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

  • House backs Obama’s Syria plan
  • Kerry: U.S. won’t go it alone
  • Australia: anti-terror raids over plot to kill
  • Army’s top general: Ground forces
  • Scotland independence: Voting today
  • VA official: Link – delays and patient deaths
  • Ukraine’s Poroshenko in DC today
  • Obamacare website in hot seat on Hill today
  • Sports: Winston, Dwyer. Hardy…
House Backs Obama’s Syria Plan
• A House divided along unusual and unpredictable lines voted 273-156 Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant group ISIS, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached; 85 Dems voted no (Politico, NYT, Hill, TRNS, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• Obama, VP Joe Biden and top WH officials personally lobbied for the measure’s passage, calling more than 70 Democrats and Republicans on national security committees and in leadership posts to appeal for their support. The Senate hopes to pass the measure Thursday – then everyone rushes home to try to get reelected
• Despite pleas from the WH, dozens of war-weary Republicans and Democrats voted no. “We should have our eyes open wide enough to know we are being asked to do something more today than train three to five thousand fighters in the Free Syrian Army,” said Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA), a no vote. “We are not facing a limited engagement, but a new war.”

• “The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama said Wednesday in addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in FL. “I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”


Kerry: U.S. Won’t Go It Alone
• SecState John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, “Our strategy is centered on a global coalition. The United States will not go it alone. And that is why we are building a coalition, a global coalition.”
• Obama has used his authority under the 9/11 and Iraq War authorization resolutions – enacted in 2001 and 2002 – to launch dozens of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS fighters inside Iraq. But the WH says that Congress must approve the “Title X authority” in order for the Pentagon to begin vetting Syrian rebels for the new program
• The language on the Syrian rebels will be inserted into a must-pass govt spending bill, which keeps federal workers on their jobs until 11 December. The Obama admin will have to keep Congress fully apprised of how it intends to implement the training and equipment program for rebel groups

• Fifteen days before any mission begins, the Pentagon will be required to report its plans to defense and intel committees. And every 90 days after the program starts, Congress must be updated by the admin


Australia: Anti-Terror Raids Over Plot to Kill
• Australian police have carried out major anti-terror raids triggered by a call from a senior ISIS militant for “demonstration killings,” PM Tony Abbott says. The raids, involving at least 800 heavily-armed officers, took place in Sydney and Brisbane (BBC, West Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, AP, me)
• Fifteen people were arrested and one person has been charged with conspiracy to prepare a terrorist attack. Police say the anti-terror operation was the largest in Australian history
• Reports in the Australian media said the plot involved beheading a random member of the public in Sydney after draping them in an ISIS flag. Police have issued an arrest warrant for a former Sydney nightclub bouncer, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, 33, who’s suspected to be Australia’s most senior member of ISIS
• Last week, Australia raised its terror threat level to high amid concerns of the growing number of Australians “working with, connected to, or inspired by” Islamist groups. One of those detained, 22-year-old Omarjan Azari of Sydney, appeared briefly in a Sydney court today
• Prosecutor Michael Allnutt said Azari was involved in a plan to “gruesomely” execute a randomly selected person – something that was “clearly designed to shock and horrify” the public. That plan involved an “unusual level of fanaticism,” he said
• House Democrats Wednesday filed a discharge petition (procedural) aimed at forcing a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would outlaw the practice of discriminating against Americans when applying for jobs based on sexual orientation or personal gender identification (TRNS)
Army’s Top General: Ground Forces
• Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno said Wednesday that airstrikes targeting ISIS had halted the group’s advance but wouldn’t be enough, NYT reported. “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting them out,” said Odierno, who served as commanding general of U.S. and coalition forces during the Iraq War
• Odierno didn’t specify whether those ground forces had to be American or local forces. His comments came a day after Joint Chiefs Chair Gen Martin Dempsey told lawmakers that combat troops could fight against ISIS. WH spox Josh Earnest said Dempsey was only referring to a “hypothetical scenario.” (Hill, Politico, Roll Call, WaPo, Fox, CNN, me)
• Earnest told reporters on Thursday that Obama would consider requests to “forward deploy” U.S. military advisers with Iraqi troops “on a case-by-case basis” if they’re needed. “They would not be personally or directly engaging with the enemy,” Earnest said
• Iraq’s new PM Haider al-Abadi told AP that U.S. airstrikes have been helpful in rolling back ISIS, but that putting foreign boots on the ground is “out of the question.” “Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.”

• And in an interview with NBC News, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seemed to suggest the U.S. should be willing to send in ground troops to Iraq. “Are Americans afraid of getting casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?” He called the U.S.-led coalition “ridiculous.”


• In a NYT/CBS News poll out today, 58% of Americans now disapprove of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy, a 10-point jump from a CBS News poll last month. Fifty percent rate him negatively on handling terrorism, a 12-point increase from March, 41% rate him positively (NYT)
Scotland Independence: Voting Today
• People in Scotland have begun voting on whether the country should stay in the UK or become an independent nation. Voters will answer “Yes” or “No” to the referendum question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” (BBC, Politico, TRNS, me)
• With 4,285,323 people – 97% of the electorate – registered to vote, a historically high turnout is expected. The result’s expected early Friday morning. Helicopters and boats are being used to transport ballot boxes to counts in remote areas such as Argyll and Bute
• President Obama on Wednesday tweeted: “The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united.” It was signed “bo” – meaning the tweet came directly from the president

• Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement Wednesday, saying “With so much turmoil and division across the globe, I hope the Scots will inspire the world with a high turnout and a powerful measure of both identity and inclusion.” “I understand and sympathize with those who want independence,” he said


• The Federal Reserve Wednesday reiterated that it will raise interest rates once a “considerable time” has passed after its stimulus program ends in October. U.S. markets liked it and closed on a high (BBC, WSJ, me)
VA Official: Link – Delays and Patient Deaths
• In a contentious hearing before Congress, a senior official from the Dept of Veterans Affairs watchdog agency acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that delays in care had contributed to the deaths of patients at the dept’s medical center in Phoenix (NYT, me)
• The disclosure by an official from the dept’s IG’s office came after more than two hours of tough, sometimes confrontational exchanges with members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. It follows claims by whistle-blowers that the deaths of as many as 40 veterans could be attributed to delays in care
• In its report last month, however, the IG said that while it found that 28 veterans in Phoenix, including six who died, had experienced “clinically significant” delays in care, its investigators were unable to “conclusively assert” that any deaths had actually been caused by the waiting list delays

• That language was added after dept officials reviewed an initial draft – standard practice. Some congressional Republicans objected to the late-stage inclusion of the language. They also asked whether senior dept officials had pushed to include the language. At Wed’s hearing, acting VA IG, Richard Griffin, stood firmly by the wording of the report


• But under questioning from Rep David Jolly (R-FL), Dr John Daigh, asst IG for health care inspections, made a concession. “Would you be willing to say that wait lists contributed to deaths of veterans?” Jolly asked. “No problem with that,” Dr Daigh replied. “The issue is cause.”
• Dr Daigh didn’t say how many times he believed medical care delays had contributed to deaths in Phoenix. In addition to the six veterans mentioned, the IG’s office revealed Wed that 293 veterans had died out of 3,409 cases it reviewed in Phoenix
• Griffin, a former deputy director of the Secret Service, said, “A careful reading
[of the report] would show that in some of those cases, we say that they might have lived longer.”

• Jolly asserted that Griffin was undercutting “the confidence we have in the IG by not being able to answer that very simple question: Did it contribute to the deaths of veterans, yes or no?” “It could have,” Griffin replied (this is stunning – and underreported)


• The first hearing of the special Benghazi House Committee was snoozy, but chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC) indicated that the investigation could run into the end of 2015 – well into the 2016 presidential campaign (TRNS, Politico, me)
Ukraine’s Poroshenko in DC Today
• Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in Washington today with a simple request: more economic and military aid for a nation that’s reeling from an insurgency in the east (WaPo, me)
• It’s not clear that he’ll leave very satisfied. There are concerns about Ukraine’s commitment to anticorruption efforts and Western caution about escalating a military conflict with Russia. The Ukrainian chocolate king-turned-politician plans to talk with President Obama at the WH and will address a joint meeting of Congress
• The absence of major military aid shipments from Western partners has fueled a sense of abandonment in Ukraine, some officials there say. Now there’s an increasingly weary resignation that the country will be left to its own devices to confront pro-Russian rebels who have seized key swaths of territory in the east
• In an effort to nurture a fragile ceasefire, Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved plans to give the rebels de facto control of parts of the east. Ukraine’s military suffered steep losses in the weeks leading up to the ceasefire, after an infusion of Russian military aid helped turn the tide of battle

• “The people feel themselves on the front of a real fight for European values, for freedom,” foreign minister Pevlo Klimkin said in Kiev shortly before he left for North America. He said he’s hopeful that Ukraine will be offered more aid during the trip to Washington


• VP Joe Biden managed a gaffe hat trick this week. First he used the term “shylocks” – apologized profusely. Then, Wednesday he referred to Asia as “the Orient.” Then he stepped on Obama’s ISIS strategy re boots on ground: “We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes.” Hey ho. (run Joe run) (me, WaPo, TRNS)
Obamacare Website in Hot Seat on Hill Today
• After federal investigators reported security weakness in, eight Republican committee leaders in the House and Senate wrote to Administrator Marilyn Tavenner at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Wednesday, raising concerns about the site and accusing the agency of negligence (Hill, me)
• With the next sign-up period less than two months away, CMS says it’s working diligently to make sure the site is ready for a rush of users. The nonpartisan GAO cast some doubt on its preparedness, however, saying Tuesday that best practices weren’t always followed during construction and repair
• “Until it addresses shortcomings in both the technical security controls and its information security program, the [CMS] is exposing data and its supporting systems to significant risks of unauthorized access, use, disclose, modification and disruption,” the GAO’s report states
• A spox for the Dept of Health and Human Services said officials have already acted on many of the GAO’s recommendations and that the site undergoes a variety of inspections every day, week and month

• “Protecting consumers’ personal information is a top priority. When Americans use, their data is protected by stringent security measure that adhere to industry best practices and meet or exceed federal standards,” Kevin Griffis said in a statement. Should be a fun morning for Tavenner at the House Oversight Committee hearing today
• Vid: Vital viewing – Catching Up With the WH Curator on – Presidential Beards


Sports: Winston, Dwyer, Hardy…
• Florida State said Wednesday that quarterback Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, would be suspended for the first half of the top-ranked home game Saturday against no. 22 Clemson after he shouted “F*** her right in the ****y” in the student union Tuesday. The comments played off a running gag (NYT, Reuters, TPM, BBC, WaPo, me)
• It’s the latest incident involving Winston, who in 2012 was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student. Prosecutors declined to file charges in that case. NYT reported in April that the woman promptly contacted the police, but the Tallahassee PD conducted virtually no investigation (wonder why)
• Earlier this month, the woman’s lawyer said Florida State had begun a disciplinary inquiry into the case. Sen Claire McCaskill (D-MO), whose office recently published a report on sexual assault that found that athletic depts handled accusations against athletes at more than one in five campuses, was ticked

• “I take little comfort in a suspension of 30 minutes from a game for shouting obscenities when this university and local law enforcement purposefully failed to investigate serious allegations of rape against this same star athlete.”


Cardinals’ Dwyer Arrest: Domestic Violence
• Jonathan Dwyer of the Phoenix Cardinals was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of domestic violence, police said. The 25-year-old running back, facing charges of aggravated assault and preventing someone from calling 911, has been suspended from the team. Dwyer denies that any assaults took place
• One count against Dwyer was “aggravated assault causing a fracture” against a 27-year-old woman. Another count was for aggravated assault against a minor, an 18-month-old child. Phoenix Police Sgt Trent Crump said police were called to Dwyer’s home on 21 July after neighbors reported an argument
• They discussed the incident with the woman, but didn’t talk to Dwyer, who was hiding in the home, said Crump. The second physical altercation happened at Dwyer’s home the following day
• After the woman was assaulted, Dwyer took a shoe and threw it at the couple’s child, said the police officer. The victim and the child have subsequently “left the state” because of safety concerns, he added
• Separately, the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday placed defensive end Greg Hardy on their exempt list. He was convicted of a domestic abuse case but has appealed. The woman claimed the 6-foot-4, 275-lb player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her
• The Black Women’s Roundtable has written to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about his announcement that the league has named four women to shape new policies on domestic violence and sexual assault
• They point out “your lack of inclusion of women of color, especially Black women who are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault; and the fact that over 66% of the NFL players are made up of African Americans is unacceptable.” They ask for an emergency meeting to share “deep concern and outrage.”

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ William McDonald, James Cullum, Nicholas Salazar, Leah Schwarting and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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