Political MoJo

All Public Schools in Los Angeles County Shut Down

| Tue Dec. 15, 2015 10:37 AM EST

Update, 3:40 p.m. EST: Hours after officials decided to cancel school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a House Intelligence Committee member confirmed this morning's threat was a hoax.

 

Previously:

All schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District were directed to close early Tuesday morning after officials electronically received a "credible terrorist threat" affecting multiple schools in the district. It's the country's second-largest school district, serving 640,000 students. A massive operation is now underway to search campuses—900 schools, and 187 public charter schools across the network—for suspicious-looking items.

At a press conference shortly after the decision was announced, school officials called the decision "swift and appropriate given the situation that we are in."

"It was many schools, not specifically identified," LA's school superintendent, Ramon Cortines, told reporters. "But there were many schools."

"We ask for the patience and the cooperation and the support of the city," he added. "The education of our kids is incredibly important."

Officials have asked parents to "bring proper ID" when picking up students who were already at school before the decision was made.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the city had received the same threat but officials ultimately concluded it was a hoax.

"Our schools are safe," de Blasio said. "Kids should be in school today. We will be vigilant. But we are absolutely convinced our schools are safe."

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Trump Supporter Shouts For Black Lives Matter Protester to be Lit "On Fire"

| Tue Dec. 15, 2015 9:15 AM EST

As a Black Lives Matter protester was forcibly removed from a Donald Trump rally on Monday, supporters of the Republican frontrunner were heard yelling "kick his ass" and "light the motherfucker on fire."

The demonstrator, identified by Buzzfeed as Ender Austin III, was one of several people who attempted to interrupt Trump's Las Vegas event. In another incident, a supporter reportedly yelled, "He's a Muslim guy!" as a protestor was escorted out.

The presidential hopeful appeared to dismiss the disruptions, even suggesting to the crowd they should be organizing their own protests.

"We should have been doing what they’re doing for the last seven years because what's happening to our country is a disgrace," he said.

Last month, Trump defended a supporter who beat up a Black Lives matter activist, telling Fox & Friends "maybe he should have been roughed up."

Monday's rally comes a week after Trump announced a plan to bar all Muslims from entering the country. The plan, condemned by both Democrats and Republicans alike, prompted comparisons of Trump to Adolf Hitler.

When asked if he was disturbed by that, Trump responded, "No. Because what I'm doing is no different than FDR."

Bowe Bergdahl Ordered to Face Court Martial

| Mon Dec. 14, 2015 3:31 PM EST

Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant whose 2014 release by the Taliban prompted a firestorm of controversy over the nature of his five-year captivity, was ordered by a high-ranking Army commander on Monday to face a court martial on charges of desertion and endangering his fellow soldiers.

If convicted of leaving his post in Afghanistan without permission, the New York Times reports, Bergdahl could face a life sentence. The date of the hearing will be announced at a later time.

An Army lawyer had previously recommended Bergdahl face lesser charges for his alleged offenses. The decision on Monday also comes just days after the popular podcast Serial launched its second season, which will investigate Bergdahl's divisive story.

In 2014, five Taliban leaders were released in exchange for the Taliban's release of Bergdahl.

Trump Blames Obama for His Hair Problems

| Mon Dec. 14, 2015 1:57 PM EST

Donald Trump's hair is not as clean as he would like, and he says it's the president's fault.

At a campaign event in Aiken, South Carolina, the Republican presidential front-runner was asked about the Environmental Protection Agency's "Waters of the United States" rule, issued earlier this year. That regulation "clarifies the scope" of the kinds of bodies of water—wetlands, waterways, streams, lakes—that should be protected under the Clean Water Act. Trump expressed his displeasure at the rule, which he says has interrupted his ability to lather, rinse, and repeat.

"So I build, and I build a lot of stuff," Trump said. "And I go into areas where they have tremendous water...And you have sinks where the water doesn't come out. You have showers where I can't wash my hair properly. It's a disaster."

The rule does not introduce any new regulations or regulatory requirements, but rather specifies the bodies of water in the United States covered under the Clean Water, which was introduced in the 1940s and then reorganized and expanded to its current form in 1972. It is unclear whether Trump's hair-washing problems stretch back that far.

Trump Soars to New Heights in Poll After Proposing Muslim Ban

| Mon Dec. 14, 2015 1:19 PM EST

A week after proposing to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, Donald Trump has reached new heights in the polls.

The real estate tycoon has 41 percent nationally in the Republican presidential contest, according to a survey released Monday by Monmouth University—27 points ahead of the rest of the field. Ted Cruz comes in a distant second at 14 percent, followed by Marco Rubio at 10 percent and Ben Carson at 9 percent. No other candidate exceeds 3 percent.

Monmouth's findings are based on interviews with 385 registered Republican or Republican-leaning voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Among that sample, 67 percent responded that they would feel either "enthusiastic" or "satisfied" if Trump became the GOP nominee, while 28 percent reported that they would be "dissatisfied" or "upset." Trump is also enjoying his peak favorability among these voters: 61 percent have a favorable impression of him, 29 percent are unfavorable, and just 10 have no opinion.

While continuing to gain in nationwide polls, Trump's only recent bad news comes out of Iowa, where Cruz, the tea-party-aligned senator from Texas, has recently gained on him and now holds a small lead over Trump in most recent polls.

What We've Learned About America's Many Mass Shooters

| Mon Dec. 14, 2015 6:00 AM EST

Just a few days before the third anniversary of the Newtown massacre, Terry Gross interviewed Mother Jones national affairs editor Mark Follman on NPR's "Fresh Air" about his extensive reporting on America's mass shooters—including a growing effort to stop them. Listen to the full show here:

 

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Ohio Attorney General Accuses Planned Parenthood of Illegally Dumping Fetal Remains

| Fri Dec. 11, 2015 6:19 PM EST
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has accused local Planned Parenthood affiliates of improperly disposing of fetal tissue.

Ohio officials on Friday accused Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state of disposing of fetal tissue in violation of state law, saying that the health care organization sent the remains to companies that dumped the tissue in landfills.

The accusation was the result of the Ohio attorney general's investigation into Planned Parenthood over the organization's donation of fetal tissue from abortions. Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement on Friday that his office concluded its investigation of Planned Parenthood and found that the organization had not illegally sold fetal tissue.

But DeWine said his office did find that Planned Parenthood had violated an Ohio regulation requiring that a "fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner." According to the attorney general's investigation, the health care organization sends fetal remains to disposal companies, which then dump the tissue in landfills.

Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, has denied all wrongdoing and says her organization handles fetal tissue legally and in the same manner as other health care providers. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio is one of the state affiliates mentioned by DeWine.

"We take our responsibility as a health care provider seriously, and if we ever thought that one of our vendors wasn't handling fetal tissue properly, we would take swift action," Kight told reporters on Friday.

DeWine's new accusations are the result of his failed investigation into the sale of fetal tissue, she added. "He has dug up another set of accusations that are equally false."

Ohio is one of a handful of states that launched investigations into Planned Parenthood following the series of widely debunked sting videos purporting to show the organization's staff discussing fetal tissue donation. None of the investigations have found evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue.

This post has been updated.

President Obama Finalizing Plan to Expand Background Checks—Without Congress

| Thu Dec. 10, 2015 2:50 PM EST

White House advisers are set to unveil a plan to expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval, the Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon. The plan will include steps to close the "gun show loophole," which permits the sale of guns while background checks are still pending.

President Barack Obama reportedly requested that his aides draft the plans in the wake of the shooting at a community college in Oregon back in October. Throughout his presidency, Obama has expressed frustration with Congress for its failure to enact tougher gun safety legislation—despite increasing calls from the public to do so.

On Thursday, Connecticut became the first state to bar people listed on federal terrorism lists from purchasing weapons. Days after the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California, the president spoke from the Oval Office on Sunday, urging lawmakers to pass similar bans and calling the measure a "matter of national security."

"Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun," Obama said. "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?"

"Like all Americans, I have been horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said. "This should be a wake-up call to all of us. This is a moment to seize in America—and today I'm here to say that we in Connecticut are seizing it."

This Is What the Alleged Planned Parenthood Shooter Shouted in Court

| Wed Dec. 9, 2015 5:57 PM EST
Robert Lewis Dear in court on December 9, 2015

Before he was formally charged with first-degree murder in court, Robert Lewis Dear—who is accused of killing three people and injuring nine others in a shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic last month—began yelling.

"I am a warrior for the babies," he shouted, according to the New York Times.

He also yelled, "I am guilty. There will be no trial," and "Seal the truth, kill the babies. That's what Planned Parenthood does," according to Rick Sallinger, a reporter with CBS4 news in Denver who was in the courtroom.

These outbursts could be an indication of Dear's motives for the clinic attack.

Law enforcement officials in Colorado Springs have been hesitant to talk publicly about what may have spurred Dear to act. Several media interviews with people who know Dear have revealed that Dear passionately opposed abortion. After he was arrested, he reportedly told the police, "no more baby parts." Also, one of Dear's ex-wives said he had vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic years ago by putting glue in the locks on its doors.

Gun Activists Plan to Stage a Fake Mass Shooting This Weekend

| Wed Dec. 9, 2015 2:55 PM EST
An estimated 800 pro-gun activists turned out for a rally inside the Idaho Statehouse on Saturday.

Gun rights activists in Texas are planning to stage a mock mass shooting at the University of Texas this weekend in protest of both gun-free zones and President Barack Obama's continued calls for tougher gun control legislation.

According to the website Statesman, gun rights supporters will begin the day by marching through Austin with loaded weapons and conclude their walk with a "theatrical performance."

A spokesman for the two participating gun rights groups, Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com, told the site the event will involve using fake blood and bullhorns to mimic gunshot noises.

"In the wake of yet another gun free zone shooting, Obama is using it to aggressively push his gun confiscation agenda," a Facebook page for the event read. "Now is the time to stand up, take a walk, speak out against the lies and put an end to the gun free killing zones."

In June, state lawmakers made Texas the eighth state in the country to allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus grounds. Saturday's event comes amid ongoing concerns about the new law.

"We want criminals to fear the public being armed," spokesman Matthew Short said. "An armed society is a polite society."