The Obama administration is grasping at straws to defend its attempt to illegally give away billions of dollars in taxpayer funds under Obamacare, according to plaintiffs in a pending Supreme Court case that could significantly undermine the law.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in the King vs. Burwell case filed their closing brief in the case on Wednesday, the last brief to be filed before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 4.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is funding the case, and the group’s general counsel, Sam Kazman, said it’s clear the Obama administration is purposefully misapplying the law in order to dole out billions of dollars in health insurance subsidies that are not permitted by Obamacare.
“As the brief demonstrates, the government is manipulating language, purely, simply, and without justification,” he said.
The key issue in the case is whether Obamacare allows the federal government to give people tax subsidies if they buy insurance on the federal government’s own health insurance exchange. Plaintiffs say it’s clear that the law says subsidies can only given to people who use exchanges “established by the state,” and say that term is a clear reference to other language in the law that differentiates between state and federal government exchanges.
The Obama administration, in contrast, has argued that the phrase “established by the state” is a “term of art.” Plaintiffs say there’s no good reason why Congress would choose an ambiguous term on purpose, and say the Obama administration doesn’t have any good answers to this question.
“The government’s effort to explain is laughably unpersuasive,” the plaintiffs’ reply brief said. “Congress had to use this phrase, it argues, because of ‘style and grammar,’ to ‘identify the exchange in a particular state.’ ”
Plaintiffs say that while the law clearly prevents subsidies for people who buy health insurance under the federal exchange, the IRS issued regulations that said anyone can get the subsidies. They say those regulations may have been what prompted some states not to set up their own exchanges, since the IRS was telling states that the subsidies were available for all.
“Our reply brief effectively rebuts the government’s attempt to distort the law in order to rescue an unauthorized IRS giveaway of billions of taxpayer dollars,” Kazman said.
Once the Supreme Court hears oral arguments, it’s expected to issue some ruling by the summer.
A decision that says the subsidies can only be given to people who buy insurance under state exchanges could have a dramatic impact on enrollment. The Obama administration has said it is giving out an average of $268 per month for the average enrollee, or more than $3,000 per year.
Taking those away from everyone on the federal exchanges would mean an end to billions of dollars of subsidies, reduced enrollment, and significant damage to Democratic efforts to get more people signed up under the law.
Read the plaintiffs’ reply brief here:
Remember life before cellphones? You know, when you actually had to take out your (real) camera if you wanted to snap a picture? So do we. And before even digital cameras, few things were more convenient than the disposable camera.
In the age of smartphones and tablets hogging your attention, whether it be for phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook messages, Snapchat photos or…well, you get the picture. It’s easy to forget what life actually looked like before there ever were cellphones cameras.
Let’s throwback to a time when wannabe photographers looking to capture their fondest memories had to think twice before snapping their next photo. That’s because there was only so much film – meaning there were only so many pictures – you could take before it just wasn’t useful anymore.
It’s true the first disposable camera dates all the way back to the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that one of the world’s leading photography companies, Kodak, launched its very first one-time use — or disposable — camera, which it called “FLING.”
The exact year was 1987. Ronald Reagan was president, “The Simpsons” was a new TV show, the world’s population had reached 5 billion (it’s now more than 7 billion) and the average cost for a dozen eggs hovered around 65 cents.
Consumers paid just $6.95 for Kodak’s FLING camera when it was first introduced. It provided a convenient alternative to packing along that other bulky, heavy camera. While the more expensive and harder-to-carry cameras may have taken better photos than the disposable alternative, consumers seemed all too willing to compromise quality for convenience and easier access.
The downside? The FLING came with a 110 KODACOLOR cartridge. Translation: it was only good for about 24 photos.
But that didn’t alter sales. In fact, disposable camera sales in the U.S. grew from just 3 million in 1988 to 21.5 million by 1992. That means total sales of disposable cameras in the U.S. in 1988 amounted to nearly $51 million when adjusted for the latest inflation rate. Compare that with sales in 1992, which saw nearly $300 million in disposable cameras sold, according to DisposableAmerica.com.
While you might think sales today are down, given all the technology at our fingertips, they’re actually not: disposable camera sales are up. In 2009-2010 (the latest years for which data are available) disposable camera sales hit $1.5 billion when adjusted for inflation today, according to Statista.(Granted, that’s likely due in part to the products costing consumers more: most disposable cameras today run hover around $15 each, compared with $6.95 back when they were first released.)
It was the cheap cost that allowed consumers to stock up on disposables. They were ideal for family vacations, field trips and anywhere else you wouldn’t necessarily want to risk losing or damaging an expensive camera.
You’d probably admit, too, that for the ’80s, the picture quality wasn’t that bad for a $7 camera that eventually found its way to the “to be developed” bin in your local department store or pharmacy’s photo processing center. And as disposable cameras became more popular into the ’90s, photo quality improved. Some were even waterproof, making them perfect beach companions.
Fast-forward nearly three decades and you’ll see a much different picture. Walk around just about anywhere and you’ll notice people of all ages – kids, teens, young adults and older folks – packing a much smaller, thinner and higher-quality camera in their pockets.
You can still find disposable cameras in some local drugstores and convenience stores, but when was the last time you saw someone take a picture with a disposable camera?
Return to the age of cellphones and tablets. You might not see everything that you might have otherwise witnessed back in the day for the fact that your eyes are probably glued to your bright screen. Or, perhaps, you’re one of the people who just can’t part from the classic disposable.
Either way, you’re capturing memories. Say cheese!
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A Muslim cleric gave a fiery speech in Copenhagen, Denmark, calling all non-Muslims “infidels” and inciting to “war against the Jews” just one day before a terrorist gunman launched a deadly attack on a group of free speech advocates and a synagogue.
The Middle East Media Research Institute obtained video of the Arabic sermon given by Hajj Saeed, imam of the Al-Faruq Mosque in Copenhagen, and translated excerpts of it. While there is no evidence that suspected gunman Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, whom witnesses heard shouting “Allahu akbar,” heard the sermon, it does offer a glimpse into the kind of hardline messaging he may have been exposed to in worship services attended by Middle Eastern immigrants in Copenhagen.
“All people are called to convert to Islam, and anyone who refrains from doing so, after having been presented with evidence, is an infidel, without a doubt,” Saeed said.
The preacher recounted the experience of the Prophet Muhammad who had Jewish neighbors as an example of how to respond to interfaith efforts.
“Did he call for closer relations, harmony and dialogue with them, in the manner of the U.N. and of those who call to reconciliation truth and falsehood? Or did he call upon them to worship Allah?” Saeed said, according to the translation. “When they violated their pledge and did not accept this call – well, you know what he did to them. … He waged war against the Jews.”
The crux of his message was aimed at swaying congregants away from interfaith efforts – which he labeled a “malignant idea” – and warned its aim was to lure Muslims away from Islam. Saeed called those who advocate interfaith dialogue “Satan and his followers.”
“Allah has made laws that regulate our relations with them, if we live in their countries. The so-called interfaith dialogue is not part of these laws,” the Muslim cleric said.
Offering insight as to how some Danish Muslims may view the country in which they live, Saeed said Islam was an “alternative to their bogus culture, which has hurled them into the abyss of depravity and corruption, and which has reduced them from humanity to the level of beasts.”
He contended that the United Nations was “established in order to fight Islam, to destroy the state of Islam, and to draw the Muslims away from their religion.”
MEMRI reported that the sermon was posted online by the Scandinavian chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group dedicated to establishing a global caliphate. As of Thursday morning, the video did not appear to be on the group’s website.
Here are translated excerpts of the sermon:
President Barack Obama stressed the need to win the communications battle against the Islamic State and other extremists groups in order to change the narrative recruiting terrorist fighters not only in the Middle East but also in the West.
“We need to build and bolster bridges of communication and trust. Terrorist traffic in lies and stereotypes about others, other religious, other ethnic groups,” Obama said Thursday, speaking on the final day of the White House’s summit on violent extremism. “Let’s share the truths of our faiths with each other. Terrorists prey upon young, impressionable minds.”
Obama announced the creation of a “virtual exchange program” to connect youth around the world and “promote understanding and cooperation.” It’s named after the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of the four Americans killed in the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
“Let’s bring our youth together to promote understanding and cooperation,” Obama said. “That’s what the United States will do with our virtual exchange program named after Ambassador Chris Stevens, to connect 1 million young people from America, the Middle East and North Africa for dialogue. Young people are taught to hate. It doesn’t come naturally to them.”
Much of the three-day conference focused on how the United States has not kept pace with the social media messaging of terror groups like the Islamic State that have used Facebook and Twitter to recruit young people.
The president treaded carefully not to fault any single group for hateful rhetoric, and said discrimination feeds into terrorist recruitment narratives.
“We’ve also seen, most recently in Europe, a rise in inexcusable acts of anti-Semitism, or in some cases, anti-Muslim sentiment or anti-immigrant sentiment,” Obama said. “When people spew hatred towards others because of their faith or because they’re immigrants, it feeds into terrorist narratives. If entire communities feel they can never become a full part of the society in which they reside, it feeds a cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists prey. And we can’t allow cycles of suspicions to tear at the fabric of our countries.”
As he said on Wednesday, Obama again repeated that “grievances” create terrorists, including changing corrupt and oppressive governments in the Middle East.
“We have to address the political grievances that terrorists exploit,” Obama said. “Again, there is not a single perfect causal link, but the link is undeniable, when people are oppressed and human rights are denied, particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines, when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism.”
The president further said there should be more dialogue within countries and within faiths.
“We all recognize the need for more dialogues across countries and cultures; those efforts are indeed important, but what’s most needed today, perhaps, are more dialogues within countries, not just across faiths, but also within faiths,” Obama said. “Violent extremists and terrorists thrive when people of different religions or sects pull away from each other and are able to isolate each other and label them as ‘they’ as opposed to ‘us,’ something separate and apart. So we need to build and bolster bridges of communication and trust.”
Obama said that all governments have a role to play to curb the propaganda and announced that the government of the United Arab Emirates is joining the United States in the effort to connect youth.
“At minimum as a basic first step, countries have a responsibility to cut off funding that fuels hatred and corrupts young minds and endangers us all. We need to do more to help lift up voices of tolerance. and peace, especially online,” Obama said. “That’s why the United States is joining, for example, with the UAE to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda.”
Helping people battle porn addiction can be a depressing feat, and perhaps no one knows that challenge more personally than Craig Gross, the founder of XXX Church, a Christian ministry that has worked for more than a decade to help people escape porn obsession and addiction.
“My world is depressing,” he admitted in an interview with TheBlaze. “My inbox right now is awful. It’s just one after another of like — ‘I don’t know what to do.’ People are so accustomed to losing this fight, and you see it rip apart people.”
Gross, who also recently released a new course to help married couples navigate sex, said that his ministry work can be a downer, though he isn’t one to give up easily, noting that the successes — when they do come — are worth celebrating.
“Sadly most people don’t [get over it]. … Ninety percent of people I deal with don’t break free,” he said. “The people I’ve seen it work with — they’ve got to want it more than you want it. Most of those people have lost everything, and now they’re willing to clean it up.”
Despite these challenges, Gross forges on.
“We’re needed,” he said.
The roots of his XXX Church ministry were set 14 years ago when he was a youth pastor and observed just how accessible porn was becoming.
“I noticed that kids looked at porn and had access to porn that I didn’t,” he said. “And I just saw this idea of, what do we do to help those people? It started out of youth ministry.”
He officially launched XXX Church in 2002 to help people escape porn addiction, while getting them to speak more openly about their issues. That outreach has grown into a desire to help married couples as well, he said.
“We’re more passionate right now probably about marriage,” he said, discussing the launch of his online video series, “Your Best Sex Life Now,” a course that promises to offer “a real, honest conversation about sex and marriage.”
Speaking of porn, specifically, Gross said that it changes something within married and single men, alike, when it comes to the way they see their spouse or partner.
“When you bring porn to your bedroom … those images stay with you, take focus off of your wife and spouse and put it somewhere else,” he said. “If the Bible says, don’t look at women with lust in your eyes — how do you process that?”
Gross did say that he believes the church, as a whole, has done a disservice when it comes to sex, which is one reason why many women have begun flocking to entertainment like “Fifty Shades of Gray” — a film that he called “dirty” and “filthy.”
“Do I think [the book and movie] send the right message about sex? No, but I think the message it should send to all of us is that people are highly interested in all of this,” Gross said, encouraging the church to talk more openly about sex. “Man, we’ve got to get involved … If the church could embrace sex without shame and … get people talking about it the way this movie is, people would have better sex lives.”
As for “Fifty Shades of Grey” more specifically, Gross said that those marketing the movie knew what they were doing.
“You take any movie from a book series that sold that well — it’s going to get attention,” he said. “Men didn’t care about the book, but they’ll jump to see the movie. … I think the movie does a great job of inviting the males into this, because men are so much more visual.”
Gross said that, from what he knows about the book and the movie, the type of sex represented is “highly fantasy.” He drew a parallel to porn, noting that the “dangerous” part of it is its tendency to seep into peoples’ reality.
“You take a movie like ‘Fifty Shades’ — there’s no disclaimer saying the actor was uncomfortable with this, so you’re going to go back and wondering … ‘Is this what my sex life is missing?’” he said. “Man, that’s dangerous when we think this type of fantasy is needed in our world of reality.”
Porn and smut, he said, “plants ideas in our mind that we think we need.”
Gross, who is joined by his wife, Jeanette, and another couple in presenting the “Your Best Sex Life Now” video series, said that he has taken his experiences through XXX Church and is now using them to help married couples.
“The course is not a bunch of dos and don’ts,” he said. “The most popular lesson by far which sums up our culture today, which is lesson five, which says how do we know what we can and can’t do.”
Gross continued, “The first thing that we would say — whatever you bring in extra to the bedroom has got to be a mutual decision, and it can’t put you at any kind of harm or be something that one of you is uncomfortable with.”
Read more about the video course here.
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey and the United States signed an agreement Thursday to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group, said the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
The two countries have been in talks about such a pact for several months. The deal was signed Thursday evening by U.S Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, said Embassy spokesman Joe Wierichs. He gave no further details.
Sinirlioglu called the deal “an important step” in the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish government has said the training by U.S. and Turkish soldiers could begin as early as next month at a base in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, and involve hundreds of Syrian fighters in the first year. The U.S. has said the goal is to go after the Islamic State group, but Turkish officials have suggested that the trained rebels could also target the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
With its 750 mile border on Syria, Turkey is a key part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group. But negotiations with the U.S. over what to do about the Islamic militants have been fraught with disagreement – with Turkey insisting that the coalition needs to also target the Assad government.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a press conference that Turkey expected that the trained rebels will also fight the Syrian regime.
Turkey is already training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Northern Iraq, who have been battling Islamic State militants.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program Thursday to respond to what Beck called a “hit piece” in Politico criticizing the senator’s push to audit the Federal Reserve.
“They bring up a lot of points that somebody like me looks at and says, ‘Well, gee, that kind of makes sense. What’s Rand talking about?’ So let’s go over these point by point,” Beck told the senator. “The article says the [Federal Reserve's] finances are already subject to an audit by the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, the Federal Inspector General and outside audit firms.”
Paul suggested Beck watch a “really great exchange” where a congressman asked the Federal Reserve auditor during a committee hearing what was purchased with around $2 trillion. The auditor said they were “not allowed” to audit Federal Reserve bank activities.
“I don’t think that’s a real audit,” Paul said. “We have a bunch of fake audits, and the fake audits don’t reveal any of the information we want to know. We want to know, who are they buying the stuff from? What are they paying for it? Are they paying a fair market rate, or because it’s someone’s brother-in-law, are they actually paying more for something than it’s actually worth?”
“We don’t know any of that so we don’t really have an audit,” Paul continued. “It’s appalling that something Congress created is such an enormous creature, a creature that creates its own money is now lobbying government. They should be forbidden from lobbying government and forbidden from trying to influence legislation. I think it’s appalling that they’re trying to stop any oversight of the Federal Reserve.”
Beck countered that in the Politico article it reads: “Those interested in what’s on the Fed’s balance sheet can find out, down to the individual bond, on the website of the New York Federal Reserve.”
“I think that that’s true and untrue at the same time,” Paul responded. “There are lists of what their assets are, but they aren’t individualized. You can’t tell who they bought them from or whether they were bought at fair market price or whether they were bought at a haircut and whether or not there were any conflicts of interests in the buying and selling.”
The senator said it is “very concerning” how much the Federal Reserve will not disclose, and his push to audit the institution now has overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Now the Fed has got an all-out onslaught and push against this,” Paul said. “And it should worry people that an individual bank that has the monopoly privilege granted to it by Congress is able to print up money to lobby against legislation that would cause more oversight. That should worry all of us.”
You can watch’s Beck’s complete interview with Senator Paul below.
The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live-streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Click here to watch every Glenn Beck episode from the past 30 days for just $1!
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is “unelectable” in part because he presented former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a public service award one year after the Benghazi terrorist attacks, one conservative group is charging.
ForAmerica released a video Thursday targeting a broad network of conservative activists, many in early primary states, showing Bush and Clinton praising one another.
Bush presented Clinton with the award on Sept. 10, 2013 at the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal Awards ceremony. The Benghazi terrorist attacks, in which four Americans were killed, occurred on Sept. 11, 2012. The attacks happened on Clinton’s watch at the State Department, with lingering questions about the matter sure to be part of her likely 2016 presidential campaign.
“I want to say thank you to both Secretary Clinton and to President Clinton, thank you for your service to our country,” Jeb Bush says in the video. “We are united by our love of country and public service.”
Hillary Clinton says, “I want to say a special thank you to Governor Bush … Now this is not the first time a Clinton and a Bush have shared this stage.”
The presentation also came less than nine months after Clinton told a Senate panel questioning hear about the motivation behind the Benghazi attacks, “What difference at this point does it make?”
The video release follows Bush’s foreign policy speech in Chicago Wednesday in which he criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policy, asserted that he is his own man and not tied to the policies of his brother or father, but defended the National Security Agency surveillance program under President Barack Obama.
“It’s bad enough that Hillary Clinton will likely use footage from this event against any Republican nominee, but if Jeb Bush is her opponent she will make him look ridiculous,” ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell said in a statement.
“Anytime Jeb calls Hillary ‘Obama 2.0,’ any criticism he makes of her awful record as secretary of state, any time he shows how much of an extremist she is on the issues, will be completely dismissed when she reminds everyone that he gave her an award for public service,” Bozell said. “As it stands, Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant; and he inexplicably did so almost a year to the day of the Benghazi massacre. He will lose, and the public will have to suffer at least another four years of Obama’s policies – and anything worse she has in store for America.”
There is something amazing about witnessing the miracle of new life — and millions were especially interested when that new life involved a bald eagle.
By Thursday afternoon, more than 300 million people had watched the live stream that showed a bald eagle in Iowa go through the motions of laying her first egg of 2015. The Raptor Resource Project ran live video of the event, which took place Wednesday evening.
Watch the action:
Here’s more footage from shortly afterward:
According to WHO-TV, the momma eagle has laid 21 eggs, 20 of which have been raised into young eaglets.
This same eagle’s live stream became notorious last month when a pair of horned owls attacked the nest, leading to a battle for the territory. Here’s that video:
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, bald eagle eggs are incubated by both parents for 34 to 36 days. So we can expect a new eaglet sometime next month.
Some described the event as representing “American in an eggshell.”
— Rare (@Rare) February 19, 2015
You can keep tabs on the mother eagle tending to her egg on the live stream here.
Pittsburgh also has a pair of bald eagles that welcomed their first egg of the year on Wednesday as well.
(H/T: Fox News)
A scathing wedding “invitation” from an angry bride-to-be to her parents is rocking the Internet, but the woman’s now-viral gesture contains a deeper story rooted in what she says was years of abuse.
“So my narcissistic parents abused me for 16 years before I ran away from home. Now they’re trying to bully their way (via family, they haven’t bothered to speak to me personally) into getting an invitation to my wedding,” the woman posted on Reddit. “There was really only one way to respond.”
Here’s the invite (with an expletive blurred):
Together with our friends and families,
Alex & Alyssa
would like to invite you to suck it
and bask in our happiness, your bitterness,
and our mutual irritation at each other’s existence,
as we completely ignore yours and celebrate our marriage without you.
There will be a lovely ceremony, followed by cake, food and general merriment.
And you’re not invited to any of it.
Because f*** you that’s why.
The woman posted about the invitation on Reddit about five months ago, but the story just gained traction this week.
Speaking to the Daily Mail using her real name, 23-year-old Alyssa Pearce of Adelaide, Australia, said that “writing and sending that letter made me feel so much better about all the stress I’d been under. Not only had I refused to allow myself to be bullied into something I didn’t want, but I also took a stand.”
Pearce, a Ph.D. student in applied linguistics, said that while her gesture “may have been childish and immature, it made me feel as if I’d taken back power from them.” She’s been happily married since last year, she said.
She told the Daily Mail that after the wedding — which took place in a public garden without her parents present, despite family pressure — she and her new husband honeymooned in Thailand. He is also a student focusing on world politics and international relations, the Daily Mail noted.
“Realizing that you’re not alone is the best feeling ever :),” she wrote in a Reddit comment after the ceremony. “And the wedding was amazing!”
Alyssa Pearce’s decision to ‘un-invite’ her parents to her wedding creates global news http://t.co/JEC57xAXAg
— Sup (@sup_now) February 19, 2015
In Reddit comments, Pearce (presumably as original poster “SkitzoCat“) told readers that the abuse she experienced at the hands of her parents was “(m)ostly physical and emotional, but there was also sexual abuse in the form of touching and watching me while naked.”
She also said that a “running theme” throughout her childhood was getting presents from her parents that were appropriate for much younger kids. For her 16th birthday, she got a large children’s book with lots of pictures and a “plastic glittery princess tiara.”
“My relationship with my Nfather went downhill from the moment I was born and he realized I wasn’t a boy like I should have been,” she wrote in a follow-up post to Reddit. “I was only a daddy’s girl in the sense that I was daddy’s favorite punching bag, among other things.”
Seven years after running away from home, she added that she’d “reluctantly” gotten together with her parents about a half dozen times.
After Pearce sent the invitation to her parents, they sent a text message to her grandparents that was directed toward her, which she said read: “Our relationship is now irreconcilable. If you keep harassing my family I will take out a court order to protect them. I don’t want to see you again near my business/house/family.”
She also described how her grandparents were afraid of slighting her father by attending the wedding, which saddened her grandfather because he wouldn’t be able to walk her down the aisle. But Pearce (as SkitzoCat) commented, “The aisle is only wide enough for one awesome person, so I’ll be walking myself down :P”
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Movers are used to seeing a lot of unique — and maybe even strange — items throughout their workdays, but they’re not accustomed to spotting these.
A crew swarmed the home of 39-year-old Larry Maloney in Pueblo County, Colorado, Wednesday morning after his house was repossessed. Maloney sat outside as they completed their job. It was nothing much out of the ordinary.
That was, until movers reported finding a “molotov cocktail,’ a container filled with flammable liquid with a rag attached to the top, and several other suspicious devices.” Lisa Shorter, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, later confirmed there were four improvised explosive devices, two pipe bombs, numerous Molotov cocktails and an unidentified device, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.
Pueblo County Sheriff’s deputies arrived shortly after the discovery and confirmed what the movers thought the items to be. As a result, they evacuated nine nearby homes for two hours, before eventually giving the all-clear.
A total of 19 homemade explosive devices were located inside Maloney’s home, some of which the Pueblo Metro Bomb Unit is still inspecting. Of those that have already been tested, all of them have contained explosive materials capable of producing “significant” property damage and personal injury, according to the sheriff’s department.
“These are very dangerous devices and not easy to spot,” Sheriff Kirk Taylor said. “Ensuring that our deputies know what to watch for, having our own certified bomb technicians and the Metro Bomb Squad here in Pueblo, all make these investigations quicker and much safer.”
Chris Amon, a Colorado field office spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told TheBlaze Thursday that ATF agents were on the scene as it happened and that it is currently reviewing the case.
Amon said it’s “too early to tell” the total extent of the bureau’s involvement. That decision, he said, is partially dependent on whether Maloney will be tried in state or federal court.
Maloney is now in sheriff’s custody and faces charges of felony child abuse, reckless endangerment as well as several counts of possession and/or use of an explosive device.
The Chieftain reported it is not clear what Maloney planned to do with the explosives.
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The ghost-like shell left by the front bumper of a Jeep in ice was pictured in front of a Greenville, North Carolina, medical center, providing a cool example of just how cold it has been in some southern states this week.
Pictures of the ice sculpture in Vidant Medical Center’s parking lot were sent to WITN-TV by a couple of its viewers.
— Travis Gibson (@TravisDgibson) February 19, 2015
The news station reported that one of the photographers thinks the Jeep was running to warm up, which caused some of the ice on its engine to melt just enough to maintain the shape of the vehicle when it backed away.
Temperatures in Greenville have been in the low 20s this week.
Front page image via Shutterstock.
Vice President Joe Biden prompted a (separate) stir this week when he talked about his “great relationships” with Somalis in Delaware because “an awful lot of them” drive cabs. The problem with the “strange claim,” according to the Washington Post, is that the Somali population in the state is marginal at best.
Biden had referred to the large Somali population in Minnesota, and compared it to Delaware.
“Somalis have made my city of Wilmington, Delaware [their home] on a smaller scale. There is a very identifiable Somali community,” Biden said Tuesday at the White House’s anti-extremism summit. “I might add if you come to the train station with me you’ll notice I have great relationships with them because there’s an awful lot driving cabs and are friends of mine. For real. I’m not being solicitous. I’m being serious.”
From the Washington Post Fact Checker column by Glenn Kessler:
In fact, in the last 15 years, Delaware only accepted a total of 269 refugees—and most were from West Africa, not East Africa. The records show that 135 refugees from Liberia and 51 from Sierra Leone arrived in Delaware. (Other major countries sending refugees to Delaware included Burma, Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and Iran; Eritrea, with a single refugee, is the only country representing East Africa.)
Census data also do not provide backup for Biden’s comment about an identifiable Somali community. An October 2014 report on the foreign-born population from Africa does not list Delaware as one of the states with a large population born in Africa. The report did say that in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metropolitan area there are 48,000 people who were born in Africa, but again the concentration was from West Africa, especially Liberia and Nigeria.
The burden of proof rests with the speaker, and here the preponderance of evidence suggests there are not “an awful lot” of Somalis driving taxi cabs in Wilmington, Del. The vice president earns Four Pinocchios.
Have you ever noticed there are two words President Obama uses frequently during interviews? Bill McGowan has. And he says they are “verbal bridges” meant to buy the president time or avoid the question.
McGowan is an expert on speech and talking to the media. He’s a former journalist who heads Clarity Media Group, coaches celebrities on public speaking and has written a book about the topic.
“He has two words that he uses that accomplishes the same thing,” McGowan told “Freakenomics” author Stephen Dubner during a podcast last month regarding Obama. ”One of them is, ‘look.’ And the ‘look’ means– he’s trying to convey it as, ‘Let me be frank with you.’ Or the other word he uses is, ‘listen.’ And whenever you hear ‘look’ or ‘listen’ come out of the president’s mouth, that means he’s no longer answering your question, he’s answering his question.”
You can listen to McGowan’s interview and audio evidence blow starting at the seven-minute mark:
So the next time you watch or hear the president answer questions and detect those two words, according to McGowan that’s the cue to understanding he’s buying himself some time or about to shift from actually answering what he was asked.
While a ring finger might say something about a person’s propensity for promiscuity, it might also help predict how a man will behave in other situations.
A more recent study out of McGill University suggests that the anatomy of a man’s hand can reveal more about how he’ll treat a lady — and his colleagues for that matter.
The research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences suggests that one can estimate a baby’s exposure in the womb to hormones, like testosterone, by dividing the length of the index finger by the ring finger. A smaller “digit ratio” means the baby was likely exposed to more male hormones.
What the study found when looking at men in certain situations and evaluating their finger lengths was those with a smaller digit ratio seem to be kinder.
“When with women, men with smaller ratios were more likely to listen attentively, smile and laugh, compromise or compliment the other person,” Debbie Moskowitz, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The study had participants record their behavior in various events and found that men, in general, were “more agreeable” when interacting with women rather than men. They were even more agreeable if they had a smaller digit ratio though. The study stated that the digit ratio did not seem to have an association with behavior in women.
“Our research suggests they have more harmonious relationships with women; these behaviors support the formation and maintenance of relationships with women,” Moskowitz said of men with longer ring fingers and shorter index fingers. “This might explain why they have more children on average.”
Earlier this month, similar research suggested that the length of the index finger compared to the ring finger could help predict if a person were more likely to be promiscuous. McGill’s more recent study was the first of its kind to show how finger lengths could impact how man behaves with a person depending on their sex, according to the university’s news release.
Going forward, the study authors think their findings could springboard further research in male dominance.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
President Barack Obama has named State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as the new White House communications director.
Psaki, an Obama hand since 2007, replaces Jennifer Palmieri, who is leaving to work on Hillary Clinton’s presumed presidential campaign.
“[Psaki] worked on both my campaigns, she’s served in the White House, and she’s traveled the world as an advisor to Secretary Kerry,” Obama said in a statement. “I fully trust Jen – and I am thrilled she’s agreed to come back to the White House as communications director.”
After working in the White House press office, Psaki moved over to the State Department two years ago, where she’s been known for contentious and sometimes head-scratching exchanges with reporters, as well as blatantly evading questions. In her new role, she will have limited time before a camera, not conducting a daily press briefing.
Last year, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly criticized Psaki as being “out of her depth,” prompting Psaki colleague Marie Harf to slam O’Reilly as lacking “intelligence and class.”
There was initial speculation that Psaki might replace Jay Carney as press secretary, a job now occupied by Josh Earnest. As communications director, she will be in charge of all messaging coming out of the White House.
In a tweet, Psaki said she was “Honored to be rejoining the team @WhiteHouse in April, exciting two years for @BarackObama ahead. Wil miss incredible colleagues @StateDept.”
A Christian florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding violated Washington state anti-discrimination law, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom found that Barronelle Stutzman violated Washington’s Law Against Discrimination and Consumer Protection Act when she declined to provide service to Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed.
Ekstrom granted a summary judgement, ruling that Stutzman, 70, must provide the same services to same-sex couples as she does to opposite-sex couples; the case will not proceed to trial in March as originally expected.
“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote in his decision, according to the Associated Press. “The Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”
The state and the gay couple at the center of the legal battle are both able to collect damages and legal fees from Stutzman’s business — Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts — and from the florist personally, according to her attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm.
“The court somehow concluded that forcing Barronelle to create expression against her will does not violate her free speech and free exercise rights under the state and federal constitutions,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement. “To the contrary, this ruling ignores the pre-eminent civil right law of our nation – the First Amendment – and allows the state to force citizens to choose between conforming their beliefs to the state’s ideology and suffering severe consequences.”
The florist’s attorneys plan to appeal the case.
Stutzman has been sued by both Ingersoll and Freed, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, and by Washington state, in a charge led by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
As TheBlaze reported last month, Ekstrom previously ruled that Stutzman could be personally sued and held liable by the attorney general’s office over her refusal to provide service to the couple, with the Associated Press reporting on Wednesday that the law allows for penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, plus legal fees.
A spokesperson for Ferguson’s office said that it is likely these fees will be sought both against Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts.
The case has been forging on for two years now, as Stutzman was first sued by Ferguson in 2013 after she cited her Christian faith as the reason for her decision.
“As attorney general, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington,” Ferguson said in a statement issued at the beginning of the legal ordeal. “Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.”
But Stutzman has doubled down and refused to provide service to same-sex couples, claiming that she had politely declined service to longtime client Robert Ingersoll in 2012 and that her decision is based on her biblical views.
“I just took his hands and said, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she once told reporters, speaking of how she handled the refusal.
Read more about the story here.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.
What basketball fan doesn’t love the last-second shot for the win?
One last play. Crowd counting down the clock. The breathless moments when players and fans watch the ball arc through the air, waiting to see if it hits or misses.
There are a ton of clips of heroic shots from crazy angles and long distances that somehow make it through the basket to win the game.
And then there’s this video…of a last-second shot that missed. But what’s so jaw-dropping is how it happened.
Time was running out during the third-place game at the Kansas Mid-East eighth-grade tournament Monday. The Riley County Falcons were leading the Rock Creek Mustangs 26 to 25 with just seconds remaining, according to the video’s YouTube description. The Mustangs had a last chance to win as one of their players drove to the net and put up a shot as the crowd counted down the clock.
The ball bounced off the backboard, bounced off the front of the rim, and looked like it was destined to fall through the net.
But alas, as the shooter watched with his back on the floor, the ball landed on the flat strip separating the backboard from the rim…and stayed right there.
The player remained on the floor, head in hands, utterly dejected as the Falcons celebrated their win.
Basketballs come to rest on that flat strip once in a blue moon — but in the final seconds of a playoff game? Heartbreaking.
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Some parents of Catholic elementary school students in California are upset over the distribution of a pamphlet that included questions about abortion, masturbation and birth control — a document they believe was too advanced for their children.
The pamphlet, titled, “The Examination of Conscience and Catholic Doctrine,” was passed out to a range of students in second through sixth-grade at Star of the Sea School in San Francisco, California, back in December, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Given out before confession, it dealt with acts deemed sinful by the Catholic Church, asking questions such as: “Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?” and “Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?”
Abortion and suicide, too, were mentioned among the questions, according to the Chronicle.
Siobhan McFeeney, a parent who has four children attending the school, wasn’t happy over the pamphlet distribution, calling it “very careless.”
“You would expect anyone who works around children to be much more careful,” she told the Chronicle, noting that at least one of her children — a fourth grader — read the document. “You should never show this to a 9-year-old.”
Another parent named Christy Brooks said she found the incident troubling in that it actually put impure content into her child’s hands.
“There’s something on there saying, ‘Did I deliberately look at impure television or Internet,’ and I feel like they have actually given my children impure content,” she said. “It’s not appropriate for children and anybody who thinks otherwise doesn’t belong around children.”
The school’s leader, the Rev. Joseph Illo — who recently came under fire for deciding that only boys can be altar servers — has admitted that the pamphlets were handed out on December 6 to the schoolchildren, according to KPIX-TV.
“The pamphlet, published by the Fathers of Mercy, had been used by both Star of the Sea priests for several years in other parishes. Among the 70 items for reflection, some were not age appropriate for schoolchildren,” he said. “We apologize for this oversight and removed the pamphlet as soon as this was brought to our attention by the school faculty in December.”
Father Patrick Driscoll, the priest who handed out the pamphlets, told KNTV-TV that, after reviewing the material, he and other leaders regret handing it out.
“That was inappropriate,” Illo added in that same news segment. “We didn’t think that one through pretty closely.”
The controversy comes amid protests over morality clauses that would require high school teachers working in Catholic institutions in San Francisco to live out sexual and moral values embraced by the church.
(H/T: San Francisco Chronicle)
The amount of sugar in soda and its relationship with weight gain and obesity might be reason enough to stop sucking on that straw, but a new report suggests a more nefarious disease could be associated with soda consumption.
According to Consumer Reports, some sodas contain a compound that is a potential carcinogen.
Studies have shown long-term exposure to 4-methylimidazole, a chemical that is in caramel colorings to help turn sodas brown, can increase lung cancer risk in mice. Though there is currently no limit on the amount of 4-MEI in food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is assessing its cancer risk, according to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Consumer Reports and the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study in the Journal PLOS One this week that evaluated levels 4-MEI in certain sodas and assessed possible exposure to it as a carcinogen.
According to the study, Malta Goya had the highest concentration of 4-MEI and Coca-Cola had the lowest (clear sodas were not involved in the study because they don’t have caramel coloring). At the level of consumption that the study evaluated, exposure to 4-MEI from just soda could result in anywhere from 76 up to 5,000 cancer cases within the next 70 years.
“We don’t think any food additive, particularly one that’s only purpose is to color food brown, should elevate people’s cancer risk,” Dr. Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center, said according to Consumer Reports. “Ideally, 4-MEI should not be added to food.”
The FDA has pointed out though that studies of rodents and exposure to 4-MEI involved levels of the chemical that exceeds estimates humans are exposed to through soda. It also noted that just because soda has caramel coloring listed in the ingredients does not mean that 4-MEI is a chemical used in that coloring.
Soda is not the only source of 4-MEI in diets either. According to the FDA, it can be formed during cooking, like when coffee beans are roasted.
On the state level, the study said that state regulatory standards seem to be effective at reducing exposure to the possible carcinogen, but Consumer Reports encouraged federal regulations as well.
At this point, the FDA states on its website that it is “not recommending that consumers change their diets because of concerns about 4-MEI.” The European Food Safety Authority, as pointed out by the FDA, also maintains that consumers should not be concerned about 4-MEI in their sodas contributing to cancer risk.
Watch Consumer Report’s video about its findings:
It’s no secret that Google has a lot of money. Just ask all of its employees making six-figure incomes.
A new list compiled by Business Insider shows just how much cash there is in one of Google’s 20 top paid jobs. The rankings are based on anonymous salary data from Glassdoor.com.
The amounts are the actual salary figures reported for a particular position by both current and former employees and do not factor in bonuses. Actual salaries could vary based on one’s experience, Business Insider notes.
With that, here are a few of Google’s top paid jobs, ranked:
Professionals in this job use math and statistics to help solve financial and risk management problems.
Partner development managers are charged with strengthening relationships with Google’s many partners, including major players like Samsung, HTC and Dell.
Senior release engineers are the people who do the “dirty work” few people want to do. They look at HTML coding to ensure Google’s products are as flawless as they can possibly be once released.
This position regularly taps into the market competition, conducting research in various ways to help keep Google on the cutting edge.
Senior research scientists are the ones driving Google’s most talked-about projects, such as its much-anticipated driverless cars.
See the rest of Google’s top paid positions here.
(H/T: Business Insider)
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Authorities continue to investigate vandalism at a Florida church after a fire was set and the words “Allahu Akbar” were spray painted on the property early Monday morning.
Police discovered the small blaze at New Shiloh Christian Church in Melbourne, Florida, on Monday around 2:30 a.m. after an alarm sounded. The fire was contained to a storage unit on the property and did not spread to the main building or sanctuary, according to WKMG-TV.
In addition to “Allahu akbar” — an Islamic phrase that means “God is great” — police found a swastika on the property, the words “We See U” and “crude anatomical references,” according to a Melbourne Police Department press release.
Bishop Jacquelyn Gordon, the faith leader at New Shiloh, said that she was told that the actions constitute a hate crime, though Melbourne police later said that it was all an act of “juvenile vandalism.”
“They told us that this is definitely a hate crime and that they’re going to patrol our area even more and just look out for us and they thought it was senseless and I feel the same way,” Gordon told WKMG-TV. ”It really took a lot out of me when I drove up and I saw that sign on the side of the building because I’m preaching God is love, why would someone take the time to put a sign up to show hatred.”
Lt. Cheryl Trainer told the outlet, though, that the spray painted messages did not target any group in particular.
“The indication is juvenile-type graffiti. It ranges in style from sort of an anime theme, to swastikas, to crude anatomical references,” she said. “It’s across the map and it doesn’t depict any particular motivation or bias against a particular group.”
A police statement issued Wednesday affirmed this sentiment, also calling the crime an “incident of localized juvenile vandalism.”
Gordon told the Christian Post that damages to church property were around $5,000 and that leaders at the house of worship are trusting police to investigate what unfolded.
Google issued its strong opposition to the government’s proposed amendment to search and seizure procedures this week, writing that it fears the changes could lead to “government hacking of any facility.”
The proposed changes to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 — the rule that governs search and seizure — were issued last year by the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. The changes could expand the government’s ability to obtain digital information.
In its response to the government’s request for public comments on the proposed amendment this week, Google “[urged] the Committee to reject the proposed amendment and leave the expansion of the government’s investigative and technological tools, if any are necessary or appropriate, to Congress.”
The proposed changes would allow courts in any districts, not just those where the possible criminal activity occurred, to issue a warrant for law enforcement to obtain digital data. Google specifically took issue with that it would allow the government remote searches of electronic data if its location has been “concealed through technological means.”
To Google, this means that remote searches could “take place anywhere in the world,” which it noted would violate the “extraterritorial limitations of Rule 41.”
“[...] the nature of today’s technology is such that warrants issued under the proposed amendment will in many cases end up authorizing the government to conduct searches outside the United States.”
Google is not the only one opposing the proposed amendments either. Last fall, the American Civil Liberties Union gave its perspective:
The ACLU recommends that the Committee reject the proposed amendment to Rule 41. The proposed amendment raises myriad technological, policy, and constitutional concerns. Some of those might be addressed through careful regulation; others are inherent in even the most circumscribed versions of the proposal. The dramatic expansion of investigative power that the government seeks should not be authorized through a change to the Rules of Procedure. Rather, if the government wants this power, it should seek congressional action.
“[T]he proposed change threatens to undermine the privacy rights and computer security of Internet users,” Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director, wrote on its Public Policy Blog this week. “For example, the change would excuse territorial limits on the use of warrants to conduct ‘remote access’ searches where the physical location of the media is ‘concealed through technological means.’ The proposed change does not define what a ‘remote search’ is or under what circumstances and conditions a remote search can be undertaken; it merely assumes such searches, whatever they may be, are constitutional and otherwise legal. It carries with it the specter of government hacking without any Congressional debate or democratic policymaking process.”
Salgado continued that he feared proposed changes to the rule would also override previous limits on a Virtual Private Network.
“Banks, online retailers, communications providers and other businesses around the world commonly use VPNs to help keep their networks and users’ information secure. A VPN can obscure the actual location of a network, however, and thus could be subject to a remote search warrant where it would not have been otherwise,” Salgado wrote.
As the U.K.’s the Guardian pointed out, federal law enforcement is seeking such changes to search and seizure procedures, in part, because of advances in encryption technologies.
“[E]ncryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place,” FBI Director James Comey said last year, according to the Guardian.
“Have we become so mistrustful of government and law enforcement in particular that we are willing to let bad guys walk away, willing to leave victims in search of justice?” he added.
Police officers guarding Jewish sites in Sweden have been directed to carry automatic weapons following a deadly terrorist attack on a synagogue and free speech event over the weekend in neighboring Denmark.
The English-language news site the Local, citing Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, reported that officers guarding synagogues and other sites will also be equipped with bulletproof vests and protective helmets.
The decision to have police carry heavier equipment was detailed in new “directives” to police in the wake of the weekend violence, The Local reported. Swedish police on other assignments more typically carry pistols.
“This is in line with a previous decision that security equipment of police officers stationed at Jewish activity centers should be strengthened,” Swedish police spokeswoman Jessica Krasser Fremnell told the paper.
Jewish community members confirmed to TheBlaze that police assigned to guard Jewish schools and synagogues have been carrying the heavier weaponry.
Lena Posner Korsi, chairwoman of the Jewish Central Council in Sweden, noted that like in Paris, the first attack may have been against free speech advocates, but the gunman ended up targeting a synagogue.
“It either begins or ends with a Jewish target,” she said.
Tom Shulevitz, program director for the Jewish Community of Gothenburg in Sweden, described the distress being felt in the Jewish community.
“People are of course very, very upset and depressed over the situation here. We’re feeling it’s very close to us. The community in Copenhagen is like a sister community,” Shulevitz told TheBlaze by phone. “We have had many phone calls from those a bit worried, with questions.”
Despite the fears, he said, community members are reaching out to one another and planning events to gather and find comfort in being together.
“You have to have togetherness,” Shulevitz said. “People need it and need to feel secure among the group.”
Besides the addition of police protection to bolster the private security guards, the Jewish community has in the past hired for protection, a social worker was also available to counsel worried community members.
Following the weekend attacks in which a 22-year-old Danish national of Palestinian descent killed two men in Copenhagen – one a Danish filmmaker and the other a Jewish community member serving as a door guard outside the synagogue – Swedish officials decided to beef up security of religious sites.
Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.
Sweden’s Home Secretary Anders Ygeman told the TT news agency, “In the short term the police will increase their presence, but over a longer period of time we need to work together with the religious groups to help all Jews living in Sweden feel safe and secure.”
Danish police on Tuesday confirmed the identity of the gunman behind the attacks as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein.
“The Copenhagen police can now confirm the reports published by the press about the alleged perpetrator’s identity,” it said in a statement quoted by The Local.
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s defense minister has said Russia poses a “real and present danger” to European security, as Royal Air Force jets were scrambled to escort Russian warplanes off the British coast.
The Ministry of Defense said Thursday that RAF Typhoon jets escorted two Russian bombers away from British airspace after they approached the coast of southwest England on Wednesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the Russian planes did not enter U.K. airspace.
“I suspect what’s happening here is the Russians are trying to make some sort of a point, and I don’t think we should dignify it with too much of a response,” Cameron said.
Russia has stepped up its probing of NATO defenses as relations deteriorated over the conflict in Ukraine.
Britain summoned Russia’s ambassador last month and asked him to account for an incident in which Russian bombers flew along the coast and through the English Channel.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Wednesday that tensions between Moscow and NATO were “warming up.” He NATO must be prepared for Russian President Vladimir Putin to threaten Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, former Soviet republics that are now NATO members.
Fallon said that Putin “is as great a threat to Europe as Islamic State.”
The comments made to reporters during a trip to Sierra Leone were among the harshest made by senior British officials in recent months.