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

  • Protests after grand jury verdict in NY cop chokehold case
  • Eric Garner chokehold case: Pols’ reax
  • “I can’t breathe” echoed in protests
  • Shutdown countdown: House deal in sight?
  • Can conservatives scuttle the deal?
  • House passes renewal of tax breaks
  • Reports of sexual assaults in military on rise
  • SCOTUS: Ambiguity in pregnancy law
  • SCOTUS: Scalia and Ginsberg at odds
  • Obama: American Indian youth initiative
  • Massive international cyberattack by Iran hackers

Protests After Grand Jury in NY Chokehold Case Doesn’t Indict Cop

• A Staten Island grand jury on Wednesday ended the criminal case against white New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, whose chokehold on unarmed Eric Garner, 43, who was black, led to the man’s death, a decision that drew condemnation from elected officials and touched off a wave of protests (NYT, AP, TRNS, TPM, me)

• The fatal encounter in July was captured on videos and seen around the world. But after viewing the footage and hearing from witnesses, including the officer who used the chokehold, the jurors deliberated for less than a day before deciding that there wasn’t enough evidence to go forward with charges against Pantaleo (astonishing)

• Garner’s lawyer Stuart London, said the grand jury was roughly half white with the other half evenly divided between Hispanics and blacks. Staten Island is the most politically conservative of the city’s five boroughs and home to many police and firefighters

• Pantaleo, who has been on the force for eight years, appeared before the grand jury on 21 Nov, testifying that he didn’t intend to choke Garner, who was being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes (misdemeanor). Panaleo described the maneuver as a takedown move, adding that he never thought Garner was in mortal danger

• The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe!” A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground. He later died at a hospital

• Vid: Eric Garner in police chokehold – full 7-minute video

• By Wednesday evening, the Justice Department announced it would be opening a civil rights inquiry. On the streets on New York, many expressed their outrage with words Garner uttered before being wrestled to the ground: “This stops today,” people chanted. “I can’t breathe,” others shouted

• President Obama, speaking in Washington, spoke of the decisions in Ferguson and New York. “When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem and it’s my job as president to help solve it.”

• Obama said, “It is incumbent upon all of us as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a native American problem, this is an American problem.”

• Pantaleo said in a statement on Wednesday that he felt “very bad about the death of Mr Garner,” just as he had told the 23 panelists of the grand jury when he testified before them for two hours. In his testimony, Panatelo sought to characterize his actions as a maneuver taught at the police academy

• Appearing with the Rev Al Sharpton in Harlem, Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she didn’t accept the officer’s apology. “Hell, no. The time for remorse for the death of my husband was when he was yelling to breathe.”

• Interactive: What did the grand jury consider in the killing of Eric Garner? (NYT)• Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking on Staten Island, said it was a “deeply emotional day” for the Garner family and all New Yorkers, and that he had thought of his own biracial son in considering Garner’s fate. But he implored demonstrators to voice their outrage peacefully

• An autopsy by the city’s medical examiner found that Garner’s death was a homicide resulting from the chokehold – a maneuver banned by the PD in 1993 – and the compression of his chest by police officers

• The grand jury heard evidence from the officers involved and 22 civilian witnesses. All of the officers, with the exception of Pantaleo, were granted immunity. The encounter exposed apparent lapses in police tactics and raised questions about the aggressive policing of minor offenses in a time of historically low crime

• Garner’s death hastened an effort to retrain all the dept’s patrol officers and brought scrutiny on how officers who violate the rules are disciplined. Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and badge during the investigation

• Vid: President Obama’s statement on grand jury decision in Eric Garner case (C-Span)

Eric Garner: Pols’ Reax

• Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, who’s black, said on MSNBC Wednesday, “They tell us, at least, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Well clearly a black man’s life is not worth a ham sandwich when you put these stories together. And that is the frustration.” (Hill, me)

• Embattled Rep Michael Grimm (R-NY), who’s under a 20-count federal indictment, said: “There’s no question that this grand jury had an immensely difficult task before them, but I have full faith that their judgement was fair and reasoned and I applaud DA Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity.”

• Rep Lacy Clay (D-MO), who represents Ferguson, said Wednesday “It is apparent, if you go back through our history, that the grand juries of the criminal justice system do not value black lives.” He called the justice system completely broken

• Rep Peter King (R-NY) said, “During this tense time in New York, it must be noted and remembered that no organization has done more to safeguard the lives of young African Americans in New York City than the NYPD.”

• Raw vid: Protests in NYC as cop cleared (AP). Vid: Garner’s family asks for peace as protests erupt (AP)

“I Can’t Breathe” Echoed in Protests

• They chanted it in Grand Central Terminal, shouted it in Times Square, emblazoned it across Facebook and Twitter, the three words that came to stand for the death of another unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer (NYT, NYDN, me)

• “I can’t breathe,” Eric Garner had gasped after the officer put his neck in a chokehold on a hot July day on Staten Island, a fatal encounter captured on video and viewed by millions of people. Wednesday, after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, the words and the video were revived in a wave of despair and fury

• As demonstrators rushed to Staten Island, hundreds of people marched north from Times Square, trying, and failing, to push through police barricades to disrupt the annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center. Protests took place in other cities, including Washington DC, outside the WH

• In New York, they blocked traffic on the West Side Highway, disrupted it on the RFK Bridge and at the Lincoln Tunnel, sat en masse at Columbus Circle, and held “die-ins” at Grand Central Terminal and near Radio City Music Hall. “We can’t breathe,” they chanted

• Unlike those in Ferguson MO, after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of an unarmed black teenager there, the protests remained largely peaceful, with about 30 arrests by 10 pm. Early this morning, several groups of protesters continued to march through the city

• Vid: AG Eric Holder announces Justice Dept to investigate Eric Garner’s chokehold death (AP)

Shutdown Countdown: House Deal in Sight?

• Could it be possible? House Republicans on Wednesday were quickly closing in on the final details of a spending plan to keep the govt from shutting down next week and, despite (increasingly vocal) objections from conservative lawmakers, were preparing to call a vote (NYT, Politico, Hill, Roll Call, TRNS, me)

• GOP House leadership’s decision to overrule many in the tea party wing of their conference has led to an outcry on the right. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and his allies believe they’ll find themselves in the awkward position of having to rely on Democrats to pass the spending bill through the House because of Republicans who will vote against it

• The spending deal that could come to a vote in the House as soon as Thursday has been extensively negotiated by both Republicans and Democrats over the last several months and contains elements that members of both parties could likely support. But …

• There’s a but. Since almost all activity in Congress has been complicated by President Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, passing a spending plan is no simple matter (understatement)

• The Republican plan is to fully fund all of the govt entities through next fiscal year except the Dept of Homeland Security, which is responsible for carrying out immigration policy. The dept would only be funded through the first couple of months next year. Rep Loretta Sanchez (D-A) called that move “dumb” and “dangerous” on Wednesday

• Vid: Slow jam the news – Brian Williams and Jimmy Fallon on immigration (bloody good)
Can Conservatives Scuttle the Deal?

• Democrats are holding their noses, but have signaled that they would support that legislation, meaning that the govt will not close its doors next Thursday when its spending authority officially expires. Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated doubts about the hybrid approach. The WH has also indicated to House Republicans that it wouldn’t object to the deal

• But some conservative Republicans are calling on any spending bill to immediately withhold funding for those agencies tasked with carrying out the president’s unilateral action, as well as holding up all of Obama’s upcoming nominations not directly tied to national security if he implements his executive action (looks like he will)

• The number of conservatives who abandon their leadership and vote ‘no’ could be as many as a few dozen, putting Speaker Boehner (R-OH) in an uncomfortable position. But pushing the govt to the brink of another shutdown, he’s said, is not something he’s willing to do as Republicans prepare to take control of both Chambers

• Conservatives Wed tried to rally members to oppose their leadership and bring the fight to Obama in the lame duck session. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) crossed the Rotunda to help fire up House conservatives. Cruz gathered with Rep Steve King (R-IA) and more than 20 conservative House members Wed am for a private breakfast

• And he again joined King, Rep Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Rep Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and a few other House members at an hourlong rally in front of the Capitol. Congress should “stand up” and say “we will not allocate taxpayer dollars to lawless and illegal amnesty,” Cruz said at the presser
• Texas and 16 other states filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, arguing he violated his constitutional duty to enforce the laws and illegally placed new burdens on state budgets (NYT, TRNS)
House Passes Renewal of Tax Breaks

• The House on Wednesday passed, 378-446, a one-year renewal of more than 50 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, putting the measure on a path toward President Obama’s desk (Hill, me)

• The measure would extend nearly all of the tax breaks until just the end of this year, at a cost of almost $42 billion. The dissenting votes were close to evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Democratic tax-writers in the Senate had been pushing for a two-year extension, but it looks like they’ll have to settle for a one-year

• The list of incentives included popular credits for both corporate America and individuals, like incentives for business research and others that help school teachers and distressed homeowners. Other incentives are more controversial, like a tax credit prized by the wind industry

• House Republicans turned to the one-year extension after talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Ways and Means chair Dave Camp (R-MI) over the broader deal broke down following a veto threat from President Obama because it wouldn’t permanently extend two tax credits for the working poor

• Top lawmakers from both parties have said that the only thing worse than a one-year deal is no deal at all, a sentiment echoed by many of the corporate interests that believe the short-term extension would make it harder for businesses to plan for next year
• Vice News’ reporter Jason Leopold tweeted that the Senate report on the CIA interrogation program will be released next Monday. He tweeted that a govt attorney told his attorney in his FOIA case (Vice, Hill, me)
Reports of Sexual Assault in Military on Rise

• A new military study to be released today by SecDef Chuck Hagel says that reports of rapes and sexual assaults in the military increased 8% in the fiscal year sending September 2014, Obama admin officials said. Hagel will brief reporters this afternoon at the Pentagon (AP, NYT, TRNS, me)

• The results are bound to draw attention, coming just a year after a 50% increase in the reporting of rapes and sexual assaults, but proponents of keeping jurisdiction of such matters within the military chain of command said the report suggested that victims were more willing to file complaints than in the past (hmmm)

• In 2012, a confidential Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 men and women were sexually assaulted. Of those, 3,375 cases were reported. By contrast, 5,061 cases were reported last year, and 5,400 this year. The Pentagon estimated that 19,000 men and women were sexually assaulted in 2014

• WH and Pentagon officials have chosen to portray increases in reporting as a sign that victims are more comfortable reporting assault and that the Pentagon is taking the problem seriously. But critics say that military studies on the issue have significant limitations, and that the increases may mean there are more cases of assault

• Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a statement Wednesday night, “For a year now, we have heard how the reforms in the previous defense bill were going to protect victims and make retaliation a crime. It should be sending a screaming red flag to everyone when 62% of those who say they reported a crime were retaliated against – nearly two thirds” – same as last year

• Hungary Wednesday summoned the top U.S. diplomat after Sen John McCain (R-AZ) Tuesday described PM Viktor Orban as a “neo-fascist dictator, getting in bed with Vladimir Putin.” McCain was disgusted about the appt of a former TV soap opera producer as U.S. ambassador to Hungary (BBC)

SCOTUS: Ambiguity in Pregnancy Law

• The Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed how much protection Congress meant to give pregnant workers when they ask for accommodations from their usual duties because of their condition (WaPo, NYT, TRNS, me)

• The court tread somewhat gingerly through an hour of technical arguments in the case of Peggy Young, a former driver for United Parcel Service (UPS). She charges that the company violated federal law when it refused to change her duties after a doctor suggested she not lift heavy packages

• Young was forced to take unpaid leave, and she says the company denied her accommodations that non-pregnant workers receive. Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dominated the questioning of the company’s lawyer, Caitlin Halligan

• Kagan said that when Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, it meant to abolish the “stereotype” of women as marginal workers. She said the act forbids policies that put all pregnant women “on one side of the line,” and instead forces employers to prove their actions are not discriminatory

• Halligan said the company was not discriminating, and that pregnant women weren’t treated differently. She said the law was more limited, simply to reverse a 1976 Supreme Court decision that didn’t recognize pregnancy policies as being covered by federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination

Scalia and Ginsberg At Odds

• Justice Antonin Scalia, repeating a line from the appeals court that ruled against Young’s claim, told her attorney Samuel Bagenstos that she seemed to be seeking special recognition under the 1978 act, akin to “most-favored nation” status. Ginsberg later countered that the UPS policy seemed to convey “least-favored nation” status

• Others on the court seemed to be wondering whether there were some middle ground that might allow Young’s case to go forward: She filed the suit in federal district court in Maryland and still hasn’t received a trial. The district court granted summary judgment for UPS, and the 4th Circuit affirmed

• Except for the extended and at times animated back-and-forth between Kagan and Halligan, the questioning was subdued, especially from the conservative male justices who have ruled against women’s rights groups recently in cases involving workplace discrimination and contraceptives

• Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have backed UPS. Meanwhile, Young’s case has attracted the support of both feminist organizations and the antiabortion groups with which they’re often at odds. The latter are concerned that financial constraints might lead women to terminate their pregnancies
• SecState John Kerry said Wednesday any Iranian action against ISIS in Iraq would be “positive.” He wouldn’t confirm Pentagon claims that Iran carried out attacks against ISIS. Iran isn’t a member of the U.S.-led coalition and denies any cooperation (BBC)
Obama Announces American Indian Youth Initiative

• President Obama on Wednesday announced an initiative aimed at improving conditions and opportunities for American Indian youth, more than a third of whom live in poverty. The WH didn’t provide a cost, but a spox said the admin plans to fund it with existing money and the help of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations (AP, me)

• Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative calls for programs focused on better preparing young American Indians for college and careers, and developing leadership skills through the Dept of Education and the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth

• The announcement, made as part of the WH Tribal Nations Conference that Obama hosted on Wednesday, came five months after the president and his wife visited the impoverished Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas

• Cecilia Munoz, director of the WH Domestic Policy Council, said the president and first lady “were deeply moved” after listening to children’s stories about challenges they faced on the reservation, such as depression and alcohol abuse

• “People who grow up in poverty culture sometimes need guidance, need values, need a little bit of structure,” said Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and Native American rights activist from Standing Rock who attended the conference. “Youth – they just need the right tools, and maybe they can empower themselves.”
• Speaking alongside three women who said they’d been sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, lawyer Gloria Allred urged the comedian to waive the statute of limitations to allow women alleging he sexually abused them to “obtain justice.” (BBC)
Massive International Cyber-Attack by Iranian Hackers

• Over the course of two years, according to security firm Cylance, Iranian hackers stole confidential data from more than 50 targets in 16 countries and, in some cases, infiltrated victims’ computer networks so that they could take over, manipulate or easily destroy data on those machines. NYT independently corroborated the findings with another security firm, Crowdstrike• The hackers used a set of tools that can spy on and potentially shut down critical control systems and computer networks, aiming them at targets in the U.S., Canada, Israel, India, Qatar, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, Germany, France, England, China and South Korea

• Cylance said victims in the U.S. included a Navy-Marine corps network, a major airline, a medical university, an energy company that specializes in natural gas production, an automobile manufacturer, a major military installation and a large military contractor. Cylance said they compromised “no less than nine” oil and gas companies around the world

• But the “most bone-chilling evidence” Cyland said it collected was of attacks on transportation networks, including airlines and airports in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. They said they found evidence that hackers had gained complete remote access to airport gates and security control systems “potentially allowing them to spoof gate credentials.”

• The recent attack at Sony Pictures – likely North Korea – and the newly disclosed attacks from Iran, have rattled security experts and officials, who say Iran and North Korea are the two adversaries they most worry about in cyberspace – not because of their skill, but because they’re motivated to cause destruction
• Vid: Michelle Obama shows and tells how WH Christmas decorations go digital (AP)

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______________Victoria Jones

TRNS’ William McDonald, Leah Schwarting and Sushila Chanana 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.