Talk Media News
 

Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
 

Quick News
  • Brussels: Were bombers panicked?
  • ISIS trained 400 fighters for Europe: Report
  • Cruz: Monitor Muslims in US – Obama slams
  • Obama in Argentina – The reset tango
  • Trump-Cruz nude feud
  • Obama admin to indict Iranian hackers
  • Flint water report: “Intransigence / belligerence”
 
Brussels: Were Bombers Panicked? (AP, AP, Haaretz, Daily Telegraph, me)
• As police hunted for the surviving Brussels bombers, evidence mounted Wednesday that the same ISIS cell carried out the attacks in both Paris and Brussels, and that the militants may have launched this week’s slaughter in haste because they feared authorities were closing in on them. The attacks killed 31 people and wounded more than 270
 
• European security officials said one of the suicide bombers was Najim Laachraoui, a Moroccan-born Belgian whom police have hunted as the suspected bombmaker in the 13 Nov attacks on Paris by ISIS that killed 130 people
 
• The other two suicide bombers were Belgian-born brothers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, and his younger brother, Khalid, both known to the police as common criminals, not anti-Western radicals
 
• Turkish President Erdogan said Ibrahim El Bakraoui was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” But other Turkish officials said he was released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence (lot of blame hurling around)

 

Prosecutor: Unidentified Fourth Man
• Details of the investigation from chief prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw pointed to a rising sense of panic among the three bombers who blew themselves up. An unidentified fourth man who was shown in airport surveillance video footage remains at large after Van Leeuw said his suitcase bomb failed to detonate properly
 
• The prosecutor said a laptop seized from a trash can on a street outside the brothers’ last known address contained a message purportedly from Ibrahim El Bakraoui indicating he expected to be arrested following Friday’s capture of suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam
 
• Police went to the brothers’ apartment thanks to a tip from a taxi driver who had unwittingly taken them to the airport. Inside the apartment, they found an apparent bomb making factory, including 33 pounds of homemade explosive and nails, a mixture known as the Mother of Satan, and a quantity considered surprisingly large
 
• At the core of the Belgian investigation is a photo take from the airport’s surveillance cameras showing three attackers walking side by side as they push luggage carts. The middle figure IDd as Ibrahim El Bakraoui – the other two unidentified
 
• Belgian authorities have been looking for Laachraoui since last week, suspecting him of being an accomplice to Abdeslam, who was arrested Friday in Brussels. Laachraoui is believed to have made the suicide vests used in Paris – his DNA was found on all the vests, as well as in a Brussels apartment where they were made

 

ISIS Trained 400 Fighters For Europe: Report
• ISIS has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, AP reports (and European intel services aren’t cooperating – so expect more attacks any time)
 
• French and Belgian authorities have said the network behind the Paris attacks was much larger than initially thought – and developments this week suggest the same group could have staged the violence in Paris and Brussels. A Belgian official working on the probe said it’s a “plausible hypothesis” that Abdeslam was helping organize the Brussels attack
 
• Many of the dead remained unidentified, partly because of the severity of devastation caused by the nail-packed bombs detonated in crowds. In a second claim of responsibility Wednesday, ISIS warned of further attacks and what it called “dark days” for countries involved in attacking ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq
 
• The Belgian security services, as well as other Western intel services, had advance and precise intel warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Belgium, Haaretz reports. The security services knew, with a high degree of certainty, that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and, apparently, for the subway as well (if true, the incompetence is staggering)
 
• EU officials officials reportedly ordered the Belgian govt to rectify several gaps in the country’s border security three weeks before the attacks. Daily Telegraph reports that Belgian guards failed to check the names of suspicious passengers from countries at a high risk for terrorism against the EU’s counterterrorism database, among other things (Belgium considered pathetic by US spies)
 
Cruz: Monitor US Muslims – Obama Slams (WaPo, Hill, Hill, me)
• GOP 2016er Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday doubled down on his call for authorities to monitor Muslims living in the U.S. Things got ugly Tuesday when Cruz put out a call to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” (sign up George Zimmerman?) in the wake of the deadly Brussels terrorist attacks, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility
 
• On CBS Wednesday am, Cruz pointed to isolated neighborhoods in Belgium that “become incubators for radical Islamic terrorism,” saying “of course” the same exists in the U.S. Pushed to name them, Cruz mentioned Minnesota and Michigan with “heavy concentrations” of Muslims, and “radical imams preaching jihadism, preaching Islamism.” (evidence?)
 
• “He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on CBS. Cruz was challenged by the NYPD for citing a controversial policing program in NY to map Muslim communities. “Not one single actional piece of information came out of that,” said Bratton. “It didn’t work.” (Cruz not challenged by facts, apparently)
 
• President Obama, on a visit to Argentina, said at a presser: “I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which, by the way, the father of Sen Cruz escaped for America. The land of the free. The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense.” (ouch – and a bit rude to your erstwhile hosts, Barack)
 
• At the Council of Peoples Organizations, a group that serves Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in Brooklyn and shares a block with a mosque, founder Muhammad Razvi said, “We are already doing it.” A car marked Civilian Observation Petrol bearing the emblem of the NYPD was parked outside the mosque. The patrol is made up of volunteers

 

• Listen to my commentary, plus pix from Old Havana: Cubans are done: they’re ready for change – and they know they may have to wait (me, TMN)
 
Obama in Argentina: Reset (WSJ, AP, me)
• In Buenos Aires, President Obama and his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macri, marked a turning point in bilateral relations, announcing new trade and economic initiatives as their countries reset relations after years of antipathy. Obama later met with young Argentines before attending a state dinner hosted by Macri
 
• Both leaders said Obama’s state visit to Argentina would allow the two countries to strengthen cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, terror and climate change. Macri, who took office in December, said his govt would play a more active role globally
 
• The presidential visit underscores Obama’s warmer ties with Macri than with his predecessor, Cristins Kirchner, whose anti-American posture alienated the WH. At the dinner, Obama was watching a tango performance when a dancer beckoned him to the floor. He declined multiple times, but eventually relented. First lady Michelle Obama joined in the action, too (it’s not easy)
 
• Obama’s visit, the first for a U.S. president in nearly 20 years, coincides with the 40th anniversary this week of Argentina’s 1976 coup, stirring up lingering questions about America’s role supporting the military dictatorship that followed, a junta which was responsible for killing more than 9,000 civilian activists and left-wing guerrillas from 1976 to 1983
 
• At Macri’s request, Obama has agreed to declassify U.S. intel and military records about the period known as the “Dirty War.” Obama planned today to visit Remembrance Park, a memorial next to the Rio de la Plata, where the military drugged and dropped victims from airplanes. There will be protests (as there should be)

 

• Listen to my account of my new love affair with Old Havana – a city of deep contrasts – complete with pix (me, TMN)
 
Trump-Cruz Nude Feud (Hill, Vanity Fair, me)
• GOP 2016er Ted Cruz on Wednesday condemned Donald Trump for threatening to “spill the beans” about his wife.  “She is used to dealing with bullies. Donald Trump doesn’t scare Heidi remotely,” Cruz told reporters in New York, adding he believes Trump is looking to change the subject from his loss Tuesday night in Utah (Trump is a bully, a narcissist and vicious. The end.)
 
• The vicious spat centers on ads released by an anti-Trump PAC, which targeted Utah Mormons. The ad showed a nude photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, from a cover shoot with GQ UK, telling voters that she could be the first lady if they don’t vote for Cruz. The ad showed Melania Trump posing provocatively, “wearing handcuffs, wielding diamonds and holding a chrome pistol.”
 
• A furious Trump responded on Twitter Tuesday night, warning “Lyin’ Ted” to “Be Careful” and threaten to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, with no explanation. “That ad was completely inappropriate and we had nothing to do with it,” Cruz said Wednesday – as he also had said Tuesday night
 
• Liz Mair, in charge of Make America Awesome PAC, confirmed that Cruz had nothing to do with the ad. She suggested the Trump team was using the ad as a pretext to smear Heidi, possibly over a reported history of depression. Police report from 2005 describes an incident where a distraught Heidi was found wandering along a Texas freeway, reportedly posing a “danger to herself.”
 
• “You probably know by now that most of the things that Donald Trump says have no basis in reality,” Heidi Cruz told reporters in New York Wednesday. “So we are not worried in the least.” Ted Cruz went further, saying at a New York GOP event that Trump’s threat was “gutter politics” and that Trump had “reached a new low.”
 

• 2016 delegate count and primary results (NYT interactive) / Republicans desperate to stop Donald Trump want John Kasich to quit being a spoiler, but he won’t quit – says he can win. Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz Wednesday. Bernie Sanders says the Democratic road to the WH “goes through the West” and predicted he will win California on 7 June – if there’s a large turnout

 

Obama Admin to Indict Iranian Hackers (Reuters, me)
• The Obama admin is expected to blame up to a half dozen Iranian hackers as soon as this morning at a presser in DC for a coordinated campaign of cyber attacks in 2012 and 2013 on a suburban NYC dam and several other targets, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters
 
• The indictment was expected to directly link the hacking campaign to the Iranian govt, one source said. Though the breach at the Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook, NY, has been reported, it was only part of a hacking campaign that was broader than previously known, as the indictment will show, the sources said (bit creepy)
 
• In the dam computer hacking, the hackers didn’t gain operational control of the floodgates, and investigators believe they were trying to test their capabilities. The breach coincided with attacks on U.S. financial institutions. Cyber experts have said these, too, were perpetrated by Iranian hackers against Capital One, PNC and SunTrust Bank
 
• The hackers who were expected to be named in the indictment all reside in Iran, a source said. The Justice Dept declined to comment.  The indictment would be the Obama admin’s latest step to confront foreign cyber attacks on the U.S.. – President Obama vowed to “respond proportionally” to North Korea after the 2014 Sony Pictures hack. No details were made public

 

• The Supreme Court on Wednesday headed towards a possible 4-4 split over a legal challenge by Christian non-profit employers who object to providing female workers insurance covering birth control as required by Obamacare. A split, with the liberals backing the admin, would leave in place lower-court rulings rejecting challenges brought by the Christian organizations (Reuters)
 

Flint Water Report: “Intransigence & Belligerence” (Reuters, AP, NYT, me)

• The lead contamination of Flint’s water is “a story of govt failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice,” according to a task force created by Gov Rick Snyder (R-Mich). The harsh report also cited “intransigence and belligerence” by state officials and their dismissals of complaints by residents about the water’s smell, taste and color
 

• Investigators also chided Snyder for his refrain that the situation was a failure of local, state and federal govt, saying that suggests all three were equally culpable when the state was “fundamentally culpable.” It said Snyder and his office were directly involved in some aspects of the crisis and briefed on some of the major decisions (fish rots from head)
 

• The task force said the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality should receive primary blame for the crisis, citing its failure to use corrosion control chemicals in Flint’s water system to prevent the lead leaching, and then resisting calls from others to take action after the lead poisoning was discovered. “They missed the boat completely,” Chris Kolb, a task force member, said

&&&
 

• State managers appointed by Snyder to oversee the city – not locally elected officials – decided to use the Flint River and stick with it, partly based on guidance from MDEQ, Flint employees and consultants. The report called for revising the emergency manager law to compensate for “loss of checks and balances by representative govt.” (authoritarian govt, in other words)
 

• The report noted another problem: too little money. An EPA audit and other evidence suggests the Michigan drinking water program has one of the lowest funding levels among six states overseen by the EPA’s regional Chicago office, despite having “one of the largest, if not the largest, number of community water systems to regulate.”
 

• About 200 children in Flint are known to have had elevated levels of lead in their blood since the water switch. But the report called that likely a “profound underestimate.” The report includes 36 findings and 44 recommendations. Snyder said many of the recommendations were already being implemented. “This is a problem that I’ve made a commitment to fix,” he said (your prob, not a prob)


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Victoria Jones – Editor

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