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

  • SC cop charged: Murder of black man
  • 2016: Paul is in – attacks Clinton
  • Iran: WH sales pitch stumble?
  • U.S. boosts arms for Yemen coalition
  • Cuba off terror watch list?
  • DoJ tracked calls from 1992-2013
  • Immigration: Judge won’t lift hold
  • Revised bipartisan No Child Left Behind
  • Kansas: No food stamps for cruises

SC Officer Charged: Murder – Black Man’s Death

• A white police officer in North Charleston SC was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away (NYT, me)
• The officer, Michael Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter Scott, 50, fled
• The shooting came on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers’ using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson MO and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether police are too quick to use lethal force, particularly in cases involving black men. A WH task force has recommended changes to the nation’s police policies
• North Charleston is South Carolina’s third largest city, with a population of about 100,000. African Americans make up about 47% of residents, and whites account for about 37%. The PD is about 80% white, according to 2007 DoJ data, the most recent available

• Vid: White police officer shoots (eight times) an apparently unarmed black man in the back while the man runs away and the officer kills him. Then the officer doesn’t render aid – and appears to drop a Taser near the victim

• The shooting unfolded after Slager stopped the driver of a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, according to police reports. Scott ran away, and Slager chased him into a grassy lot. He fired his Taser, but it didn’t stop Scott, according to police reports. Moments after the struggle, Slager reported on the radio: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”
• But the video, which was taken by a bystander, presents a different account. Wires appear to be extending from Scott’s body as the two men tussle and Scott turns to run. Something – not clear whether it’s the stun gun – is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men and Slager draws his gun
• When the officer fires, Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots. The officer then runs toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something up off the ground. Moments later, he drops an object near Scott’s body, the video shows
• The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the state’ criminal investigative body, has begun an inquiry into the shooting. The FBI and the DoJ, which has opened a string of civil rights investigations into police depts under AG Eric Holder, are also investigating

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• The Supreme Court has held that an officer may use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only when there is probable cause that the suspect “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”
• Scott had been arrested about 10 times, mostly for failing to pay child support or show up for court hearings, according to the Post and Courier paper of Charleston. He had been arrested in 87 on an assault and battery charge and convicted in 91 of possession of a bludgeon. Scott’s brother, Anthony, said he believed Scott had fled on Saturday because he owed child support
• Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scott’s family, said the coroner had told him that Scott was struck five times – three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear – with at least one bullet entering the heart. It’s not clear whether Scott died immediately
• Police reports say that officers performed CPR and delivered first aid to Scott. The video shows that for several minutes after the shooting, Scott remained face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. A second and then a third officer arrive, but neither are shown performing CPR
• Russian hackers behind the damaging cyber-intrusion of the State Dept in recent months used that perch to penetrate sensitive parts of the WH computer system, even accessing real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule, which isn’t classified. FBI, Secret Service, intel agencies are investigating (CNN, me)

2016: Rand Paul Is In

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) officially announced himself a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday. “The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped,” Paul told a jubilant audience at the Galt House hotel in Louisville (NYT, TRNS)
• Recalling his story of living the American dream, Paul scolded both Republicans and Democrats for failing Americans. “What kind of America will our grandchildren see? It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame.”
• Regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran, Paul said, “I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures. I will insist that any final version be brought through Congress.”
• Paul drew loud cheers by criticizing President Obama’s domestic surveillance program, arguing that the U.S. has been compromising liberty for a false sense of security. “As president, on Day 1 I will immediately end unconstitutional surveillance.”
• Paul repeatedly attacked the honesty of Hillary Clinton and what he called the “shenanigans” of her family foundation in an interview with Politico shortly after he made his announcement. “There’s a lot of stuff there that is, I think, going to shake the confidence of Americans in her ability to lead in an honest fashion.”
Paul: Different But the Same
• In a primary contest of candidates debating which of them is the most committed conservative, Paul’s likely to be the only one arguing for reducing federal drug penalties and taking a more deliberative approach to military intervention. On issues like abortion and gay marriage, however, he doesn’t stray far from the Republican Party line
• While Paul’s political resume may be short, he has built over the past year and a half what GOP strategists say are some of the most extensive political operations in the states that will vote first in the party’s nominating process: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina
• But Paul has made it clear that his intention is to seek out a far wider path to the nomination than his father, Ron, did. The crowd inside the ballroom, which grew to at least 1,500, was a mixture of young and old, and those familiar and unfamiliar with the Paul family’s political legacy
• Paul goes today to NH for a town hall meeting in the small town of Milford. Thursday, he will speak near Charleston SC with the USS Yorktown as his backdrop and will focus on his belief that the U.S. should be more cautious and restrained in its military engagements overseas. Friday he plans to spend at the University of Iowa in Iowa City
• President Obama said Tuesday that global warming isn’t just affecting the weather, it’s harming Americans’ health. He announced a number of steps govt and businesses will take to better understand and deal with the problem (AP, TRNS)
Iran: WH Sales Pitch Stumble?
• Iran could have the capabilities to build a nuclear bomb almost immediately after the first 13 years of the emerging nuclear deal, President Obama acknowledged Tuesday. However, under the framework for a final deal, Iran would be kept at least a year away from a bomb for the first decade, Obama said (AP, Hill, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Pushing back on criticism that the deal allows Iran to keep enriching uranium, Obama told NPR News that enrichment isn’t the prime concern because Iran will be capped for a decade at 300 kilos – not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material
• “What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said (oopsie)
• “It is clear that this ‘deal’ is a direct threat to peace and security of the region and world,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said. Considering Iran’s history of evading international inspections, he added, “no one should believe that the proposed inspection and verification are bullet-proof.”
• Meanwhile, WH spox Josh Earnest on Tuesday told reporters the admin has offered classified briefings for lawmakers on national security committees to sell them on the merits of the agreement. “We want to make sure that members of Congress understand what’s in the deal,” he said. Senate committee markup is 14 April

• Watch this. YouTube star (channel has attracted more than 60 million views) British Muslim comedian and actor Humza Arshad’s video went viral and he’s working with police and students to help prevent radicalization through the vid and through workshops

U.S. Boosts Arms for Yemen Coalition
• Deputy SecState Anthony Blinken said Tuesday that the U.S. has “expedited” weapons deliveries to a Saudi-led coalition bombing Houthi rebels who have taken up arms against the govt in Yemen. On a visit to Riyadh, he said the U.S. had also boosted intel sharing with the coalition and set up a center to coordinate with Saudi operations (BBC, AFP, TRNS, me)
• Aid agencies have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in the Yemeni port city of Aden, which has seen street battles between rebels and govt allies. Some 550 people have died in the last two weeks of fighting. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2,000 people have been injured over the same period
• The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, says at least 74 of the dead are children, and more than 100,000 people have been displaced. Gunmen loyal to the Yemeni govt are trying to repeal the advance by the Houthi rebels, who are said to be backed by Iran
• Marie Claire Feghali, a spox for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that the situation in Aden was “catastrophic to say the least.” “The war in Aden is on every street, in every corner,” she said. “Many are unable to escape.” Fighting escalated this week, with reports of overflowing hospitals, hijacked ambulances and bodies left in the streets
• Tuesday, aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition reportedly bombed a military base in central Yemen, near the city of Ibb. The raid targeted forces loyal to former President Saleh, who are fighting alongside the Houthis. The strike apparently took place near a school, and a rebel TV station said three children were killed
• Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former WH chief of staff, was re-elected mayor of Chicago Tuesday in a runoff election, surviving a challenge from county commissioner Jesus Garcia. Voters in Ferguson MO elected two black candidates to the city council Tuesday, increasing the number of African-Americans on the governing body to three (NYT, me)
Cuba Off Terror Watch List?
• The State Dept could recommend within a few days that Cuba be removed from its list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism, a U.S. official said Tuesday, a major move towards rapprochement ahead of a hemispheric summit this week (Reuters, AP, Hill, me)
• President Obama ordered the review after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on 17 Dec, and he’s vowed to act quickly once he received the State Dept’s recommendation. Obama leaves today for a trip to Jamaica and then to Panama, where he’ll participate in the Summit of the Americas and come face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro
• Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. blacklist is a major sticking point in efforts to restore relations and re-open embassies. The official said Washington and Havana were close to resolving a major obstacle, a U.S. demand for written Cuban assurances of no future support for terrorism. Cuba has made a reciprocal demand of the U.S.
• Removing Cuba from the list would ease some financial sanctions against the island. But the broader U.S. embargo on Cuba, which can only be lifted by Congress, would remain
• Cuba’s delisting would boost Obama’s hope of using the Summit of the Americas to showcase his opening to Cuba, seen as clearing away a big impediment to improving U.S. relations across the region. Obama is expected to speak with Castro at this week’s summit, the WH said on Tuesday, although there will not be a formal meeting
• Leaders in Latin America have largely kept silent amid charges of human rights abuses in Venezuela, and are unlikely to speak out against their neighbor at this week’s Summit of the Americas. The Obama admin last month froze U.S. visas and revoked visas for seven senior Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations (AP)
U.S. Govt Tracked Calls from 1992-2013
• The Justice Dept and the DEA started keeping secret records of international phone calls made by Americans in 1992 in a program intended to combat drug trafficking, USA Today reported, citing current and former intel and law enforcement officials. AG Eric Holder halted the program in 2013 amid the fallout from Edward Snowden’s NSA data collection leak (USA Today, Reuters, me)
• The DEA program was the govt’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of phone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. The program amassed logs of virtually all phone calls made from the U.S. to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking
• Federal investigators used the call record to track drug cartels’ distribution networks in the U.S., allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. The program didn’t intercept the content of calls but it did record the phone numbers and when they were dialed, the paper said
• When the data collection began, agents sought to limit its use mainly to drug investigations and turned away requests for access from the FBI and the NSA, the paper reported. Agents allowed searches of the data in terrorism cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing case, and broader use after September 11th 2001
• DoJ spox Patrick Rodenbush said the DEA “is no longer collecting bulk telephony metadata from U.S. service providers.” Instead, the DEA assembles a list of the phone numbers it suspects may be tied to drug trafficking and sends electronic subpoenas to phone companies seeking logs of international phone calls linked to those numbers (should have done that first)
• A power surge temporarily knocked out power to the WH, State Dept, DoJ, Energy Dept, the Capitol, several museums, metro stations, traffic lights, and other sites across Washington and suburbs Tuesday. Terrorism wasn’t suspected. State Dept spox Marie Harf continued with her briefing after the lights went out (WaPo, Hill, TRNS, me)
Immigration: Judge Won’t Lift Hold on WH Executive Action
• A federal judge on Tuesday denied a Justice Dept request to lift a temporary hold on President Obama’s executive action that sought to shield millions of immigrants form deportation. Obama announced the executive orders in Nov, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own (AP, me)
• U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen refused to stay his 16 Feb decision that granted a preliminary injunction requested by 26 states. The U.S. govt wants the injunction lifted – which would allow Obama’s action to proceed – while it appeals Hanen’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans
• The DoJ has already asked the Fifth Circuit to lift the injunction. The appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the injunction should be lifted on 17 April. The coalition of 26 states has filed a lawsuit to overturn Obama’s executive actions, which would spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally
• The states, led by Texas, argue that the action is unconstitutional and would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and eduction. The injunction is intended to stall Obama’s actions while the lawsuit progresses through the courts
• DoJ lawyers argue that keeping the hold harms “the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation” of the president’s immigration action
• Optimism about the nation’s economy hit an eight-year high in a CNBC poll released Tuesday, with 27% saying the economy is in excellent or good shape during the Jan-March quarter, up from 16% a year ago (CNBC, Hill, me)
Proposed: Bipartisan Revised No Child Left Behind
• A bipartisan Senate bill revising the No Child Left Behind law was announced on Tuesday. The measure, which ends the framework under which almost all public schools were found to be failing, could defuse what has become an all-out campaign by teachers, and many parents, to prevent having their job performances measured by students’ test scores (NYT, me)
• The proposed bill was negotiated by Sens Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA). It retains the requirement for yearly tests in math and reading for every student in third through eighth grade, and once in high school, and requires that the scores, broken down by race and income, be made public
• But under the proposal, the federal govt would no longer prescribe how the states must handle schools with continuously low scores. “This is a big deal. It goes back to the original intent of the law, to level the playing field for at-risk kids,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers
• Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Assn, however, expressed disappointment that the bill retained annual testing requirements. Also important she said was to restore the diminishing authority of teacher and principals, instead of having “someone who doesn’t know the name of the children making more and more decisions.”
• At a time when new, widely adopted academic standards known as Common Core have led to bruising political battles, the bipartisan proposal specifically prohibits the Dept of Education from pushing states to adopt any specific curriculum guidelines
• Hackers spread malicious software through a computer network at the FAA earlier this year, the agency said. A “known virus” passed from computer to computer via email. The FAA told NextGov that it identified no damage to agency systems after a “thorough review.” It’s not clear who was behind the attack or what their intentions were (great) (NextGov, Hill)

Kansas: No Food Stamps for Cruises
• If House Bill 2258 is signed into law by Gov Sam Brownback (R) this week, Kansas families receiving govt assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go on cruises or get tattoos on the state’s dime. (Nobody has offered an example of someone taking a cruise) (WaPo, Daily Beast, AP, Topeka Capital-Journal, me)
• State Sen Michael O’Donnell (R-Wichita), who has advocated for the bill, said it’s needed to pressure those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to spend “more responsibly.” “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life,” he told the Topeka Capital-Journal (with a straight face)
• That, according to the bill, means limiting spending on massages, body piercings, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, gambling or visits to psychics. The bill – which limits TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs – also forbids recipients from spending money at a:

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• theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted (phew)
• Under the Successful Families Program, an eligible family of four can receive as much as $497 per month in certain high-cost counties, but no more than $454 in lower-cost locales. A rural family gets $386 a month. The bill would cap the number of months a family could receive those benefits over a lifetime at 36 months
• You can’t go on many cruises as a family – or even an individual – for $497. Also, you can’t draw out $25 from an ATM (no $5) so they’ve really capped the total at $20 per day. Plus, there’s an 85 cents fee (outrage) that TANF attaches per withdrawal and likely a $2 or $3 ATM charge as many people don’t have bank accounts, so they’re not getting $25 per day 

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Victoria Jones – Editor

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

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