’90s Documents Reveal Hillary Clinton Was Skeptical of Health Care Individual MandatePosted February 28, 2014 at 2:15 pm by Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Clinton’s aides revealed concern early in his presidency about the health care overhaul effort led by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and what they saw as a need to soften her image, according to documents released Friday. Mrs. Clinton now is a potential 2016 presidential contender
The National Archives released about 4,000 pages of previously confidential documents involving the former president’s administration, providing a glimpse into the ultimately unsuccessful struggles of his health care task force, led by the first lady, and other Clinton priorities such as the U.S. economy and a major trade agreement.
Hillary Clinton’s potential White House campaign has increased interest in Clinton Presidential Library documents from her husband’s administration during the 1990s and her own decades in public service. A former secretary of state and New York senator, Mrs. Clinton is the leading Democratic contender to succeed President Barack Obama, though she has not said whether she will run.
Friday’s documents included memos related to the former president’s ill-fated health care reform proposal in 1993 and 1994, a plan that failed to win support in Congress and turned into a rallying cry for Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections. As first lady, Hillary Clinton chaired her husband’s health care task force, largely meeting in secret to develop a plan to provide universal health insurance coverage.
White House aides expressed initial optimism about her ability to help craft and enact a major overhaul of U.S. health care.
“The first lady’s months of meetings with the Congress has produced a significant amount of trust and confidence by the members in her ability to help produce a viable health reform legislative product with the president,” said an undated and unsigned document, which was cataloged with others from April 1993. The document urged quick action, warning that enthusiasm for health reform “will fade over time.”
But the documents also showed the growing concerns among Clinton’s fellow Democrats in Congress. Lawmakers, it said, “going to their home districts for the August break are petrified about having difficult health care reform issues/questions thrown at them.”
Administration officials also wanted to distance Hillary Clinton from a staff meeting on the touchy subject of making health care cost projections appear reasonable. Top aides wrote an April 1993 memo saying pessimistic cost-savings projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office were “petrifying an already scared Congress.”
“CBO has the very real potential to sink an already leaking health reform ship,” said the memo, signed by Clinton aides Chris Jennings and Steve Ricchetti, the latter now a top aide to Vice President Joe Biden. A White House and congressional meeting meant to “align budget assumptions with CBO” would be “all staff,” the memo said, so “we do not believe it appropriate that Mrs. Clinton attend.”
The documents also include detailed media strategy memos written as aides tried to soften Mrs. Clinton’s image.
Her press secretary, Lisa Caputo, encouraged the Clintons to capitalize on their 20th wedding anniversary as “a wonderful opportunity for Hillary” and also suggested she spend more time doing White House events celebrating first ladies of the past.
Placing Clinton in a historical context “may help to round out her image and make what she is doing seem less extreme or different in the eyes of the media,” Caputo wrote in a lengthy August 1995 memo about courting better press coverage as the president looked toward re-election.
Caputo also proposed the “wild idea” of having Clinton do a guest appearance on a popular sitcom of the day, “Home Improvement.”
As the first lady began her bid for a Senate seat from New York in July 1999, adviser Mandy Grunwald coached her with “style pointers” and tips for handling “annoying questions” from the media without appearing testy. Grunwald said she was sure to be asked about her husband’s Senate impeachment trial earlier that year.
The advice: “Be real” and acknowledge “that of course last year was rough.”
As for the health care effort, by September 1993, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the obstacles in a Capitol Hill meeting with House and Senate Democratic leaders and committee chairs. “I think that, unfortunately, in the glare of the public political process, we may not have as much time as we need for that kind of thoughtful reflection and research,” the first lady said, citing “this period of challenge.”
The meetings also showed that Mrs. Clinton was doubtful that a health care law with a universal mandate – requiring people to carry health insurance – would be approved. “That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got – a much harder sell,” she told congressional Democrats in September 1993, predicting it could send “shock waves” through the “currently insured population.”
In 2007, when she ran for president, Clinton made the “individual mandate” a centerpiece of her “American Health Choices Plan,” requiring health coverage while offering federal subsidies to help reduce the cost to purchasers.
The health care overhaul signed into law by Obama in early 2010 carried a mandate that all Americans must obtain health insurance or pay a fine.
The documents offer cameo appearances by several Obama officials during their younger days. Speechwriter Jeff Shesol appeared frustrated in the spring of 1998 when describing Clinton adviser Rahm Emanuel, who later served as Obama’s White House chief of staff and is now Chicago’s mayor. Emanuel, Shesol wrote, “is gonna complicate all our lives.” Clinton aide Paul Begala, now a top Democratic strategist, was “wrong half time, glib,” Shesol wrote.
In another document, future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, then a White House lawyer, advised Clinton’s team to be “non-defensive” in dealing with tobacco companies involved in the government’s settlement in May 1998. “Let them know they shd be leery of (expletive) with this. In those words.”
The new documents offer only glimmers of Clinton’s internal national security deliberations. The most detailed material, contained in files from then-national security speechwriter Paul Orzulak, show top Clinton officials wrestling with how to deal with China’s emergence as a world financial power.
Notes from an undated meeting with National Security Adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger show Berger pushing for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization despite concerns about human rights abuses.
A series of emails pertaining to the 9/11 Commission’s research into Clinton-era handling of al-Qaida attacks were all apparently withheld by Archives officials, citing national security and confidential restrictions. The only memo released was a single July 1998 email about whether to send a high-ranking diplomat to Minnesota with a presidential message to greet ailing Jordanian King Hussein. “Sounds like too much crepe hanging,” said a dismissive official.
Other documents released Friday offered a glimpse into the juggling of priorities early in Clinton’s first term and administration concerns after Republicans took control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections.
A July 1993 memo shared among Clinton’s advisers sought guidance on how the administration should focus its attention on three major priorities: health care reform, the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and an initiative aimed at “reinventing government.”
“The president has repeatedly promised that health care will come after the economic package passes,” the memo from Clinton advisers Emanuel, Bob Boorstin, Mark Gearan and others said. “Surveys indicate that health care remains the second or third priority (behind job creation) for the vast majority of voters, but also that people fear reform is just another promise to be broken.”
“Our core supporters are rapidly losing patience and could block passage by throwing their support to alternative plans,” the memo warned.
The Movie Beck Hated So Much He Revealed All the Spoilers to Keep You From GoingPosted February 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm by Erica Ritz
Glenn Beck saw the movie “Non-Stop” featuring Liam Neeson on Thursday, and he hated it so much that he spoiled the ending for millions of people on his radio show Friday. He said he hopes that by revealing the ending, listeners have no reason to waste their money on the film.
“It is really great, until you find out that the killer is U.S. military and a guy who believes in the Constitution,” Beck said sarcastically. “Oh, darn it. Did I just wreck that movie for everybody? Oh, I didn’t mean to…”
Beck said the movie, in which Neeson is a federal air marshal trying to catch a murderer on a plane, was so terrible that “even in New York City,” the ending was met with “groans.”
“I’m not going to say anymore, except the killer is … a schoolteacher and so you completely dismiss him,” Beck added. “And there’s a little hole in the bathroom where they do a blow-dart, and they kill the pilot.”
Beck said the killer’s rationale was something “nonsensical” along the lines of: “It’s the government that has been putting people like you, you drunkard, on planes and allowing you to be our TSA. And that’s just wrong. So I’m going to blow everything up and take the money. I’ve got a parachute here, so I’m going to live. And I’m going to take all the money, and I’m going to get away with it. A-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha.”
The multimedia personality told his audience that “no amount of research … can help these people in Hollywood,” because they simply cannot understand what a “wildly, wildly insulting movie” they made.
Not only is it an insult to the Constitution and the U.S. Military, Beck said, but it’s a disgraceful light in which to paint our veterans. He said many Americans did the same thing to those who served in Vietnam.
“We’re not taking care of their health,” Beck said. “We’re dismissing them when they get back. And now we’re making them into our terrorists in our movies. And it’s the same [weasels] that are doing it. Don’t go see Non-Stop.”
Beck’s co-host Stu Burguiere added that a listener wrote in: “Thanks for saving me around 25 bucks, guys. That’s way more than Obamacare ever did.”
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. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.
Pics and Vid: Gunman Killed After Nearly Three-Hour Standoff with SWAT Outside Florida CourthousePosted February 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm by Dave Urbanski
A gun-wielding man was killed during a standoff with a SWAT team Friday morning outside a courthouse in Viera, Fla., on the east coast of the state.
Deputies surrounded the gunman just after 10:30 a.m. near the Brevard County Courthouse in Viera, about an hour southeast of Orlando. A Palm Bay police negotiator was speaking with the gunman, reported WESH-TV in Orlando.
The gunman also had a bag with him. “We don’t know what the other contents of the bag are. It’s laying nearby where he is standing at,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey told WESH before the shooting.
Video depicted the gunman pacing near the courthouse — which was placed on lockdown — while at least eight officers trained their guns on him and took cover behind vehicles. Two snipers aimed their weapons at the gunman from a roof.
Just before 1 p.m., SWAT officers got behind an armored truck and moved toward the gunman, who then tried running away but was killed in resulting gunfire. It’s not clear exactly at this time who fired the fatal shot.
“We don’t know what he is agitated over,” Ivey told WESH of the unidentified gunman before the fatal shots were fired, adding that he’d made previous threats at the courthouse, although none serious enough to call for an arrest.
Occupants of the courthouse were moved to the back of the building during the standoff and deputies were working to evacuate them.
Here’s raw news footage of gunman pacing outside the courthouse:
Ukrainian Jews to Receive $1 Million For Added Security as Political Unrest Triggers Fears of Anti-SemitismPosted February 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm by Dave Urbanski
Ukrainian Jews are slated to receive $1 million to increase security against possible upticks in anti-Semitic behavior in the wake of the country’s massive political upheaval.
The money is coming from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Week reported, and is going toward protection for places where Jews gather, as well as for the elderly and poverty-stricken.
“From the many conversations I’ve conducted this week with Jewish leaders in the Ukraine, we understood that the situation on the ground is critical,” organization founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said. “Rabbis and communal leaders feel under threat.”
The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, which runs the Orach Chaim day school in Kiev and several other institutions, has been paying $1,000 a day for round-the-clock security for nine buildings, including four school buildings, a community center, a synagogue and a religious seminary, said Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, the confederation’s president and a Ukrainian chief rabbi.
“Nobody goes alone at night, so we have three people doing escorts from the synagogue and back,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week.
The cost overall is 10 times what the community used to pay for security before deadly protests rocked Kiev in recent weeks, which is where the fellowship’s donation comes in. Many Jewish institutions have simply gone dormant in the midst of the unrest.
A synagogue was firebombed with Molotov cocktails in the eastern city of Zaporizhia on Sunday night, causing minor damage, but Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, said attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions aren’t widespread.
He said there’s no indication of “state anti-Semitism,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Anti-Semitism is against the law in Ukraine.
But casting doubt on such assertions are videos like this one, depicting a white power flag taking up residence between a Confederate battle standard and Ukrainian and Svoboda flags in a municipal building in Kiev after protesters took it over, as noted by Gawker:
Indeed the rule of law — and to what extent it will protect them — is the issue that hangs in the balance for Ukraine’s Jews, Gawker added:
Now, take away street policing. Make this a state that’s somewhat drunkenly weaving between stable governments, goaded on not just by native rightists but by Russian puppeteers and their sympathizers, too. In the absence of laws, and enforcers of laws, all of that cultural antipathy starbursts, and it burns the Jewish community, and every other hated group that doesn’t have a champion.
“It’s still a very fluid situation,” Mark Levin, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, an American organization that advocates for Jews in the former Soviet Union, told the Jewish Week.
“The big concern, I think, is ensuring that there’s adequate security for Jewish institutions throughout the country, but particularly in the large cities. And I think that’s where much of the focus within the American Jewish community and Israel lies — that and making sure the flow of services continues.”
“The Jewish community has to stay vigil and see what’s going to be,” Rabbi Bleich told the Jewish Weekly. “What’s going to happen with this new government? Are they going to be a part of the government?”
Couple That Found $10 Million in Gold Coins Will Have to Hand Over HOW MUCH in Taxes?Posted February 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm by Becket Adams
A California couple that discovered $10 million worth of gold coins last year will have to pay nearly half that amount in federal and state income tax, regardless of whether they sell the coins.
Interestingly enough, the couple’s newfound tax burden is not exactly unprecedented.
The San Francisco Chronicle noted that a U.S. District Court in Ohio ruled in 1969 that a “treasure trove” is a taxable event and can be applied to the year the so-called treasure is discovered.
Further, in its 2013 tax guide, the Internal Revenue Service states, “If you find and keep property that does not belong to you that has been lost or abandoned (treasure-trove), it is taxable to you at its fair market value in the first year it is your undisputed possession.”
The not-yet-identified California couple found 1,427 rare, mint-condition gold coins buried in their backyard last February. This means they will have to pay a tax on the estimated value of the coins by April or else suffer a penalty and additional interest charges, Leo Martinez, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law told the Chronicle.
Additionally, he said, most of the couple’s cash will be “subject to the top federal tax rate of 39.6 percent, which starts at $450,000 in joint taxable income.”
The top taxable rate on joint income of $1 million or more in the state of California is 13.3 percent.
Now, it’s worth noting that taxpayers are normally granted a federal deduction for state income tax paid, reducing their effective federal rate.
Still, even with the deduction, the taxable amount the California couple is looking at for both state and federal clocks in at about 47 percent.
The couple isn’t without recourse, Arthur Dellinger, a CPA with Cooper, Moss, Resnick, Klein & Co., told the Chronicle. He said they could argue that the coins are a capital gain because “when they bought the property, it was part of the property and part of the acquisition price,” but said it was unlikely that argument would succeed.
The couple has until April 15 to pay the taxes owed on their discovery.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
New, Wearable Gadgets Designed With Seniors — Not Whippersnappers — in MindPosted February 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm by Elizabeth Kreft
Not all the new, techy gadgets are geared toward über runners and the athletic-minded.
One company has created a wearable monitor that can masquerade as a watch or piece of jewelry, but allows families to keep tabs on the movement and sleep patterns of elderly loved ones.
The Care Predict Tempo is a much more modern gadget than the bulky, boring “life alert” systems of the past; if your older relatives are fearful of being grouped with the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” crowd, this may be an ideal device for them.
The embedded sensor detects motion – walking, running, sitting, standing or lying down – and location while the software learns how the user typically moves and what figures out the wearer’s typical activity range.
The Tempo comes with interchangeable bands and uses beacon technology to understand its location in the home. The Care Predict website explains:
“(The system) takes motion type, speed, number of steps, duration, and frequency – and combines it with location data. For instance, lying for two hours in the living room may be a nap, while lying in the bathroom would notify you that something might be wrong.”
The beacons are small and battery-operated; designed to simply plug into a standard outlet, then uses the home’s wireless Internet connection to send information to the company’s cloud hub to be analyzed on secure servers—- the information is only accessible to the people the users hand-select.
“This isn’t a FitBit for granny,” Satish Movva, Care Predict’s Founder, said. Movva told TheBlaze the product will be available in the fall of 2014.
(H/T: MIT Technology Review)
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter
‘Very Exciting’ Historical Find Under AlcatrazPosted February 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm by Liz Klimas
A new discovery is giving Alcatraz — the famous prison that served as an involuntary home to some of the “worst of the worst” criminals –even more of a backstory to add to its fascinating history.
While the metal bar-lined hallways might have their own story to tell, researchers at Texas A&M University, Chico State University and the National Park Service found something underneath “the Rock” — a hidden fortress.
Before becoming a prison that housed some of the country’s most famous convicts like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz Island was the site of a lighthouse, a military fort and military prison. It was previously suspected that the island might contain hidden tunnels connected to the Civil War. Using ground-penetrating radar, the team is bringing up the truth.
“We know from records and drawings that Alcatraz, at one time called Fortress Alcatraz, has been heavily fortified,” Mark Everett, Texas A&M professor of geology and geophysics, told the university’s GeoSciences News. But this fortification was thought to be destroyed.
“[The tunnels] would have been used for the fortifications. There would have been movement of man and ammunition; it would have been bombproof and covered with earth so it would have been protected,” Everett told BBC News. ”We get signatures that indicate there is not only a tunnel, but magazine buildings too.”
Among the more notable structures is a caponier, a type of fortification structure, which the team thinks is buried under ground.
“We have a cultural landscape report that proposes to do an excavation on the parade ground,” Jason Hagin, a historical architect with the U.S. National Park Service, told the BBC. “It’s our hope that in the future we can open up the trail and have an archaeological site that people can visit.”
Watch this video about the team’s research on the historical island:
In addition to finding the fortification in what appears to be relatively good shape, researchers are also excited by what it could be made from.
“Originally, the fortifications were earthen — they are constructed of dirt — but parts of them had concrete over them to reinforce them,” Dr. Tanya Wattenburg Komas with Chico State University told the BBC, explaining that this system could be made with the oldest concrete in the U.S. “The interesting thing is we weren’t even making cement in the U.S. at that time.
“That probably came as cement in barrels from Europe. To find it on the top of a mid-19th Century battery is very exciting.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Mass. Agency Breaks Silence in Pelletier Case, But Dad Tells Us He’s Not Fully Buying ItPosted February 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm by Liz Klimas
The Massachusetts Department of Children & Families on Friday broke its silence about the high-profile case involving a Connecticut teenager taken away from her parents last year after a disagreement over a diagnosis led to accusations of medical child abuse.
“Our primary goal has always been the health and well-being of Justina,” DCF spokesman Alec Loftus said in an emailed statement about the case surrounding Justina Pelletier, who has been out of her parents’ custody for more than a year now.
“We want the parents to be able to work with the providers and courts to ultimately move Justina back to her home state of Connecticut,” Loftus continued. “That is the objective, and is consistent with our previous efforts to find an appropriate placement near her home. A medical team has been identified at Tufts, the family’s provider of choice, with the clinical expertise to care for Justina.”
The agency is withdrawing its motion, issued last week, to have Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, held in contempt of court for breaking a gag order, an official said.
But Lou Pelletier said he’s not necessarily getting his hopes up.
“They have thrown more carrots out there over the last 13 months, dangling, teasing us, and that’s the cruelest thing you can do,” he told TheBlaze over the phone as he was driving to Boston to visit his daughter for the once-a-week, hour-long appointment that the family is allowed.
Lou Pelletier said his family has been offered hope of having custody restored several times in the last year and has always come away disappointed.
DCF took emergency custody of Justina, now 15 years old, on Feb. 14, 2013, after a team at Boston Children’s Hospital alleged that the Pelletiers were over-medicalizing their daughter in treating her for mitochondrial disease. According to the Pelletiers, doctors at Boston Children’s said she does not have mitochondrial disease, a condition that was diagnosed by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center years earlier, but has somatoform disorder, which would put the root cause of Justina’s symptoms as psychological.
Since then, the Pelletiers have had several court hearings as they tried to regain custody and medical care of their daughter. Patient and human rights advocates have taken up the cause in recent months to support the Pelletiers, and even more recently some state legislators have spoken out.
Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnson on Monday ruled that Justina be moved into a foster care facility from the Framingham, Mass., facility where she had been living after being removed from Boston Children’s Hospital last month. Two days later, the foster care facility refused to take her in.
Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze that he had no idea DCF would be releasing a statement and hadn’t even read the whole of it when called for comment.
“They throw out these carrots and these little teases just to string us along,” he said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
At this point, Lou Pelletier said, he thinks “DCF has destroyed my daughter” and has “crossed the line so many times.” Therefore, he added, “we’re in it to win it.”
Mat Staver, one of the Pelletier’s lawyers with Liberty Counsel, told TheBlaze he sees DCF’s statement as them responding to a push for change.
“When [DCF] got challenged and it came to light, they decided to back off,” Staver said.
But he added that he thinks the agency needs to be held accountable.
“We will not rest [until] DCF is completely out of this case, and DCF has to be held accountable for [its] neglegent actions,” Staver said.
The next scheduled court hearing on the case is March 17.
If You Thought That Viral Kiss Cam Video Was a Fake, Here’s the Full Story Behind ItPosted February 28, 2014 at 11:27 am by Liz Klimas
The brother who seemed all too prepared for a kiss camera to land on him and his sister during a University of Minnesota hockey game earlier this month is now revealing how he knew to come with a sign to say why he wasn’t leaning in for a smooch.
Adam Martin told the university that he realized a couple of weeks before that the hockey game was on Valentine’s Day.
“I started joking about making a sign in preparation for the kiss cam,” Martin said. “And she thought I was crazy for doing that.”
As it turned out, he was right on the money.
The original video of the hilariously awkward moment has more than 12.7 million views after being posted on Feb. 17. Take a look if you missed it when it initially went viral:
“The day of the game, I was at work in the afternoon getting ready to leave and I decided to print the sign that said “My sister” with an arrow, knowing that I’d be in seat 9 and she’d be in seat 10, and showed her the sign before the game. She thought I was being a dumb older brother and there was no way we would end up on the kiss cam,” Mason continued.
Mason said he was somewhat surprised that he was able to keep a straight face during the first few seconds holding the sign up when the kiss cam inevitably focused on him and his sister.
“Essentially, every contact in my phone or Facebook has reached out,” Mason said, not expecting the video to go as viral as it did.
“The goal is next year not to bring my sister to the Valentine’s Day game. Hopefully I can get a date out of it,” he said.
Watch Mason’s kiss cam preparation explanation:
Pizza-Delivery Driver Says Crooks Robbed Him at Gunpoint, Stealing Cash and His Car. The Next Day He Was Fired.Posted February 28, 2014 at 11:23 am by Dave Urbanski
Why would a pizza-delivery driver who said he was held up at gunpoint and robbed of cash — as well as his car — get fired the next day?
That’s what Reza Abolhassani wants to know — but answers are few and far between in this bizarre stick-up case.
Abolhassani was delivering pizza for a Papa Johns in Aurora, Colo. Sunday night when the store got an order that was initially canceled by the employee who took it because it didn’t sound like a “legitimate” order, Abolhassani said.
“She said the customer was rude…” he noted to KMGH-TV in Denver.
But when the customer called back, the shift manager pushed Abolhassani to get the pizza to its destination.
“She said, ‘They’re regular customers. Just make the delivery,’” he said. “I told her before I left the store, ‘If I don’t come back in 20 minutes, please call the cops.”
So Abolhassani pulled into the condo complex parking lot and said he noticed someone in the window of the landing.
“I thought he was the customer waiting for the pizza,” he said, adding that as he walked up the stairs, two men ran at him and said, ‘Shhhh, where’s the money?’”
Abolhassani added that the men pointed a gun at his chest and then his head.
“I just told them, ‘Please don’t shoot me. I have a 3-year-old kid,’” he said.
The men allegedly got away with Abolhassani’s cash, as well as his car.
If that isn’t bad enough, things soon got strange.
Abolhassani said he called his shift manager to report the robbery; she put him on hold. So he hung up and called police.
The next day he said his regular manager called him. “He asked ‘What happened? Why did you not put your money in the red box?’ which he never gave me,” Abolhassani told KMGH.
Abolhassani said Papa Johns policy limits cash drivers can carry to $20; the rest is goes in a red box at the store. But without a box, Abolhassani said he carried the money with him — and that’s why he was fired, he added.
“They said, ‘I’m sorry Reza. We know you’re a good driver, but we can’t keep you because it’s the policy,’” Abolhassani told KMGH.
“(The manager) gave me a box for about week, then took my name off of it and gave it to someone else,” Abolhassani said, adding that he doesn’t know why his manager did that.
The local Papa Johns told KMGH it couldn’t discuss the matter, referring the station to the pizza chain’s corporate office, which didn’t return the station’s phone call.
TheBlaze contacted Aurora police for an update in this case but the call was not immediately returned. Among the unanswered questions:
- Have police questioned the customer who placed the delivery order that led to the alleged stick-up? Abolhassani was apparently apprehensive about going to that address after the customer was described as “rude” and making an order that didn’t seem “legitimate.”
- Have police located Abolhassani’s car?
And if Abolhassani’s manager didn’t furnish him with a new red box for cash, why would that be held against the former Papa Johns delivery driver?
Abolhassani said he’s looking for a new job, but he won’t be delivering pizza late at night anytime soon.
“I don’t think my wife will let me do that,” he told KMGH.
This story has been updated.
Mormon Church Pushes Back Against ‘Cartoonish Image of People Receiving Their Own Planets’Posted February 28, 2014 at 11:15 am by Billy Hallowell
SALT LAKE CITY (TheBlaze/AP) — The Mormon Church is pushing back against a misconception it says has been spread by pop culture: that members of the faith are taught they’ll get their own planet in the afterlife.
The idea has been popularized by the Broadway show “The Book of Mormon,” but the church is now hoping to correct the misconception.
A newly posted article affirms the faith’s belief that humans can become like God in eternity, but says the “cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets” is not how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints envision it.
“While few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities,” the article says.
The expectation of exaltation is more figurative and ambiguous than boiling it down to living on one planet, it says.
“A cloud and harp are hardly a satisfying image for eternal joy, although most Christians would agree that inspired music can be a tiny foretaste of the joy of eternal salvation,” the article reads. “Likewise, while few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities.”
It continues, “Latter-day Saints tend to imagine exaltation through the lens of the sacred in mortal experience. They see the seeds of godhood in the joy of bearing and nurturing children and the intense love they feel for those children, in the impulse to reach out in compassionate service to others, in the moments they are caught off guard by the beauty and order of the universe, in the grounding feeling of making and keeping divine covenants.”
The 3,500-word article is part of a series of recent online pieces posted on the church website that explain, expand or clarify on some of the more sensitive gospel topics.
As TheBlaze has noted, past articles have addressed the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and the early history of polygamy.
The series of postings have been applauded by religious scholars who say the church is finally acknowledging some of the most controversial or sensitive parts of its history and doctrine that it once sidestepped.
“The church has become fully aware that scholarship and history is a double edge sword,” said Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion and the James Bostwick Chair of English at the University of Richmond. “They can work in the church’s favor, but they can also be unsettling.”
The new article, “Becoming Like God,” doesn’t mention Kolob, referred to in the Book of Abraham as a planet or star closest to the throne of God.
Kolob is mentioned in a Mormon hymn, but interpretations that it is the planet where God lives, or the place where church members will go when they die, read a great deal into an obscure verse in Mormon scripture, said Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College.
“I’m not surprised it’s not mentioned,” Bowman said. “Even most Mormons aren’t sure what exactly to make of the reference.”
Kolob is believed to be the inspiration for the name of the planet “Kobol” in the science fiction TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” which was created by a Mormon.
Kolob is also mentioned in the Broadway show “The Book of Mormon” when a fictional Mormon missionary sings about all the things he believes as a church member.
“I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe that plan involved me getting my own planet,” he bellows, and later, “I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.”
People commonly latch on to the most outrageous or unique aspects of religions, such as Amish people using horse and buggy, and that’s how the perception of Mormons inheriting their own planets became widespread, Givens said.
The series of postings, as well as the church’s opening of its archive, shows a natural progression for a religion that is younger than other major worldwide faiths, Givens said. The church was founded in 1830 and took more than a century to hit 1 million members. Today, there are 15 million Mormons worldwide.
“Many of these things can be unsettling to members who have grown up with a typically manicured narrative, but it’s a necessary part of the maturation for the church membership,” Givens said.
The intent of the articles is to give Mormons and non-Mormons definitive places to go to study or learn about doctrinal issues. That could happen eventually but church leaders need to make people aware of them, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.
And he said the article won’t put an end to misconceptions held by some about Mormons.
“For devout members of other Christian denominations, especially those of the Evangelical variety, this statement will confirm their existing claims of outrageous Mormon heresies where doctrines of deity are concerned,” Mauss said.
The Supreme Court Has Given Police Another Way to Search Your Home Without a WarrantPosted February 28, 2014 at 10:45 am by Elizabeth Kreft
Make sure you’re on good terms with your roommate or spouse — the Supreme Court now says just one occupant of a home can give consent to searches without a warrant, even if an individual has previously objected.
The nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 in favor of law enforcement Tuesday in Fernandez v. California, which stemmed from a 2009 arrest and search in connection with a robbery in Los Angeles. Simply put, a girlfriend gave law enforcement access to her apartment after her boyfriend initially refused the search. But after the man was arrested and police returned to the apartment, the woman consented.
The decision gives authorities more leeway to search homes without obtaining a warrant, even when there is no emergency.
The 2009 case began when LAPD officers responded to reports of a street robbery; they pursued a suspect from the scene to an apartment building, then heard shouting inside a unit and knocked on the door. Roxanne Rojas — the girlfriend — opened the door, but Walter Fernandez, told officers they could not enter without a warrant. The Los Angeles Times reported:
“You don’t have any right to come in here. I know my rights,” Fernandez shouted from inside the apartment, according to court records.
Fernandez was arrested in connection with the street robbery and taken away. An hour later, police returned and searched his apartment, this time with Rojas’ consent. They found a shotgun and gang-related material.
Tuesday’s decision upheld the LAPD’s actions. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion: “A warrantless consent search is reasonable and thus consistent with the Fourth Amendment irrespective of the availability of a warrant.” Moreover, he added, “Denying someone in Rojas’ position the right to allow the police to enter her home would also show disrespect for her independence.”
In the past, the court has frowned upon most searches of residences except in the case of an emergency or if the police had a warrant from a judge.
In 2006, the Supreme Court came down against the police in the case of Georgia v. Randolph. After a domestic violence investigation, the male suspect refused to let the police search his home while his wife welcomed the search. The police went in.
In the case eight years ago, the Supreme Court ruled the man’s refusal should have stopped the cops in their tracks. “A physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” the court said.
Writing in dissent of Tuesday’s decision was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who accused the majority of weakening the Fourth Amendment and granting the police too much latitude, according to Reason.com:
“Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” Ginsburg wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.” This ruling, she charged, “shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph.”
(H/T: Tech Dirt)
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.
Figures on Economic Growth in 2013 Revised Down…Way DownPosted February 28, 2014 at 10:22 am by Becket Adams
Real gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services in the U.S., increased at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced Friday.
This is the second revision for the fourth quarter and a severe disappointment, considering initial estimates put GDP growth at about 3.2 percent.
“The deceleration in real GDP growth in 2013 primarily reflected a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment, a larger decrease in federal government spending, and decelerations in [personal consumption expenditures] and in exports that were partly offset by a deceleration in imports and a smaller decrease in state and local government spending,” the report said.
But there was some growth in the fourth quarter, which can be attributed to positive contributions from exports, “nonresidential fixed investment, and private inventory investment.”
Government spending fell in the fourth quarter by 12.8 percent, compared the third quarter’s decline of 1.5 percent. Meanwhile, state and local government spending decreased by 0.5 percent, compared to the 1.7 percent increase in the quarter before that.
Imports, a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased by 1.5 percent.
“The second estimate of the fourth-quarter percent change in real GDP is 0.8 percentage point, or $32.7 billion,” the report said.
Real personal consumption expenditures increased by 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the increase of 2.0 percent in the third.
Durable goods in the second revision of the fourth quarter increased 2.5 percent, down from an increase of 7.9 percent in the third quarter. Non-durable goods increased by 3.5 percent, up from earlier posting of 2.9 percent. Services increased in the second revision to 2.2 percent, up from earlier estimates of 0.7 percent.
Here’s a breakdown of the fourth quarter by its components:
Real final sales of domestic product, that is, GDP minus change in private inventories, increased by 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter, down from the third quarter’s increase of 2.5 percent.
Markets are poised to open mostly lower:
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
‘They Can’t Put a Gag Order on Us’: Group Says Hundreds of Calls Made to Court in Pelletier CasePosted February 28, 2014 at 9:52 am by Liz Klimas
A human rights group says it has organized people to make hundreds of calls to court officials asking them to “release Justina Pelletier,” the Connecticut teen at the center of an ongoing, high-profile custody battle.
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said more than 500 calls have been made so far to the office of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, which is overseeing the Pelletier case. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families took custody of the 15-year-old last year after doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital disagreed with her parents and another doctor’s diagnosis.
A person who answered the phone at the court Friday morning was not able to comment, but passed along TheBlaze’s request for confirmation on the number of calls that have been made.
“For us we see a person, a young girl who was been taken away from her family,” Mason said, noting why the organization began a call-the-judge initiative. “It’s very clear from what they say and from we can see that her dignity is not being respected. She’s not being treated as a person but as a piece of property of the state. That’s where we say, ‘no we’re going to step up, we’re going to get something done.”
“They put a gag order on the family but they can’t put a gag order on us,” Mason added.
Linda and Lou Pelletier have been fighting for custody of their daughter since Feb. 14, 2013, when they were accused of medical child abuse and lost custody of her to DCF. At the root of the case is a disagreement about medical diagnoses. The Pelletiers had been treating Justina for mitochondrial disease, which a doctor at Tufts Medical Center diagnosed her with several years ago. Last February, doctors at a Connecticut hospital suggested the Pelletiers bring Justina to Boston Children’s to see a gastrointestinal specialist, who had recently transferred from Tufts, when she was experiencing complications from the flu.
At Boston Children’s however, the family said they were not seen by a gastrointestinal doctor but by physicians who ended up disagreeing with the mitochondrial disease diagnosis. The doctors at Boston Children’s said Justina had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric disorder that says the cause of her symptoms are in her head.
The Pelletiers have been trying to regain custody and medical care of their daughter ever since. Boston Children’s Hospital and the Department of Children and Families have each declined to comment on the case.
Earlier this week, Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnson ordered that Justina be moved to a foster care facility from the Framingham, Mass., establishment where she had been in the weeks prior. On Wednesday however, the foster care facility said it would not take Justina, and sources close to the family said the judge “expressed openness,” as the Boston Globe reported, to allowing Justina to move back into her parents’ care if certain stipulations are met.
Mason with Personhood USA, in addition to the calling initiative, is helping organize a peaceful prayer vigil outside of Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, where Justina has lived for the last few weeks, and will be lobbying for a resolution that will be introduced into the state legislature next week.
Here is a look at some of the resolution’s text:
WHEREAS, for the last twelve months Justina Pelletier has been in the care of the Department of Children and Families and her medical condition has deteriorated, and;
WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families has a stated goal of strengthening the link between families, and government removing children from their parents should occur only in extreme cases where malicious intent, neglect, or the blatant inability to care for the child is present, and;
WHEREAS, there has been no finding of malicious intent or blatant inability of the Pelletiers to care for their daughter Justina, and;
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has serious concerns about the removal of Justina Pelletier from the custody of her family and concerns over the process that led to the breaking up of this family; THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED, the members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives strongly encourage the Department of Children and Families to immediately release Justina Pelletier from their custody and reunite her with her parents
“We do expect it to pass,” Mason said. “All top lawmakers should be involved and should be speaking out on the issue.”
On Thursday, Massachusetts state Rep. Jim Lyons told TheBlaze Radio’s Jay Severin that the Department of Children and Families was “intruding on parental rights.”
“We have an agency, DCF, a bureaucracy that’s going beyond [the] scope that they’re allowed to advocate in,” Lyons said. “They’re intruding into parental rights. [We] have a Democratic governor who doesn’t want to get involved, who’s under all kinds of – one scandal after another scandal. You have an attorney general who’s part of the Democratic leadership … They’re protecting the system that they have control over.”
Mason said the hope of the resolution is to not only “free Justina” but to launch reform of the system as a whole.
There is also a petition that Mason said on Thursday was signed by more than 4,000 people.
The family’s next hearing in court is March 17.
Russian ‘Occupation?’: Ukraine Says Russian Troops Tried to ‘Seize’ Two AirportsPosted February 28, 2014 at 9:07 am by Jonathon M. Seidl
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — A top Ukrainian security official says two airports in Crimea are under Ukrainian control despite attempts by gunmen to “seize” them.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister earlier Friday said Russian navy troops were blocking access to the airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol, describing it as a “military invasion and occupation.”
But Ukraine’s Security Council Chief Andriy Parubiy insisted later Friday that the airports were still under Ukrainian control, according to the Interfax news agency.
Parubiy said the gunmen had set up checkpoints outside the airports. “But de-facto the airports are controlled by the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said about 30 Russian paratroopers from the 810th brigade of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had taken up position outside the Ukrainian Coast Guard base in the Sevastopol area. It said the paratroopers said they were there to prevent any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists.
Russia’s defense ministry had no comment.
Any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine’s conflict, which saw the pro-Russian president flee last weekend after three months of anti-government protests. Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where it has a major naval base, and Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away.
“I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation,” Ukraine’s new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, wrote in a Facebook post Friday.
Avakov said the airports were controlled by Russian navy troops. Associated Press journalists approaching the Sevastopol airport found the road leading up to it blocked by two military trucks and a handful of gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles.
A car with Russian military plates was stopped at the road block. A man wearing a military uniform with a Russian flag on his sleeve got out of the car and was allowed to enter on foot after a brief discussion with the gunmen.
At the airport serving Simferopol, commercial flights were landing and taking off despite the armed men.
In Kiev, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps it says are aimed against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis.
The Russian foreign and defense ministries had no comment. Russia’s state RIA Novosti and Interfax cited an unnamed official from the Russian Black Sea Fleet denying involvement, saying Russian servicemen stationed in Crimea have not moved into the airports and denying that the Russian military was in control there.
The Kremlin, in a statement published late Thursday, said President Vladimir Putin had instructed the government to “maintain contacts with the counterparts in Kiev in what concerns trade and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine.”
Putin also asked the government to “hold consultations with foreign partners including the (International Monetary Fund) and the G8 nations to provide financial aid to Ukraine.”
At the airport in Simferopol, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings were patrolling with assault rifles Friday morning. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.
One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said they were part of the Crimean People’s Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no “radicals and fascists” arrive from other parts of Ukraine.
The airport seizures came a day after masked gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles seized the parliament and government offices in Simferopol and raised the Russian flag. Ukrainian police cordoned off the area but didn’t confront the gunmen.
The events in Crimea have heightened tensions with neighboring Russia. Moscow scrambled fighter jets on Thursday and put most of its troops in western and southern Russia on combat readiness exercises that it said were unrelated to the Ukraine conflict. The moves were reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.
Moscow has been sending mixed signals about Ukraine but pledged to respect its territorial integrity. Putin has long dreamed of pulling Ukraine, a country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization, closer into Moscow’s orbit.
Russia also granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, state media reported. They said he would give a news conference Friday in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
Yanukovych has not been seen publicly since Saturday when he was still in Ukraine, and he declared Thursday in a statement that he remains Ukraine’s legitimate president.
The prosecutor-general’s office in Kiev said it would seek Yanukovych’s extradition to Ukraine, where he is wanted on suspicion of mass murder in last week’s violent clashes between protesters and police, in which over 80 people were killed.
Meanwhile, Swiss prosecutors announced they had launched a criminal investigation against Yanukovych and his son Aleksander over “aggravated money laundering.” They said police and Geneva’s chief prosecutor conducted a search and seized documents Thursday at the premises of a company owned by Aleksander Yanukovych.
Switzerland’s governing Federal Council announced that it decided to block all assets Yanukovych and his entourage might have in Switzerland.
Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday elected a new government led by a pro-Western technocrat who promptly pledged to prevent any national break-up.
Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support.
Crimea, a southeastern peninsula of Ukraine, was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, and was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.
It became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.
In a bid to shore up Ukraine’s fledgling administration, the International Monetary Fund has said it is “ready to respond” to Ukraine’s bid for financial assistance. The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.
Ukraine’s finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.
Try Not to Chuckle While Watching the New Obama-Biden Workout VideoPosted February 28, 2014 at 8:38 am by Liz Klimas
President of the United States: check.
Vice president: check.
Cheesy music: check.
Watch as Barack Obama and Joe Biden take a jog around the White House in neckties and rolled-up sleeves to show “how they move” as part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign:
The nation’s leaders were showing off their jogging skills to honor the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move, which asked others to show off how they move this week. Making sure they set a good example, after their run, the pair even stretched and chugged tall glasses of water.
“After a good workout, you gotta drink up,” Obama said. “Otherwise, we’re going to be in trouble with Jill and Michelle.”
The initiative spearheaded by Michelle Obama encourages physical fitness in the American public, especially children. To further promote the campaign, Michelle Obama will appear on the season finale of the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation” on April 24.
‘Noah’ Movie’s Bible Controversy Leads Paramount to Embrace ‘Explanatory Message’Posted February 28, 2014 at 7:54 am by Billy Hallowell
Amid ongoing controversy over the theological themes depicted in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film “Noah,” Paramount Pictures has decided to add an “explanatory message” to future marketing materials letting prospective viewers know that “artistic license has been taken.”
An upcoming online trailer, the movie’s official website and all print and radio spots, among other advertisements, will contain the following caveat:
“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
This language can already be found on the film’s official website.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, called for such language during a panel discussion Sunday night at the NRB International Christian Media Convention, as TheBlaze previously reported.
Johnson said that explanatory language would help “audiences better understand that the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story,” according to a press release distributed by National Religious Broadcasters Thursday evening.
Johnson explained his decision to push for such language, noting that while the “Noah” film is powerful, he wanted to ensure that audiences know that the motion picture adaptation is not a word-for-word retelling of the biblical story.
“Because of the quality of the production and acting, viewers will enjoy watching main themes from the Noah story depicted in a powerful way on the big screen,” Johnson said in the statement. “However, my intent in reaching out to Paramount with this request was to make sure everyone who sees this impactful film knows this is an imaginative interpretation of scripture, and not literal.”
Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, is also quoted as saying that the company has worked to ensure that audiences know about the film before deciding whether to buy tickets. He added that Paramount is “very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, a Sunday panel at the NRB International Christian Media Convention was moderated by Johnson and included Hollywood filmmaker and media consultant Phil Cooke and John Snowden, who was a biblical adviser for the “Noah” film.
All three acknowledged that there has been contention over the movie and expressed varying levels of support for the motion picture. There were no representatives from Paramount Pictures, the film company reported to have been embroiled in a battle over final cut rights with Aronofsky.
With tension at the center of much of the publicity surrounding the movie, the presence of “Noah” at the International Christian Media Convention was notably different from the representation of other Hollywood films.
“Noah” wasn’t screened — an oddity considering that it seemed to be a good venue for simply showing the film and cutting down on the debate. And it was seemingly the only movie for which a special event was set aside to educate Christians about the production process.
Repeated attempts by TheBlaze to speak with Aronofsky about the theological contents of the film have not received a response.
Read more about the ongoing debate here.
Featured image via Paramount Pictures’ YouTube
Congress Sheds New Light on Horrific ‘Extortion 17’ Tragedy That Claimed Lives of 30 U.S. TroopsPosted February 27, 2014 at 11:50 pm by Jason Howerton
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — Relatives of some of the 30 U.S. troops killed when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan said congressional testimony from U.S. military officials on Thursday answered some, but not all, of their lingering questions about the single deadliest incident of the war, also known as the “Extortion 17″ tragedy.
Garry Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Chinook CH-47, a lumbering transport helicopter, was the proper aircraft for the high-risk mission targeting a senior Taliban commander in the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 2011, in eastern Afghanistan.
Reid worked to dispel allegations that insurgents might have been tipped off about the flight by members of the Afghan security forces. He said the eight Afghans aboard the Chinook, who also died, had been properly vetted. There has been a rash of insider attacks in recent years where Taliban insurgents have infiltrated U.S. or NATO units and killed international troops.
Reid’s answer did not satisfy Doug Hamburger, whose son, Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb., was killed in the crash.
“We’re still very positive that they could have been set up – that this was an inside thing, that they knew they were coming,” Hamburger said after the hearing.
The relatives have sought answers about information that the team of eight Afghans aboard had been switched before the Chinook took off on the mission in the Tangi Valley of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul. Reid said that there were two groups of Afghans assigned to the task force conducting the mission and that all had been hand-picked from the Afghan forces and had undergone seven months of training.
He said one group was with Army Rangers fighting insurgents in the area, and the second group was aboard the helicopter.
“There was a mistake made after the crash in retrieving the list of Afghans that were aboard,” Reid said. “The list that was provided was for the other squad that was with the Rangers. This created this confusion and led to some speculation that there was a switching out of the actual forces. That was not the case.”
He also dismissed concerns about a missing black box recorder, saying that there was no black box that was standard equipment aboard the aircraft.
Reid, however, was not able to answer relatives’ questions about why investigators interviewed no Afghans. And the relatives still are not satisfied by answers that Reid and members of the military’s mortuary affairs operations gave about claims that an Afghan degraded the deceased servicemen during a memorial held in Afghanistan before the service members’ remains were flown to the United States.
“A Muslim clerk damned the bodies, the memories of our clients’ sons to hell as infidels,” Larry Klayman, a lawyer representing several of the victims’ families, told reporters after the hearing. “There were eight different translations. There’s no dispute about what was said.”
Reid had a different interpretation.
“We have had people in our government listen to what he was saying,” Reid said. “I’m told that there are verses that he is citing. He is commemorating the fallen – all of the fallen. There are some interpretations that I have seen on the Internet that he was condemning the Americans, the infidels. It’s not my expertise, but what we have been told on good authority is that he is commemorating all of our fallen and condemning the enemy.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., who chaired the hearing, said he hoped the Pentagon would, in the future, insist on separate ceremonies when Americans and those from another country are killed in the same operation.
“Of course we’re going to honor (all) those who lost their lives, but let’s do it separately,” Chaffetz said, his voice cracking from tears. “I don’t want some Afghan saying something about my son.”
“Amen,” one relative in the audience said as others applauded.
Charles Strange whose son, Sgt. Michael Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, was among those killed, thanked the committee for the hearing, but said he’s not satisfied that the military has released all the information on the crash.
“I want an investigation. That was no investigation,” Strange said. “We want to talk to Mr. (Barack) Obama, the president, the chief. Thirty men died. Give us 20 minutes.”
Killed in the crash were: 17 members of the elite Navy SEALS, five Naval Special Warfare personnel who support the SEALS, three Air Force Special Operations personnel and an Army helicopter crew of five; seven Afghan commandos and one Afghan interpreter; and a U.S. military service dog.
Appearing on “The Kelly File” Thursday, Chaffetz said he hoped the hearing helped clarify some of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy for the families who are still grieving.
When asked about conspiracy theories about the Taliban being tipped off before the “Extortion 17″ mission, Chaffetz said the available evidence doesn’t support the idea.
“It’s horrific, it was awful, these people go into the most dangerous places in the world, but I don’t see any evidence that somehow the Taliban was tipped off and they were prepared and that’s what took out this helicopter,” he said.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Moves to Block Three Charter Schools From Public SpacePosted February 27, 2014 at 11:00 pm by Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is moving to block three charter schools from using space inside public school buildings.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made the announcement on Thursday.
De Blasio, a Democrat, has long sought to curb the influence of charter schools in the city.
He was critical of the decision of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, to give the charter schools free rent in the city-owned buildings.
He said Thursday that he believes the co-location approval was “rushed” in the final days of the Bloomberg administration.
The schools were to open in the fall. They had already hired teachers and were admitting students.
Their supporters condemned de Blasio’s decision.
Several other charter schools were permitted to relocate. Six regular district public schools were also prohibited from co-locating.
Residents Explode on Superintendent, School Board During Emergency Meeting: ‘This Is Crazy!’Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:28 pm by Becket Adams
A school superintendent in California got an earful earlier this week when parents were given the chance during an emergency meeting to question his supposedly excessive salary.
“You should all step down and walk away from this! This is ridiculous! This is nuts, this is crazy! I give my wife everything! I do anything I can for my wife! I’m sleeping with her! Who are you sleeping with?” one man shouted during the meeting.
Jose Fernandez, who oversees the Centinela Valley Union High School District in Lawndale, Calif., reportedly earned $663,000 in 2013, according to KCAL-TV.
His district includes only three high schools with a combined total of 6,500 students.
The district also reportedly floated Fernandez a loan of more than $900,000 at 2 percent interest over 40 years. The loan was granted at a time when the superintendent had already declared bankruptcy.
“I propose that there be a special recall election of this whole damn board, and a criminal investigation into the board for breach of fiduciary responsibility,” one man yelled during the emergency meeting held Tuesday.
“Not only is it wrong, it’s unethical, it is immoral to pay anybody that amount,” a woman added.
For his part, the superintendent said he’s mindful of the needs of the people in his district.
“I do hear you. I’ve listened very carefully, and I will sit and work with the board to deal with your concerns and the concerns they may have, and I think we’ll go through a process,” he said during the meeting.
He continued, claiming he lifted the district from its previously derelict state.
“The facilities here were…my God…some of them were similar to the situation in Haiti,” he said.
Caryn Charles is a high school teacher in Hawthorne, Calif., and she says she has to pay out of pocket for paper for her students while the district lavishes the superintendent with handsome loans and a massive salary.
“It’s really embarrassing as a teacher that we don’t have any paper at our department at our school. With all due respect to all of you, but it’s embarrassing when I have to go to Office Depot and buy paper, and I read that other people don’t have to worry about things like that,” she said.
Sandra Suarez, a former board member, said Fernandez should resign from his post immediately.
“I think the superintendent needs to resign and give back everything he’s taken. It’s morally and ethically wrong, and it’s affecting our children,” she said.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Texas Family Claims They Shot a Legendary ChupacabraPosted February 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm by Liz Klimas
A Texas couple claims a legendary chupacabra, similar to what residents reported seeing roaming in the state earlier this month, was shot on their property over the weekend.
Lucy Ohrt told KAVU-TV her grandson shot the coyote-like animal, which is considered mythical to many, on her Victoria County ranch Sunday. The chupacabra is rumored to suck the blood of other animals, like livestock, and is often portrayed as hairless.
“My grandson ran and got the gun and shot it at 240 yards. And my grandkids said ‘oh that’s a chupacabra,’” Ohrt told the news station.
“It’s usually got long hair on it and this one doesn’t and that’s what makes it different from a regular coyote,” Ohrt added.
Experts are not necessarily on board with the chupacabra designation though.
“They’re a mythical creature that most people see, but what it really is sarcoptic mange, which is caused by a mite that bites the animal and it can be on any mammal dogs ,cats, coyotes, foxes and humans can get another version of it as well,” Josh Turner, a Texas Fish and Wildlife biologist, told KAVU.
Take a look at the animal in KAVU’s report and see what you think:
Bill O’Reilly vs. Valerie Jarrett on How to Truly Empower Poor, Minority CommunitiesPosted February 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm by Jason Howerton
Bill O’Reilly took on White House senior advisor Valeria Jarrett on Thursday regarding President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative as well as the specific things that can be done to empower people in poor, minority communities.
O’Reilly said one of the biggest issues stems from the “gangsta” culture within some of these communities. However, there doesn’t seem to be “urgency” on behalf of the Obama administration to truly address it.
“There’s a culture of cynicism, like ‘we can’t make it, we aren’t going to be a part of this, we are going to do what we want, we are going to sell drugs,’” he told Jarrett. “We have got to get in there, and I don’t know if you guys see the urgency of that.”
Jarrett disagreed, saying that Obama recognizes the urgency and the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative encourages accountability.
O’Reilly then set his sights on some of the rap artists that many minority youths tend to idolize. He described them as “these guys with the hats on backwards” and “terrible rap lyrics.”
He called on stars like Jay Z, Kanye West and Magic Johnson to speak out on the issue and “make it uncomfortable to have a baby out of wedlock, make it uncomfortable to sell drugs.”
“You got to get them in there to tell these kids that you’ve got to stop the disruptive behavior or you’re going to wind up in a morgue or in prison,” he later added.
Without addressing the rap issue, Jarrett pointed to “wonderful programs” like Obama’s new initiative that highlight good role models for young people. She used Obama as an example.
“Are you just blowing off my idea here?” O’Reilly pressed.
Watch the rest of the interview here:
Obama on Thursday called for vigorous efforts to reverse underachievement among young black and Hispanic males. He also cautioned young minority men not to repeat his own youthful mistakes in an unforgiving world.
The president kicked off his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative from the White House East Room, appearing on stage with teenagers involved in the Becoming a Man program for at-risk boys in his hometown of Chicago.
The aim is to “start a different cycle,” Obama said. “If we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens, then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren.”
The president said he, too, could have been a negative statistic, because of his own unfocused anger over having no father at home.
“I made bad choices. I got high, not always thinking about the harm it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short,” Obama said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Fox Nation)
Israel to Outfit Passenger Planes With Laser Anti-Missile Defense SystemPosted February 27, 2014 at 9:30 pm by Sharona Schwartz
Israel has successfully completed a series of tests of an anti-missile defense system for passenger jets, the system’s manufacturer and Israel’s Defense Ministry announced.
Elbit System’s C-Music system – whose Hebrew name translates to “Sky Shield” – is designed to protect commercial airliners against shoulder-fired missiles.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that several Israeli passenger planes have already been outfitted with the gear.
These photos from the Defense Ministry and Elbit Systems show the system installed under passenger aircraft:
The system detects incoming missiles with a thermal camera. When the missile reaches a certain proximity to the aircraft, the system fires a laser at the missile’s seeker which deflects it off of its trajectory, allowing it to explode at a safe distance from the aircraft.
“The experiments, carried out in southern Israel, were some of the most complex and sophisticated ever carried out in Israel,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “They simulated a range of threats that the C-Music system will have to deal with.”
“C-Music is considered the most advanced system of its kind in the world, and will provide ultimate defense to planes,” the ministry said. “It combined advanced detection and disruption technologies, and meets the stringent requirements of commercial flight.”
Elbit Systems President and CEO Bezhalel Machlis said the system is applicable both to commercial and military jets and that the defense contractor has already received orders from the Brazilian and Italian air forces.
“C-Music” is designed for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The acronym stands for Commercial-Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasure.
Here is a dramatization posted to YouTube of the system in use:
Israel’s Transportation Ministry said the system will now be installed on Israeli airliners.
In 2002, terrorists fired shoulder-launched missiles at an Israeli Arkia Airlines passenger plane as it was taking off from Mombasa in Kenya. The two missiles missed their target and the plane landed safely in Tel Aviv.
On several occasions in recent years, Israeli airlines were instructed to halt domestic service to the southern port and resort city of Eilat due to the threat of possible shoulder-fired missile attacks from terrorists operating in the bordering Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
Billy Graham’s Daughter on What Her Dad Hopes to Encounter in HeavenPosted February 27, 2014 at 9:00 pm by Erica Ritz
What does renowned evangelist minister Billy Graham hope to encounter in heaven?
According to his daughter, Ruth Graham, he wants nothing more than to see all the faces from his life, and to greet the God he’s served so faithfully.
“I sense that there’s a crowd gathering at the gate, and mother’s leading the charge,” Ruth told Glenn Beck during an interview that aired Thursday on TheBlaze TV.
“I think it’s going to be two friends greeting each other, who have known each other for years,” she continued with a smile. “Because [my father] has walked with Jesus for years. And it will be very comfortable. It’ll be a warrior returning to his king laying down all the victories, all the crowns and so forth. Laying them at his feet.”
Ruth said all her father wants to hear is the words “well done,” and added that she knows “he will.”
Ruth also opened up about having such an internationally recognized man of faith as a father, and the lasting impact it has had on her life.
She spoke about how, after three divorces, her father could have easily said “I’m tired of dealing with you, you’re on your own,” but he loved her “unconditionally.”
“I divorced my first husband for years of infidelity, and I was the first one to get a divorce in my family, so that was not good,” she recalled. “His parents were friends of the family, so that made it very complicated, and I felt like a circle had been drawn, and I was on the outside of the circle.”
She remarked: “You see, Glenn, in our church, adultery’s forgivable. Divorce is not. At least back then.”
“That is not right,” Glenn responded. Ruth laughed and agreed.
She explained how she moved to a large city after the divorce, and soon fell in love with another man. Within weeks of their wedding, however, he was already threatening to lay violent hands on her.
She said as she fled and returned home, her “fears multiplied with every mile.” What would her parents say? More importantly, what kind of example was she setting for her children?
“My father was standing there, and when I got out of the car, he wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Welcome home,’” Ruth recalled emotionally. “And there was never any condemnation … That grace changed my life, and it informs what I do today. I want other people to experience the grace of God like my dad gave to me.”
She got married a third time and, though “he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore” after ten years, Ruth said they are still “good friends” and he is still essentially a member of the family.
Ruth said “it has not been easy,” but God didn’t not let her remain angry long and her children have “come through to be wonderful people.”
When Beck asked Ruth what she believes is the best way to “speak the truth and not be divisive,” she said the key is “how you speak the truth.”
“Do we speak it in arrogance?” she asked. “Do we speak it in judgement? Do we speak it in gentleness and love? How did Jesus speak the truth?”
She added: “We have such division. We have such rancor, not only in our political world but in our Christian world, our religious world. And I know that that breaks Jesus’ heart … I’m not a warrior, I’m much more of a lover … I want to include people. And if in that inclusion I gather in some black sheep, well and good. But I’d rather err on the side of grace than I would on judgement. I just am not going to stand in judgement of other people.”
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. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.
Attorney Says Teacher’s Reaction to 11-Year-Old Autistic Boy in ‘Distress’ Is ‘Indefensible’Posted February 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm by Jason Howerton
An attorney representing the family of an 11-year-old boy with autism says a Goodrich, Mich., teacher’s response to a special needs student who got his head stuck in a chair is “indefensible.”
Rather than helping the autistic child, who attorney Patrick Greenfelder argues was clearly in “distress,” the teacher, identified as Nicole McVey, began video recording him. The incident occurred in November inside a fifth-grade classroom at Oaktree Elementary.
In the video, the teacher can be heard asking the student if he wants to get “tasered.” The principal then enters the room and announces that the situation is not an emergency. He reportedly resigned shortly after the incident sparked outrage while the teacher involved remains on paid administrative leave.
“He’s in clear distress, stuck in this chair,” Greenfelder said of the incident. “The lack of compassion — and then sending this video around or replaying it after the fact is indefensible.”
The school board recently voted to fire McVey, but the teacher is currently going through a tenure hearing to fight her termination.
In a statement, Goodrich Superintendent Scott Bogner said the teacher has a “right to a private hearing of any charges against her” under Michigan’s tenure law.
Even after seeing the video, some parents are still standing behind McVey, WNEM-TV reports. The 11-year-old boy was apparently stuck in the chair for 10 to 15 minutes.
“Attorney Greenfelder has told [WNEM-TV] that the video was distributed to not just school staff, but to the friends of the principal and teacher who were not school staff. He says this is a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and contradicts the argument that this was a ‘teaching moment,’” the report adds.
Greenfelder said the family is considering filing a lawsuit against the school district but wants to see how the tenure hearings go first.
TheBlaze Radio’s Doc Thompson will talk to the boy’s father on his Friday radio show, starting at 6 a.m. ET.
Find TheBlaze on your TV
TheBlaze is available on channel .
Spread the word!
If you can't find TheBlaze, please call to upgrade your package
Unfortunately, TheBlaze is not available on .
But you can help! Call at or press CONTINUE to email your provider and urge them to add TheBlaze to your channel lineup.
But you can help! Press CONTINUE to email your provider and urge them to add TheBlaze to your channel lineup.Continue
Please complete the form
Thank you for supporting TheBlaze
While you're waiting for your TV provider to get TheBlaze, sign up to watch it online now.