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

  • Sydney cafe siege
  • Cheney not sorry over CIA torture
  • Torture report: Fallout
  • Shutdown avoided: Govt funded – mostly
  • Thousands march in nationwide protests
  • Hanging effigies / lynching?
  • Kerry in Europe: Full plate – Middle East
  • Obamacare sign-up deadline today
  • South Sudan: One year on in war
  • Sony Pictures to newsers: Delete data!


Sydney Cafe Siege
It’s developing. At least one gunman has taken several people hostage at a cafe in the Australian city of Sydney. Police commissioner Scipione has been holding a presser – and not saying much, except no one has been injured. People inside the cafe were seen holding up a black flag with Arabic writing at the window.  (BBC, Guardian, Channel 7, 9News, me)

• 9News reports that police have identified the hostage taker. He has contacted police and demanded an ISIS flag and a phone call with PM Tony Abbott. Five hostages have fled the cafe. Unclear if they escaped or were freed. Police are monitoring Facebook and Twitter after reports hostages are tweeting from inside

• Police have cordoned off a large area of Sydney’s central business district. Probably about 15 hostages. They are being forced to stand against the window in rotation, some for two hours at a time

• Abbott described the situation as “deeply disturbing.” 9News says it’s spoken to hostages inside the cafe and the gunman has made a number of demands. The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imams Council have condemned “this criminal act unequivocally.”
Cheney Not Sorry Over CIA Torture
• On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, former VP Dick Cheney seemed proud of his role in creating the CIA’s harsh interrogation – torture – program that was thrown into harsh light last week in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. “I’d do it again in a minute,” he declared (Politico, Hill, WaPo, CNN, Fox, me)

• Asked if the report created “any seed of doubt” for him about the wisdom of the CIA effort, Cheney replied, “No … absolutely not.” Despite being pressed by host Chuck Todd to offer a definition of torture, Cheney didn’t go beyond saying the DoJ provided legal approvals for the program

• “There’s this notion that there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we do, and that’s absolutely not true. We were very careful to stop short of torture.” Cheney said that he believes “rectal feeding” procedures were undertaken for medical reasons, even though many medical experts said not – anal fissure and rectal prolapse were side effects, BTW

• Todd pointed to the case of Gul Rahman, who was chained to the floor of the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan where he died from exposure to cold temperatures. CIA records quoted in the report say Gul’s detention was a case of mistaken identity. “Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,” Cheney said (didn’t)


• Cheney said Americans taken hostage overseas by terrorists are not at greater risk of being subjected to CIA techniques. “He’s not likely to be waterboarded. He’s likely to have his head cut off. I haven’t seen them waterboard anybody,” Cheney said of ISIS. NYT reported on 25 Oct that hostage James Foley was waterboarded by ISIS. Foley was later beheaded

• Cheney cited as one of the program’s successes the example of an alleged plot to fly airliners into tall buildings on the U.S. West Coast. However, the Senate report says the key information about such a plot actually came from a person not in U.S. custody

• Cheney criticized the “small” Senate report as “seriously flawed.” “They didn’t talk to anybody who knew anything about the program They didn’t talk to anyone who was in the program.” The report runs more than 6,000 pages

• Appearing just after Cheney, Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the lack of interviews was due to the fact that a DoJ criminal investigation was underway during much of the time the Senate probe took place. Also: “Facts aren’t partisan. We reviewed 6 million pages of documents. … There are a mountain of contradictions.”
• The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today will hear arguments by Google, which owns YouTube, disputing the court’s decision to remove an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to the actors, from the video sharing service (AP)
Torture Report: Fallout
• Michael Mikasey, who served as AG under President George W. Bush, said Sunday to AM 970 host John Catsimatidis in NY, “From the standpoint of the intelligence community, I think it [the Senate report] is a disaster. It’s going to demoralize the CIA. It’s jam-packed with untruth.” (Hill, Reuters, me)

• Former Justice Dept lawyer John Yoo, who co-wrote a memo used as the legal sanction for the CIA program, said on CNN Sunday that “if these things [sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and some other treatments] happened as they’re described in the report … they were not supposed to be done.” He said the people who did them are “at risk legally”

• Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI), outgoing chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation, “We had foreign intelligence services say they believed it [report’s release] would incite violence in their countries including attacks against U.S. embassies or U.S. interests or U.S. personnel.”

• Bush admin AG Alberto Gonzalez said Friday on NewsMaxTV, “You know, we provided a guidance, and, you know, it was up to the CIA to comply with that guidance. As I started hearing about some of the items in the report, I became a little – I became troubled, because some of those things, some of what was being referenced, appear beyond the guidance.”

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation that he had “vigorous discussions” with former VP Dick Cheney and former CIA director Michael Hayden during the Bush admin. “I said these things are torture. They’re in violation of the Geneva Convention and the convention against torture.” “I urge everyone to just read the report.”
• Newtown CT marked the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook school massacre with a private ceremony and quiet reflection Sunday. On 14 Dec 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother then drove to the elementary school where his shooting spree left 20 children and six educators dead. Lanza, 20, then killed himself as police moved in (USA Today)
Shutdown Avoided: Govt Funded – Mostly
• The Senate voted 56-40 Saturday night to approve a $1.1 trillion deal and avert a govt shutdown, sending the legislation to President Obama for his signature after an unusual weekend session and days of drama in the House and Senate (Politico, Roll Call, Hill, NYT, WaPo, Reuters, me)

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was able to begin moving forward on 24 of the president’s nominations, including controversial figures like Vivek Murthy to be the new surgeon general – he linked gun violence and public health – and a dozen federal judges to lifetime appointments. Republicans fought for months to block these nominees and thought they’d won

• But when Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) took to the floor Friday night to call for a vote on Obama’s executive order on immigration and demand their colleagues stay through the weekend to do so rather than adjourn until today, they allowed Reid to exploit a procedural quirk and get the nominations rolling (#servethemright)

• Cruz and Lee eventually got their point of order vote, though it was defeated badly by bipartisan opposition, 22-74 (ouch). Twenty Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against Cruz and Lee, a sharp rebuke to their tactics

• So the two senators’ demands resulted in a highly unusual Saturday session that featured an entire day of senators holding court on the floor as Reid set up nomination votes this week and was forced by GOP opposition to hold cumbersome procedural votes hour-after-hour. Senators tried to munch food off of the floor to keep themselves going (sad)

• “I think that most Republicans feel like that Christmas came early for Democrats,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “At the end of the day, they got nominees we previously successfully blocked and we got nothing.”
• The omnibus funds all of the govt through September 2015, except for the Dept of Homeland Security, which is funded through 27 February 2015, at which point Republicans will control both chambers and can revisit it. DHS administers much of immigration and the GOP wants to punish Obama over his executive action

• Nearly every senator mentioned as a future presidential candidate voted against the omnibus: GOP Sens Rand Paul (KY), Marco Rubio (FL) and Cruz as well as liberal Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Senate is expected to come in today to start on nominations

• The tax extenders and terrorism risk insurance package still haven’t been done. If terrorism risk isn’t done before the end of 2014, the Super Bowl will be at risk, as the organizers may not find anyone to insure it

• McConnell and Reid originally decided the best course of action was to send Obama a bill funding the govt through Wednesday, shutter the Senate for the weekend and pass the ominibus today. Had Cruz and Lee agreed to their deal, the conservatives could have received the same constitutional point of order vote today – but they got more (bad) attention Saturday

• But the point of order was defeated, so the result was the same: The omnibus was sent to the president without defunding the immigration order – and Obama appears set to win quicker approval of his nominations

Interactive: Possibly the single most scary thing you’ll see for the rest of this year – you HAVE almost certainly been hacked and your most personal data HAS probably been stolen… (Bloomberg, me)

Thousands March in Nationwide Protests

• Thousands of Americans took to the streets in a “day of resistance” on Saturday in Washington, New York, Chicago, Boston, Oakland and several other cities to protest recent grand jury decisions regarding the deaths of black men, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown, at the hands of police officers (Guardian, AP, NYT, NYDN, WaPo, me)

• In New York, thousands marched from Washington Square Park uptown, via 6th Avenue, before turning downtown to progress along Broadway and to NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza. Later, after darkness had fallen, protesters attempted to stop traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge

• In Washington, throngs of protesters – black, white, young and old – wound their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol on a chilly December day. Among them were around 400 protesters who came by bus from Ferguson, the site of Brown’s death in August and sizable protests since

• Near the Capitol, the main speaker, Rev Al Sharpton, was joined onstage by relatives of men killed by law enforcement officers. Those represented by family members included Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo

• “This is a history making moment,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, “It’s just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us. Look at the masses, black, white, all races, all religions … we need to stand like this at all times.”

Hanging Effigies / Lynching?

• Meanwhile, three cardboard cutouts of black men were found hanging by nooses on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. The effigies had names of actual past lynching victims and the dates of their death. At least one effigy had “I can’t breathe” printed on the front. A school spox said police are trying to determine who hanged them and why

• The hanging death of a 17-year-old black male in Bladenboro NC has stirred up old fears and fresh concern as residents raise doubts about whether authorities, who called the teen’s death a suicide, adequately investigated the possibility it might have been, in fact, a lynching. The young man had been dating a 31-year-old white woman, though they had broken up

• On Saturday, protesters marched through the heart of the town to call for a thorough examination of what happened to Lennon Lacy who was found hanging by two belts from a playground swing set near his home 29 Aug. The case had appeared to stall for months, but it was announced Friday that the FBI would look into the case

• UN members have reached a deal at climate talks in Peru. Environmental groups said the deal was an ineffectual compromise, but the EU said it was a step toward achieving a global climate deal next year in Paris (BBC)

Kerry in Europe: Full Plate – Middle East

• SecState John Kerry is scheduled to meet Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome today, and then fly to Paris to meet European colleagues, before traveling to London to meet Palestinian and Arab League officials on Tuesday. Kerry met Russian FM Sergei Lavrov in Rome on Sunday (NYT, Reuters, me)

• What’s up? The UN Security Council is working on two resolutions, with votes possible before Christmas, which Netanyahu has strongly opposed. One draft resolution, put forward by the Palestinians through the Jordanians, would set Nov 2016 as a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied West Bank

• The other draft resolution, being formulated by France, would call for a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a final peace treaty to achieve a two-state solution within two years. That draft suggests the recognition of the Palestinians as full members of the UN, and describes Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 armistice lines as obstacles to peace

• For Washington to veto a Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood would be awkward, and so would a failure to veto a resolution fiercely opposed by Israel. Washington appears to be contemplating either a postponement of any resolution until after the Israeli elections or a softer resolution calling for renewed negotiations without a fixed deadline

• Netanyahu made his position clear on Sunday during the regular Israeli cabinet meeting. “This is an attempt to compel us – by means of UN decisions – to withdraw to the 1967 lines within two years.” That would lead to bringing “Islamic extremists to the suburbs to Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem. We will not allow this.”

Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline Today

• Midnight today, Pacific time, is the deadline for new customers to pick a health plan that will take effect 1 Jan, and for current enrollees to make changes that could reduce premium increases ahead of the new year. and state insurance websites are preparing for heavy traffic today (AP, me)

• Wait times at the federal call center started creeping up around the middle of last week, mainly because of current customers with questions about their coverage for next year. Many will face higher premiums, but they could ease the hit by shopping online for a better deal

• About 6.7 million people now have coverage through President Obama’s signature law, which offers subsidized private insurance. The admin wants to increase that to 9.1 million in 2015. To do that, the program must keep most of its current enrollees and and add more than 2 million new paying clients

• Most current customers who do nothing will be automatically renewed 1 Jan in the plan they’re now in. But by staying in their current plans, people can get locked into a premium jump and miss lower-priced plans. They also will keep their 2014 subsidies, which may be less than what they legally would be entitled to for next year

• And 21-year-olds will see a 58% rise in the price for premiums because they’re a year older. An age-adjustment factor used to compute premiums jumps substantially when a person turns 21 (seems a bit mean)


• Absolutely fascinating map: The most disproportionate jobs for each state – ones you wouldn’t expect, MD is astronomers and PA is gas compressors. NY is fashion designers (Vox)
South Sudan: One Year on in War
• Fighting broke out one year ago today in South Sudan between President Salva Kiir’s troops and forces loyal to former VP Riek Machar. Since then, thousands have been killed and more than 1.5 million South Sudanese have fled their homes, leaving many families without anyone to plant crops (AP)

• The international aid community had feared famine, but an injection of food supplies by the World Food Program and other groups helped prevent that. But if the fighting resumes on a wide scale, the specter of famine could return in 2015, aid groups warned

• Concern about South Sudan is waning abroad, and the country is at risk of becoming “yet another forgotten state,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday. “The spotlight may have turned away from South Sudan in recent months, but needs remain enormous and the situation is still serious.”

• The two sides have signed several peace deals brokered by neighboring govts, but none have actually stopped the warfare. Much of the violence has pitted two ethnic groups against each other: the Dinka, who back Kiir, and the Nuer, who support Machar

• Atrocities have been committed by both sides, including the killings of older patients in hospital wards and the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in Juba, the capital, last December, according to human rights groups

Sony Pictures to Newsers: Delete Data
• Sony Pictures Entertainment warned media outlets on Sunday against using the mountains of corporate data revealed by hackers who attacked the studio’s computer systems. (Bit late, Sony. Horse galloped out of that barn last week) (NYT, Deadspin, Gawker, me)

• In a sharply worded letter sent to news organizations, David Boies, a lawyer for Sony, characterized the docs posted online as “stolen information” and demanded that they be avoided, and destroyed if they had already been downloaded or otherwise acquired

• The studio “does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use” of the information, Boies wrote to the legal depts of media organizations. There’s been a flood of damaging reports about salaries, business negotiations, employee health records and email conversation about movie stars

• One of the most embarrassing email exchanges featured racially insensitive banter about President Obama’s supposed preference for black-themed moves and prompted apologies by Sony Pictures co-chairwoman Amy Pascal and by a prominent producer, Scott Rudin

Hackers Stole New Bond Movie
• Over the weekend, the hackers, who have pressed Sony to withdraw its comic film “The Interview,” were reported to be planning further data dumps by Christmas Day, when the film is scheduled for release. The film deals with an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

• Hackers have stolen a copy of the latest James Bond movie “Spectre” in a cyber attack on Sony. Also, in a newly released email, Pascal refers to Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to pull out of a film about Steve Jobs as “despicable.”

• And George Clooney was so appalled by the critical reaction to his WWII film “The Monuments Men,” that he wrote to Pascal in a newly released email, “I fear I’ve let you all down. Not my intention. I apologize. I’ve just lost touch… Who knew? Sorry. I won’t do it again.”

• Pics: Official Christmas pics of Prince George – tyke is rather cute

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Victoria Jones


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.