met a militarized police response that drew sharp criticism from regional leaders and civil rights organizations. Nixon on Tuesday declined to comment on whether police were again prepared to use teargas and rubber bullets
• Criticizing a minority of activists for blighting earlier demonstrations with “senseless acts of violence and destruction,” Nixon said Tuesday “that ugliness was not representative of Missouri, and that cannot be repeated.” “The world is watching,” he said. “Peace must prevail.”
• Nixon said that unrest would be policed by a “unified command” of officers from St Louis County, which led the much-criticized response to early protests, along with the Missouri state highway patrol and city of St Louis’s metropolitan police. He said that 1,000 officers had undergone a total of 5,000 hours of training in crowd control over recent weeks (five hours each?)
• The parents of Michael Brown testified Tuesday in Geneva before the UN Committee Against Torture. They read a statement, calling for the immediate arrest of Wilson, an end to racial profiling, and called for the AG and DoJ to conduct a nationwide investigation of police brutality in black and brown communities, particularly youth (CNN, me)
Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Soaring
• An attack against a mosque in the West Bank village of Mughayer early today ignited a fire that destroyed its first floor, the village’s mayor said. “Only Jewish settlers would do this,” Mayor Faraj al-Naasan said, citing a previous attack against a mosque and frequent attacks against vehicles and olive groves (AP, TRNS, me)
• The attack comes as Israeli-Palestinian tensions are soaring, mostly against the background of competing claims to the Temple Mount, also known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, in Jerusalem’s Old City. Visits by Jewish worshipers to the site have raised concerns among Muslims that Israel is secretly trying to take over the site
• This is turn has fanned strife in a region already on edge following the collapse of U.S.-led peace talks, Israel’s bloody war last summer in the Gaza Strip, and new Israeli settlement construction plans in East Jerusalem
• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu traded accusations on Tuesday, with Abbas saying that frequent visits to the site by Jewish worshipers are fueling clashes and accusing Israel of leading the region toward a “religious war.”
• The accusation drew a sharp response from Netanyahu, who said Abbas was making matters worse. “Instead of calming tempers, he is inflaming them. Instead of educating his people for peace, Abu Mazen is educating them for terror attacks,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address, referring to Abbas

• Vid: Glenn Beck reveals the extent of his serious and mysterious health problems, which he doesn’t name. He says he’s cured now

Obamacare Economist Under Fire for “Stupidity” Remark
• Economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the Obama admin’s consultants on Obamacare, is under attack from conservatives for comments he made last year in which he said the “stupidity of the American voter” was a factor in passing the health care law in 2010. The comments were made on a panel at the Annual Health Economics Conference (WaPo, Hill, Fox, me)
• “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” he said. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
• Gruber’s comments were part of a broader public conversation between him and economist Park Pauly on the economics of health care reform. Gruber was responding to a remark by Pauly about financing transparency in the law and the politics surrounding the ACA’s individual mandate. He said the political process resulted in inefficiencies which should be corrected
• “In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which explicitly said that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” he said. “You can’t do it politically, you just literally cannot do it. It’s not only transparent financing but also transparent spending.”
Gruber Apologizes: “Spoke Inappropriately”
• On Tuesday, conservatives ripped into Gruber’s 2013 remarks. Social media lit up with posts on Monday and Tuesday and some lawmakers weighed in as well. Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) tweeted: “The crafting of Obamacare – amazing to hear their approach.” Rush Limbaugh had a field day
• In the video, Gruber appeared to be speaking specifically about the political environment in 2010 and its impact on the law’s funding mechanisms. “I wish Mark was right and we could make it all transparent but I’d rather have this law than not,” Gruber said. “That involves trade-offs that we don’t prefer as economists but are realistic.”
• Gruber apologized for his comments on Tuesday afternoon on MSNBC. “I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.”
• Gruber said the larger point he was trying to make centered on the political pressures that shaped the law. He added that those pressures “led to an incomplete law with some typos.”

• Raw vid: Veterans Day concert from the Mall – Springsteen and Dave Grohl are toward the end (and not enough of them). Separately, SecDef Chuck Hagel said at the Vietnam War Memorial that it was Americans’ duty to question policies that send Americans to war (AP, TRNS)

Sign up here for TRNS News Notes

______________Victoria Jones

TRNS’ William McDonald and Luke Vargas 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.