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

  • Netanyahu in DC for controversial speeches
  • DHS: One more week of funding…
  • GOP’s Obamacare fears
  • Kerry: No intel on murder of Russian opposition leader
  • Kerry meets Lavrov: Contentious talks likely
  • LA police kill homeless man
  • Obama: Week of civil rights
  • Justice Dept to fault Ferguson police
  • Hundreds of boys kidnapped in South Sudan
  • CPAC: Takeaways
  • Clinton: Announcement in April?
  • Nurse sues hospital over Ebola
  • Leonard Nimoy dies, 83: LLAP


Netanyahu in DC for Controversial Speeches

• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the U.S. on Sunday, two days before a scheduled speech before Congress on Iran. Meanwhile, SecState John Kerry on Sunday told ABC, “We are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created, so you don’t have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation.” (WSJ, AP, Hill, me)

• Kerry said that Netanyahu was welcome to speak in the U.S. and that the admin didn’t want the event “turned into some great political football.” Kerry mentioned that he’d spoken with Netanyahu as recently as Saturday. The invitation to Netanyahu was issued by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Nearly three dozen Democratic lawmakers are skipping the speech

• “We are not here to offend President Obama whom we respect very  much,” said an anonymous Netanyahu adviser. “The prime minister is here to warn, in front of any stage possible, the dangers of the agreement that may be taking shape.” In Geneva today, Kerry is expected to take the UN Human Rights Council to task over its unfair treatment of Israel

• The adviser said Netanyahu would urge lawmakers to pressure the Obama admin to push back the 24 March deadline for a political deal with Iran. Netanyahu would lay out elements that he knows from the deal with Iran. However, Israel “does not oppose every deal” and was merely doing its best to warn the U.S. of the risks entailed in the current one

• Netanyahu will address the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference today. AIPAC on Sunday publicly split with the Obama admin on Iran and said the group would instead seek to reshape American police through Congress. National security adviser Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power also speak at AIPAC today (boos?)

• An Israeli news agency has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report claiming that President Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack (Israel National News)

DHS: One Week To Go

• With a partial shutdown of the Dept of Homeland Security possible at week’s end, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH said Sunday the House wants to enter talks with the Senate on a final bill and pointed to today’s scheduled Senate vote. Democrats showed no indication they were willing to talk (AP, Hill, TRNS, me)

• Congress late Friday (after much drama) cleared a one-week extension for the dept after 52 conservatives defied their leadership and helped scuttle legislation that would have given the agency a three-week reprieve. Boehner on CBS Sunday acknowledged that Friday “wasn’t all that fun.” He said it was “messy and I’m not into messy.” (he’s got it though)

• Saturday, Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA), who heads the House Intelligence Committee, chastised “a small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama’s lawlessness” and seem to be “unaware they can’t advance conservatism by playing fantasy football with their voting cards.”

• Conservatives were angered enough by a three-week funding extension with no rollback of the directives President Obama signed in November to spare millions of immigrants from deportation and by Democrats insisting on full-year funding to sink the legislation

• The WH is keeping fairly quiet, though spox Josh Earnest will face questions today. An Obama aide said: “The only reason that it’s not the best possible outcome is that they didn’t pass the full-year funding. The fact that they’re going to next week, and that we avoided a shutdown, was 99% of what we wanted.” (Politico, me)


• House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to a one-week extension and told her Democratic rank-and-file in a letter to back the seven-day patch because “your vote will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.” Rep Steve Scalise (R-LA), the No. 3 Republican, said Sunday there was no such deal (interesting)

• But privately, an anonymous senior Democratic congressional aide said Boehner spoke to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and committed to bringing up a bill without conditions. Meanwhile House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on NBC Sunday that the Senate should change its rules so spending bills would only require a majority vote

• A spox for Reid said Sunday there will be no negotiations with the House over DHS funding and immigration. Senate Democrats are expected to block any plans for formal talks in tonight’s vote

• Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spox, said: “House Republicans want a conference for counterproductive reasons: They want to take a clean bill that can pass Congress and be signed into law and turn it into something that can’t pass by loading it back up with poison pill riders.”


• Iraq has launched a military operation to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit from ISIS, Iraqi TV says. PM Haider al-Abadi earlier met military leaders in Salahuddin province, where troops and militia were preparing for the advance (BBC)


GOP’s Obamacare Fears

• Republican fears are mounting over a backlash at the polls if their party can’t find a fix in the event they win a GOP-backed Supreme Court case over Obamacare being heard this Wednesday. A plaintiff win would bring Republicans the closest to repealing the Affordable Care Act (Hill, WaPo, me)

• But Republicans are worried about the possible fallout from King v. Burwell, fearing the sudden loss of subsidies for millions of people could put pressure on lawmakers and governors to restore them. The loss would put the Obama admin on offense and a string of accusations against the GOP for taking away care and endangering lives – building up for 2016

• In a WaPo op-ed published late Sunday, GOP Sens Lamar Alexander (TN), John Barrasso (WY) and Orrin Hatch (UT) promised to help millions of people who may lose federal health insurance subsidies if the Supreme Court rules their way. But they provided no details on how much assistance, its duration or how they would pay for it

• Republicans are under intense pressure to present a strategy before the court meets Wednesday to discuss the case. Even as Obamacare remains unpopular nationally, polls show the vast majority of Americans support the subsidies. But hardliners like Rep Steve King (R-IA) remain firmly opposed to all of the law

• Democrats argue that Congress should simply tweak any language in Obamacare that the justices rule unconstitutional. And the WH maintains (astonishingly) that it has no plans to prevent the massive disruptions that would be caused by the ruling (more on the case in the next two days)

• Vid: Dakota Johnson – “Fifty Shades of Grey” – joins ISIS in provocative SNL spoof – it’s received plenty of reax, much of it negative. It parodies a Toyota Camry ad in which a weepy Dad drops off his daughter at the airport so she can presumably depart for military duty (HuffPo, NBC, me)


Kerry: No Intel on Murder of Russian Opposition Leader

• The U.S. doesn’t have any intel on who is behind the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, SecState John Kerry said Sunday “and we wouldn’t comment anyway.” Kerry called for a “thorough, transparent, real investigation” not just of who fired the shots “but who, if anyone, may have ordered or instructed or been behind this.” (Politico, Hill, BBC, Independent, Observer, me)

• Nemtsov, 55, a frequent critic of Russian President Putin, left a restaurant with his Ukrainian girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, 24, Friday night to walk to his apartment, crossing a bridge, where a white car drew up and he was shot four times in the back with a pistol

• Some 30,000 people marched through central Moscow Sunday to honor Nemtsov. They carried portraits of the slain former politician and banners saying “I am not afraid.” Nemtsov’s allies have accused the Kremlin of involvement, but Putin condemned the murder as “vile” and vowed to find the killers. Nemtsov had planned a rare opposition rally for Sunday

Nemtsov: “I’m Afraid Putin Will Kill Me”

• Nemtsov’s friends are certain he died for daring to speak out against corruption, against Putin’s increasingly authoritarian rule and against the conflict in Ukraine that Russia denies any role in. Nemtsov called it Putin’s “mad, aggressive war.”

• Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was looking into motives including his opposition to the Ukraine conflict, business deals, Islamic extremism – Nemtsov was Jewish – and an opposition “sacrifice” of its leader to destabilize the state and undermine the president

• Speaking to Russia’s Sobesednik news website on 10 February, Nemtsov said, “I’m afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more.” Friends said he had received anonymous death threats over the internet

• Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked Sunday on CBS whether there’s a link to Putin. “Oh, I think so. I think there is,” she said. “Whether he authorized it, whether he didn’t, whether he knew about it, whether it was his friends or some of his military doing this, we’ll wait and see with the investigation.”


Kerry Meets Lavrov: Contentious Talks Likely

• SecState John Kerry is in Geneva today where he’s to meet his Russian counterpart for likely highly contentious talks amid continuing tensions over Ukraine and American calls for a full and transparent probe into the murder on Friday of prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow (AP, me)

• Kerry and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov are to meet less than a week after Kerry told Congress that Russian officials have lied to his face about Moscow’s role in Ukraine. U.S. officials point out that Kerry didn’t specifically accuse Lavrov of lying to him. They say he was referring to public statements and media reports

• The meeting comes as the U.S. and its European allies contemplate additional sanctions on Russia for Ukraine. The talks also come ahead of a new UN report documenting human rights violations by Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels

• North Korea flouted UN resolutions today by launching two Scud-type ballistic missiles toward the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, as the U.S. and South Korea started their annual joint military drills. The two missiles crashed into the sea (NYT, me)


LA Police Kill Homeless Man

• Los Angeles police say three officers fired on and killed a man on the city’s Skid Row Sunday. An LAPD commander said the man had reached for an officer’s gun. No other gun was recovered at the scene. A police spox said the officers attempted to take him into custody and attempted to use a Taser that was “ineffective.” (LAT, AP, CNN, me)

• Police say graphic video of the incident that was shot by a bystander and widely circulated on social media will be used in their investigation. There would potentially be more video recordings of the scene from surveillance cameras mounted on buildings in the area. Witnesses identified the man by his street name, “Africa”

• Police Cmdr Andrew Smith said the three police officers, including a sergeant, shot the man as they struggled on the ground for control of one of the police officer’s weapons after the taser proved ineffective. They were answering a report of a robbery. Africa was the suspect. At one point “drop the gun” can be heard, followed by the sound of five gunshots

• An area resident, who identified himself as Booker T. Washington, said police had come by repeatedly to ask Africa to take down his tent. People are allowed to sleep on the streets from 9 pm to 6 am, but they’re supposed to remove their tents in the daytime under a court agreement. “This man got shot over a tent,” Washington said

• Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, said Africa had arrived in the area about four or five months ago. He told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a mental facility, Murphy said

• Vid: Warning: very graphic – homeless man shot and killed by Los Angeles police on Skid Row


Obama: Week of Civil Rights

• President Obama, the nation’s first black president, plans a speech Saturday from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma AL, the site of one of the civil rights movement’s stirring moments, and will refocus on last year’s fatal shooting by a white police officer of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson MO (AP, Hill, me)

• Recommendations are expected today (see story below) from the president’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, appointed after Michael Brown’s death in August. AG Eric Holder said he expected to announce results of his dept’s investigation of the case before he leaves office, and that word could come within days

• Obama’s actions are an important gesture toward the black community, which strongly backed him in his two WH races and will be critical for Democrats in the 2016 presidential campaign and their efforts to retake control of Congress. From the bridge on 7 March 1965, white police officers beat civil rights protesters

• Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, also plan to be at the Selma commemoration, and a large bipartisan congressional delegation planned to be a part of a three-day civil rights pilgrimage to the state. Rep Steve Scalise (R-LA), who spoke to a group in 2002 founded by a former KKK member, says he won’t be going, but plans to visit Selma next year (??)

• Obama’s meeting today with the police task force follows the three-month deadline he set for recommendations about how police can build trust, accountability and transparency with the communities they serve. Obama promised the result wouldn’t be “an endless report that we’re going to have collecting dust on the shelf.”


Justice Dept to Fault Ferguson Police

• The Justice Dept has nearly completed a highly critical report accusing the police in Ferguson MO of making discriminatory traffic stops of African-Americans that created years of racial animosity leading up to an officer’s shooting of black teenager Michael Brown last summer, law enforcement officials said (NYT, me)

• According to several officials who have been briefed on the report’s conclusion, the report criticizes the city for disproportionately ticketing and arresting African-Americans and relying on the fines to balance the city’s budget. The DoJ’s exact findings are not yet known

• The report, which is expected to be released as early as this week, will force Ferguson officials to either negotiate a settlement with the DoJ or face being sued by it on civil rights charges. Either way, the result is likely to be significant changes inside the Ferguson PD

• Blacks accounted for 86% of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63% of the population, according to the most recent data published by the MO AG. Once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband

• For people in Ferguson who can’t afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that’s provided a financial incentive to continue such law enforcement policies


Hundreds of Boys Kidnapped in South Sudan: Child Soldiers?

• The UN children’s agency said Saturday that hundreds of children were abducted two weeks ago by an armed group in South Sudan that is suspected to have ties with the country’s military (AP, BBC, me)

• UNICEF had previously said about 89 boys, some as young as 12, were forcibly recruited by an armed group near the town of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state. The agency said the boys were taken while doing their exams

• UNICEF said in a statement Saturday that it is now “confident that the armed group which took the children … is aligned with” South Sudan’s military. It said the group is led by Johnson Oloni, a general who once fought against the govt but joined the national army in 2013

• Oloni had been summoned to Juba, the capital, by President Salva Kiir, over the alleged abductions, a South Sudanese military spox said. South Sudan’s govt has condemned the abductions and said an investigation is underway

• The evidence they have gathered indicates the children are being prepared to be sent to Kaka, near the Upper Nile oil fields, said UNICEF’s rep in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch, “We fear they are going from the classroom to the front line,” he said. Last year 12,000 children were used as soldiers by armed forces and groups across South Sudan, according to UNICEF responds in 21 points to what it contends is The Atlantic’s flawed article on what ISIS really wants


CPAC – Takeaways

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) won the 2015 CPAC straw poll on Saturday with 25.7%. He was followed by Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) with 21.4%, Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) 11.5%, Dr Ben Carson 11.4% and former Gov Jeb Bush (R-TX) 8.3%. Paul won the straw poll in 2014, too (TPM, TRNS, me)

• Jeb Bush beat expectations. In a Q&A with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Bush forcefully defended his support for in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants as well as his education positions. He called himself a “practicing, reform-minded conservative.” He came under quite a bit of fire from the audience, some of whom booed him (Politico, me)

• Scott Walker received a raucous, standing ovation from a packed, sign-waving audience. But his “if I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world” stumble was a problem, and a few minutes later he punted on net neutrality: “I’m for freedom.” (tough stance, Scott)

• Chris Christie didn’t commit a gaffe but he just didn’t seem to wow them. Talk show host Laura Ingraham was merciless in her cross-examination of him. His decision to go after Bush very hard so early was seen as a bit desperate. Then, there was his audience problem – many seats were empty during his presentation

• Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA) positioned themselves as contenders who relished the prospect of going after their fellow Republicans. Jindal went after the GOP on immigration. “It is time for our Republican leaders in Congress to grow a spine. It’s time for them to do what we elected them to do.”


Hillary Clinton: Announcement in April?

• Hillary Clinton and her close advisers are telling Democratic donors that she will enter the presidential race sooner than expected, likely in April, a move that would allay uncertainties within her party and allow her to rev up fundraising. Many within her camp have advocated her staying out until the summer (WSJ, me)

• A super PAC loyal to the firmer first lady has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she’s a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces. One influential proponent of an earlier announcement is former senior Obama adviser John Podesta, who’s likely to play an important role in her campaign

• But Clinton would become an even larger target for Republicans when she enters the race. She also would be pressed to opine on a raft of thorny issues in the news, including how to combat the military advances of ISIS. Behind the scenes, Clinton has been meeting with numerous policy experts as she crafts a message and platform

• Clinton, according to some close associates, doesn’t relish the campaign trail and is in no particular hurry to announce, especially given the scant competition for her party’s nomination. She made known her feelings in a private meeting last month with London mayor Boris Johnson. He said she bemoaned the lengthy presidential campaigns (don’t run, then – that’s the gig)

• Some Democratic donors are concerned that if she waits until the summer, she would be hard-pressed to meet her goal of $1 billion for the campaign. With no apparatus in place, Clinton also has limited capability to rapidly respond to potential threats to a campaign, like questions about foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation


Nurse Sues Hospital Over Ebola

• Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse, is filing a lawsuit today in Dallas County against Texas Health Resources. She says the hospital where she worked and its parent company failed her when she contracted Ebola while caring for the first patient in the U.S. diagnosed with the deadly disease (Dallas Morning News, AP, me)

• Pham told the Dallas Morning News that she continues to suffer from body aches and insomnia after contracting the disease last fall at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. She said she was frightened when Thomas Eric Duncan tested positive. “I was the last person beside Mr Duncan to find out he was positive. You’d think the primary nurse would be the first to know.”

• Pham alleged the hospital’s lack of proper training and proper equipment and violations of her privacy made her “a symbol of corporate neglect – a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.”

• Pham said the company was negligent because it failed to develop policies and train staff for treating Ebola patients. She also said that the company didn’t have protective gear for those who treated Duncan, who died in Dallas after contracting the disease in his native Liberia

• Wendell Watson, a spox for Texas Health Resources, declined to discuss specifics of Pham’s allegations. Nina Pham bravely served Texas Dallas Health during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter.” (want to settle)


Leonard Nimoy Dies, 83

• President Obama issued a statement on the death of Leonard Nimoy, saying in part: “Long beyond being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy … And of course, Leonard was Spock, Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future. I loved Spock.” (TRNS, me)

• Obama went on to remember his first meeting with Nimoy, saying that “it was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for ‘Live long and prosper.’ And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.”

• Nimoy died Friday morning after complications from chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease of the lungs that Nimoy said was from his many years of smoking, though he had quit nearly three decades ago. William Shatner skipped Nimoy’s funeral for a charity fundraiser, but remembered Nimoy on Twitter with fans

• Days before his death, Nimoy tweeted what would be his final tweet: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.” @TheRealNimoy

• Pic: NASA salutes Leonard Nimoy from space: International Space Station astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this image of a Vulcan hand salute from orbit as a tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who played science officer Mr Spock on Star Trek. Cape Cod and Boston are visible – Boston was Nimoy’s home town. Live long and prosper


Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum, William McDonald and Nicholas Salazar contributed to this report

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