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.

Explosion and gunfire at Shi’ite mosque in Pakistani city of Peshawar: at least 18 dead – AFP

In the News

  • Obama: Executive order on cybersecurity
  • Cybersummit: What’s not on the agenda
  • DHS: Try, try, try again
  • Obama’s AUMF: Enough oomf?
  • Ukraine deal: a bit wobbly
  • Obama’s nominees: One in/one stalled
  • Holocaust survivor Wiesel supports Netanyahu speech
  • Alabama: Judge orders county marriage licenses
  • Chapel Hill Muslim murders: Funeral
  • FBI director frank about race/cops
  • David Carr, NYT media critic, dead at 58
Obama: Executive Order on Cybersecurity

• President Obama wants members of the private sector to share info about threats to cybersecurity with each other and with the federal govt. The WH says such info-sharing will help U.S. businesses work together to respond to costly and potentially crippling data breaches (AP, Hill, me)

• Obama plans to sign an executive order today encouraging the creation of organizations where leads about cybersecurity threats can be shared and analyzed. The order will also direct the Dept of Homeland Security to work on voluntary standards for these organizations (voluntary makes no sense)

• The WH says rapid sharing of info is a key defense against threats to security in cyberspace. Obama is signing the order in conjunction with a WH summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Standford University that he’s attending and where he will deliver remarks

• Although the CEOs from Google, Yahoo and Facebook all declined to attend, Apple head Tim Cook will announce during the event his intent to fold the govt’s cybersecurity recommendations into its own cyber strategy

Cyber Summit: What’s Not on the Agenda

• Nowhere on today’s agenda at the cybersummit, (boycotted by CEOs from Google, Yahoo and Facebook), is the real issue for the CEOs and tech company officials who will gather on the Stanford campus: the deepening estrangement between Silicon Valley and the govt. Edward Snowden’s revelations opened a Pandora’s box (NYT, me)

• The Obama admin’s efforts to prevent companies from greatly strengthening encryption in commercial products like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android phones has set off a new battle, as the companies resist govt efforts to make sure police and intel agencies can crack the systems

• And there’s continuing tension over the govt’s desire to stockpile flaws in software – known as zero days – to develop weapons that the U.S. can reserve for future use against adversaries

• The FBI, the intel agencies and British PM David Cameron have all tried to stop Google, Apple and other companies from using encryption technology that the firms themselves cannot break into – meaning they can’t turn over emails or pics, even if served with a court order. The firms have vociferously opposed govt requests for such info: intrusion on privacy and biz risk

Tension and Contention

• The tension – between companies’ insistence that they can’t install “back doors” or provide “keys” giving access to law enforcement or intel agencies and their desire for Washington’s protection from foreign nations seeking to exploit those same products – will be the subtext of today’s meeting. That’s not the only point of contention

• A year after Obama announced that the govt would get out of the business of maintaining a huge database of every call made inside the U.S., but would instead ask the nation’s telecom companies to store that data in case the govt needs it, the companies are slow-walking the effort

• The won’t take on the job of “bulk collection” of the nation’s communications, they say, unless Congress forces them to. And some execs whisper it may be at a price that may make the NSA’s once-secret program look like a bargain

• The stated purpose of today’s meeting is trying to prevent the kinds of hackings that have struck millions of credit card holders of Home Depot and Target. A similar breach revealed the names, Social Security numbers and other info about 80 million people insured by Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer


• President Obama would veto a bill being considered by Republicans that aims to freeze all transfers of terrorism suspects out of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, WH spox Eric Schulz told reporters Thursday. The bill was penned in the wake of attacks by Islamic militant gunmen in Paris in January (Reuters)
DHS: Try, Try, Try Again

• Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a motion Thursday to hold additional votes to end a Democratic filibuster of the Homeland Security funding bill, setting up as many as three more (pointless) attempts. The votes are expected to take place the last week of Feb, as Congress will be out of town next week on a recess (Hill, me)

• With Democrats opposed to the measure because it guts President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, it appears McConnell’s latest effort is doomed for failure. The decision comes as House and Senate Republicans have begun to criticize one another over how to fund DHS. Funding will lapse after 27 February

• McConnell announced days ago that the bill was “stuck” because of Democratic opposition and tried to punt the issue back to the House. Adam Jentleson, spox for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tweeted, “McConnell just tripled down on the strategy McCain dubbed ‘definition of insanity,’ filing cloture for 3rd time on failed DHS bill.”

• McConnell apparently changed his mind after Republicans on the other side of the Capitol balked at having the bill tossed back into their laps. “The House has done its job, why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they’re going to get off their ass and do something other than vote no,” Speaker Boehner (R-OH) snapped at reporters Wednesday

• Two GOP senators shot down an idea floated by several House Republicans to change Senate rules in order to pass a Homeland Security funding bill and reverse President Obama’s immigration actions. Sen Ted (filibuster king) Cruz (R-TX) said Democratss are acting “reckless and irresponsible.” (mirror much?)

• ISIS militants have launched an attack on the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s Anbar province, about three miles from an airbase that’s home to some 300 U.S. marines who are training Iraqi troops. Heavy fighting was reported around the town. Unclear if the militants are in control of al-Baghdadi (BBC)


Obama’s AUMF: Enough Oomf?

• Republicans said Thursday that President Obama’s request to authorize the use of force against ISIS is too weak to do the job, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said the WH is facing a stern challenge. “It’s going to be hard” to pass. “But that takes work. It’s called legislating,” she said (AP, Hill, TRNS, me)

• Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Obama’s proposal “ties his hands even further” than current law. The president’s draft legislation would bar “enduring offensive combat operations” and repeal a 2002 authorization that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq while leaving in force the authorization that was approved by Congress after 9/11

• Obama was resolute as he made the case for legislation in remarks Wednesday at the WH. “Make no mistake. This is a difficult mission,” he said, calling for action against a group that he said threatens U.S. security. “Our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.”

• Under the proposal, the use of military force against ISIS fighters would be authorized for three years, not limited by national borders. The fight could be extended to any “closely related successor entity” to ISIS that has overrun parts of Iraq or Syria, imposed a form of Sharia law and killed several hostages it has taken, Americans among them

• While asking lawmakers to bar long-term, large-scale ground combat operations, Obama said he wants the flexibility for ground combat operations “in other more limited circumstances.” Those include rescue missions, intel collection and the use of special operations forces in possible military action against ISIS leaders

• The UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution Thursday targeting ISIS’ revenue streams. The resolution, which said the UN can sanction any country found to have paid a ransom to a designated terrorist group, includes bans on any states buying/selling oil from ISIS and anyone trading in Syrian antiquities believed to have been pillaged from ancient sites (TRNS)


Ukraine Deal: a Bit Wobbly

• The U.S. Thursday welcomed a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending the war in Ukraine, but WH spox Josh Earnest said “Russia must end its support for the separatists and withdraw its soldiers and military equipment from eastern Ukraine.” SecState John Kerry said sanctions could be eased only if Russia’s actions matched its words (BBC, TRNS, me)

• The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany sealed a deal Thursday morning after lengthy overnight talks in Belarus. The ceasefire is due to begin in eastern Ukraine at midnight Saturday, but both sides remain skeptical. Pro-Russian rebels have signed the agreement, which also includes weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges

• In another development, the World Bank said Thursday that it’s ready to provide up to $2 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine this year as part of an international package of support

• New shelling has been reported in the rebel-held east Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk this morning. A key sticking point is the disputed town of Debaltseve, a key govt-held town besieged by rebels, where fighting is still going on

• Separatists gave the agreement a cautious welcome but Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said Kiev would be to blame if the deal collapsed and warned that there would “be no meetings and no new agreements.” Ukrainian President Poroshenko said rebels had launched an offensive after the deal was announced

• The 18-member Interfaith Alliance on Thursday released a letter to President Obama expressing concern that the upcoming WH Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (18 Feb) is focusing exclusively on Islamic extremists “which risks contributing to the marginalization of American Muslims.”

Obama’s Nominees: One In/One Stalled

• The Senate Thursday confirmed Ashton Carter to be the next defense secretary by a vote of 93-5, with five Republicans opposing. Carter is a former deputy defense secretary. The transition from SecDef Chuck Hagel comes as Congress faces a number of pressing defense issues, including President Obama’s AUMF (above)

• Republicans were cautious to draw the distinction between supporting Carter and supporting Obama, especially as many lawmakers expressed reservations about the parameters of the authorization regarding the use of ground troops and its place among an existing AUMF (NYT, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Carter, who managed a $600 billion budget in his previous post, pushed lawmakers to lift the mandatory cuts during his confirmation hearing. During his hearing, Carter successfully parried with GOP senators on the Obama admin’s approach to ISIS and handling of detainees at Guantanamo

• Meanwhile, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee decided Thursday to delay until after next week’s recess a committee vote to confirm Loretta Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace AG Eric Holder. Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking Democrat, struck back against the “needless delay” of Lynch’s confirmation

• Even though she was thought to have been responsive during her hearing, committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that “unfortunately,” Lynch did not provide “very many responsive” answers to her 200-plus-pages of written questions

• President Obama Thursday signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The law is intended to reduce the military suicide epidemic that’s claiming lives by the day. “It you are hurting, know this, you are not forgotten,” Obama said at a rare bipartisan WH signing ceremony (TRNS, AP, NYT, me)


Holocaust Survivor Wiesel Supports Netanyahu’s Speech

• Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is lending his support to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s 3 March speech to Congress on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. Outspoken NJ Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach said Thursday he’s placing full-page ads in the NYT and WaPo featuring Wiesel’s endorsement

• The ad quotes Wiesel as saying he plans to attend Netanyahu’s address “on the catastrophic danger of a nuclear Iran.” Wiesel asks Obama and others in the ad: “Will you join me in hearing the case for keeping weapons from those who preach death to Israel and America” (Reuters, WaPo, me)

• Meanwhile, three Jewish House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Thursday calling on him to end the “political firestorm” they claim he created with the invitation to Netanyahu. Unlike some Democrats who are skipping the speech, Reps Steve Israel (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Nita Lowey (NY) say they’ll be there

• In their letter, they ask Boehner to explain why he didn’t give President Obama more advance notice. Boehner’s office noted that he officially issued the invitation after notifying Obama. But the speaker took steps to prepare the invitation before informing the WH. Democrats also say the timing of the speech threatens to shape Israeli politics with an election two weeks after

• Thursday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a resolution co-sponsored by most of his Republican colleagues to welcome Netanyahu to the U.S. The resolution could apply new pressure to wavering Democrats to say whether they’ll attend the speech

• Buzzfeed got President Obama to make a video: Things everybody does but doesn’t talk about. How did they get him to use a selfie stick? Because he wants you to go to to sign up (this is really quite funny – I actually laughed)

Alabama: Judge Orders County Marriage Licenses

• The federal judge who overturned Alabama’s gay marriage ban ordered a reluctant county to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday, signaling to probate judges across the state that they should do the same. It wasn’t immediately clear what other judges would do (AP, me)

• About an hour after District Judge Callie Granade’s ruling, Mobile County opened up its marriage license office and started granting the documents to gay couples. At least 23 of Alabama’s 67 county’s are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. The ACLU of Alabama said it was ready to litigate county by county, if necessary

• Mobile and other counties had refused to issue the licenses after Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told probate judges on Sunday they didn’t have to because they were not defendants in the original case. Moore has argued that Granade’s ruling striking down the state’s gay marriage ban was an illegal intrusion on Alabama’s sovereignty

• Moore made a name for himself by fighting to keep a Ten Commandments monument at a courthouse, refusing to move it even though a federal judge ordered him to. His resistance cost him his job, but he won re-election as chief justice in 2012

• The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling by June regarding whether gay couples nationwide have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban such unions

• Philadelphia has been chosen as the host city for the Democratic National Convention 2016, beating out New York City and Columbus OH (TRNS)


Chapel Hill Muslim Murders: Funeral

• The fathers of three young Muslims allegedly slain by a neighbor who was angry over parking spots stood before their caskets Thursday and urged a crowd of thousands to protect others by demanding justice (AP, me)

• More than 5,000 people came to the funeral of Deah Shaddy Baraket, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, who were killed Tuesday in the couple’s Chapel hill apartment

• A self-described “gun-toting” atheist with a reputation for bullying his neighbors, Craig Stephen Hicks, turned himself in and was jailed on first-degree murder charges. U.S. Attorney Ripley Rand, the district’s top prosecutor, had said Wednesday that there was no immediate evidence Muslims were being targeted

• Tragic: Yusor Abu-Salha, who was executed in the Chapel Hill Shooting, talked for NPR’s Story Corps about how she was blessed to be an American

• Chapel Hill police said they were investigating whether religious or ethnic hatred motivated Hicks in any way, and federal investigators said hate crimes haven’t been rules out. The FBI also announced Thursday that it has “opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether any federal laws were violated.”

• “We need to identify things the way they really are,” Dr Mohammad Abu-Salha told the crowd. “If somebody picks up a fight about anything they can invent, and they murder three people execution-style, we know what this is about. And they have posted on their Facebook how much they hated faith, there’s no doubt.”

• Namee Barakat told AP that Hicks had visited his son’s condo before, flashing his gun as he demanded they stop using visitors’ parking spots. “Yusor told her dad, he does not like us,” Barakat said. “He does not like our hijab. She was concerned.” Abu-Salha told AP, “This is not a parking dispute. These children were executed with shots in the back of the head.”


• Is embattled Oregon Gov John Kitzhaber (D) going to resign over the swirling corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving his fiancee Cylvia Hayes? Now a newspaper is reporting that the gov requested state officials destroy thousands of records in his personal email accounts (always a bad sign) (Willamette Week, Vox, KGW, me)


FBI Director: Frank about Race/Cops

• In an unusually frank, personal speech, FBI director James Comey on Thursday acknowledged “hard truths” about racial bias in policing, saying there’s a desperate need for law enforcement to understand the deep challenges facing minority communities and for American communities to understand the challenges facing police (Politico, Hill, me)

• “We are at a crossroads,” Comey said. “We can turn up the music on the car radio and drive around these problems. Or we can choose to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today – what it should be, what it could be and what it needs to be.”

• “When you dial 911, whether you are white or black, the cops come, and they come quickly, and they come quickly whether they are white or black. That’s what cops do, in addition to all of the other hard and difficult and dangerous and frightening things that they do.”


• Yet, the career prosecutor said, “something happens to people in law enforcement. Many of us develop different flavors of cynicism that we work hard to resist because they can be lazy mental shortcuts.”

• “But something happens to people” in law enforcement because a “hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by people of color.” “We must find a way to see each other more clearly,” he said. “It is hard to hate up close.”

• Comey said he’s mandated that new FBI recruits, who are overwhelmingly white and male, visit the Martin Luther King Jr memorial as part of their training, in addition to the Holocaust memorial

• He said he keeps on his desk a copy of AG Robert Kennedy’s approval of FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover’s request to wiretap King “to ensure we remember our mistakes and learn from them.”


• Former Weather Underground activists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were guests at the August 2014 wedding of WH chef Sam Kass and MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner, which was also attended by – shock or not – President Obama and his family, according to Gawker. No word on any “palling around” or indeed any interaction


David Carr, NYT Media Critic: Dead at 58

• David Carr, a writer who wriggled away from the demon of drug addiction to become an unlikely name-brand media columnist at the NYT, and the star of a documentary about the newspaper, died Thursday in Manhattan. He was 58. Carr collapsed in the newsroom, where he was found shortly after 9 m. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead

• Most recently, he was known for The Media Equation, a Monday column in The Times that analyzed news and developments in publishing, TV, social media – for which he was an early evangelist – and other mass communications platforms. His plain-spoken style was sometimes blunt, and searingly honest about himself (NYT, me)

• In a statement, Arthur Ochs Salzberger, The Times’s publisher and chairman said: “David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at the NYT. He combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgment to become an indispensable guide to modern media”

• Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor, wrote that Carr “was the finest media reporter of his generation, a remarkable and funny man who was one of the leaders of our newsroom. He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed.”

• Twitter: mourning Carr’s loss. “One of the great things about David Carr was he was unflinching in talking truth to power. In that way he was a model for all journalists – Steven Greenhouse NYT” / “Think of the qualities you’d want in a colleague: David Carr had them all, plus the ability to surprise you every time he spoke – Pete Wells” / “David Carr was it – Matt Drudge”


Vid: NYT’s David Carr talks with some people from Vice News (and rips them for their bullsh*t at the end)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, James Cullum, Washington Desk and United Nations Desk contributed to this report

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