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

  • 4 Marines killed in Tennessee attack
  • Gunman’s father had been investigated
  • Local Muslims condemn
  • Gunman: “Life is short and bitter”
  • Recent changes in gunman

  • James Holmes guilty: Movie theater shooting
  • Trial date set: Charleston church massacre
  • Iran deal: WH wants support
  • Iran’s hard-liners: Deal crosses red lines
  • Audit: 3,000 weak spots at Interior Dept
  • Planned Parenthood apologizes for “tone”
  • Obama goes to prison

4 Marines Killed in Tennessee Attack (Chattanooga Times Free Press, NYT, AP, Reuters, TRNS, me)

• A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at a recruiting center and another U.S. military site a few miles apart in Chattanooga on Thursday, killing at least four marines before he was shot to death by police, and sending service members scrambling for cover as bullets smashed through the windows
• Federal authorities said they were investigating the possibility it was an act of terrorism, but have no evidence yet that anyone but a lone gunman was involved. They also said there was no indication that the general public was in danger. The FBI has taken charge of the case
• Authorities identified the gunman as Kuwait-born Muhammad (spelling unclear at this time) Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, of Hixson, Tennessee. An anonymous U.S. official said there was no indication Abdulazeez was on the radar of federal law enforcement before the shootings

• SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks terrorist activities, said that Abdulazeez had this week posted at least two Islam-focused writings on a blog, including one in which he described life as “short and bitter.” He also said that Muslims shouldn’t miss “the opportunity to submit to Allah.”

Gunman’s Father Had Been Investigated

• Abdulazeez’s father had been under investigation several years ago for possible ties to a foreign terrorist organization. At one point, the father was on a terrorist watch list and was questioned while on a trip abroad but he was eventually removed from the list. The investigation was old and didn’t lead to any info about the son, an official said

• The shootings took place minutes apart, with the gunman stopping his car and spraying dozens of bullets first at a recruiting center for all branches of the military, then apparently driving to a Navy-Marine training center 7 miles away, authorities and witnesses said. The attacks were over within half an hour
• The shooter fired at the recruitment center from within his car, but then got out of the vehicle to shoot the four marines at the training center, FBI agent Ed Reinhold told a presser late Thursday. The shooter had multiple weapons and he reloaded more than once. At least three people were reported wounded
• President Obama offered his condolences to the victims and promised a painstaking investigation. “It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals, who have served our country with great valor, to be killed in this fashion,” Obama said. He said it appeared the gunman had acted alone
Local Muslims Condemn
• Within hours, law officers with guns swarmed what was believed to be Abdulazeez’s suburban, middle-class house, and two females were led away in handcuffs. Investigators hope that an analysis of the gunman’s computer, phone and accounts will reveal whether he might have been inspired or directed by ISIS
• The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center said it’s seen nothing so far to connect Abdulazeez to any terrorist organization, but intel officials are monitoring the situation closely. Officials said they expect ISIS to claim responsibility for the attack but said that a claim alone wouldn’t mean anything
• Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass across the street from the Navy-Marine Center, said she heard a barrage of gunfire around 11 am. “It was rapid-fire, like pow-pow-pow-pow-pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction.”
• Bassam Issa, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, condemned the act “in the strongest possible terms as one of cowardice and hate.” “We don’t see our community as a ‘Muslim’ community; we are Chattanoogans first, and we see ourselves as part of the larger community of Tennesseans grieving today’s act,” Issa said
Gunman: “Life Is Short and Bitter” (NYT, Daily Beast, Chattanooga Times Free Press, me)
• He played whiffle ball in a suburban neighborhood of swim meets and gently sloping lawns. He was a young man who was polite, who sometimes drove too fast, who was arrested on a drunken-driving charge. He was a hardened mixed-martial arts fighter who kept a blog where he mused about submitting to Allah
• Abdulazeez was a Kuwaiti-born Jordanian who became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He graduated from Red Bank High School, whose quotation on his graduation yearbook was: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?” (bit prescient and creepy)
• His neighbors in Hixson, the Chattanooga suburb where he grew up, said that he seemed to have been an all-American boy, handsome and polite, normally in a T-shirt and jeans
• A resume that Abdulazeez posted online shows that he received an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2012 and interned with the Tennessee Valley Authority, learning to manage electrical power systems
Recent Changes
• Photos on family Facebook pages show Abdulazeez recently grew a beard. In the last two or three months, he had begun showing up rather regularly at Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga, said Dr Azhar Sheikh, a founding member. Dr Sheikh said that he showed no signs of extremism
• Abdulazeez maintained a blog where he posted about Islam, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks international terrorist groups. A 13 July post stated that “life is short and bitter” and that Muslims shouldn’t let “the opportunity to submit to Allah … pass you by.”
• The mosque was in mourning for the Marines Abdulazeez is accused of killing. To honor them, the center canceled its Eid al-Fitr celebration planned for today. Eid is normally a joyous affair. About 1,000 people normally attend
• Abdulazeez’s first blog post on 13 July is a reference to a prisoner in life who’s told he would be given a test that would either take him out of his earthly prison – or send him into a more restrictive environment. Abdulazeez writes that “any sane person” would spend their time studying to pass the test
• “They would do this because they know and have been told that they will be rewarded with pleasures that they have never seen.” This life is that test, he wrote, “designed to separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire.”
• A year since Malaysia Airlines MH17 was blown out of the sky over Ukraine, a draft of a report by the Dutch Safety Board says the plane was destroyed by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the village of Snizhne, which was under rebel control. Hours earlier, AP journalists saw a Buk M-1 launcher moving through the town carrying four missiles (AP)
James Holmes Guilty: Movie Theater Shooting (Reuters, NYT, Denver Post, TRNS, me)
• James Holmes, whose shooting rampage three years ago killed 12 and wounded 70 inside a suburban Denver movie theater, was found guilty Thursday in a state court. A jury deliberated for 13 hours over two days before rejecting pleas from defense lawyers that Holmes, 27, had a severe mental illness and wasn’t legally responsible for his actions that night
• The decision was delivered in a packed Arapahoe County District Court after 10 weeks of testimony from more than 250 witnesses. They included survivors whose friends and family were killed, psychiatrists and Holmes’s former classmates from the University of Colorado
• Coming within days of the Aurora shooting’s third anniversary, the guilty verdict ends one phase of a grueling legal saga, but another one is now set to begin. The DA is seeking the death penalty, and the jury will begin weighing the toll and nature of Holmes’s actions to decide whether to send him to prison for life or to Colorado’s death row
• As Judge Carlos Samour Jr read the 165 counts against Holmes, the defendant stood silently between his lawyers, staring straight ahead, with his hands tucked into the pockets of a pair of khaki-colored pants. It took Samour more than an hour to read the verdicts. When he had finished, Holmes showed no reaction
• Prosecutors had argued that Holmes plotted the shootings for several weeks, deliberately and meticulously, because he had lost his first and only girlfriend, had dropped out of his graduate program and had generally lost his purpose in life
• To that end, prosecutors brought in professors and classmates who described Holmes’s struggles as a first-year graduate student in the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado. Holmes dropped out in June 2012, after he failed important oral exams, and he declined the chance to retake them
• Prosecutors argued that Holmes’s detailed preparations for the attack showed he knew what he was doing and knew it was wrong. They presented evidence about his purchases of guns, tear gas and body armor. They showed how he conducted online research into bomb-making so he could booby-trap his apartment before he left for the cinema
• Holmes rigged the bombs and turned loud music on the stereo, hoping someone would open the door and trigger a deadly blast. The devices were later defused by a bomb squad. But where prosecutors saw calculation, the defense saw “a whole lot of crazy.”
• Two psychiatrists who testified for the defense said Holmes lacked the ability to tell right from wrong or act with intent – critical elements of sanity under Colorado law. Their testimony clashed with two court-appointed psychiatrists who said that while Holmes suffered severe mental illness on a spectrum with schizophrenia, he wasn’t legally insane when he walked into the theater
• The German parliament is set to vote on, and likely approve, negotiations on Greece’s 86 billion euro bailout deal. Germany is one of several eurozone states that must give the green light before the rescue deal can go ahead. Greek banks, shut nearly three weeks ago, will reopen on Monday, with some credit controls (BBC)
Trial Date Set in Charleston Church Massacre (AP, WaPo, me)
• Charleston Circuit Court Judge J.C. Nicholson set a 11 July 2016 trial date for Dylann Roof, 21, who faces multiple charges, including nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder stemming from the 17 June shootings of nine black parishioners in a historic Charleston church
• PD Ashley Pennington told the judge Roof would not seek bond. The judge called Roof a flight risk, noting he was arrested in North Carolina, about 250 miles away. Roof sat quietly during the proceedings in a grey-striped prison jump suit. The prosecutor said the case “has the potential for a capital case,” though the state hasn’t said it’s seeking the death penalty
• Nicholson last week issued a gag order preventing attorneys from discussing the case and temporarily blocking the release of police records and 911 calls. He wrote he was concerned about Roof’s ability to get a fair trial, especially if screams might be heard on 911 calls or if there are graphic photos (public still has a right to know even if it’s hard to hear or see)
• Both sides have until the end of business on 22 July to file requests to be heard on the matter. Attorneys representing several media organizations were in court Thursday prepared to argue for release of the docs, but no arguments were heard
• The Obama admin proposed new regulations Thursday meant to protect America’s streams from coal mining debris, but Republicans charged that the measures were an attack on coal country that would cost jobs. The Interior Dept move comes after SCOTUS ruled that the EPA improperly ignored the costs of its regulations (Fox News)
Iran Deal: WH Wants Support  (AP, USA Today, WSJ, TRNS, me)
• House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday, “It blows my mind that the admin would agree to lift the arms and missile bans and sanctions.” Boehner said the GOP-led Congress would likely soon be on track to pass legislation denying President Obama the ability to lift numerous other financial and other restrictions Iran currently faces
• House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) became the first prominent Democrat in Congress to back the deal, saying she is “very optimistic about our ability to support the president.” Obama has pledged to veto any bill rejecting the deal. VP Joe Biden met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Hill Thursday about the deal
• Obama will meet Saudi Arbaian FM al-Jubeir today, a sign of how important the WH views the Saudi role. SecState John Kerry met with al-Jubeir Thursday. “We hope that the Iranians will use this deal to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of the Iranian people and not use it for adventures in the region,” al-Jubeir said
• SecDef Ash Carter leaves this weekend for the Mideast, with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Officials said his mandate is to reassure Israel that the U.S. is committed to guaranteeing its ally’s regional military superiority. Israeli PM Netanyahu says the deal would put Iran on a path towards acquiring a nuclear weapon (carter has impossible task, knows it – will offer security goodies)
• Several Republicans complained the UN is scheduled to vote before Congress on lifting some sanctions against Iran. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016er, vowed to block confirmation of all State nominees if the UN votes before the 60-day period for Congress to register its opinion
• Sen Ben Cardin (D-Md) responds to anti-Semitic caller (who pretends he isn’t prejudiced) on C-Span, and who claims C-Span should inform the public when a Jew comes on so people know whether or not “he has a conflict of interest.” “I take great offense to that,” Cardin says of the caller’s questioning of Cardin’s loyalty to the U.S. Cardin is Jewish (Hill)
Iran’s Hard-Liners: Deal Crosses Red Lines (NYT, me)
• When Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini sent a note to President Rouhani thanking him for bringing the nuclear negotiations to conclusions, he added an important caveat: “Be concerned about possible violations of the commitments in the accord by other parties.”
• Prominent hard-liners, previously muzzled on the nuclear talks, took the letter as a signal that they were free to criticize the deal. In a hastily assembled presser in Tehran Thursday, hard-line analysts triumphantly announced they would examine the deal for devious legal tricks or loopholes the “arrogant” nations might be trying to slip into the text (here we go)
• While not wanting to get too far ahead of Khameini, who will give a speech Saturday at the end of Ramadan, the hard-liners’ strategy has been to see whether the accord violates any of the seven “major red lines” set by Khameini in a statement published by his office on 23 June
• At the presser, Foad Izadi, a professor of public diplomacy at the University of Tehran, said he had counted a total of 19 red lines by Khameini. “Out of those, 18 and a half have been crossed,” he said. All eyes now turn to Khameini and his speech Saturday – (who has to weigh his red lines against the cheering in the streets. Will be interesting)
• Graphic: The Iran nuclear deal – a simple guide – NYT explains so I don’t have to, with cartoon diagrams and everything
Audit: 3,000 “High-Risk” Weak Spots at Interior Dept (WaPo, me)
• An audit due out today found 3,000 “critical” and “high-risk” vulnerabilities in three key bureaus at the Interior Dept, the agency hosting the hacked personnel files of 4.2 million federal employees. Affected bureaus within Interior have known about the vulnerabilities “for some time.” (great, great and great)
• The weak spots, discovered through testing by the Interior IG’s office, affect hundreds of publicly accessible computers, according to a summary of the report
• Not only are those systems “prime targets for exploitation” by hackers, auditors found, but an intruder could use a compromised computer to gain access to Interior’s internal networks, including those containing sensitive info on every executive branch employee (glazing over at this point – what’s left to steal? bra size? inseam?)

&&&

• The networks believed to have been hacked by the Chinese govt are kept for the Office of Personnel Management by an entity called the Interior Business Center. It manages personnel systems – including payroll and security info – and finances for 150 federal agencies and offices. The business center doesn’t contain background investigation files
• The new report on vulnerabilities found that three unnamed Interior bureaus haven’t implemented overlapping security controls to prevent their networks from being compromised by intruders
• Interior’s CIO, Sylvia Burns, told lawmakers that she’s working quickly to make fixes urged by the IG. One is two-factor authentication, which requires network users to enter a username and password as well as another identifier (brilliant – sooo innovative)
• Hillary Clinton faced hecklers at a town hall in New Hampshire Thursday who demanded she take a strong stance on climate chance. She stood her ground, saying she couldn’t support banning fossil fuel extraction on public land “until we get alternatives into place.” (Hill) (rare treat for her – she usually has hand-picked audiences)
Planned Parenthood Apologizes for “Tone” (WaPo, Hill, Politico, me)
• In a video posted on its website Thursday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards apologized for remarks captured on undercover video that show Dr Deborah Nucatola casually discussing abortion techniques. Richard said it did not reflect the group’s compassion, which was a top priority. She said the statements and tone were unacceptable
• But Richards also emphatically defended the organization’s tissue donation program, which she said is purely voluntary and doesn’t yield a profit for Planned Parenthood. And she condemned the group that secretly recorded Nucatola’s remarks, which she said heavily edited the video to make “outrageous claims.” (not said: Nucatola is gone gone)
• “We know the real agenda of organizations behind videos like this, and they have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women,” she said. “Their mission is to ban abortion completely and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood and other health centers.” The video appears to have been the group’s first publication
• Richards’s apology came a day after an obscure anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress unveiled the video as part of what its leader said was a 30-month investigation into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation program. The group alleges Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal body parts to companies that use the tissue for research
• Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) is already talking about defunding Planned Parenthood through the appropriations process. In the Senate, GOP leaders who have been eying a vote on legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks say this will give them momentum to clear the bill later this session. And hearings are planned (gonna be wild)
Vid: Sandra Bland tried to post bail before allegedly committing suicide in her Texas jail cell. Why would she do that? However, she did say in March that she was suffering from depression and PTSD. The vid is of her arrest – for changing lanes without signaling. She reportedly struggled with the cop. Her driver’s license had been suspended three times. (whole story is bloody odd) (Daily Beast)
Obama Goes to Prison (NYT, AP, Telegraph, TRNS, me)
• President Obama got a first-hand look at the nation’s criminal justice system Thursday, touring a federal prison and meeting with incarcerated men. After peering into a sterile prison cell, he said the nation needs to reconsider the way crime is controlled and prisoners are rehabilitated (victims’ groups feel he’s missing the point about them)
• Obama, who has vowed to make criminal justice reform a centerpiece of his closing months in office, said he also felt a kinship with some of the young inmates. The president said there must be a distinction between young people “doing stupid things” and violent criminals
• “When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made,” Obama said following his private meeting at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City
• Among the changes Obama is seeking is the reduction or outright elimination of severe mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders. Earlier this week, he used his presidential powers to shorten the prison sentences of 46 people convicted on charges involving drugs
• Obama walked past rows of empty cells secured by large grey doors. Prison officials opened cell No. 123 for the president, who gazed at its sparse trappings: a bunk bed and third bed along the wall, a toilet and sink, along with a small bookcase and three lockers. “Three full-grown men in a 9-by-10 cell,” he said with a tone of astonishment

 

 

• Rocking into the weekend with – yes, you really are hearing it everywhere – summer anthem “Shut Up and Dance” – Walk The Moon

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____________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, William McDonald, William Hadden and Claire Woodcock contributed to this report

 

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