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

  • Massive govt hack: 21.5 million people
  • FBI: “Very big deal”
  • Recruitment, blackmail, phishing?
  • House meltdown over Confederate flag
  • House meltdown: Quotable quotes
  • SC: Confederate flag comes down today
  • Kerry: US “will not be rushed” in nuke talks
  • Obama’s immigration program in court today
  • Trump: Back to the Birther
  • Greek MPs to vote on new bailout plan
  • Federal benefits to gay couples nationwide
  • Michelle Obama to tribal youth: You matter
  • Joint chiefs nominee: Russia greatest threat


Hack of Govt Computers: 21.5 Million People (NYT, Politico, WaPo, me)
• The Obama admin on Thursday – finally – revealed that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of govt computer systems that was far more damaging than initially thought, resulting in the theft of a vast trove of personal info, including Social Security numbers and some fingerprints. Probably every person given a background check for the last 15 years

• Office of Personnel Management said hackers stole “sensitive info” including addresses, health and financial history and other private details, from 19.7 million people who had been subjected to a govt background check, as well as 1.8 million others, including their friends and spouses. The theft was separate but related to a breach last month of 4.2 million employee

• Both attacks are believed to have originated in China, though senior admin officials won’t say, expect that they think it was the same actor. In a conference call, OPM officials said the hackers were on the network May 2014-April 2015 but were only “really” active June 2014-January 2015 (LOL LOL LOL)

• In the call, Katherine Archuleta, director of OPM, said (unbelievably) that she wouldn’t resign despite calls from members of Congress of both parties. “I am committed to the work that I am doing at OPM,” she said (she is gone. gone. gone – matter of time. Obama likes to do it on his own timetable)

FBI: “Very Big Deal”
• She announced (pointlessly, as there’s no one left to hack) new security measure that would be installed at the agency as well as free credit and ID theft monitoring for victims of the breach, though she said there was “no info at this time to suggest any misuse or further dissemination of the info that was stolen from OPM’s system.” (why hack, then??)

• FBI director called the breach a “very big deal.” He thinks the hackers have his SF86 form, so “You know every place I’ve lived since I was 18, contact people at those addresses, neighbors at those addresses, all of my family, every place I’ve traveled outside the U.S. Just imagine if you were a foreign intel service and you had that data.”

• Chinese agents could search the database for instances when agents with NSA covers were in the same place at the same time and make reasonable deductions about what they were doing there. Chinese intel may also find the identities of their own citizens in close communication with cleared personnel

Recruitment, Blackmail, Phishing
• Counterintelligence experts have also said the database will allow China to select the most likely targets for recruitment, blackmail or even just a phishing attack, based on who has privileged access to federal computer systems

• Tony Scott, the govt’s CIO, said every agency was racing to make improvements, including the use of basic tools like (OMG pathetic) two-factor authentication that requires anyone with the password to a system to use a second, one-time password to log in from an unrecognized computer

• But that effort comes after almost two decades of warnings from govt auditors and other internal investigations into the vulnerabilities in federal agency networks

• Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight Committee, said Archuleta and her top technology official should be removed. Sen Mark Warner (D-Va) also called on Archuleta to step down. Other members of Congress have echoed their concerns
House Meltdown Over Confederate Flag (NYT, Hill, Hill, Hill, Hill, me)
• Republican leaders in the U.S. House on Thursday abruptly yanked a vote, pushed by some Southern Republican lawmakers, on a fiscal 2016 spending bill for the Interior Dept, which funds the National Park Service, that would allow the Confederate flag to be flown in cemeteries operated by the park service, after an outcry by Democrats on the House floor

• An amendment to the bill, by Rep Ken Calvert (R-Calif), allegedly at the behest of GOP leadership, was pending and would have continued to allow the use and sale of Confederate flags in national parks. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we can come to some resolution on this.”

• Boehner, just hours earlier had proposed that “some adults here in the Congress” get together and discuss how to approach the flag’s future in public spaces. “I want members on both sides of the aisle to sit down and let’s have a conversation about how to address, what frankly has become a very thorny issue.” He didn’t want “a political football” (got one, anyway)

• “What is it you have to study?” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). “Do we have to study hatred in its manifestations in the Confederate flag? This is simple. … Let’s not wait one more minute to take down that flag.”

“Slavery, Rape, Treason, Genocide”
• Democrats had flocked to the floor to rail against the amendment. “What exactly is the tradition of the Confederate battle flag that we’re supporting?” Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) challenged. “Is it slavery, rape, kidnap, treason, genocide or all of the above?” No Republican rose to respond

• Jeffries said that the GOP amendment, if passed, would reverse the House’s actions earlier in the week, where lawmakers adopted by voice vote three Democratic amendments to restrict the flag’s display on National Park service land. But Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) said such symbols were protected by the First Amendment (count on King)

• The slayings of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina last month sparked an intense dialogue over the legacy of slavery and its symbols, after photos surfaced of Dylann Roof, the white man charged in the shootings. They showed him posing with the Confederate flag on a website displaying a racist manifesto

• After Calvert’s amendment,  Pelosi pounced and proposed a resolution that any State flag containing any portion of the Confederate battle flag – other than a flag displayed by a lawmaker’s office – be removed from the Capitol grounds. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) immediately moved to refer the measure to the House Administration Committee for review

• Democrats shouted their disapproval to drown out all other sound in the House chamber. “Vote! Vote! Vote!” they chanted, and resorted to casting paper ballots to drag out the debate. The House backed McCarthy, 238-176, to refer the measure in a largely party-line vote. Rep Curt Clawson (R-Fla) was the only Republican to side with Democrats

House Meltdown: Quotable Quotes (TPM, NYT, Vox, me)
• “There’s not any room on federal property for the display of the Confederate battle flag,” said Rep John Lewis (D-Ga), civil rights icon, who was nearly beaten to death in Selma Alabama by club-wielding police officers, some of whom had Confederate flags on their helmets. “It represents the dark past as a symbol of separation, a symbol of division, a symbol of hate.”

• Rep Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga) said, “These were people that were fighting for their states. I don’t think they had even any thoughts about slavery.” Asked if he could see the perspective of Lewis, Mr Westmoreland responded, “I guess the question is, ‘Does he understand where I’m coming from?'” (if you’re blinkered, entitled, white, backwards-looking, dismissive)

• “Had this Confederate battle flag prevailed in war 150 years ago, I would not be standing here today as member of the U.S. Congress,” said Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), “I would be here as a slave.” (but can he understand where poor Westmoreland is coming from? maybe get him a glass of water…)

• “We’ve put our heads like a pumpkin on a stick and given
[Democrats] a baseball bat,” Rep Mike SImpson (R-ID) told a reporter

• WH spox Josh Earnest said, “These are the same House Republicans who voted for a party leader who once described himself as ‘David Duke without the baggage,'” – Whip Steve Scalise. “These are the same congressional Republicans who have declined to criticize the race-baiting rhetoric of a leading Republican presidential candidate.” – Trump
SC Gov: Confederate Flag Comes Down Today AP, The State, TRNS, me)
• Saying South Carolina’s history has forever changed, Gov Nikki Haley (R) signed a bill Thursday to relegate the Confederate flag to the state’s “relic room,” more than 50 years after the rebel banner began flying at the Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement

• Compelled to act by the slaughter of nine African-Americans at a church Bible study, Haley praised lawmakers for acknowledging that the long-celebrated symbol is too painful and divisive to keep promoting. Police then surrounded the flag with barricades and rope, a siege of sorts that will end today after the banner is furled for the last time at a 10 am ceremony

• Police said the killings of nine churchgoers were racially motivated. Suspect Dylann Roof posed with the Confederate flag before the shootings. Haley moved first, calling lawmakers to vote the flag down. “These pens are going to the families of the Emanuel Nine,” Haley said after signing the bill into law on Thursday

• The flag removal bill passed easily in the Senate, where the Rev Clementa Pinckney (D) served, but debate in the House stretched on for more than 13 hours as representatives shared tears, anger and memories of their ancestors. The bill ultimately passed by a 93-27 vote

• The NAACP will consider ending its 15-year boycott of South Carolina’s economy at its national convention this weekend. The NCAA, which honored that ban, said it will resume holding championship events in the state
Kerry: U.S. “Will Not Be Rushed” in Nuke Talks (AP, Reuters, me)
• SecState John Kerry threatened Thursday to walk away from nuclear talks as negotiators blew past another – unofficial – deadline, and a delay that this time could complicate American efforts to quickly implement any deal. “We will not rush and we will not be rushed,” Kerry said, speaking in Vienna

• Kerry and other Western officials said Iran hadn’t still hadn’t made the tough political decision to roll back its nuclear program. The Iranians immediately fired back, with a senior Iranian official saying its was the Americans and their partners who were backtracking on several key commitments related to Iran’s permitted level of nuclear activity and economic sanctions

• “This is not open-ended,” Kerry told reporters. “We can’t wait forever for the decision to be made. If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process.” We are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever.”

• It was the strongest indication yet of frustration from both sides (apart from the screaming and yelling – and massive consumption of strawberry twizzlers and cheese strings by the Americans), coming two days after President Obama vowed a similar response to Iranian intransigence and suggesting patience was running out

• By not completing the accord before the end of Thursday, the accord (if it’s ever reached) has to go through a 60-day congressional review period during which Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. A senior Iranian official said late Thursday, “We’ve been seeing changes of positions, particularly since last night,” – after the Obama video call with the Americans

• Vid: The Battle of Britain started 75 years ago today in 1940. Brothers Colin and Ewan McGregor explore Bomber Command, an awesome fighting force – amazing documentary with original footage (BBC)
Obama’s Immigration Program: In Court Today  (LAT, me)
• State and federal lawyers on opposite sides of the immigration divide are set to square off this morning in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans over the merits of President Obama’s executive action shielding up to 5 million people from deportation. Immigration advocates plan large protests outside the courthouse

• The court battle began in December when Texas officials, joined by 25 other states, filed suit against the programs before they were launched. In February, outspoken conservative federal Texas judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction preventing the admin from starting the program

• In May, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit refused the admin’s request to lift Hanen’s stay after hearing arguments from both sides about the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and an extension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The panel of judges randomly selected for the case now: two conservatives and a moderate – opponents are encouraged

• The Justice Dept has argued that the states lack legal standing to object, but the judges have already signaled their doubts about that argument

• On 29 June, the judges ordered both sides to file briefs addressing a new SCOTUS ruling upholding the Arizona legislature’s right to sue over a referendum that allowed an independent commission to handle redistricting. While the Court ultimately rejected the Arizona challenge, the justices found the legislature did have standing to file the challenge
Trump: Back to the Birther (Politico, Politico, Hill, me)
• Donald Trump said when asked on CNN Thursday that he’s still not convinced President Obama was born in America. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know why he wouldn’t release his records.” (why the #*$% should he do it for you?) “Honestly, I don’t want to get into it,” Trump said

• Obama in 2011 released his long-form birth certificate after years of rumors that he was born in Kenya. Trump was one of those leading a drum beat. But that wasn’t enough. Trump offered Obama $5 million to a charity of his choice to release his college transcripts and passport history

• Trump remembers the phone call with Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus a bit differently from the way WaPo described it Thursday, when it said Priebus told him to “tone it down” on Mexican immigrants. “Totally false reporting on my call with @ReincePriebus. He called me, ten minutes, said I hit a ‘nerve’, doing well, end!” (hmm – who has credibility?)

• Thursday, the day after celebrity chef and Spanish immigrant Jose Andres announced he’s pulling out of opening a restaurant at the Trump Washington hotel, after Trump’s remarks about Mexican “rapists” and “criminals,” celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian said he, too, was out as Trump’s statement’s “do not in any way align with my personal core values.”

• Meanwhile, Trump leads the GOP pack in this week’s Economist/YouGov polls, with 15% of registered Republican voters calling him their first-choice candidate for 2016. Another 12% said Trump was their second choice for the GOP nomination… (they’re pulling what’s left of their hair out the RNC HQ)

18 Republicans Donald Trump has insulted (Time)

Greek MPs to Vote on New Bailout Plan (BBC, me)

• Greek MPs are to vote today on whether to back PM Alexix Tsipras’s tough new proposals to secure a third bailout. The proposals are aimed at staving off financial collapse and preventing a possible exit from the eurozone

• Eurozone finance ministers will examine the new proposals, which include pension cuts and tax rises, ahead of a full summit on Sunday. Tsipras’s plan contains many elements rejected in a referendum last Sunday. He’s likely to face opposition from the left of his own Syriza party. However, a parliamentary spox said he was confident parliament would give the govt the mandate

• Greece needs a third bailout to avoid a default and a possible euro exit. Athens is reportedly seeking 53.5 billion euros as part of a new bailout package and restructuring of its huge debt burden. Thursday, European President Donald Tusk tweeted that it was a “realistic proposal” and needed to be matched by a “realistic proposal” from its creditors

• But German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out debt reduction, saying she was against “the classic haircut.” Greek banks have closed for nearly two weeks with limits placed on cash withdrawals

• Compulsory map: What’s your state’s signature cause of death? Yup, what kills people in YOUR state? The CDC published this map, with data supplied by researchers at the NY State Dept of Health using info from 2001 to 2010 – a little bit terrifying, actually – but fascinating (Mother Jones, me)

Uh Oh: Medical Cures Bill in Trouble
• Objections from both sides of the aisle are stirring doubts about a bipartisan medical cures bill that’s slated to hit the House floor today. The 21st Century Cures Act (HR-6) was reported out of committee in May on a resounding 51-0 vote. The bill includes $8.75 billion over five years in new funding for medical research at the NIH (sounds good – let’s mess with it…)

• That spending is drawing fire from conservatives because it’s mandatory, meaning it’s not revisited each year through the appropriations process (so conservatives can block it). Some Republicans oppose adding another spending program. “Look what’s happening in Greece and Puerto Rico,” said Rep John Fleming (R-La), a medical doctor (should know better)

• Some Democrats are railing against a late addition to the bill that includes Hyde Amendment language restricting federal funds from abortion. “I cannot stand by while these provisions are slipped into an otherwise excellent bill through underhanded maneuvers that run contrary to our democratic process,” Rep Jackie Speier (D-Calif) said angrily. She said it went in “dead of night”

• “They’re going to vote for the Lee amendment to strip them out,” Rep Diana DeGette (D-Col) said of the abortion provisions, “to send that message, and then they’ll vote for final passage.” The Lee Amendment, sponsored by Rep Barbara Lee (D-Calif) would eliminate any abortion-related restriction in the bill

• Democrats warn that if an amendment from Rep Dave Brat (R-Va) that would change the funding in the bill from mandatory to discretionary, passes today, support from their side will crumble because the NIH funding would be far less certain

Federal Benefits to Gay Couples Nationwide (Hill, Hill, me)
• Federal marriage benefits will be extended to married same-sex couples nationwide, AG Loretta Lynch said in a statement Thursday, now that the Constitution requires marriage equality. Her announcement comes one year after DoJ first implemented SCOTUS’s decision in the 2013 U.S. v Windsor case, which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act

• The ruling required the federal govt to recognize same-sex marriages that took place in states where the unions were legal – the co-called place of celebration rule

• To comply, the IRS allowed qualifying same-sex couples to file joint tax returns, the DoD allowed same-sex spouses of military service members to receive the same benefits as opposite sex couples, and DHS allowed citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor same-sex spouses for immigration benefits

• But before Thursday, the Social Security Administration and Veteran Affairs had still been prohibited by federal statute from adopting a celebration rule for certain programs

• Extending Social Security benefits to same-sex couples could cost the govt as much as $350 million per year, according to a 2004 report from the Congressional Budget Office – that’s the most recent report that’s been done. The cost per year was projected to rise due to the aging population – so the figure’s wrong, basically

Michelle Obama to Tribal Youth: You Matter (HuffPo, AP, Newsweek, me)
• Michelle Obama on Thursday told hundreds of Native American youths that they are all precious and sacred and that “each of you was put on this earth for a reason.” The event was part of Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, a WH initiative that grew from President Obama and Mrs Obama’s visit last year to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

• Meetings followed, Cabinet members held listening tours, tribal youth were chosen as ambassadors and a national network was formed. The goal is to remove barriers that keep young people from reaching their potential. Teenagers at the summit represented 230 tribes and 42 states

• Discussions focused on economic opportunity, education, cultural and other issues. Nearly one-third of American Indian youths live in poverty, according to federal stats. They have the highest suicide rates of any ethnicity in the U.S., as well as the lowest high school graduation rates

• Michelle Obama said, “During our visit, [young people] told us of heart-wrenching stories about substance abuse, homelessness, suicide – crises that would probably overwhelm most young people. But not these young men and women. In the face of all these challenges, not one of them had given up.” Participants came with ideas to address problems

• Miguel Wambli, 16, of Rapid City, South Dakota, and a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, created a newspaper to feature writing by Native American students. Seven suicide by teenagers in recent months have shaken the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and Wambli believes a newspaper would give teenagers an outlet

First trailer! The X-Files – coming 24 January 2016 – our first look at Mulder and Scully in action


Joint Chiefs Nominee: Russia Greatest Threat (AP, me)
• Marine Gen Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that Russia poses the greatest threat to U.S. national security. “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming,” Dunford said

• At the WH, spox Josh Earnest praised Dunford but distanced the president from the nominee’s assessment. Yet Earnest said that Russia’s destabilizing actions in Ukraine and “saber-rattling” over its nuclear program and military activities near borders with NATO allies have increased U.S. concerns (don’t they coordinate these things?)

• Dunford, asked if the U.S. should provide lethal arms to Ukraine, said that from a military standpoint, that would be a “reasonable” response. “Frankly, without that kind of support, they are not going to be able to defend themselves against Russian aggression,” he said. His comments were welcomed by chair Sen John McCain (R-Ariz)

• On Iran, Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark) asked whether the U.S. has the military capability to destroy Tehran’s nuclear program. “My understanding is that we do,” Dunford replied


• Rocking into the holiday weekend with a super summer anthem “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap  – warning: major drug themes. See fascinating article explaining (Vox)

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Victoria Jones – Editor


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