Last year Hillary Clinton called the Russia "reset" policy "totally transactional." The comments seem to take on a new meaning after last week's news about Clinton helping to approve the sale of uranium company to the Russians.
“When the Obama administration came into office, it was only months after Russia had invaded Georgia and taken over two provinces, which they declared independent states, which are totally dependent upon Russia," said Clinton.
"And so there was a lot of anxiety about dealing with Russia because Putin was clearly still calling the shots even though he was not the president at the time.
"But at the same time, we thought we had business we needed to get done with Russia. It was totally transactional and that’s why we did the reset. And why I made a big deal out of the reset.”
Baltimore police are warning that there is a "credible threat" to "take-out" law enforcement officers, according a press release from the Baltimore Police Department.
"The Baltimore Police Department / Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Blood, and Crips have entered into a partnership to 'take-out' law enforcement officers," the warning reads.
"This is a credible threat. Law enforcement agencies should take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of their officers. Notification will be sent via NLETS. Further informationw ill be sent through appropriate channels.
"Media is requested to distribute this information to the public and law enforcement nationwide."
Possible Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb is asking supporters to "invest in leadership you can trust." That's the subject line of Webb's latest fundraising pitch.
"We hope you had the opportunity to read Jim’s recent email request for financial support as he pursues a potential presidential campaign. Jim is continuing his effort despite the unfortunate reality of today’s political system which is becoming more and more controlled by big money interests. We are never going to raise the billions of dollars that the so-called 'first tier' candidates are expecting in the run-up to the 2016 election, but for us, the strong response to Jim’s recent email renewed his determination to keep fighting for economic fairness at home and a sensible foreign policy abroad," Webb's team writes in an email.
"Jim will be in Iowa this week, as always talking directly to people in unscripted meetings and answering their questions in a forthright and honest manner.
"Your contributions, of whatever amount you are able to make from $20 or $30 up to the $2,700 limit, are a morale boost to Jim as he works to focus our political system on a fair, common-sense approach to governing, and are helping us keep him on the road in the crucial early-battleground states."
Webb doesn't use Hillary Clinton's name once, but it's clear who he's targeting. The subject line of the email reads, "Invest in Leadership you can Trust."
The insults against the memory of the writers, editors, and artists who were murdered by Islamic extremists in Paris earlier this year continue apace. The New York Timesreports:
The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.
The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.
Oddly, in announcing their withdrawal, the authors in question accuse Charlie Hebdo of insulting “Muslims” – wrongly conflating mocking religious beliefs with directly attacking their adherents.
Alas, this is hardly the first time that people who use of freedom of speech to make a living have failed to defend it. After Ayatollah Khomeini put out a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie in 1989 (Rushdie had committed the grave offense of writing a novel), John le Carre, Roald Dahl, and sundry other writers rushed to condemn their fellow author.
Salman Rushdie, a former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel “The Satanic Verses,” said the issues were perfectly clear. Mr. Ondaatje and Mr. Carey were old friends of his, he said, but they are “horribly wrong.”
“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”
According to Gallup, only 7 percent of Americans want immigration levels to increase, while 86 percent either want them to remain at current levels (47 percent) or decrease (39 percent). With most current and prospective Republican presidential candidates tripping over each other to vie for that 7 percent, it would seem to be good politics for a candidate to break from the pack and speak for the other 86 percent essentially unopposed. That’s more of less what Scott Walker has done over the past week.
Actually, Walker hasn’t even said that immigration levels should not be increased. He has merely said that, as he put it on Friday, “In terms of how wide or how narrow the door’s open, our No. 1 priority is American workers and American wages….I don’t know how anyone can argue against that.’’
Well, the Wall Street Journal editorial board is doing so, as the Journalcriticized Walker in its lead editorial on Saturday. But the Journal’s arguments weren’t up to its usual high standards, which should strengthen Walker’s confidence that he has charted the right course.
For starters, the Journal lamented that Walker has been “listening to Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions” (which is something that a lot more Republicans should do). Writing about “H-1B visas for skilled workers,” the Journal says, “Practically speaking, these visas are the only way U.S. companies can bring foreign talent to work in America.”
The Journal continues,
“The Senator [Sessions] calls claims of a skilled-worker shortage a ‘hoax.’ But the numbers suggest otherwise: The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services announced last week that it received a record 233,000 requests from American business for the 85,000 H-1B visas available.”
But no one disputes that big business, led by Mark Zuckerberg and others, wants access to foreign labor. The question is why. Is it because there is “unmet demand,” as the Journal claims, or because corporations don’t want to pay for American workers if they can pay less for foreign workers? The Journal’s numbers tell us nothing in this regard.
The Journal then praises a group of senators, including Gang of Eight alums Jeff Flake and Marco Rubio, for having “introduced a bill to make it easier to hire high-tech workers.”
A bit later, the Journal asks, “If more people, even people with skills such as those on H-1B visas, are bad for an economy, why is the high-growth state of Texas working overtime to get people from other parts of the country to move there? Under the Walker-Sessions model, shouldn’t that depress wages and take jobs from those already there?”
The evils of North Korea are well-chronicled: from its political prison camps to the needless and preventable starvation deaths of between 450,000 and 2 million people. That latter estimate comes from an exhaustive report by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry, which found the North Korean government responsible for “crimes against humanity, arising from ‘policies established at the highest level of State,’” including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
What is less well-known, however, it that it is North Korea’s women — particularly those on the low rungs of the songbun system, which categorizes North Koreans by their fealty to the regime — who suffer the most. Many are forced into prostitution by extreme poverty. Due to the unavailability of medical care and drugs, some have turned to opium in the false hope that it can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Thousands more flee to China as refugees and fall prey to traffickers.
Women also suffer the worst cruelties in North Korea’s prison camps. A woman named Kim Hye-sook told the U.N. Commission that “the women who worked in the mines of Political Prison Camp No. 18 feared assignment to the nightshift, because guards and prisoners preyed on them on their way to and from work and rape them.” Another witness “reported that the guards of Camp No. 18 were especially targeting teenage girls.” A former guard told of “how the camp authorities made female inmates available for sexual abuse to a very senior official who regularly visited the camp,” and that “[a]fter the official raped the women, the victims were killed.” A former guard at Camp 16 told Amnesty International that “several women inmates disappeared after they had been raped by officials,” and concluded “that they had been executed secretly.” Indeed, the Commission found violence against women to be pervasive in North Korean society:
A year after news broke of the waiting list scandal at the Veterans Affairs medical facility in Phoenix, Arizona, President Obama finally visited the facility in March. And while they didn't quite roll out the red carpet for the president, they did clean the floors -- and spent $5,000 to do it.
A record of the contract is posted at the USASpending.gov website, and included in the details is the description "FLOOR CLEANING SERVICE FOR POTUS VISIT."
The contract posting also indicates that "urgency" required a non-competitive contract award, and "only one source" was investigated to complete the work. News of the planned visit came out just days in advance of the president's trip.
While at the Phoenix medical center, the president held a roundtable discussion where he heard from veterans, and also announced the formation of the MyVA Advisory Committee:
The MyVA Advisory Committee will advise the VA on additional ways the VA can work to improve customer service delivery and veterans’ outcomes. President Obama also charged the new committee with assessing what progress has already been made at the VA to improve veterans’ access to quality medical care.
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told the press that her city "gave those who wished to destroy space to do that" at last night's protest. Watch here:
"I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech.
"It's a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate."
Here's video of some of the violence in Baltimore:
Hillary Clinton was the target of a few jokes last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.:
"[F]or many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend –- just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year. And she’s now living out of a van in Iowa," said President Barack Obama.
Comedian Cecily Strong joked, "In Tom Cotton's defense, he was just trying to repair America's strained Reltionahsip with Israel. But you know what, he doesn't need to worry about that. Our relationship [with Israel] will be better in the next administration, just as soon as Israel makes a generous donation to the Clinton Foundation,"
Elsewhere in the program, Obama joked, "The trail hasn’t been easy for my fellow Democrats either. As we all know, Hillary’s private emails got her in trouble. Frankly, I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems.
"Hillary kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Chipotle. Not to be outdone, Martin O’Malley kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Martin O’Malley campaign event."
The Clinton Foundation is now admitting that mistakes were made. "[Y]es, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future. We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day," says Clinton Foundation acting CEO Maura Pally in a blog post.
Over the past few days, many questions have been raised about the Clinton Foundation, its initiatives, and the financial support that allows us to do the uniquely impactful philanthropic work that we do at home and around the world.
Without question the Foundation’s accomplishments stand on their own. From fighting obesity by helping create healthier learning environments for more than 11 million students; to working to combat one of our greatest global threats, climate change; to lowering the price of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs that have benefited more than 9 million people fighting HIV/AIDS; one thing is clear, the Clinton Foundation has not been afraid to take on big challenges and see real results.
Just as important as the results we see, is how the Foundation has transformed philanthropy into a collaborative effort by bringing NGOs, local stakeholders, government officials, private sector actors, and others together to maximize their collective investments. It seems logical, but fifteen years ago, that just wasn’t how philanthropy was done.
As the Foundation’s impact has grown, so too has its commitment to transparency. When Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State, we took unprecedented steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest by going above and beyond what is required of any philanthropy and instituted voluntarily annual disclosure of all of our donors on our website. We also established a policy around the foreign government contributions we accept, recognizing that in order to continue our life improving work we rely on the contributions of government, as is the case with most large scale global charities.
Today, our donor disclosure and foreign government contributor policy is stronger than ever. Since Secretary Clinton decided to run for President, we have committed to disclosing all of our donors on a quarterly basis. In addition, we announced that we will only accept funding from a handful of governments, many of whom the Foundation receives multi-year grants from, to continue the work they have long partnered on.
The Foundation has 11 different initiatives, some of which function in organizationally different ways. One of these 11 initiatives is the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which is focused on advancing innovative solutions to poverty alleviation on a global scale. CGEP has come under heightened scrutiny this past week and I want to explain how it operates.
Senior Editor Andrew Ferguson joined C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb for their Q&A series to discuss his career in journalism, the founding of the Weekly Standard, his writing process, and stories from his time on the 2016 campaign trail.
It can be hard to say anything nice about a man whose administration would malevolently inflict a traffic jam on residents of the Tristate area, but Governor Chris Christie’s recent proposal aimed at fixing the country’s broken Social Security system may make him deserving of forgiveness. The plan focuses on means testing and gradual increases in the retirement age, though even if all of its measures were enacted, it would only address 60 percent of the program’s projected deficit. This is not grandma being pushed off of a cliff in her wheelchair; this is grandma reducing the ideal square footage when purchasing her Boca Raton condo.
Despite the clear urgency of such action, former Governor Mike Huckabee responded to a question about Christie’s plan and ones similar to it by saying, “That’s not a reform. That’s not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace. Because what we’re really embracing at that point, you’re embracing a government that lied to its people. That took money from its people under one pretense, and then took it away from them at the time they started wanting to actually get what they paid for all these years.”
Huckabee’s sense of responsibility to keep government promises is admirable. However, not “embracing” the fact that the government, over the past several decades, utterly misled voters about the sustainability of Social Security will not suddenly make the program solvent. Furthermore, continuing to maintain the program at previously promised rates would only be achievable by wreaking havoc on the financial lives of those who those who were not old enough to vote, or not even born, at the time that the false promises were made.
The government has a responsibility to send the Social Security checks that it has promised would result from the taxes that senior citizens have paid for their whole lives, but it also has a responsibility to operate on a financial time horizon that extends beyond the next election. As Governor Christie appears to recognize, the solution will lie somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious path is somehow losing traction. Just a few short years ago, Social Security’s insolvency seemed to have bipartisan recognition, with the key items of debate being the proportions in which spending cuts, tax hikes, age increases, and other program details should each contribute to reform.
Recently, however, the Senate voted on an amendment to increase Social Security benefits. Apparently occupying an alternate budgetary reality, all but two Democrats who voted supported the amendment. While it remains to be seen whether these senators’ constituents will view this choice as reckless or be convinced by the Elizabeth Warren narrative that Social Security’s financial woes are a myth concocted by Republicans, such an aggressive move does effectively shift the center of the debate towards the left.
Last week, a senior Yemeni Houthi official was buried in Beirut. Mohammed Abdel Malik al-Shami, the spiritual leader of the Houthis, had been critically wounded in the March 20 Islamic State suicide bombing of Al Hashahush mosque in Sanaa. He was airlifted to Tehran for medical treatment, but eventually succumbed to his injuries. On April 13, Shami was interred at Hezbollah’s heroes graveyard in Dahyia, where he will spend eternity in the company of erstwhile military commander Imad Mugniy3h and Hadi Nasrallah, the slain son of the organization’s secretary general.
At first glance, Shami’s journey from Yemen to the Lebanese Shiite militia’s equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery would seem odd. While the Houthis are Zaydi Muslims—a nominally Shiite branch of Islam—Lebanon is far from home and unlike Najaf and Karbala, Iraq, Beirut has little religious burial appeal for Shiites. But to Hezbollah and Iran, Shami was a towering figure, deserving in death of a spot among the pantheon of Shiite martyrs serving the theocratic regime in Tehran.
Shami’s life and death highlight the ongoing challenge posed by the aggressive and destabilizing regional posture of Iran. The problems for Washington—and its local Sunni allies in the Middle East—are likely to be exacerbated should the nuclear deal be concluded.
In many ways, Shami’s story is the archetype for Iranian-style regional “resistance.” It all started seventeen years ago when Shami moved to Syria to study at one of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini’s religious schools. On his return to Yemen, he joined Ansar Allah, the Houthi militia, eventually rising to prominence as the Houthi leader’s special envoy to Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
According to press reports, Shami’s mission was to proselytize with an eye toward establishing a Shiite state in Yemen. To this end, he established a university of Shiite jurisprudence in Sanaa, and special Shiite elementary schools throughout Yemen affiliated with Lebanon’s Mustafa schools. The Lebanese schools were founded in 1974 by Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s current deputy secretary general.
But Shami and the Houthis’ ties with Hezbollah and Iran extended well beyond education. Although Zaydis, who comprise about 35 percent of Yemenis, are quite different from Shiites—many scholars say they are closer to Sunni Muslims in doctrine and practice—the Houthis identify closely with, and openly declare their allegiance to the clerical establishment in Iran. Houthis call their philosophy “pure Shia,” and the group’s clerics have compared their leader Hussein al-Houthi to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
In 2009, the Houthis launched an offensive against Saudi Arabia, seizing a parcel of the kingdom’s territory. At the time, press reports—and Yemeni officials—indicated that “high ranking officials” from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah advisers were helping the Houthis coordinate military operations. Then-CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petreaus also suggested an Iranian role in the conflict.
Late-night TV host Seth Meyers spent a segment of his program Thursday knocking Peter Schweizer's new book Clinton Cash. The Schweizer book documents the web of conflicts of interest and secretive cash flows that surround the foundations and initiatives of Bill and Hillary Clinton. News outlets as diverse as the New York Times and Fox News have covered aspects of the book.
Meyers uses this coverage to point out to his audience on NBC's Late Night that Schweizer and others who write books about Clinton scandals suffer from bias against, well, the Clintons. Watch the video below:
"Clinton Cash comes out on May 5, and it will be interesting to see if any of the allegations hold up under scrutiny," says the former Saturday Night Live writer and performer. "If they do, the question will be, will they affect Hillary's campaign? They might not. She's been attacked for 25 years. It's possible she's built up an immunity to everything."
It's a remarkably friendly monologue toward the Clintons, and Twitter user BT suggests there may be a reason why: Meyers hosted last year's Clinton Global Initiative Awards. Check out the tweet below: