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This Could Be The Deciding Case On Gay Marriage Nationwide

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-11-17 19:52
The couple who challenged Michigan's ban on gay marriages are taking their battle to the U.S. Supreme Court with a case that seeks to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the court Monday, seeking to overturn the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' 2-1 decision to uphold the gay marriage ban in Michigan. The appeals court ruling, made earlier this month, also affected cases from Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

The crux of DeBoer and Rowse's petition is simple and sweeping: It asks the court to determine "whether a state violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples the right to marry."

"Gay and lesbian citizens in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee are denied the fundamental freedom and equal right to marry, and their families are deprived of the status, dignity, security, and stability that marriage brings," the petition states. "This Court should grant the petition and hold that prohibiting same-sex couples from joining in marriage violates our nation’s most cherished and essential guarantees."

Michigan's attorney general, who has rigorously defended the constitutionality of the gay marriage ban, has also encouraged the Supreme Court to review the case.

Petitions have additionally been filed in the cases from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. As SCOTUSblog reports, the cases are ready to be submitted to justices as soon as state replies are filed. They appear to have arrived in court in time to be heard and decided in the current term, which ends mid-2015. However, the Supreme Court must first decide to review any of the cases.

In October, the Supreme Court declined petitions seeking the appeal of rulings that struck down gay marriage bans in five states. However, at the time, appeals courts had not disagreed on the issue.

The petition from DeBoer and Rowse argues that the Supreme Court should hear their case in part because the 6th Circuit decision conflicts with four other circuit courts that "concluded that the Constitution cannot tolerate laws that bar same-sex couples from marrying."

The Ohio and Tennessee cases revolve around recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. The petition stemming from the Ohio case says the state "treated Petitioners as second-class citizens whose most intimate relationships have been denied the dignity and respect they deserve."

DeBoer and Rowse began their legislative fight in 2012 in a suit that sought to change Michigan's adoption code. They had adopted three children -- two with special needs -- and were seeking joint custody and equal parental rights.

However, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman recommended they try a broader approach and instead challenge the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban, an amendment to the state constitution approved by 59 percent of voters in the state in 2004. In March of this year, Friedman struck it down, leading the way for the appeals court reversal this month.

“When we first brought this case, we vowed to do anything we had to in order to protect our children and our family, even if that meant having to take our case all the way to the Supreme Court,” DeBoer said in a statement Monday. “That day is finally here, and we hope the Court sees fit to accept our case and provide the same security to our family that other families count on.”

Read the full petition to the U.S. Supreme Court below.

Michigan Marriage Petition by jsnow489

Supercomputers are helping scientists predict the future of climate change better than ever before

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2014-11-17 07:00
The latest supercomputers are enabling scientists to understand extreme weather patterns and more.

I'm a Liberal Democrat. I'm Voting for Rand Paul in 2016. Here is why.

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-11-17 03:31

The editor of Breitbart Unmasked, a site that I enjoy immensely and find informative, recently told me that supporting Rand Paul disqualifies a person from being labeled a progressive. My rebuttal was that he might be right. However, I also mentioned that Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia agreed with my latest Congress Blog piece. In the article, I explain why Rand Paul is correct in questioning the legality of President Obama's troop deployments. Sadly, people at UC Berkeley are more interested in protesting Bill Maher than condemning a conflict George McGovern stated weakens our country in the same manner as Vietnam. Hundreds of airstrikes, over 3,000 soldiers deployed, and a request for $5.6 billion is a war, folks.

Had President Mitt Romney just doubled our military presence in the Middle East and launched airstrikes that even the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army have criticized, the reaction would have been entirely different from liberals throughout the country. We once again have over 3,000 American boots on the ground in Iraq (without a peep from the anti-war left), only months after a VA crisis that caused veterans to die as they waited for healthcare, and about the same time as the publication of this book by an American general. To make matters worse, Congress is too cowardly to even debate the issue, despite calls for a discussion by Rand Paul. In the meantime, our values as a nation have succumb to fear mongering and paranoia.

Since 9/11, we've had to endure ideologues like Sean Hannity, a man who vehemently defends enhanced interrogation, yet is too chicken (insert the next word) to get waterboarded himself; even after promising on television that he would do so for charity. To prove that waterboaring is indeed torture, Christopher Hitchens actually did get waterboarded, yet the thought of nearly drowning apparently terrifies Fox's tough, football throwing host. Even petitions calling for Hannity to back up the bravado, or the fact that such interrogation methods endanger U.S. soldiers and besmirch our value system, haven't been enough to alter the conservative view of this un-American tool of statecraft. Alas, only Selsun Blue and unicorn tears, not water being poured onto his smug face wrapped in cloth and gasping for oxygen, will ever grace the Fred Flinstone-like visage of Sean Hannity.

In contrast, Rand Paul has called for the GOP to reject Dick Cheney for defending torture and asserted that Cheney helped launch the Iraq War to profit Halliburton. Only Rand Paul provides a voice for people disgusted by the fear peddlers on Fox, the tepid rebuttals to their madness by leading liberals like Hillary Clinton, and the media driven paranoia that shapes public policy. Today, over 40% of Americans favor ground troops in Iraq, just several years removed from the end of a deadly counterinsurgency war. Upholding Obamacare is important, but pales in comparison to the prospect of perpetual American military involvement in the Middle East or the destruction of our value system because of terrorism.

Rand Paul is my candidate in 2016, even though the Tea Party would consider me Joseph Stalin's love child. I'm for immigration reform and believe that illegal immigrants benefit this country. I've written many articles criticizing Tea Party paranoia. I'm against demagoguery from people like Paul Ryan who unfairly target inner city citizens and I'm for the federal legalization of gay marriage and marijuana. I think Ted Cruz is a buffoon and that we should listen to Stephen Hawking over Senator "Green Eggs and Ham" on climate change. Finally, I've also written two novels about the evils of religious fundamentalism and political demagoguery.

On all these possible points of contention with Rand Paul, the reality is that he isn't Ted Cruz or Lou Dobbs on these matters. Sen Paul is a self-described "moderate" on immigration, much to the dismay of Tea Party Republicans. Paul's recent Bill Maher interview shows he's open to cleaner energy alternatives. Most importantly, Paul doesn't abide by the right-wing rhetoric blaming poor people for their predicament, or claiming God wants people to do this or that. Congress at the end of the day has the power of the purse, so if President Rand Paul scares you on economic matters, simply remember that only Congress can repeal or alter government programs and decide on budgets.

I've never voted for a Republican in my life, but in 2016, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will be my choice for president. On issues that affect the long term survival of this country; grandiose concerns like perpetual war that could send generations of Americans fighting and dying in the Middle East, domestic spying that could eventually lead to a police state, and numerous other topics, Rand Paul has shown that he bucks both the Republican and Democratic penchant for succumbing to public opinion, an overreaction to the terror threat, and a gross indifference to an egregious assault on our rights as citizens.

Yes, I'll have to concede some of my beliefs and roll the dice as to whether or not he'll flip-flop on issues, but Hillary Clinton and President Obama have changed their views on everything from gay marriage to marijuana legalization and Iraq, so I'm taking an educated gamble with Sen. Paul. Hillary Clinton alone has gone back and forth on enough issues to make the former Secretary of State a human version of Pong, so I'm not too worried about voting for Paul. Below are ten reasons this Democrat is voting for Rand Paul in 2016 and if my liberal membership card is revoked, I'll live with that; I'm not an ideologue like Sean Hannity, I'm an American.

1. Rand Paul will be more cautious with waging war than Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Sen. Paul has called Obama's ISIS war illegal and isn't against defending American interests through military intervention, but stresses the importance of Congress making these decisions. Hillary Clinton, in contrast, thinks we should have armed the Syrian rebel groups several years ago. Try naming even one of the Syrian rebel groups and explaining their differences with ISIS. Furthermore, The Week states that "Clinton's instincts appear to be far more hawkish than Barack Obama's." Imagine a more hawkish Obama and you'll get the next President Clinton. Also, famed neocon Robert Kagan is one of Clinton's advisers and states in The New York Times, "I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy." That should tell you how liberal Clinton will be on matters of perpetual war in the Middle East.

2. The Los Angeles Times has referred to Paul as "one of the foremost critics of the government's domestic spying program." In early 2014, Sen. Paul filed a lawsuit against the NSA over domestic spying. Neither Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, nor any other candidate in 2016 has made this a top priority in their campaign. Sen. Paul has also voted against PATRIOT Act Extension bills, voted for an amendment that prohibits detention of U.S. citizens without trial (which of course didn't pass the Senate), and his voting record protects American citizens from politicians paranoid over terrorism. Sen. Paul was vehemently against the NDAA Indefinite Detention Bill that passed in 2013, because, "This bill takes away that right and says that if someone thinks you're dangerous, we will hold you without a trial. It's an abomination."

3. Rand Paul has teamed up with liberal Democratic Sen. Corey Booker to reform the criminal justice system. Their bill would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans who've been adversely affected by non-violent criminal sentences. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush don't care about reforming the criminal justice system, and if they do, it's on the bottom of their to do lists, far behind cozying up to Wall Street and increasing America's military presence in the Middle East.

4. POLITICO states Hillary Clinton is "Wall Street Republicans' dark secret" in 2016. I don't see Clinton as being any more liberal than Paul on Wall Street or banking, although perhaps she'd be more willing to save failed corporations than the Kentucky Senator. Also, Paul is one of the few Republicans who's addressed the GOP's love affair with corporations, stating that, "We cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street...corporate welfare should once and for all be ended."

5. Sen. Paul thinks Edward Snowden was treated unfairly as a whistleblower and should have only spent "a few years" in prison. No other candidate in 2016 would dare take that position. The Wall Street Journal criticized Paul's position on the Snowden matter, and their criticism actually makes me like Rand Paul in 2016 even more. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is "puzzled" why Snowden would want to leave the U.S. and feels he might have helped terrorists with his disclosures.

6. Rand Paul publicized the issue of a possible government drone strike, on American soil, against American citizens. No, I'm not making this up. I don't want to get blown up eating a burrito at Chipotle because I visited Egypt to see the pyramids and happened to sit in a café frequented by a terrorist. In 2013, Rand Paul asked Eric Holder whether or not American citizens could be targeted by drones on American soil. Jon Stewart has a great segment about this. Eric Holder actually answered that theoretically, yes, drone strikes to kill Americans on U.S. soil could be viewed as legal, depending on the circumstance. If this doesn't frighten you, then vote for Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, since neither one cares about this matter. Issues like drone strikes on American soil, against Americans, is why I don't believe in conspiracy theories. This sort of thing is being discussed today in plain sight, yet only Rand Paul and a few others have shown outrage over the potential of our government to possibly target its own citizens. If it's not an ISIL beheading video, nobody seems to care nowadays.

7. Rand Paul could bring back an era in American politics when conservatives and liberals socialized with one another. This alone would solve some of the gridlock in Washington. Paul has worked with 7 leading Democrats on a number of issues; working on everything from judicial reform, NSA surveillance, the limits of presidential authority to launch strikes in Iraq, and other issues. Imagine Ted Cruz reaching out to Nancy Pelosi, or Mitch McConnell having lunch with Hillary Clinton. Rand Paul, on the other hand, has worked to emulate this picture.

8. Rand Paul will not gut the economic safety nets of this country in the manner espoused by Paul Ryan and others. He doesn't want to dismantle Social Security. I do disagree with his view of the SNAP Program and certain other issues. However, Paul has stated, "I'm for a social safety net, but it should be minimized to helping those who can't help themselves." I don't ever recall Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan making that type of statement and mainstream Republicans do everything in their power to promote the view that safety nets equate to communism or socialism.

9. Neoconservatives hate Rand Paul. They like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush a lot more, and The Weekly Standard, National Review, and others have voiced their reservations about a Rand Paul presidency. If neocons disagree with you, then you must be doing something right.

10. Rand Paul could be the answer to our philosophical conundrum as a nation. We're stuck with a GOP who thinks the globe is one giant Stratego board game with God helping roll the dice, a Democratic Party more focused on defending Obamacare than stopping endless wars or protecting civil liberties, and a populace that cares more about beheading videos than the erosion of rights or the welfare of our warriors. Is Paul the answer? I'm not certain. But compared to Hillary and Jeb Bush, I'll take the man who stated, "I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East."

If Rand Paul picks Mike Huckabee as his running mate, I'll "evolve" towards Hillary. However, if Rand Paul picks someone reasonable who possesses his value system, I'll take my chances. President Rand Paul will be a nice change from Bush 2.0, Bush in a pantsuit, and especially Bush's brother. In 2016, I want someone who can protect us from ourselves and protect us from the media/terrorist driven fear that keeps America in endless war and allows attorney generals to rationalize a drone strike on American soil. Paul was also the first 2016 contender to visit Ferguson, and for some reason I just can't imagine Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush taking a moment to find out why Ferguson took place, and what steps are needed to solve that intractable situation.

Peter Kassig's Friends Hope Unusual Islamic State Video Means He Fought His Beheading

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-11-17 01:08
Until Sunday, Islamic State hostage execution videos followed a macabre formula: the condemned appears in an orange jumpsuit, reads a scripted message next to a British-accented militant and then appears lifeless and decapitated in a final scene. But the video announcement of the death of Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old former Army Ranger who was kidnapped in Syria in 2013, was different in style and content from the previous depictions.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe: House Vote On Keystone XL Pipeline An ‘Act Of War'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 21:17
The president of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) tribe has called the House of Representatives' vote to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war,” the Summit County Citizen's Voice reported on Saturday.

"The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands,” President Cyril Scott said in a statement. “We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL.”

Scott said he and other tribal elders have not been appropriately consulted on the pipeline, which would run through the tribe's land. He also contended the House vote violates the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, which gave the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation, according to the Summit County Citizen's Voice.

The proposed 1,660-mile pipeline would carry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas. Scott echoed the concerns many environmentalists have raised about the pipeline, namely that it would be detrimental to the environment and further U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

"The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” said Scott. “We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members but to non-tribal members as well. We need to stop focusing and investing in risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future."

The Rosebud tribe and other members of the Great Sioux Nation have adopted tribal resolutions opposing the Keystone XL project in February, according to the Grand Island Independent.

The pipeline has become a political football in recent weeks. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, is in a tight runoff election, challenging incumbent Mary Landrieu (D-La.) for her Senate seat. Landrieu is the co-author of a parallel Senate bill that is set for a vote on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

Several Democratic lawmakers said on Sunday that President Obama would veto a bill authorizing the pipeline. White House officials have also indicated that the president is leaning toward a veto. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the decision on whether to approve falls to the State Department. The State Department has delayed a decision on the project until after a court in Nebraska decides on the legality of the proposed route through the state.

Notes for Next Time: From Turnoff to Turnout

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 19:51
The voting turnout in this year's congressional and gubernatorial elections was the lowest since 1942. Much of the story was in young people, poor people, black and Hispanic citizens who tend to support Democrats voting in far lower numbers than in 2008 or 2012. The Democrats just weren't offering them very much.

But the other part of the Election Day story was older voters and the white working class, especially men, deserting the Democrats in droves -- again, because Democrats didn't seem to be offering much. Republicans, at least, were promising lower taxes.

Turnout on average dropped from 2012 by a staggering 42 percent. But as Sam Wang reported in a post-election piece for the American Prospect, the drop-off was evidently worse for Democrats.

The two parts of this story seem to create an impossible conundrum for Democrats: Do more for minorities and the poor, and you presumably risk driving social conservatives even further into the arms of Republicans. But ignore the needs of those who need more government activism -- and the Democratic base fails to turn out.

You could see the administration wrestling with this dilemma in the way it handled the question of deportations. It was an open secret that the White House had an executive order ready to go, sparing as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants with good records, and allowing them to work legally in the U.S.

But the tacticians of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee begged the White House to hold off until after the election, for fear of costing Democratic candidates the election in tricky places like Colorado and Iowa. So the White House delayed, infuriating its Hispanic supporters. But Democrats blew their races in those states anyway. Then -- when it made no difference electorally -- Obama duly issued the order.

The question of how to treat undocumented workers is tougher than other issues that divide working class whites from African Americans, Hispanics, the young and the poor. For there is one huge issue that potentially unites these diverse groups. (Hint: It's the economy, stupid.)

Obama failed to rally much enthusiasm from either camp because his proposals were so feeble, and because the administration continues to coddle the big banks, suggesting whose side Obama is really on.

Why not just embrace the $15.00 minimum wage? Minimum wage hikes by referendum were passed in Red states as well as Blue ones, on an Election Day not noted for progressive sentiments.

Minimum wage increases were approved in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota -- not states with large minority populations. Guess who turned out to support these? The white working class! Why wasn't our president leading this parade?

The Republicans are dead-set against even a minimum wage increase to the $10.10 that the president has supported. So there's not much to lose. Let's demonstrate that you really care about working people -- white, black, Hispanic, not to mention young people working for dismal wages -- and dare the Republicans to oppose you.

Or how about embracing serious public investments on infrastructure to create good blue-collar jobs? Republicans, of course, will oppose these outlays. But that's the whole point. Make it clear who is on which side.

Obama does use his bully pulpit occasionally. But his choice of issues is sometimes odd.

The other day, the president chose to speak out in favor of net neutrality, deliberately contradicting his own Federal Communications Commission chairman, Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable and telecom industry, who is pushing a plan to allow the big guys to charge more for internet fast lanes (who appointed this guy anyway?).

Net Neutrality is popular with the public (to the extent that the public cares). I'm all in favor of Obama's position, but it's a fairly arcane and geeky topic compared to the subject of paying families a living wage.

If Obama is going to criticize his own appointees, how about speaking out against the Treasury Department and the Justice Department for coddling banksters? Or the Office of Management and Budget wonks for putting deficit cuts ahead of economic recovery?

How about embracing the movement to end the debt-for-diploma system of higher education? That might get more young people to turn out, and might dampen the appeal to millennial voters of faux-libertarians like Rand Paul.

There was a time when the black and white working class, the old and the young, could unite behind robust Democratic demands for a fair economy -- a time when Democratic presidents played the role of teachers, and made clear which party was on the side of regular people. Until those demands are heard again, white working class voters disgusted with government are likely be swayed by Republicans -- and blacks, Hispanics and young people are likely to stay home.

Robert Kuttner He is co-editor of The American Prospect, professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a senior Fellow at Demos. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.

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McConnell's Promise Of No Shutdowns Will Be Tested By Senate's Staunch Conservatives

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 18:28
A day after he won reelection and Republicans retook the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left no doubt that the edge-of-disaster showdowns with President Obama that have marked the past four years would be a relic of the past.

DEA Agents Surprise NFL Teams With Drug Checks After Sunday Games

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 18:03
Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams' medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players' claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.

There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers' staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' staff was checked at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The Seattle Seahawks, who played at Kansas City, confirmed via the team's Twitter account that they were spot-checked as well. The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said.

"DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act)," Payne said.

The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal DEA. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams' medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team's state.

"Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York — where the NFL is headquartered — but involves several U.S. attorney's offices.

The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.

"This is an unprecedented raid on a professional sports league," said Steve Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players. "I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling."

Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players — including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings.

The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players' health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players' names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs — according to one plaintiff's lawyer — "like candy at Halloween," along with combining them in "cocktails."

Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted.

The controlled substance act says only doctors and nurse practitioners can dispense prescription drugs, and only in states where they are licensed. The act also lays out stringent requirements for acquiring, labeling, storing and transporting drugs. Trainers who are not licensed would be in violation of the law simply by carrying a controlled substance.

The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven't been definitively linked to painkillers.

The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Association's position on the case before deciding on the league's motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained that it's not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.

The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL.

The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing involving Ravens running back Ray Rice, who is contesting the length of his suspension. The league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to investigate its handling of the Rice case.

The NFL is also trying to finalize a $765 million class-action settlement reached in August 2013 over complaints by thousands of former players that the NFL concealed the risk of concussions.

U.S. Heightens Ebola Screenings For Travelers From Mali

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 17:27

Nov 16 (Reuters) - The United States will begin enhanced screening for travelers whose trips started in the African nation of Mali, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security said on Sunday.

The CDC recommended adding Mali to the list of countries whose travelers undergo heightened screening because there had been a number of confirmed cases of Ebola there in recent days, the agencies said in a statement. Travelers from Mali will face the same screening as those from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Here's What We Know About Dr. Martin Salia, The Most Recent Ebola Patient In The U.S.

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 17:23
Dr. Martin Salia, the most recent Ebola patient to seek treatment in the United States, arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, Nov. 15. Salia, a 44-year-old Sierra Leone citizen who lives in Maryland, was recently promoted to chief medical officer of Kissy United Methodist Hospital in one of the poorest areas of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Although he was deemed well enough to travel to the U.S. to seek treatment for Ebola, his condition is critical by all accounts. The Associated Press reported that Dr. Phil Smith, who is helping treat Salia at the Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment unit, said Salia is "extremely ill" and it is an "hour-by-hour situation."

Reports vary on when Salia first began exhibiting symptoms of the disease. He tested positive for the virus on Nov. 10.

Videos from the United Methodist Church that feature Salia offer some insight into the surgeon's career. According to one video, Salia took a pay cut to stay at Kissy. In another, Salia describes how his strong sense of duty toward the people of Freetown and his faith informed his decision to become a surgeon.

"I strongly believe that God brought me here to fix whatever comes to my doorway," Salia says.

One of the videos shows Salia and his colleagues praying before surgery.

“He could have gone into private service and made a lucrative living,” Bruce Steffes, executive director of the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons, through which Salia received his training, told The Washington Post. “But the fact that he stayed committed to missionary hospitals tells you everything you need to know about who he is and his faith and what’s important to him.”

Kissy is not an Ebola treatment facility, and it is not currently clear how Salia contracted the virus. The AP reported that according to United Methodist News, which cited health ministry sources, the surgeon worked in at least three other facilities.

The Washington Post reported that surgeons who do not directly treat Ebola can be at risk in affected regions, since they can come into contact with patients who may have Ebola symptoms that are masked by larger issues that require surgery.

Kissy United Methodist Hospital closed the day after Salia's diagnosis, and all hospital staff are now undergoing a 21-day quarantine, according to a United Methodist News report.

Salia is the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to test positive for Ebola and the third patient to seek treatment at Nebraska Medicine, one of four U.S. hospitals equipped to handle treatment of the disease and the hospital with the largest biocontainment unit in the country. Two former Ebola patients, Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance journalist Ashoka Mukpo, were both successfully treated at the facility.

At least 5,177 people have died from Ebola during the current outbreak -- the worst recorded in history -- according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. Of those, 324 of the dead have been local health care workers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill Distances Herself From Obama, Senate Democrats

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 17:16
WASHINGTON -- Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill reiterated on Sunday that she is unhappy with both the leader of her party in the Senate and with President Barack Obama's plan to take unilateral action on immigration reform. McCaskill's tone will likely help fuel speculation that she is considering a bid for governor of Missouri, a traditionally Republican-leaning state, in 2016.

Appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," McCaskill was asked about Obama's plan to use executive action in order to defer the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants. "I'm not crazy about it," she said, before shifting her criticism to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over his refusal to take up an immigration reform bill in the House that was passed by the Senate.

McCaskill also discussed why she did not vote for Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to be the Senate Minority Leader once the majority passes to Republicans in January. "I think [the 2014 election] was a message from the American people," she said. "Our party got walloped, and I think they're saying we need to change what we're doing."

When asked about Reid's decision to create a special role for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) within the leadership ranks, McCaskill again refused to praise Reid. Instead, she reminded host Bob Schieffer that Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a more moderate senator, was also elected to the Democratic leadership on the same day.

While McCaskill's comments don't reflect nearly the ire that Republicans reserve for both Reid's leadership and Obama's immigration strategy, they were nonetheless unusual for a Democratic senator on a Sunday talk show.

Should McCaskill run for governor, however, a record of challenging her party's leadership could bode well for her candidacy. Missouri currently has a Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, whose term expires in 2016. But despite having elected McCaskill, a Democrat, to the Senate and Nixon to the governorship, Missouri is considered a Republican-leaning state. In both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Republican nominees won the state.

Chuck Hagel Says U.S. Speeding Up Training For Iraqi Forces Fighting ISIS

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 16:48

FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the U.S. military is accelerating its efforts to train and advise Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants.

Hagel said U.S. special operations troops in Iraq's western Anbar province are getting an early start on the train-and-advise effort. He said the effort began a few days ago, but did not provide details.

The Pentagon chief spoke to reporters after observing Army training in California's Mojave Desert.

According to plans laid out last week, the U.S. expects to train nine Iraqi security forces brigades and three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades.

Hagel said the speed-up was recommended by Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Hagel's spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said later that Austin believes getting an early start on training Iraqi forces in Anbar may prompt other countries with a stake in the fight against Islamic State to commit trainers to Iraq.

Approaching the problem of ill-trained and poorly motivated Iraqi soldiers as a coalition rather than as a unilateral U.S. undertaking is a key pillar of U.S. strategy. Partnership is seen as a way of undermining the ideological appeal of Islamic State.

Kirby said a number of countries have made verbal commitments to provide trainers, but he said he could not identify them because they have yet to publicly announce their intended contributions.

The U.S. announced earlier this month that it will send another 1,500 troops to Iraq to expand training and advising of Iraqi security forces. But those troops have not yet departed the U.S., leaving some to question how urgently Washington viewed the mission.

The special operations troops that Hagel said Austin is now putting at al-Asad air base in Anbar had been operating as 12-man advisory teams elsewhere in Iraq since last summer. Kirby said about 50 are now at al-Asad, which was a major air hub for U.S. forces during the 2003-11 war.

The Islamic State group holds key cities in Anbar, including Fallujah.

During his stop at Fort Irwin to see Army desert training, Hagel gave a pep talk to a few hundred soldiers. One asked Hagel when the U.S. was going to send an invasion force to Iraq to fight the Islamic State group.

Hagel said that was not in the cards, echoing President Barack Obama's belief that it would make no sense.

"This has to be an Iraqi effort," Hagel said, adding: "It is their country. They have to do this themselves."

Hagel said he planned to speak Monday with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman who spent the weekend in Iraq.

Colorado Authorities Still Want Review Of Marijuana Edibles And Drinks

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 16:25
DENVER (AP) — Saying they're still worried that edible pot sweets are too attractive to kids, Colorado health authorities plan to ask Monday for a new panel to decide which marijuana foods and drinks look too much like regular snacks.

A Health Department recommendation, obtained by The Associated Press in advance of a final meeting Monday on edible marijuana regulations, suggests a new state commission to give "pre-market approval" before food or drinks containing pot can be sold. The recommendation comes a month after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggested banning the sale of most kinds of edible pot. That suggestion was quickly retracted after it went public.

Marijuana-infused foods and drinks have been a booming sector in Colorado's new recreational marijuana market. But lawmakers feared the products are too easy to confuse with regular foods and drinks and ordered marijuana regulators to require a new look for marijuana edibles.

The new Health Department suggestion calls for a commission to decide which types of foods can be sold.

"The department remains concerned that there are products on the market that so closely resemble children's candy that it can entice children to experiment with marijuana. Marijuana should not seem 'fun' for kids," the agency wrote in its recommendation.

The ultimate decision on how to change Colorado's edibles market will be made by state lawmakers in 2015.

The state's Marijuana Enforcement Division is holding workgroups with industry representatives, law enforcement, health officials and parent groups to come up with a group recommendation to lawmakers on the question. The final workgroup meets Monday.

A Health Department spokesman did not respond to a request to comment on the revised suggestion, which hasn't yet been made public.

Edible-pot makers fumed at the suggestion, saying it runs afoul of a voter-approved constitutional amendment that guarantees access to retail marijuana in all its forms. State regulations limit potency, serving size and packaging, but there are no regulations on what kinds of foods may contain pot. Edible-pot manufacturers say that limitation would go too far.

"We're governed to death, and people need to take responsibility for themselves," said Elyse Gordon, owner of Better Baked, a Denver company that makes edible pot products including teas, energy bars and candies.

"I don't think anyone in the industry is looking to make products for children, and we resent this idea that people aren't responsible for the products they bring into their home."

Also coming out from the Health Department Monday is a highly anticipated statement about marijuana use by pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The agency was tasked by the Legislature to review the health effects of maternal pot use.

The preliminary survey to be released Monday says the Health Department found "limited," ''mixed" or "moderate" evidence for links between maternal use of marijuana during pregnancy and health risks like low birth weight and decreased cognitive function.

The agency stopped short of suggesting warning labels on pot about use by pregnant and nursing women, but the Health Department did lay out some "Public Health Statements" about maternal pot use.

Statements include the fact that marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, THC, can be passed to unborn and nursing babies and that maternal pot use "is associated with negative effects on exposed children that may not appear until adolescence."

The agency requests a public-education campaign for moms and better data collection on maternal marijuana use.


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: 'Iran Is Your Enemy'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 16:15
WASHINGTON -- Less than 48 hours before the start of final talks on Iran’s nuclear program, set to begin Tuesday in Vienna, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on American television to warn the Obama administration against agreeing to a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

“Iran is not your ally; Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy,” Netanyahu said Sunday on CBS "Face the Nation."

Israel is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. But relations between the two countries have become strained in recent months, as the U.S. participates in multi-party talks aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting economic and trade sanctions against the country.

According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, about 9 in 10 Israelis report an unfavorable view of Iran. Netanyahu reiterated his longstanding concerns on Sunday about allowing the country to have any nuclear capability whatsoever, including the ability to generate electricity using nuclear power.

Netanyahu spoke on CBS the same day that a new video appeared to show an American citizen executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Netanyahu called the apparent killing the latest chapter in "a global conflict" where Iran and the Islamic State present the same threat to Western democracies.

"Basically, the Middle East is awash with militant dissidents, led by al Qaeda and the ISIS on the Sunni side … [and] Iran and Hezbollah on the Shiite side,” Netanyahu said, referring to the two branches of Islam. “The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction.”

Ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Israel were exacerbated recently by reports that President Barack Obama sent a letter to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which the president described how the U.S. and Iran might advance their common interest in defeating the Islamic State.

For Israel, the prospect that its most important ally, America, would collaborate with its sworn enemy, Iran, could signal that the Obama administration may consider the fight against the Islamic State a higher priority, at least in the short-term, than threats to Israel's safety.

But rather than dwell on his chilly relationship with the Obama White House, the prime minister on Sunday emphasized the broad support Israel enjoys in Congress and among the American public. “We can have disagreements between governments, that happens in the best of families,” he said. “But we are one family.”

Obama Calls Kassig Murder 'Pure Evil'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 15:48
President Barack Obama called the Islamic State's execution of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, an American hostage also known as Peter, "pure evil" on Sunday.

Obama released the statement after the White House confirmed that an ISIS video showing Kassig's murder was authentic.

Below is Obama's full statement:

Today we offer our prayers and condolences to the parents and family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter. We cannot begin to imagine their anguish at this painful time.

Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity. Like Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff before him, his life and deeds stand in stark contrast to everything that ISIL represents. While ISIL revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict. While ISIL exploits the tragedy in Syria to advance their own selfish aims, Abdul-Rahman was so moved by the anguish and suffering of Syrian civilians that he traveled to Lebanon to work in a hospital treating refugees. Later, he established an aid group, SERA, to provide assistance to Syrian refugees and displaced persons in Lebanon and Syria. These were the selfless acts of an individual who cared deeply about the plight of the Syrian people.

ISIL's actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own. Today we grieve together, yet we also recall that the indomitable spirit of goodness and perseverance that burned so brightly in Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and which binds humanity together, ultimately is the light that will prevail over the darkness of ISIL.

State Dept Computers Hacked, Email Shut Down

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 15:00

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down its entire unclassified email system as technicians repair possible damage from a suspected hacker attack.

A senior department official said Sunday that "activity of concern" was detected in the system around the same time as a previously reported incident that targeted the White House computer network. That incident was made public in late October, but there was no indication then that the State Department had been affected. Since then, a number of agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service and the National Weather Service, have reported attacks.

The official said none of the State Department's classified systems were affected. However, the official said the department shut down its worldwide email late on Friday as part of a scheduled outage of some of its internet-linked systems to make security improvements to its main unclassified computer network. The official was not authorized to speak about the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the department expects that all of its systems will be operating as normal in the near future, but would not discuss who might be responsible for the breach. Earlier attacks have been blamed on Russian or Chinese attackers, although their origin has never been publicly confirmed.

The State Department is expected to address the shutdown once the security improvements have been completed on Monday or Tuesday.

Michael Brown Protesters Stage 'Die-In' In St. Louis

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 14:48

By Scott Malone

ST. LOUIS, Nov 16 (Reuters) - A crowd of a couple hundred demonstrators, angry about the fatal August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, took to the streets of St. Louis on Sunday, briefly blocking a major intersection in protest.

Dozens of people lay down in the street outside of a downtown theater hosting a film festival, pretending to have been shot by other protests playing the role of police officers in an action intended to evoke the memory of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who died 100 days ago in front of his home in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

Marchers went on to briefly block a major intersection near Washington University and the event ended without any of the violence that seen in Ferguson following Brown's shooting death by police officer Darren Wilson.

"This is a mature movement. It is a different movement that it was in August. Then it just had anger, justifiable anger," said DeRay McKesson, a 29-year-old protest leader, as a wet snow fell on the city. "Now we are organized. We are strategizing. And we are going to bring our message to the power structure."

A grand jury, sitting in the county seat of Clayton, Missouri, is currently deliberating whether to bring criminal charges against Wilson. Many residents and officials in the region fear another wave of rioting similar to the one in August that led to the burning out of multiple businesses in Ferguson could result if the grand jury decides not to charge Wilson.

"We are bracing for that possibility. That is what many people are expecting. The entire community is going to be upset," if Wilson is not indicted, said Jose Chavez, 46, a leader of the local Latinos en Axion group.

There have been conflicting witness accounts of the shooting, with some saying that Brown had his hands up in surrender while and others have described it as a struggle between Brown and Wilson.

Ferguson and its surroundings have been fairly quiet the last few days as both police and protests plan their response to the grand jury's report.

"We've decided not to wait for that decision. We've decided to get started," said Rockit Ali, a 22-year-old organizer of Sunday's demonstration, who marched in a Spider-Man mask.

While Sunday's event had been planned as a nonviolent action, Ali said that violence could not be ruled out if the grand jury finds Wilson without fault.

"Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice. The rioting and looting, while I didn't participate in it, was necessary. Without it we would not be standing here today," Ali said. "There is no revolution without violence." (Reporting by Scott Malone Editing by W Simon)

Islamic State Claims It Has Beheaded American Hostage Peter Kassig

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-11-16 05:02
A new video released by the Islamic State on Sunday claims to show the killing of American hostage Abdul-Rahman Kassig, who was known as Peter Kassig before converting to Islam, USA Today reported.

According to the newspaper, the video showed a masked man standing with a bloodied decapitated head lying at his feet. The man, speaking in English in a British accent, said, "This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen."

The authenticity of the footage, which was posted on a jihadist website and on Twitter, has not been verified, Reuters reported.

ISIS first threatened Kassig's life in an Oct. 3 clip that showed the killing of Alan Henning, another Western hostage. The message followed the now-familiar script of videos that have shown the deaths of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

Kassig, of Indianapolis, was deployed as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq in 2007 before being honorably discharged on medical grounds. He started a bachelor's program in political science after returning to the U.S., and trained as an emergency medical technician while on a break from his studies. Kassig returned to college after a short marriage fell apart, but he eventually decided to move to Lebanon to work with Palestinian refugees.

“We each get one life and that’s it. This is what I was put here to do,” Kassig told CNN in 2012 about his humanitarian work. “I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and an idealist,” he added.

Kassig eventually started his own relief organization, called Special Emergency Response and Assistance, and moved to the Syrian border with Turkey. The group smuggled supplies for refugees and hospitals into Syria. He was on his way to the Syrian city of Deir Ezzour for the organization when he was captured on Oct. 1, 2013.

In an op-ed published in The Daily Beast, Kassig's friend Nick Schwellenbach described him as "an intense guy with a big heart."

"The Peter Kassig I know is brave, intense and knew the risks he faced as he attempted to help as many Syrians as possible," Schwellenbach wrote.

The Kassig family launched an emotional appeal for the release of their son, pleading with his captors to show mercy. A spokesperson for the family had earlier revealed Kassig had converted to Islam in 2013 and adopted the name Abdul-Rahman.

"We are so very proud of you and the work you have done to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people," Kassig's mother Paula said in personal message to her son.

The news about Kassig's kidnapping was kept silent until he appeared in the video on Oct. 3, which his family said was in accordance with the wishes of his kidnappers. "His family, along with friends and colleagues inside and outside Syria, have worked tirelessly, and quietly, to secure his release," the family said in a statement.

The Islamic State is believed to hold several other Western hostages. A recent report in the New York Times revealed that ISIS militants subjected some of the hostages to brutal torture, including waterboarding and mock executions.

Sunday Roundup

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-11-15 22:37
This week brought reports that President Obama will soon take executive action to prevent the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. The news sparked howls of protests from Republicans, with Speaker John Boehner on Thursday refusing to rule out shutting down the government in retaliation. "This is the wrong way to govern," he said. So in order to prevent the president from exercising the power of government, the right "way to govern" is, apparently, to prevent all government from working. Perhaps when Philae is done probing Comet 67P, it can land on a place even more inhospitable to humans -- the U.S. Congress -- and make sense out of that dormant, non-celestial body. Meanwhile, New York Mayor De Blasio announced that those caught with small amounts of marijuana would be given tickets instead of being arrested. It's a welcome, if belated, step -- but even better would be ending the racial disparities in drug enforcement. That's the real ticket.

Britain Investigating Reports That Suspect In Islamic State Beheadings Was Wounded In U.S.-Led Airstrike

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2014-11-15 22:36
LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Britain said on Saturday it was investigating reports that a man believed to be a British national suspected of carrying out beheadings in videos released by Islamic State (IS) had been wounded in a U.S.-led air strike last week.

The man, dubbed "Jihadi John" by the British media, was believed to have been injured in an air attack on a summit of IS leaders in an Iraqi town close to the Syrian border last Saturday, Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper reported.

The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also said to have been wounded in the attack, the paper added.

"We are aware of reports," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said. "We cannot confirm these reports."

A speech purporting to be by Baghdadi was released on Thursday following contradictory accounts out of Iraq that he had been wounded last Friday in U.S. air strikes.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday they could not confirm whether Baghdadi was hit in a strike near Falluja in Iraq.

According to the Mail on Sunday, which said its source was an unnamed nurse, "Jihadi John," Baghdadi and other wounded IS figures were taken to hospital and then driven to the Syrian city of Raqqa.

The paper said it was not clear how serious their injuries were.

In videos released by Islamic State, the masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent appears to have carried out the beheadings of two Americans and two Britons. (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Andrew Hay)