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.


Pope Francis is coming to the U.S. in September 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia

In the News

  • Obama condemns U.S. hostage’s execution
  • Did something go wrong with ISIS’ video?
  • Ferguson: Tactics set for grand jury decision
  • DEA raids NFL
  • In Brisbane, Obama sounds off
  • Obama: “You don’t invade other countries”
  • Pols spar on immigration
  • Obamacare: A few frustrations
  • Russian TV claim: Ukraine shot down MH17 – “pics”
  • Veterans still face long waits…


Obama Condemns Kassig’s Execution
• President Obama on Sunday issued a harsh statement, saying that American Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter, “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group,” following the release of a chilling videotape from ISIS that depicted Kassig’s severed head at the foot of a black-robed militant executioner
• Kassig’s parents, Ed and Paula Kassig, issued a statement saying that they were “heartbroken.” “We prefer our son is remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause.” (NYT, Reuters, WaPo, Independent, Le Figaro, Reuters, Daily Mail, me)
• The militant in the video spoke with the same southern British accent as the killer of previous hostages, dubbed “Jihadi John” by the British media. He was believed to have been wounded in an air attack on an ISIS leaders’ meeting in Iraq near the Syrian border earlier this month

• Kassig, a former Army Ranger who disappeared more than a year ago at a checkpoint in northern Syria while delivering medical supplies, was doing humanitarian work through Special Emergency Response and Assistance, an organization he founded in 2012 to help Syrian Refugees

• A father in Wales said today he believes his son, 20-year-old medical student Nasser Muthana, may be among the squad of jihadists filmed beheading Syrian soldiers in the video. “How can he expect to face Allah if he is killing human beings?” Ahmed Muthana said

• Graphic: The fate of 23 hostages in Syria (NYT)

Did Something Go Wrong With Video?
• Unlike the earlier videos, which were staged with multiple cameras from different vantage points, and which show the hostages kneeling, then uttering their last words, the footage of Kassig’s death is curtailed – showing only the final scene, and appears more amateur
• Analysts said that the change in the video suggested that something may have gone wrong as the militants, who have been under sustained attack from a U.S.-led military coalition and have faced a series of setbacks in recent weeks, carried out the killing
• Among the things that could have gone wrong, analysts surmise, is that the extremists didn’t have as much time outdoors as they did when they killed the others. Residents contacted on social media in Syria have reported seeing objects in the sky that they believe are drones. The first four beheadings were in the open air
• Another possibility is that Kassig resisted, depriving the militants of the ability to stage the killing as they wanted. Analysts said that you only have one take to get the beheading right. Or did Kassig try to escape? It could also suggest the group’s on the move and unable to carry out the same open-air scenario
• It’s believed that two hostages remain, a female American aid worker whose name has been withheld for her safety, and John Cantlie, a British journalist
• The previous videos of beheadings were relatively short – under five minutes on average – and included a speech by the hostage, in which he’s forced to accuse his govt of crimes against Muslims, while the killer stands by holding the knife
• Kassig’s death appears in the final segment of a nearly 16-minute video, which traces the history of ISIS. In one extended sequence, a mass beheading of captured Syrian soldiers is shown, filmed with long close-ups of details
• Slow motion is used to emphasize the expressions of both the killers and those killed. There’s a close-up of the shining blade of the executioner’s knife
• In the video, a masked militant says: “To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar
[Assad} and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers,” in a prediction that Washington would send more troops to the region to fight ISIS
• A report out today calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013, based on the Dept of Education’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools. Number of homeless children is at an all-time high (AP)
Ferguson: Tactics Set for Grand Jury Decision
• With the grand jury’s decision in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown expected in the coming days, a disparate array of demonstrators are preparing with intricate precision to protest the no-indictment vote most consider inevitable (NYT, me)
• Organizers are outlining “rules of engagement” for dealing with the police, circulating long lists of equipment, including bandages and shatterproof goggles, and establishing “safe spaces” where protesters can escape the cold – or the tear gas
• Yet the most important part of the planning may also be the hardest: how to prevent demonstrators from turning violent. Organizers say they want their efforts to turn unto a lasting, national movement. So they say they hope for the protests to be forceful, loud and unrelenting, but without the looting or arson that could undermine their message
• Some leaders say they intend to carry out their protests even if the grand jury brings charges against Officer Darren Wilson to show that the issues raised reach beyond a single shooting. And they’ve proposed “19 rules of engagement” with law enforcement authorities. Some of the rules have been agreed to during talks, but others have been rejected
• Some national civil rights leaders met with President Obama on 5 November for a gathering that included a conversation about Ferguson. Rev Al Sharpton said Obama was “concerned about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing what it was that he knew we were advocating. He said he hopes that we’re doing all we can to keep peace.”

A short video’s emerged of an incident in 2013 in which officer Darren Wilson arrested a man, Michael Arman, for videotaping him. Arman had a criminal record. However, the details of the arrest may provide evidence of Wilson’s propensity to file false reports to justify his actions (Guardian, TPM, me)

• Drug Enforcement Administration agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check medical staff at visiting San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks, as part of an investigation into former players’ claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs (WaPo, Fox, NYT, AP, ESPN, me)
• The visits by the DEA were spurred, in part, by reports of widespread abuse of painkillers that were included in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL. The suit claims that team doctors routinely dispensed Percocet, Toradol, Novocain and other drugs to energize players before games and relieve pain afterwards. There are now more than 1,200 plaintiffs
• The suit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players’ health, withholding info about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories to mask pain and minimize lost playing time


• The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs – according to one plaintiff’s lawyer – “like candy at Halloween,” along with combining them in “cocktails.”
• Several former players interviewed by AP described the lime of teammates waiting to get injections on game day after spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted
• The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven’t been definitively linked to painkillers
• Japan’s economy unexpectedly shrank for the second consecutive quarter, marking a technical recession in the world’s third largest economy. PM Abe is expected to call a snap election to seek a mandate to delay an increase in the sales tax to 10%, scheduled for 2015 (BBC)
In Brisbane, Obama Sounds Off
• President Obama dismissed criticism of his health care law by Jonathan Gruber, a former economic adviser to the project, who has claimed the admin had deceived policymakers. Asked whether he intentionally misled the public in order to get the law passed, Obama replied, “No, I did not.” Obama said he “completely disagreed” with Gruber
• “I would just advise every press outlet here: Pull up every clip and every story. I think it’s fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent,” Obama said. “It was a tough debate.” (Politico, WaPo, NJ, NYT, me)
• On immigration, Obama said, “There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I’m exercising too much executive authority. Pass a bill I can sign on this issue. Give me a bill that addresses those issues [improved border security and pathway to citizenship] and I’ll be the first one to sign it.”
• His discussions with President Vladimir Putin at the G20: “I would characterize them as typical of our interactions which are businesslike and blunt.” “At this point, the sanctions that we have in place are biting pretty good.”

• Pic: President Obama and a koala get snuggly at the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia. Warning: they often pee on you (Daily Maily, Getty)

Obama: “You Don’t Invade Other Countries”
• “We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles,” Obama said of Russia. “One of those principles is that you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies or support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”
• On Syria, Obama denied that a broad review of U.S. policy is underway. On ground troops, “If we discovered [ISIS] had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, then yes, you could anticipate that not only Chairman Dempsey would recommend sending U.S. troops to get the weapon out of their hands, I would order it.”
• New Obamacare enrollment: “So far, there are half a million successful log-ins on the first day. works really well now. There were 23,000 applications completed in the first eight hours and tens of thousands more throughout the day … Health care is working.” President Obama is now back in Washington DC

• Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Sunday that the Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline was “one vote short” as they left last week. They’re “burning up the phone lines and emails” to find the 60th vote. The Senate votes Tuesday. The House voted to approve the pipeline Friday (Hill, Reuters, TRNS, me)

Pols Spar on Immigration
• Sen John Thune (R-SD) on Fox News Sunday held open the possibility of a govt shutdown over immigration. “It doesn’t solve the problem. But look, we’re having those discussions … We’re going to continue to meet about this. I know the House leaders are talking about, the Senate leaders are talking about it.” (WaPo, Hill, WSJ, TPM, Fox, CNN, me)

• Speaking of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sen Claire McCaskill (R-MO) said on CBS Sunday, “All he has to do next week if he doesn’t want the president to act is take up the Senate bill, amend it, change it, whatever you want to do. Let’s get back to doing our work instead of just blaming the president for everything.”

• “I think the president wants a fight,” Rep Tom Cole (R-OK) said on ABC on Sunday. “I think he’s actually trying to bait us into doing some of these extreme things that have been suggested. I don’t think we will.” Cole, instead, urged a legal challenge to President Obama’s action (helpful)
• “The message of the last election was, ‘solve problems, don’t just go to a political standoff, do something,'” Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on CNN Sunday. “If the Republicans fail to do it, then the president will act and I support it.” “This president is not going to go gently into his last two years. He’s going to lead, as he’s expected to.”
• Sen Mike Lee (R-UT) said on CBS that even if Obama “doesn’t respect elections, he needs to respect the rule of law.” Lee added, “It’s difficult for us to know how best we should respond when we don’t know what he’s going to do yet.”
• Three decades ago, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used their authority to extend amnesty to the spouses and minor children of immigrants covered by the last major overhaul of immigration in 1986. There was no political explosion then (AP, me)
Obamacare: A Few Frustrations
• Health and Human Services Sec Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Sunday that 100,000 people submitted applications for coverage under Obamacare on Saturday, the first day of the law’s second enrollment period. She said that more than 500,000 people  were able to log on to and that more than 1 million people have been “window-shopping”
• The exchanges performed much better than last year, but some problems became evident just as Burwell was visiting a community health center in Manassas VA. Consumers there were having a hard time logging into their accounts, retrieving old passwords and proving they were who they said they were (NYT, Reuters, Fox, TRNS, me)
• In Washington State, officials had to take the state-run exchange offline shortly after it began accepting applications on Saturday morning. The system wasn’t correctly determining tax subsidy amounts, said Bethany Frey, a spox. Enrollment counselors in Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas – all federal exchange – reported mostly smooth going
• In his weekly radio and internet address on Saturday, President Obama said it would be easy for people to sign up. In a presser after the Republican romp on Election Day, Obama said: “We’re really making sure the website works super well before the next enrollment period. We’re double- and triple-checking it.”
• Kelly Fristoe, an insurance agent in Wichita Falls, TX, said the federal website appeared to be working for new applicants. But he said: “There’s a major problem for people trying to re-enroll. When we try to log in to access their accounts, we get a message that says the login information is incorrect.” They had to reset all user names and passwords

• Interactive map: Where federal health exchange rates will rise (like my house) (NYT)

Russian TV Shows Airs Pics, Claims Ukraine Shot Down MH17
• Russian state-controlled TV on Friday broadcast what it called “sensational” photographs, which it said supported Moscow’s theory that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. A July poll by Levada Center found only 3% of Russians believed the plane was hit by rebels (Reuters, me)
• The photos, said to be taken by a Western satellite, appear to show a fighter jet firing a missile at a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine where MH17 was shot down on 17 July. The news show said the pics had been sent to a Russian expert by a man called George Bilt, who had presented himself as a graduate from MIT
• Moscow has long said it believed the plane was destroyed by a Ukrainian military jet, while Western officials say evidence suggests the plane was hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatist rebels. Since being aired by Channel One, the photos have met with widespread skepticism
• Andrei Menshenin, a commentator for independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, called the TV report a “pseudo-sensation” and said the angle of attack indicated by the photos didn’t correspond to the location of the damage
• Bellingcat, a British investigative journalism website, described the pics as a “crude fabrication,” highlighting what it said were several inconsistencies, which included signs that the photos had been partly compiled from historical Google Earth imagery dating from 2012 (clue?)
• Raw vid purportedly captures immediate MH17 aftermath (AP). Work has begun to remove wreckage from the MH17 crash after months of delays, Dutch officials say (BBC)
Veterans Still Face Long Waits
• More than 600,000 veterans – 10% of all Veterans Affairs patients – continue to wait a month or more for appts at VA hospitals and clinics, according to data obtained by USA Today. The VA has made some progress with the backlog of cases that forced former sec Eric Shinseki to retire early this year
• The VA substantially cut the overall number of worst-case scenarios for veterans – those who had waited more than four months for an appt. That figure dropped from 120,000 in May to 23,000 in October. Much of that improvement occurred because patients received care from private providers
• Since May, the VA has reduced the number of veterans waiting longest for care – its top priority – by 57%, according to James Hutton, a VA spox. From June to Sept, the VA completed 19 million appts, an increase of 1.2 million compared with the same time last year
• However, some facilities still have extremely long waits for basic care, including 64 that have average wait times over 60 days for new patients seeking primary care. They include major facilities, such as hospitals in Baltimore; Jacksonville, FL; Temple, TX; and Atlanta. All have at least 30,000 pending appts
• “The events of the last year have proven that far too many senior VA leaders have lied, manipulated data, or simply failed to do the job for which they were hired,” said Rep Jeff Miller (R-FL), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He called attempts at accountability for those leaders “nearly non-existent and rife with self-inflicted roadblocks to real reform.”

• Audio: Bill Cosby goes silent when NPR’s Scott Simon asks him about “serious allegations raised about you in recent days,” referring to decades-old sexual assault allegations. There’s a growing uproar surrounding the comedian, who’s recently canceled several TV engagements, including “David Letterman” (Cosby’s got to speak out..)

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Leah Schwarting 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.