Political MoJo

The Latest on Paris Attacks and the Campaign Against ISIS

| Tue Nov. 17, 2015 12:39 PM EST

On Tuesday, Russian officials confirmed for the first time that a homemade explosive was found on the downed Metrojet airliner that crashed in Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board.

Shortly after the confirmation, Russia announced the country was stepping up air strikes in Syria, hoping to work directly with France in the fight against ISIS.

"We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them," President Vladimir Putin said in a meeting with Russian security authorities.

Russia's FSB security service also announced a $50 million reward for anyone who could provide intelligence leading to the arrests of the terrorists responsible for the attack.

The announcement comes amid the ongoing international manhunt for suspects connected to the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. Authorities are said to be specifically targeting Belgian-born, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, the suspected eighth terrorist behind Friday's siege.

On Monday, authorities conducted 128 overnight raids throughout France, searching for people involved with the attacks. Several arrests in Germany have already been made, but officials say they were not "closely"connected" to Friday's attacks.

On Tuesday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made an official request to the European Union for assistance in the fight against ISIS. The Associated Press reports French President Francois Hollande will meet with President Obama in Washington and President Putin in Moscow next week to discuss the international effort. 

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State Department Says Governors Can't Stop Refugees From Entering Their States

| Tue Nov. 17, 2015 12:37 PM EST

On Monday, as more than a dozen mostly Republican governors pledged to block Syrian refugees from being resettled in their states, the State Department was mum about the legal ramifications, offering only a cautious statement that its lawyers were looking into it. By Tuesday, apparently, that review had been completed.

"This is a federal program carried out under the authority of federal law and refugees arriving in the United States are protected by the Constitution and federal law," a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call, when asked about the governors' statements. Simply put, once a refugee has come to the United States, "he or she is also free to move anywhere in the country," just like anyone else. And there's nothing Bobby Jindal or Chris Christie can do about it.

But, the official was quick to point out, the government also wasn't interested in resettling refugees unilaterally. Although state and local governments have only a consultative role in the process, "this is a program that is very much dependent on the support of local communities" to make the adjustment to a new life work—picking a new arrival up at the airport, furnishing a new house, finding gainful employment, and providing access to health care. And in that respect, the governors' strongest bargaining chip might be their open hostility. "We don't want to send refugees anywhere where they would not be welcomed."

Mike Huckabee Wants Syrian Refugees to Be Placed in Homes of "Limousine Liberals"

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 3:07 PM EST

In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was quick to blame President Obama's handling of ISIS and the current migrant crisis swelling Europe. On Saturday, he topped his usual blend of hateful xenophobia by suggesting Syrian refugees be placed in the neighborhoods of "limousine liberals" such as Hillary Clinton.

"How come they never end up in the neighborhood where the limousine liberal lives?" Huckabee said in a radio interview. "Behind gated communities and with armed security around. Mrs. Clinton, you have suggested we take in 65,00 refugees. How many can we bring to your neighborhood in Chappaqua?"

The former Arkansas governor continued by connecting two seemingly disparate events and belittling the protests that erupted at the University of Missouri last week over allegations of racism on campus.

"Heck, we may take them to the University of Missouri," Huckabee continued. "A lot of the students are so stressed out from feeling unsafe because somebody said a word they didn’t like that they are not using their dorm rooms anymore. Maybe we can put them there."

Since the deadly attacks on Friday, Republican politicians have been vowing to slam the door on the Obama administration's plan to accept refugees fleeing from violence in Syria and the Middle East. Concerns over the screening process have been heightened after a Syrian passport was located near the body of one of the Paris attackers.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey on Monday, President Obama hit back at Republicans' growing refusal to take in refugees, calling their rejections a "betrayal of our values."

Watch Thousands of Parisians Respond to the Terrorist Attacks in the Best Way Possible

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 7:50 PM EST

As Paris' "night of terror" unfolded, thousands of soccer fans were ordered to evacuate the Stade de France, where France was playing Germany—and near where at least one explosion had erupted.

A video posted to Facebook shows these soccer fans joining in unison to sing the French national anthem. Some could be seen waving the French flag, as the exiting crowd cheered in defiance of the tragic attacks still taking place throughout the city.


Dans un tunnel de sortie du Stade de France, sortie dans le calme.... Et la Marseillaise. #fier

Posted by Karl Olive on Friday, November 13, 2015

(h/t Mashable)

"An Attack on of all of Humanity": President Obama Delivers Statement After Paris Erupts in Violence

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 5:58 PM EST

President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the deadly series of shootings and bombings that erupted in Paris on Friday evening.

"This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share," Obama said.

He indicated he has not yet reached out to French President Francois Hollande, as the French capital remains under attack.

For continuing coverage of the deadly shootings, head to our live blog here.

James Foley's Parents Aren't Impressed by the Probable Killing of His ISIS Executioner

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 1:55 PM EST

The Department of Defense announced on Friday that it was "reasonably certain" it had killed "Jihadi John," the English-speaking ISIS fighter who took part in the filmed executions of Western journalists. But the executioner's probable death meant little to the parents of James Foley, the American journalist who was perhaps Jihadi John's most high-profile victim.

"It is a very small solace to learn that Jihadi John may have been killed by the U.S. government," said John and Diane Foley in a statement on Friday. "If only so much effort had been given to finding and rescuing Jim and the other hostages who were subsequently murdered by ISIS, they might be alive today."

Jihadi John was the nickname given to Mohammed Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait but moved to the United Kingdom as a young child. After leaving the UK for Syria in 2013, he became internationally famous as the face (albeit, masked) of ISIS's execution campaign against Western hostages. He appeared in a series of videos that showed the brutal killings of Foley, fellow journalist Steven Sotloff, aid worker Peter (or Abdul-Rahman) Kassig, and several other ISIS captives. That notoriety apparently vaulted him onto the Pentagon's list of priority targets: When Department of Defense spokesman Peter Cook briefed the press on Friday, he referred to Emwazi as a "high-value individual" and the sole intended target of the strike.

"He was a recruitment tool for that organization," US Army Col. Steve Warren said in a press briefing from Baghdad on Friday. "I mean, this guy was a human animal…Killing him is probably making the world a better place."

Warren said the strike was carried out using a Hellfire missile fired from a drone over Raqqa, the Syrian city that serves as the self-proclaimed capital of the ISIS caliphate. Cook said there was no reason to believe there had been civilian casualties.

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Look at These Sexist Campaign Buttons Some Dude Is Selling at a Republican Conference

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 11:32 AM EST

In an election rife with racist and sexist insults and one Donald Trump, sexist crap aimed at Hillary Clinton should not be surprising. And yet:

The fun buttons, spotted at this year's Sunshine Summit– the annual, two-day, GOP confab in Florida—are actually old news. They were first spotted in 2013. But their reemergence today is a reminder that, like any hardy perennial, misogynistic trolling will always remain in vogue for at least one robust fringe of the Republican party.

Donald Trump Just Did a Dramatic Reenactment of Ben Carson's Stabbing

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 8:41 AM EST

Donald Trump is trailing Ben Carson in Iowa and it's starting to get to him. On Thursday night, he told an audience in Iowa that Carson is "pathological, damaged," and sought to prove his point by reenacting the pediatric neurosurgeon's infamous childhood stabbing, in which he claims to have thrust a knife at his relative's abdomen, only to be stopped by a belt buckle. Trump used the incident to paint Carson as both a pathologically violent maniac and a fabulist who couldn't possibly have committed such an act of violence. "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" he asked. "How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"

Update: Trump continued piling onto Carson's knife story with a web ad released Friday:


Happy Friday the 13th

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

This GOPer Wants to Sabotage a Missouri Student's Dissertation Because It's About Abortion

| Thu Nov. 12, 2015 4:41 PM EST

A state lawmaker is trying to stop a graduate student at the University of Missouri from studying the effects of one of the state's abortion restrictions, claiming that her dissertation violates state law and is an abortion marketing ploy.

In a letter to University of Missouri officials, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) argues that Lindsay Ruhr, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, is illegally using public funds to conduct her dissertation research on the state's law that requires a 72-hour waiting period before a woman receives an abortion. Ruhr is using Planned Parenthood data to analyze the effects of the law on women's decision making. In Missouri it is illegal for public employees and facilities to use state money towards "encouraging or counseling" a person to have an abortion not necessary to save her life.

"This is a concerning revelation considering the University's recent troubling connections to Planned Parenthood," wrote Schaefer. "It is difficult to understand how a research study approved by the University, conducted by a University student, and overseen by the Director of the School of Social Work at the University can be perceived as anything but an expenditure of public funds to aid Planned Parenthood."

A university spokeswoman told the Huffington Post that the doctoral student received neither scholarship money from the school nor state grant money for her research. "We must stay committed to the discovery, dissemination, application, and preservation of knowledge to support our mission while abiding by state and federal laws," said Mary Jo Banken. "We will continue performing life-saving research in our laboratories while providing the highest quality of educational opportunities to our students."

Ruhr told Al Jazeera that she stands by her project and the objectivity of her research.  "The whole point of my research is to understand how this policy affects women," she said. "Whether this policy is having a harmful or beneficial effect, we don't know."

But Sen. Schaefer, who chairs the state's recently-created Committee on the Sanctity of Life, contends that the dissertation is nothing but a "marketing aid for Planned Parenthood."

About half of states have 24-hour waiting period laws on the books, which require that a woman meet with a physician a day before getting an abortion. Missouri is one of a handful of states that require women wait 72 hours. In September, amid nation-wide investigations into the organization over its fetal tissue research, the University of Missouri responded with a number of measures against the women's health organization. It canceled its contracts with Planned Parenthood that eliminated the option for medical students to do clinical rotations at the health care network. A month later, the nursing school reinstated its contracts with two Planned Parenthoods, but with a clause that prevented students from learning about abortion by prohibiting any student from helping to provide them. The university also revoked Planned Parenthood's hospital admitting privileges, which allows the clinic to offer medication abortions, a safe and effective method of first-trimester termination. Without admitting privileges for that center, Missouri will be left with only one abortion clinic, in St. Louis, 125 miles from the university.

Planned Parenthood officials have asked the University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who recently announced his resignation over mounting racial tensions and student protests, to reinstate the admitting privileges contract with the health care organization. "Before assuming a new role, we urge Chancellor Loftin to immediately reinstate appropriate clinical privileges to ensure there is no disruption in health care services for the residents of this community," Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Kansas Mid-Missouri, said in a statement on Monday. They have not yet received an answer.

While the university works on its response to Schaefer's request for documents, Ruhr's research will continue with the school's backing.

University of Missouri Police Name Suspect Accused of Social Media Threats Against Black Students

| Wed Nov. 11, 2015 10:38 AM EST

After a night of confusion and fear on the Columbia campus of the University of Missouri, police announced on Wednesday morning that they had arrested a suspect, Hunter M. Park, for "making a terrorist threat" against black students and faculty on the anonymous social media platform, Yik Yak:

Police said the person was not on or near university grounds when the threats were first published online.

The uptick in campus-wide concern came just a day after University System President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced they would step down amid pressure from students, a hunger strike, and a boycott from the Missouri football team in response to a flurry of racially charged incidents that have plagued the campus in recent weeks.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, a notice was sent out on the university alert system noting that authorities were "aware of social media threats" and that officials were beefing up security. At 10 p.m., MUPD announced the threats were under investigation. MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer told the Maneater, a student newspaper: "We're aware of it and we're looking and trying to identify who it is."

The posts in question were widely shared on social media Tuesday night, and sparked panic on campus. "Some of you are alright," one message read. "Don't go to campus tomorrow."

While representatives from the university's student government urged administrators to cancel classes on Wednesday "due to the nature of threats on campus," an alert sent late Tuesday by the university cautioned against spreading rumors and added that there was "no immediate threat to campus." University Provost Garnett Stokes told reporters a decision on class cancelation would be made in the early morning on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, most classes were scheduled to take place as normal.

This isn't the first time university police had to deal with threats on the anonymous social network. Last December, in the wake of student demonstrations over racial tensions on campus, commenters took to Yik Yak to post a flurry of racist and insensitive anonymous notes. One yak noted: "Lets burn down the black culture center & give them a taste of their own medicine."