Political MoJo

Obama Hits Back at Critics of Iran Nuclear Deal

The president has vowed to veto any legislation blocking the deal's implementation.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 3:07 PM EDT

A day after Iran and six world powers announced a historic deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear capabilities, President Obama took questions from reporters to defend it from congressional critics who say the plan fails to eliminate the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"This nuclear deal meets the national security interest of the United States and our allies," Obama said at a press conference on Wednesday. "It prevents the most serious threat, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse. That's why this deal makes our country and the world safer and more secure."

Tuesday's announcement from Vienna follows years of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Iran and capped off an 18 day marathon conference led by Secretary of State John Kerry to finalize the plan's details.

The deal, which is now subject to congressional scrutiny, was met with strong condemnation from conservatives both in the United States and Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a mistake and warned lifting economic sanctions in Iran would only "fuel their terror and military machine."

On Wednesday, Obama specifically hit back at such criticism, suggesting rejections from members of Congress were primarily focused on playing politics rather than on the national interest.

Acknowledging that "legitimate concerns" surrounding Iran remain, Obama said, "For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu and some of the Republican leadership that has already spoken, none of them have presented to me or the American people a better alternative."

"We don't have diplomatic leverage to eliminate vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran, but we do have the leverage to ensure they don't have a weapon. That's exactly what we've done."

In a statement shortly after the deal's announcement, Obama vowed to veto any legislation blocking the plan's implementation.

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Former Reddit Leader Explains Why Trolls Will Soon Regret Taking Down Ellen Pao

Ex-CEO Yishan Wong says a purge of hate speech on the site is imminent.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 2:55 PM EDT
Former Reddit CEOs Yishan Wong and Ellen Pao

Reddit's latest CEO Steve Huffman might be about to do what former CEO Ellen Pao never dared: Purge the site's notoriously freewheeling discussion boards of hate speech. Posting to the site Tuesday night, former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong argued that Pao was actually the last best hope for radical free speech on Reddit—a claim that, if true, is deeply ironic given that the denizens of Reddit's most racist and sexist discussion boards were some of the loudest voices calling for her ouster. "I don't think there's a place for such [hate speech] on reddit," Wong says Huffman once told him. Huffman, who on Friday replaced Pao, is expected to announce a new content policy for the site tomorrow.

Wong, who ran Reddit between 2012 and 2014, has been defending Pao in recent days. Earlier this week he blamed the decision to fire popular Reddit employee Victoria Taylor—the event that precipitated Pao's resignation—on the site's other cofounder, Alexis Ohanian.

Here are the key parts of Wong's post from last night, which is worth reading in its entirety:

[T]he most delicious part of this is that on at least two separate occasions, the board pressed /u/ekjp [Ellen Pao] to outright ban ALL the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge. She resisted, knowing the community, claiming it would be a shitshow. Ellen isn't some "evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil" as was often depicted. She was approved by the board and recommended by me because when I left, she was the only technology executive anywhere who had the chops and experience to manage a startup of this size, AND who understood what reddit was all about. As we can see from her post-resignation activity, she knows perfectly well how to fit in with the reddit community and is a normal, funny person - just like in real life - she simply didn't sit on reddit all day because she was busy with her day job.

Ellen was more or less inclined to continue upholding my free-speech policies. /r/fatpeoplehate was banned for inciting off-site harassment, not discussing fat-shaming. What all the white-power racist-sexist neckbeards don't understand is that with her at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism: she is literally Silicon Valley's #1 Feminist Hero, so any "SJWs" [social justice warriors] would have a hard time attacking the company for intentionally creating a bastion (heh) of sexist/racist content. She probably would have tolerated your existence so long as you didn't cause any problems - I know that her long-term strategies were to find ways to surface and publicize reddit's good parts - allowing the bad parts to exist but keeping them out of the spotlight. It would have been very principled - the CEO of reddit, who once sued her previous employer for sexual discrimination, upholds free speech and tolerates the ugly side of humanity because it is so important to maintaining a platform for open discourse. It would have been unassailable.

Well, now she's gone (you did it reddit!), and /u/spez [CEO Steve Huffman] has the moral authority as a co-founder to move ahead with the purge. We tried to let you govern yourselves and you failed, so now The Man is going to set some Rules. Admittedly, I can't say I'm terribly upset.

Obama on Bill Cosby Allegations: If You Drug a Woman and Have Sex With Her, It's Rape

The president responded to whether the comedian's Medal of Freedom award would be revoked.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 2:45 PM EDT

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.

Poll: Lincoln Chafee Has No Supporters

The candidate literally received no votes in the latest Democratic primary survey.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 11:18 AM EDT

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.

Monmouth University

 

Here's How GOP Presidential Hopefuls Are Reacting to the Iran Nuclear Deal

Sen. Lindsey Graham calmly compared to agreement to "declaring war" on Israel.

| Tue Jul. 14, 2015 10:35 AM EDT

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:

Conservative pundits also weighed in:

Congress now has 60 days to review the details of the agreement, and the intense rhetoric is likely to escalate.

Iran Nuclear Deal Reached Betweeen World Powers

President Obama said he will veto any legislation attempting to block the deal.

| Tue Jul. 14, 2015 7:53 AM EDT

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.

 

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.

Congress now has 60 days to review the deal.

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Elizabeth Warren Wants the Federal Government to Encourage Research on Pot's Medical Benefits

She and seven other senators seek changes, including a review of the drug's classification.

| Mon Jul. 13, 2015 8:29 PM EDT

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.

Pentagon Reportedly Finalizing Plan to Lift Ban on Transgender People

The formal announcement could come as soon as this week.

| Mon Jul. 13, 2015 3:49 PM EDT

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.

A recent study estimated that approximately 15,000 transgender individuals are serving in the military.

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.

For more on the Pentagon's transgender problem, read our deep-dive here.

A Mexican Drug Lord Escaped From Prison, So Now Donald Trump Wants an Apology

The GOP candidate unleashes a Tweetstorm following Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's escape.

| Mon Jul. 13, 2015 1:28 PM EDT

America, Donald Trump would like an apology.

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.

Trump also took a shot at Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, suggesting that they would meekly negotiate with the drug lord, whereas he would try a mano a mano approach.

The real estate mogul mused that US government would offer citizenship to the on-the-run drug lord.

And Trump seems unfamiliar with the workings of a vacuum cleaner.

Trump said the timing of El Chapo's escape was almost too good.

It's worth noting that Trump's solution to securing the border—building a wall—would do little to deter a drug lord like El Chapo, whose tunneling skills are legendary.

Reddit's Faction of Racist Trolls Celebrates CEO Ellen Pao's Resignation

"Pao! Right in the kisser!" says a moderator of r/Coontown.

| Fri Jul. 10, 2015 6:18 PM EDT
Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao

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.