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House unanimously approves back pay for 800,000 furloughed federal workers
Oct-05-2013 503 0


The House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.

The White House said Friday that it “strongly supports” the legislation and urged its “swift” passage, even while warning that the single bill alone “will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse.”

The Senate is still deciding how to proceed with the legislation, a Democratic leadership aide said, adding that it is unlikely the Senate will act on it today.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that it is "cruel" to promise pay in the future but not allow federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.

"It's really cruel to tell workers they'll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open the government," he said. "Let's open the government."

Reid said the message being sent to federal workers is: "Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want to do, because we won't let you work."

Approximately 800,000 government employees are furloughed during the shutdown.

Workers deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive back pay.

After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures, but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there was no guarantee that Congress would act..

During the budget stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse - like national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should instead be fully reopened.

"I'm glad to see at the very least that the Senate has plans to take up this bill," Rep. Hal Rogers R-Ky., said of the Senate's likely action on the back pay legislation. "Stop the presses! The Senate's going to take up a bill!"

The back pay measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which has one of the country’s highest populations of federal workers.

"The issue is fairness," Moran said on the House floor. "It's just wrong for hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they're going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether they're going to be able to provide for their families."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.

“It’s encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown," he said. "Now we should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the president’s health care law."

Democrats continued to say they want GOP leaders to allow a vote on a government funding bill without add-ons that would make major changes to Obamacare.

Saying that ensuring retroactive pay was "the right thing to do," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the fact that furloughed workers remain unable to go to work "highlights the sheer folly" of the ongoing government shutdown.

The House's move comes as the shutdown stretches into its fifth day. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Barack Obama again called on House leaders to put the "clean" funding bill up for a vote.

"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today," he said. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."


NBC's Kasie Hunt grills Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on whether or not he supports giving back pay to furloughed government workers during this government shutdown.

If the Senate does take up the bill, a fast-track process could allow the bill to be passed as early as Saturday, although that move would require every senator to agree.

In an interview with NBC News, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- whose lengthy argument against Obamacare last month galvanized the GOP opposition to the short-term budget bill that led to the ongoing shutdown -- would not say whether or not he will object to the agreement.

“I support the House working cooperatively to resolve this, to fund the government, and at the same time, to prevent the enormous harms Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans,” he said.

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DEVIN DWYER Dec-17-2014 141 0
President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday.

“Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs," Michelle Obama told the magazine.

On one occasion, she said, her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

President Obama said he's even been mistakenly treated as a valet.

“There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys," he said, according to excerpts of the interview released today.

The first lady also described being mistreated at a Target store in suburban Washington, during a shopping trip she took in 2011.

"Even as the first lady," she told the magazine, "during the wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf."

She said the incidents are "the regular course of life" for African-Americans and a "challenge" for the country to overcome.

Though they've lived inside the White House bubble for six years, the Obamas have been making the point that they are still in touch with the experience of minority communities.

President Obama has pushed back against criticism that he has not been aggressive enough in talking about issues of race and justice, particularly involving African-American men.

"If you look at after what happened with Michael Brown, if you looked at what happened after Trayvon, if you looked at the decision after Eric Garner, I'm being pretty explicit about my concern, and being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem, that black folks and Latinos and others are not just making this up," Obama told BET in an interview earlier this month. "I describe it in very personal terms."

The president told People that he applauds the efforts of other prominent African-American athletes and celebrities to speak out against police brutality using the "I Can't Breathe" slogan, inspired by the case of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after he was put in a choke hold by a New York City police officer. President Obama has not directly weighed in on the case.

“I think LeBron did the right thing," Obama said of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who wore a shirt with the slogan on the court. "We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness. I’d like to see more athletes do that -- not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.”

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Oren Yaniv Dec-16-2014 96 0
Bill Clinton has weighed in on the Eric Garner case, arguing that the unarmed Staten Island man may have been doing something illegal but “didn’t deserve to die.”

The former President is the latest powerful voice to speak publicly about the case after a grand jury on Dec. 3 declined to indict the NYPD officer who put Garner, 43, into a fatal chokehold in July.

“He was doing something he should not have been doing. That was illegal. He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money. But he didn’t deserve to die because of that,” Clinton told the news channel Fusion in an interview that’s set to air Tuesday.

He also noted that Americans have racial “preconceptions wired into us — and we have got to get beyond them.”

Clinton also spoke of a “divide that exists between the community and the police.”

The interview was taped earlier this month during a Clinton Foundation event. When addressing the Garner case and that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen whose shooting death at the hands of a white cop in Ferguson, Mo., sparked months of protests, Hillary Clinton had called on people to “grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”

Since the non-indictment in the Garner case, the city has spent $22.9 million in overtime costs to police the near-daily protests, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday.

While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, six protestors have been arrested for assaulting officers and six others are wanted for striking a pair of cops on the Brooklyn Bridge during a protest on Saturday.

Public Advocate Letitia James will try this week to make the Garner grand jury evidence public by asking a judge to unseal the minutes of the secret panel. A hearing is scheduled for Friday, but a legal expert called the request “an uphill battle,” given New York’s restrictive laws on the subject of grand juries secrecy.

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Dec-11-2014 165 0
Producer Scott Rudin has apologized for emails showing him and Sony big Amy Pascal trading racist barbs over President Obama's movie tastes.

Last November, Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, was headed to an Obama fund-raiser at Dreamworks chief Jeffery Katzenberg's house when she asked Rudin for advice about chatting up the President, Buzzfeed reported.

"What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?" Pascal wrote, according to the site.

Rudin replied, "Would he like to finance some movies."

"I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" Pascal replied, in reference to Quentin Tarantino's bloody slave revenge flick "Django Unchained."

In a series of nasty emails, Rudin and Pascal allegedly mused whether Obama enjoyed 'Django Unchained' and '12 Years a Slave.'

The two then continued the ugly riff, trading titles of popular movies starring black actors.

"Or the butler. Or think like a man?" Pascal said.

"Ride-along," Rudin quipped, referring to the Ice Cube-Kevin Hart buddy cop flick. "I bet he likes Kevin Hart."

This was the second time Hart's name was raised. In a different exchange, a Sony exec slammed him as "a whore" for asking to be paid to tweet about an unnamed Sony movie he was in.

Rudin apologized for the Obama emails in a comment to Deadline.com on Thursday.

"Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended," Rudin told Deadline.

"I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused."

According to Buzzfeed, Obama attended a Dreamworks fund-raiser later that night, where he praised Hollywood's role in broadcasting the country's "march toward progress" in civil rights.

He told the gathered bigwigs: "They might not know the Gettysburg Address, but if they're watching some old movie, maybe 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,' or 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' or 'Will and Grace' and 'Modern Family,' they've had a front-row seat to our march towards progress, even if their own nations haven't made that progress yet."

Rudin and Pascal's comments play out as the latest chapter in Sony's nightmarish hacking scandal, which has seen troves of sensitive data leaked online.

Unreleased movies, salary figures, A-lister's personal info — including social security numbers and aliases — have all hit the Web in recent weeks, along with embarrassing emails involving Hollywood's heaviest hitters.

Rudin and Pascal were likely already licking their wounds after emails dug up by Gawker showed them trashing Angelina Jolie.

Angry that Jolie was trying to lure director David Fincher away from his Steve Jobs movie, Rudin slammed the star as a "minimally talented spoiled brat" who hailed from "Crazyland."

Sony hasn't commented on the flap.

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Dec-05-2014 141 0
A federal review of policing in Cleveland found that officers' use of unreasonable force was part of a pattern of behavior that was in some cases endorsed by supervisors.

The Justice Department's scathing findings, disclosed Thursday as a wave of protests took aim at police conduct in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, were relayed to city officials in a 58-page summary of a 21-month investigation into policing operations.

Cleveland also has been the site of protests over last month's police shooting of a 12-year-old boy, who was in possession of a toy gun.

The officer identified as the shooter in the case reportedly displayed emotional problems and poor firearm skills in his former job with a neighboring law enforcement agency before joining the Cleveland force where he was a rookie officer at the time of last month's incident.

The Justice review examined 600 incidents in which police used some method of force between 2010 and 2013. It concluded in part that law enforcement is "sometimes chaotic and dangerous … and frequently deprives individuals of their constitutional rights.''

Among the most troubling disclosures:

• In addition to fatal shootings, the excessive force involved victims who were struck in the head, sometimes with the butts of police-issued firearms.

• Some of the incidents involved the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed in cases where officers were called merely to check on their welfare.

• Poor training contributed to cases in which policed employed dangerous tactics that placed the general public at risk.

"Determining whether a pattern or practice of the unreasonable use of force exists was not a close case,'' the report concluded.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the findings in Cleveland, where federal authorities urged the appointment of a monitor as part of a tentative agreement to oversee needed reforms.

"We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force,'' Holder said at a briefing where he was joined by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

Jackson was among a number of local leaders who had called for the federal review.

"Although we may have disagreements on some facts or conclusions drawn,'' Jackson said, "the city of Cleveland remains committed to continue making appropriate changes to the policies, procedures and training that guides the use of force by the division of police.''

The mayor did not elaborate on the nature of the "disagreements.''

The Justice examination, Holder said, had revealed "systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.''

Holder also was in Cleveland as part of a six-city tour aimed at mending strained relations between the police and the communities they serve.

In addition to the community meetings, the administration has established a national task force to review law enforcement practices; established new standards for the distribution of surplus military equipment to police agencies; and pledged to help fund the distribution of 50,000 body-worn cameras to police departments as a guard against officer misconduct.

"We are committed to moving forward together, here in Cleveland and throughout the nation to spur renewed engagement, renewed trust and renewed momentum to translate coordinated action into meaningful results,'' Holder said.

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Clinton Yates Dec-04-2014 289 0
The District lost an actual native son, Wednesday, one who truly wanted to do right by his hometown.

A.J. Cooper was a likable rascal turned community activist. He died of a heart attack, a cruel irony for a man who gave so much of his heart to this city. He was 34.

I’d known A.J. for years, ever since we were elementary school kids on the playground. He was sort of a wild kid, but he had charisma. He ended up leaving my school, but we played in the same Little League when we got older. After that, he went on to host BET’s Teen Summit, a show that made him somewhat of a national star, but more importantly solidified his interests in the youth of America.

Two years ago, when he ran for city council for the first time, it quickly became obvious that he was a young voice that the Wilson Building could use. He believed in working to curb teen pregnancy because it so often derailed the educational opportunities that kids had available to them. Most recently, his work in urban farming initiatives occupied his time. He was a young man that cared about his city, plain and simple.

In April, Complex magazine highlighted Cooper as one of “The D.C. Entrepreneurs Who Are Turning Chocolate City Green.” In it, Cooper’s work as the founder for Freedom Farms is lauded. “A.J. Cooper has realized what a lot of folks have not—that poverty, pollution and unhealthy food are all connected to an urban community’s upward mobility and ability to thrive,” Angel Elliot wrote. “He’s one of the leaders of the urban sustainability revolution that are using locally-owned and operated aquaponics farming to deliver low-cost healthy food to D.C. residents who wouldn’t normally have access to it.”

One of the most admirable qualities about Jay, as many people called him, was that he always had something to prove. As part of a lineage that included Tuskegee Airmen and the famed Cooper-Cafritz family, he never wanted to prove himself on anyone else’s back. When he likely could have lined up donors, endorsements and support for his political ambitions through the help of his name, he didn’t. He wanted to do it himself.

In politics, you never know what people’s motivations are. Some people want to be famous, others just want to get things done. Cooper fell in the latter category. And when you look out on the political spectrum and you see so many self-aggrandizing buffoons at all levels of local government, the thought of losing someone who truly wanted better for everyone is enough to make you cry.

Those who knew Jay before he went to the military, changed his life and decided to serve people will remember a young man who did his best to speak his mind. Perhaps Jay’s motivation can be best illustrated in a Facebook exchange I read Wednesday afternoon. Cooper still had dreadlocks at the time and was out with friends. In the comments someone wrote: “Jay, I still don’t understand the transition from the person I see in this picture to the person I see today! What was the motivating factor … the guiding light … the epiphany that led you into military life?”

His reply, in retrospect, is heartbreaking.

“I wanted to do something that meant something. Be a part of something greater than myself and serve my country rather than just enjoy the life that it provided me,” Cooper wrote back in 2010. “Most of all, being a kid from DC and having friends get killed as I was growing up made me want to make sure an I had an honorable death, not just some random murder.”

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Dec-01-2014 274 0
President Obama is proposing:

President Obama is proposing a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75 million for to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost. The FBI estimates there were just under 700,000 law enforcement officers in the US in 2011.

President Obama's staff is drafting an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programs to work with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes within four months.

President Obama also plans to sign an executive order to create a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which will include law enforcement and community leaders. The purpose would be to examine how to reduce crime while maintaining public trust through measures like increased police training. The task force is being co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University and former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.

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Dec-01-2014 237 0
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Atlanta Monday and speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church at a post-Ferguson, Mo. discussion about police-community relationships, CNN reports.

Holder’s appearance is likely part of a coordinated White House strategy announced last week by President Obama to strengthen relationships between police and the communities they serve.

Protests have continued throughout the nation after a grand jury last week chose not to indict the Ferguson, Mo. police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown after the officer scuffled with the unarmed teenager.

According to the CNN report:

Holder will hold a roundtable discussion with law enforcement, local officials, community leaders, student leaders and faith leaders on race relations and policing in minority communities.

Following the meeting, Holder will speak at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

The town hall is scheduled to begin at 6:30 tonight

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AP Dec-01-2014 97 0
Law enforcement officials were criticized for their militarized response to protests in Ferguson after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. A grand jury last week refused to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the case.

After meeting with his Cabinet, President Obama will gather young civil rights leaders to the Oval Office, the White House said. Topics for that discussion will include the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.

Later Monday, the president will meet with elected officials, community, civil rights and faith leaders, and law enforcement officials. That meeting will center on ways communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods.

Recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere have shown the need for "strong, collaborative relationships" between local police and their communities, a White House official said.

The official also said a "disintegration of trust" between law enforcement and the people they protect and serve can destabilize communities and undermine the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. Public safety can also be undermined, the official added.

Current and former police chiefs said on Sunday that law enforcement agencies around the nation must not repeat the mistakes that led to riots in Ferguson.

Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik and deputy Dallas police chief Malik Aziz, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” criticized the police response to social unrest in Ferguson and said officials failed to anticipate a volatile situation.

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Nov-30-2014 155 0
A senior staffer for a Republican congressman scolded President Obama's daughters for dressing like "they deserve a spot at a bar" and told them to "try showing a little class" in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, drawing her heavy criticism and prompting calls for her dismissal.

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Tennessee Rep. Steve Fincher and a former communications staffer for the Republican National Committee, wrote the screed against the First Daughters in a Facebook post on Thanksgiving.

In it, she scolded them for their clothes and bored looks during Wednesday's turkey pardoning, and took aim at the President and First Lady for failing to "respect their positions."

"Dear Sasha and Malia: I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play," Lauten wrote in the post.


"Then again, our mother and father don't respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter," she added. "So I'm guessing you're coming up a little short in the 'good role model' department."

While Sasha and Malia Obama, 13 and 16 years old, respectively, indeed both looked less than enthusiastic to accompany their father to the Turkey pardoning ceremony on Wednesday, their typically teenage glowers were met with amusement by multiple media outlets.

Lauten, however, had some advice for the First Daughters, imploring them in the Facebook post to "stretch yourself...rise to the occasion" and "act like being in the White House matters to you."

"Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don't make faces during televised, public events," she concluded.

The post was tweeted out by a reporter for African-American media outlet The Root and quickly picked up traction across social media, prompting heavy criticism across the web. One Lauten detractor launched a petition on Change.org, a popular progressive organizing tool, calling for Lauten to be fired.

Hours after the post went viral, Lauten returned to Facebook to publish an apology, admitting she "quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager."

"After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart," she said.

Lauten also pledged to "learn and grow...from this experience."

Neither Lauten, her chief of staff Jessica Carter nor Fincher responded to requests for comment via email.

The First Daughters, meanwhile, took an outing with their father to a local bookstore in Washington on Saturday, to highlight Small Business Saturday.

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