On Wednesday, President Obama responded to a question about Bill Cosby's ongoing rape allegations, specifically as to whether the comedian's Medal of Freedom award would be revoked.
"There is no precedent for revoking a medal. We don't have that mechanism. And as you know I tend not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, civil issues involved," he said.
But after a brief pause, and without specifically naming Cosby, Obama issued a strong condemnation of the allegations.
"If you give a woman or a man without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent that's rape. And I think this country and any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape."
Last week, a judge unsealed documents from a 2005 legal deposition in which Cosby admitted to giving Quaaludes to a woman and then having sex with her.
A month and a half into his presidential campaign, Lincoln Chafee is having trouble connecting with voters—even a single one. A Monmouth University poll released today reports that the Democratic presidential candidate "registered no support."
To be clear, this does not just mean that the former Rhode Island governor got 0 percent of the vote, leaving room for him to receive some votes but not enough to amount to 1 percent. No: Chafee received exactly zero votes in the poll, according to a research associate at Monmouth University. The poll surveyed 1,001 adults and included 357 Democratic or Democratic-leaning registered voters in the results.
Just 9 percent of respondents to the poll have a favorable opinion of Chafee, largely because 78 percent have no opinion of the little-known candidate. Efforts to boost his name recognition haven't been helped by the fact that he's raised hardly any money and has even been locked out of his own Facebook account. The Chafee campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Early Tuesday morning, Iran and six world powers announced a landmark agreement aimed at halting Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting international sanctions that have long crippled the country's economy. The accord, which concluded a tense 18-day summit in Vienna, was met with praise by both U.S. officials and Iranian leaders as ushering in a new era of cooperation between the two historically at-odds nations.
Unsurprisingly, the accord was also met with a barrage of criticism from conservatives who had long opposed negotiating with Iran in the first place. They were specifically outraged by President Obama's vow to veto any congressional legislation attempting to block the deal from being implemented. Upon learning that the negotiations had successfully concluded, GOP presidential hopeful and foreign policy hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham told Bloomberg's Josh Rogin the deal was "akin to declaring war" on Israel.
It didn't take long for others to weigh in. Here is a sampling of the reactions from Republican presidential candidates below:
.@BarackObama's #Iran deal gives Iran’s nuclear weapons capability an American stamp of approval. - SW
Following years of negotiations, Iran and six other world powers have finally reached a historic agreement set to curb Iran's nuclear capabilities. In return, longstanding international sanctions will be lifted.
#IranDeal shows constructive engagement works. With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.
The accord, perhaps the most significant diplomatic victory of Obama's presidency, was struck between Iran, the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, after a grueling 18-day negotiation in Vienna, Austria. It includes an agreement to allow Iran to continue its nuclear program, but reduce its current stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent and its centrifuges at its main enrichment facility by two-thirds, for at least a ten-year period.
Under the agreement, United Nations inspectors will also be allowed into the country, but their entry is not guaranteed. If denied, the world powers would convene to assess the situation.
Hours after the announcement early Tuesday morning, President Obama praised the landmark agreement and indicated he would veto any legislation attempting to halt it, in a televised address from the White House.
"Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region."
"I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal," Obama said.
On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to top federal drug enforcement and health officials requesting that they do more to conduct and facilitate research on the health benefits of marijuana. Among other things, she urged the government to end its monopoly on the supply of pot for research purposes, coordinate large-scale epidemiological studies on marijuana use, and assure scientists that their work on pot won't jeopardize their other federal research funding.
"While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana," says the letter, which was signed by Warren and seven other Democratic senators, "there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana—despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes."
Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services made a widely publicized move to streamline the approval of medical-marijuana studies, but Warren argues that this should be just the start of a broader effort to legitimize and institutionalize research into the benefits of pot. Her letter urges HHS to conduct its own clinical trials and facilitate communication among the 23 states that have legalized pot as medicine "in order to derive a more accurate picture of marijuana use and treatments across the country."
The senators also appear eager to see the government reevaluate marijuana's listing under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category reserved for drugs, including heroin and LSD, that have "no currently accepted medical use." They ask for a timeline for analyzing existing pot research and making a recommendation for re-scheduling the drug. Their letter also asks whether the analysis will include comparisons with tobacco and alcohol.
The Pentagon is expected to announce its plan to lift the military's longstanding ban on transgender service members as early as this week, according to the Associated Press. The plan, which is currently being formalized, would allow transgender people to openly serve in the military and protect current service members from being discharged based on their individual gender-identities.
Just last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sat down with President Obama to discuss the plan. In February, both Obama and Carter expressed their openness to such a policy change. Once formalized, military leaders will have six months to work out the logistical issues before fully integrating transgender service personnel into the military.
While the president officially repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" back in 2011, which ended the military's ban on gay people, transgender service members were not included under the policy change. This measure seeks to change that.
Following Sunday's news that Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman had tunneled out of prison, the GOP candidate unleashed a Tweetstorm in which he claimed the kingpin's escape vindicated his controversial comments that Mexico sends criminals and rapists to America.
When will people, and the media, start to apologize to me for my statement, "Mexico is sending....", which turned out to be true? El Chapo
In the minutes following today's announcement that Ellen Pao, Reddit's embattled interim CEO, would be stepping down, users of the site responded with glee. Pao has been widely criticized by many of the site's unpaid moderators for her recent tone-deaf firing of a popular employee—see here for more on what really happened with that—and for ignoring the moderators' needs and contributions to running the platform. Yet beneath the celebration lurked a disturbing undercurrent of racism. As of 2:45 p.m. PST, the second most "upvoted" comment beneath the announcement was this:
The biggest problem with the comment isn't the mocking of Pao's Asian name. It's the commenter's handle, "DylanStormRoof." Dylann Roof, of course, is the young man accused of massacring nine people at South Carolina's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last month.
Other Redditors quickly alleged that DylannStormRoof moderates a notoriously racist subreddit:
Reddit's trolls have been out to get Pao ever since she shut down five toxic subreddits last month, including one called r/shitniggerssay. They also aren't psyched that she called out Silicon Valley's misogynistic culture. That's not to say that Pao's handling of Reddit's most controversial communities is the only reason she's unpopular with users of the site, which is, after all, the 10th most trafficked on the internet. But today's reaction illustrates the challenges her replacement, Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, will face if he wants to rein in the site's most offensive tendencies.
Update, July 10, 2015, 5 p.m. PT: Cooler heads on Reddit have since taken over, as they often do, burying "DylannStormRoof"'s comment and up-voting a reply pointing out its racist connotations.
In a statement on Friday, the FBI said a background check flaw allowed Dylann Roof, the suspected gunman behind last month's fatal shooting in Charleston, to purchase the gun that killed nine people inside a historic black church. From the Times:
A loophole in the check system cleared the man, Dylann Roof, to buy the .45-caliber handgun despite his having previously admitted to drug possession, the bureau said. Those conducting the background check did not have access to that police report.
"We are all sick this happened," said the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey. "We wish we could turn back time."
Speaking to reporters about the loophole, Comey said Roof had admitted to previous drug possession charges, but the background check flaw failed to alert authorities and thereby prevent Roof from obtaining a weapon. According to NBC News, "unlawful users" of controlled substances are prohibited from buying a gun.
Following the massacre on July 17, President Obama expressed his continuing frustration with Congress' inaction on gun control, reminding reporters, "This kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."
Earlier this week, Roof was indicted on nine counts of murder, one count of weapons possession, and three counts of attempted murder.
In a short, historic ceremony on Friday morning, the Confederate battle flag was finally lowered and removed from South Carolina's statehouse grounds, three weeks after nine black parishioners were murdered at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. The removal comes more than 50 years after the state first raised the battle flag to protest the civil rights movement.
The removal of the flag, which quickly emerged as a national issue following last month's massacre, was met largely with praise during Friday's brief ceremony, where chants of "take it down" could be heard, though protestors were also present.
On Thursday, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill into law calling for the flag's removal.
"Twenty-two days ago, I didn't know that I would ever be able to say this again, but today, I am very proud to say that it is a great day in South Carolina," she said during the bill's signing ceremony, where family members of the people killed in Charleston were in attendance.