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.

News Now
  • FBI: San Bernardino shooting possible terrorism
  • Victims: Some profiles
  • Mass shootings: Guns vs prayers
  • November jobs report: Things to watch
  • Pentagon: Women to serve in combat
  • Highway bill: Done
  • House passes Obamacare repeal bill
  • GOP 2016ers woo Jewish Republicans
 

FBI: San Bernardino Shooting Possible Terrorism (NYT, me)

• The FBI is treating the Wednesday San Bernardino shooting as a potential terrorist act, though the agency is far from concluding that it was, two law enforcement officials said. Officials emphasized they didn’t know what set off the attack and weren’t ready to call it terrorism
 

• The couple’s extensive arsenal, their recent Middle East travel and evidence that one of them had been in touch with people with Islamist extremist views, both in the U.S. and abroad, all contributed to the decision to refocus the investigation (could be potential terrorists, he got ticked at something at work and lashed out – so a combo sort of thing – we don’t know yet – read on)
 

• The suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, fired as many as 150 bullets inside the Inland Regional Center at a holiday party and then at a shootout with the police that left the couple dead, officials said. Fourteen people died and 21 were wounded at the party
 

• With the FBI examining Farook’s electronic devices, analysts and agents have found evidence that at least a day before the attack, he began deleting data leading investigators to believe that he was planning the attack (so that goes against spontaneous)

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• Farook went to the holiday luncheon for employees of the county health dept, where he worked, left early – agitated, according to witnesses – and returned a short time later with his wife, both in tactical gear and with an arsenal to mow down his co-workers. But Chief Jarrod Burguan of San Bernardino PD said, “There appears to be a degree of planning that goes into this.”
 

• The suspects were armed with two .223-caliber assault rifles and two 9-mm semiautomatic pistols – all obtained legally – and they left behind at the center an explosive that didn’t detonate, made of three pipe bombs, Burguan said
 

• In an SUV, the couple had 1,400 rounds for the rifles and 200 for the handguns with them at the time of the shootout. At the small townhouse where they apparently lived in nearby Redlands, officers found more than 2,500 rounds for the rifles, more than 2,000 for the pistols, several hundred for a .22 rifle and 12 pipe bombs. Plus supplies for making more bombs
 

• “Clearly they were equipped and could have done another attack,” Burguan said. “We intercepted them before that happened, obviously.” Looking for possible clues, law enforcement officials raided the apt of Syed Raheel Farook, the dead suspect’s brother. The FBI also combed the background of the suspects

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• The FBI uncovered evidence that Farook communicated with extremists domestically and abroad, a few years ago, but not recently, according to congressional officials who were briefed
 

• They said he had contacts with five people whom the FBI investigated for possible terrorist activities – including one associated with the Shabab, the Islamist movement in Somallia, and another associated with the Nusra Front, the wing of al Qaeda in Syria. In all five cases, the investigations were closed and no charges were filed
 

• Authorities collected several electronic devices from the home, including a computer, cellphones, a music player and thumb drives. Law enforcement officials said they had begun reviewing Farook’s emails, while other items were being sent to the FBI’s investigative labs in Quantico. Two phones and at least one other devices were severely damaged – to hinder recovery?
 

• A cellphone Malik had with her on Wed had almost nothing on it – no social media or encrypted apps – prompting investigators to suspect that it might have been a “burner phone,” meant to be used and discarded

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• Asked if the design of the explosive devices had come from Inspire, an online magazine published by an arm of al Qaeda, David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s LA office, said investigators were looking into that possibility
 

• Farook was a U.S. citizen, born in Illinois to Pakistani immigrant parents. Family members said he had been an observant Sunni Muslim. He had gone to Saudi Arabia for brief trips several times, including in 2013 for the annual hajj to Mecca, that all Muslims are expected to complete at least once, if they are able to, federal officials said
 

• Malik entered the U.S. on a K-1 fiance visa and a Pakistani passport. Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet his wife and returned with her. The couple applied in Sept 2014 for a resident green card for Malik, which requires passing criminal and national security background checks using FBI and Homeland Security databases – granted conditional green card in July 2015

 

• Mass shootings since Sandy Hook in one map – there have been at least 1,044 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,327 people and wounding at least 3,784 more (Vox)
 
Victims: Some Profiles (AP, me)
Nicholas Thalasinos, 52: He identified as a Messianic Jew and passionately defended Israel, actively debating about religion in online forums and in person, friends said. Two weeks ago, he had a heated on-the-job discussion about the nature of Islam with Syed Rizwan Farook. Unknown whether that factored into the shooting (can bet it’s being looked into as a trigger)
 
Bennetta Betbadal, 46: Born in Iran and came to the U.S. at age 18 to escape the persecution of Christians after the Iranian revolution, according to a family statement. Married to police officer husband in 1997, three children, 10, 12 and 15 Health inspector with San Bernardino County. Recently decorated the family’s Christmas tree
 
Sierra Clayborn, 27: Friends say she stood out as someone who always had an encouraging word. She inspected restaurants for the county. “She was one of the nicest health inspectors we’ve ever had,” Matthew Peairs, a manager at Red Baron Pizza, said. “She talked to us like normal people, not just doing her job.”
 
Robert Adams, 40: The Yucaipa resident was known as a loving father and husband who married his high school sweetheart, friends said
 
Damien Meins, 58: He was passionate about serving his community, a message he took from the priests at his Catholic high school in Riverside. “Funny and smart and tall. A real quick smile, very friendly and outgoing,” said Walter Hackett, who met Meins 40 years ago in high school. “Service to others, helping others.”

 

 
Mass Shootings: Guns vs Prayers (Politico, Hill, Politico, Hill, TRNS, me)
• “We’ve had far too many moments of silence on the floor of the House,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said in a presser in the Capitol Thursday. ” And while it is right to respectfully acknowledge the losses, we can no longer remain silent. What gives us the right to hold moments of silence when we do nothing to act upon the cause of the grief?”
 
• Pelosi singled out three reforms: an expansion of mandatory background checks preceding gun sales; Congress to adopt legislation barring those on the terrorism watch list from buying or owning guns; she urged Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) to create a special committee charged with studying gun violence and proposing policies for reining it in (soo not going to happen)
 
• Republicans called for “thoughts and prayers” following the shooting. But: “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again,” tweeted Sen Chris Murphy (D-Conn) Wed. Murphy’s state is approaching the three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre and he’s livid
 
• The Senate voted (predictably, pathetically) Thursday 50-47 against expanding background checks for more gun purchases. The measure would require checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows. It was co-authored by Sen Joe Manchin (R-WVa) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa). Also failed: denying people on the terrorism watch list the ability to buy guns (stunnnning)
 
• Earlier, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) railed on the Senate floor: “The NRA once called mandatory background checks ‘reasonable.’ But now, its leadership and organization have transformed into a quasi militant wing of the Republican party.” Meanwhile, President Obama is weighing executive action on gun control

• Interactive: How they got their guns – the guns in 15 recent mass shootings, including San Bernardino, were bought legally (NYT)

 

• Ryan called for a moment of silence Wed evening as he kicked off a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. On CBS Thursday morning, Ryan said, “What we have seen is the theme of mental illness, and we need to fix our mental illness laws, our policies. They’re outdated, and that is something that we are working on right now.” (Farook doesn’t sound ill – sounds quite sane)
 
• As GOP 2016ers and conservative lawmakers tweeted their prayers after the shooting, Igor Volsky, a contributing editor at Think Progress, started tweeting back how much each had received in campaign contributions from the NRA, which opposes tighter gun laws. A Twitterstorn ensued
 
• The New York Daily News’s front page blared: “God Isn’t Fixing This” coupled with images of tweets about prayers from GOP 2016ers Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Ryan. Paul tweeted that the cover was “deplorable.” (no, it was blunt. God isn’t fixing it. Human beings have to fix it)
 
• Obama opened his remarks on the shooting Thursday by offering “thoughts and prayers” for those affected by the shooting. Then: “It’s going to be important for all of us – including our legislatures – to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it.”
 
• NRA spox Jennifer Baker said Thursday the group hadn’t issued any statement about the San Bernardino shootings. (laying low – for now) Asked if there was any gun control legislation currently proposed in Congress that the NRA could support, Baker offered no response (there’s no gun control legislation the NRA supports – so-called “mental health” – maybe)
 

• Watch House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) drop his mic during a live interview and say, “aw crap” (CNN, MSNBC)

November Jobs Report: Things to Watch Today (WSJ, me)

Today’s jobs report from the Labor Dept will offer the final key piece of economic data for Federal Reserve officials before they decide whether to raise short-term interest rates this month. Economists surveyed by WSJ estimate payroll growth of 205,000 and the unemployment rate holding steady at 5%
 
Sustained rebound: After two months of lackluster job gains, October jobs report offered the healthiest number so far this year: 271,000 jobs, which helped boost the monthly average to 206,000. Economists don’t think employers kept the pace last month, but even if payrolls disappoint, they’d have to be bad to dissuade Fed officials from a rate increase
 
Waxing wages: Hourly compensation grew 3.4% in the third quarter forma year earlier, the second biggest increase since the third quarter of 2009. And last month’s jobs report showed a 2.5% pickup in average hourly earnings compared with Oct 2014. Today’s report should offer more clues of any sustained pickup
 
Unemployment rate: The headline unemployment rate has fallen sharply from a 10% peak during the recession to 5% in Oct. A dip this month could push the rate below 5% for the first time since before the recession. At 4.9%, the figure would also be in line with where Fed officials expect the unemployment rate to stand in the long run
 
Hidden slack: Still, many Fed officials believe the headline unemployment number may be underestimating slack in the labor market. A big reason the number fell so swiftly in recent years was that people gave up on their job searches. As the labor market tightens, more workers could come off the sidelines – watch to see

• Watch President Obama deliver remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree – He appeals to Americans to “come together as brothers and sisters.” Plus, watch Michelle get upstaged by Miss Piggy (WH, me)

 

Pentagon: Women to Serve in Combat (NYT, Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• In a historic move, SecDef Ash Carter on Thursday announced that the military will open all combat jobs to women. “There will be no exceptions,” Carter said at a briefing, adding that meant women could serve as Army Rangers, Green Berets and Navy SEALs – if they qualify
 
• The decision comes after a year of recommendations from service leaders and military officials. “The important factor in making my decision was to have access to every American who can add strength to the joint force,” Carter said, adding that women have seen combat throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some being killed
 
• Notably absent from the announcement was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen Joseph Dunford, who as Marine Corps commandant recommended that Marine infantry remain closed to women. Carter said that the general supported the move. “He will be a full part of implementation.” (whether he likes it or not)
 
• The Marine Corps conducted a study earlier this year that found mixed-gender teams were less effective at combat tasks than male-only units. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus dismissed the study as “flawed.” Mabus, who has also served as service secretary for the Marine Corps, praised Carter’s decision (other studies have found opposite results from the Marine Corps study)
 
• In the military, serving in combat positions like the infantry remains crucial to career advancement, and women have long said that by not recognizing their real service, the military has unfairly held them back. The military services have 30 days to implement the decision, per a congressional waiting period (GOP committee members might have something to say)

 

• “As commander in chief, I know that this change, like others before it, will again make our military even stronger,” President Obama said in a statement about the Pentagon’s decision to open combat roles to women. (how about we open seats globally, at all tables where peace talks are being negotiated, to women? major deficit in that arena)
 
Highway Bill: Done (AP, Hill, Hill, me)
• The Senate approved 83-16 a five-year, $305 billion highway bill Thursday, sending it to President Obama with one day to spare before the expiration of the nation’s road and transit spending. The bill sailed through the House earlier on a 359-64 vote. Obama is expected to sign the measure today
 
• The 1,300-page bill “proves to the American people that we can get big things done,” said Rep Bill Shuster (R-Pa), chair of the House Transportation Committee. The committee’s senior Democrat, Rep Peter DeFazio (Ore), called the measure “historic,” but cautioned that “it is a starting point, not the end.”
 
• A hallmark of the bill is the creation of new programs to focus federal aid on eliminating bottlenecks and increasing the capacity of highways designated as major freight corridors. The Transportation Dept estimates the volume of freight traffic will increase 45% over the next 30 years. The bill includes a renewal of the Export-Import Bank’s charter
 
• A big shortcoming is how the bill is financed. The main source of revenue for transportation is the trust fund, which comes mostly from the 18.4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax. That tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 even though transportation spending has increased. But raising the gas tax is viewed by many lawmakers as too politically risky (grow up)
 
• To make up the shortfall, the bill uses $70 billion in mostly budget gimmicks, including one that would move $53 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank’s capital account to the general treasury. It’s counted as new money on paper, but is actually just a transfer of funds from one govt account to another, federal budget experts said
 
• President Obama “absolutely” retains confidence in Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy despite a new report from the House Oversight Committee claiming the agency faces a crisis over security lapses and staffing shortages, WH spox Josh Earnest said Thursday (so nothing’s going to get done, basically) (Hill, me)
 
House Passes Obamacare Repeal Bill (WaPo, NYT, RealClearPolitics, me)
• House conservatives moved one step closer to forcing President Obama to veto a bill that would repeal large portions of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood, but the legislation could still be defeated in the Senate (yes, let’s take health insurance away from millions of people – when we’ve nothing to offer them – good plan, GOP)
 
• The House voted 240-189 to to pass a budget reconciliation bill that seeks to gut Obamacare by repealing key sections of the law, including the individual and employer mandate and the so-called “cadillac” tax. In addition, it would block funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and divert that spending to other women’s health programs
 
• Seven House Republicans voted against the bill after the plan ran into resistance from conservatives this week because it wouldn’t fully repeal Obamacare. Reconciliation bills are considered under special rules that require only a simple majority for passage, meaning the bill can’t be filibustered in the Senate
 
• House leaders were forced to scale back the legislation in recent weeks to ensure that it conformed with parliamentary rules governing reconciliation bills. That frustrated conservatives who said they were promised a bill that fully repealed Obamacare
 
• Thursday, 2016ers Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) joined their Senate colleague Mike Lee (R-Utah) in announcing they would oppose the legislation if it comes up in the Senate because it wouldn’t wipe Obamacare entirely off the books
 
 

• Watch Game of Thrones season 6 tease – season 6 isn’t until April, but this is intriguing – who’s dead – or not….. (HBO, me)

 
GOP 2016ers Woo Jewish Republicans (Politico, Politico, me)
• Donald Trump began the day in a hole with the Republican Jewish Coalition after questioning Israel’s commitment to making peace with Palestine in an interview ahead of the summit. “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” Trump told AP. His speech drew laughs and claps – but:
 
• “He’s funny. And if I went to the Catskills for a vacation I’d love to see him,” NY attorney Eric Levine said of Trump. “But as president his lack of knowledge is disturbing to me … He’s a circus act.” Of Ben Carson, Levine, who has given money to Marco Rubio, said, “He’s flat-out scary. I think he’s a wonderful man … But he’s totally vapid.”
 
• Carson read from a prepared text and took no questions. That, and his repeated mispronunciations of “Hamas” as if it were the chickpea spread hummus, only hardened the perceptions of those in the hall that he doesn’t fully grasp the complicated dynamics of the Middle East
 
• Ted Cruz called President Obama “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists,” vowed to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and promised to “rip the Iran nuclear deal to shreds” as he sought to win over the 700 security-minded Republicans
 
• Marco Rubio looked like a man on a mission. He’s rumored to be the favorite of RJC founder Sheldon Adelson. Rubio vowed to fight anti-Semitism, which many politically active members of the American Jewish community think is growing worldwide. He outlined a plan to fight ISIS, and he spoke with greater depth and conviction on specific issues affecting Israel
 
• Whoa – way too young – RIP Scott Weiland: Grammy-winning front man for Stone Temple Pilots and a string of prominent rock bands, including Velvet Revolver. He was 48. He died “in his sleep while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota,” according to a statement on his Facebook page posted at 10 pm Thursday. Rocking into the weekend with “Creep”

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___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Loree Lewis and Anthony Herrera contributed to this report

 

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