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Nov. 28 2015 11:26 AM

Obama Calls for More Gun Control After Planned Parenthood Shooting: “Enough is Enough”

President Obama is once again responding to a mass shooting with calls for increased gun control. "This is not normal. We can't let it become normal," Obama said in a statement. “If we truly care about this—if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience—then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is Enough.”

Obama released his call for more gun control a day after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs killed three people, including one police officer. The Colorado Springs Police Department confirmed on Saturday morning that the gunman was Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina. He is being held behind bars without a bond until a court appearance Monday, according to ABC News. Jail records did not list charges against Dear.


Dear apparently surrendered to police after he realized he was cornered and had nowhere to go, reports CBS News. He is now reportedly cooperating with law enforcement.

Police have released little information about Dear beyond his name so the motive for the shooting remains far from clear. Although Planned Parenthood recognized there is still a lot of information missing, it also did not hesitate to draw a link between anti-abortion rhetoric and terrorist action against reproductive health centers. "We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

Dear spent some of his time in a North Carolina cabin with no electricity or running water. His neighbors say he wasn’t very talkative and when he did speak it didn’t quite seem like he was fully there. "If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive—topics all over place," James Russell tells the Associated Press.

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Nov. 28 2015 9:55 AM

Support for Trump Plunges 12 Points: Did The Donald Finally Go Too Far?

Donald Trump is still the frontrunner in the GOP presidential contest but support among Republicans has plunged 12 percentage points in less than a week, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll. The drop, which marks the sharpest plunge since Trump became the frontrunner in July, means the real estate mogul was the top choice for 31 percent of Republicans, down from 43 percent on Nov. 22.

Trump’s decline was measured in a five-day rolling poll that ended on Nov. 27. Whether it actually means anything remains to be seen considering Trump has dropped in polls before only to bounce back again. But it’s difficult to ignore that this latest plunge comes shortly after Trump seems to have taken his hateful rhetoric to new highs. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, for example, Trump said he would back requiring all Muslims in the United States to register in a database. He was also roundly criticized for mocking a New York Times reporter who has a disability.


Trump is not alone in seeing his support dwindle. Ben Carson also appears to be falling out of favor, dropping to a distant second place with 15-percent support. The retired neurosurgeon was once six points away from Trump. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, meanwhile, are tied for third place with eight percent each.

If his controversial statements did cause Trump’s poll numbers to decline, it would pretty much be a first. After all, Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, proceeded to mock John McCain’s war record, made fun of a journalist by referring to her menstruation, and even mocked Iowans for being dumb. And none of that hurt his frontrunner status. The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump writes:

It's certainly possible that Trump will say or do something that finally turns most Republicans against him. But by now, it seems unlikely. Trump has literally called voters stupid and seen his poll numbers rise. By now, mocking or insulting people of whom voters are already skeptical seems like a pretty safe bet.

Nov. 27 2015 10:45 PM

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooting: Three Killed, Nine Injured

UPDATE: After a five-hour standoff, police arrested a gunman who opened fire inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in an attack that left three people dead and injured nine others. The dead included one police officer for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who joined the city police in responding to the first reports of shots fired. The nine people who were injured with gunshot wounds, including five police officers, are all in good condition.

There is almost no information about the man—wearing a white T-shirt and with a white beard—who was arrested and taken out of the clinic after the standoff. The suspect apparently told the police officers he acted alone, reports the Denver Post. Three sources tell CBS News the suspect is Robert Lewis Dear, 59. Investigators still don’t know the motive of the attack. "To even speculate on a motive would not be reasonable,” a police spokesman said. In a statement, Planned Parenthood urged caution, noting that it was still not clear whether the clinic was the target:


Planned Parenthood has strong security measures in place, works closely with law enforcement agencies, and has a very strong safety record. We don't yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don't yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic seems to have been particularly sensitive to safety issues as it had been a target of repeated protests in the past. It had recently moved to a new location that critics said was a “fortress,” notes Reuters. Two months ago, the FBI warned reproductive health providers were likely to see an increase in attacks amid a heated debate in Washington and across the country about funding for Planned Parenthood, reports CBS News.

The shooting in Colorado comes at a time when there has been an increase in violence against women’s health clinics and abortion providers. It’s hardly a coincidence that this spike in violence has coincided with an increase in legislative rhetoric by politicians against abortion and abortion providers, David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon wrote in Slate earlier this year. NARAL Pro-Choice America has called on the media to begin reporting attacks against abortion providers as domestic terrorism, noted Nora Caplan-Bricker last month.

Hostages are escorted to safety during an active shooter situation outside a Planned Parenthood facility on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Original post at 5:26 p.m.: At least four police officers and an unknown number of civilians were injured Friday afternoon when a gunman opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Commander Kirk Wilson told KKTV that the situation was contained. But that information was contradicted by a different police spokesperson, Lt. Catherine Buckley, who said it was “very much an active situation” because law enforcement “can’t confirm where the shooter is at this point.”

Police engaged with the shooter inside the Planned Parenthood health center and are receiving gunfire. Buckley did not discard the possibility of hostages. "There is that possibility,” Buckley said. “There are a lot of possibilities with this scenario.” The gunman, however, does not appear to have made any demands. “We do not know about this person’s mentality or ideology,” Buckley added.

Planned Parenthood has not said whether the shooting began inside its health center but police say that’s where the initial call to police came from. The manager at a nearby hair salon told the Associated Press that she heard as many as 20 shots in a span of less than five minutes.

Nov. 27 2015 10:26 AM

Black Friday: Watch a Woman Steal From a Child and Shoppers Punch Each Other

Here it is folks. The annual tradition of sitting in front of a computer after Thanksgiving to feel smugly superior to all the people who stood in line for hours to get that special sale on televisions—and vegetable steamers, apparently—has arrived. In one of the first videos to make the rounds, we can see people literally tripping over each other to get to a pile of vegetable steamers. Amid all the chaos, one woman simply decides to take one of the steamers directly from a kid’s hands. A fight obviously ensues. Some, however, immediately raised questions about the video’s authenticity, saying it was a bit too good to be true. The anonymous YouTube user who uploaded the video did not specify where the alleged video was shot.

Whether it’s real or not, it’s hardly the only case of consumerism running amok on Black Friday. Chaos over a sale on televisions led one man at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas to take a swing at a cop.


Also in El Paso, at what may very well have been the same sale, two women came to blows over a television.

Daamm chaos at walmart in the northeast El Paso, Texas by the Street Fredwilson

Posted by Adolfo E. Arzaga on Thursday, November 26, 2015

There were also two videos from Kentucky making the rounds on social media Friday morning. At a mall in Louisville, Kentucky on Thanksgiving night, shoppers punched each other—and knocked a woman to the floor—as they fought in a packed food court.

A second video showed a fight at a mall in Florence, Kentucky. In both videos people can be heard shouting "World Star," in reference to a website that compiles fight videos.

Nov. 27 2015 8:46 AM

Donald Trump Denies Mocking Reporter, Accuses him of “Grandstanding” on Disability

Donald Trump is not giving up. Instead of apologizing for what was his obvious mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski during a speech earlier this week, the real estate mogul is now insisting he has no idea what the journalist looks like. “I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” Trump said in a statement. “I don’t know if he is J.J. Watt or Muhammad Ali in his prime — or somebody of less athletic or physical ability.” The Republican presidential hopeful apparently knows so little about the reporter who has a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that limits joint movement that he spelled his last name wrong.

Trump seemed to clearly mock Kovaleski’s condition during a speech in South Carolina on Tuesday. “Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don't know what I said! I don't remember!'” Trump said as he flailed his arms in front of his body and distorted his speech. In his statement, Trump said he was simply making fun of the way the reporter was trying to "pull away from" something he had written more than a decade ago.  


Kovaleski insists it is ridiculous for Trump to claim he doesn’t know what he looks like when the two met repeatedly. The reporter covered Trump extensively during the 1980s when he worked for the New York Daily News. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski told the Times. “I’ve interviewed him in his office.”

Trump, however, said Kovaleski must have a huge ego if he believes a man as important as him would remember a lowly journalist. “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago—if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did,” Trump said. “He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”

Trump never mentioned Kovaleski by name in South Carolina as he defended previous claims that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The assertions have been widely denied. Trump has pointed to an article by Kovaleski, who was working for the Washington Post back then, about authorities in New Jersey detaining a number of people for allegedly celebrating. In an interview with CNN this week, Kovaleski said that he did not remember “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.”

Journalists and activists for people with disabilities quickly criticized Trump for his comments. “We think it’s outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters,” a Times spokesman told Politico. Jay Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation called on Trump to apologize. “It is unacceptable for a child to mock another child's disability on the playground, never mind a presidential candidate mocking someone's disability as part of a national political discourse,” he said.

Nov. 25 2015 9:45 PM

Obama Admin. Sends Reminder to States: You Don’t Have the Authority to Reject Syrian Refugees

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks earlier this month, dozens of state governments in the U.S., the vast majority of which are led by Republican governors, declared their states closed to Syrian refugees. As Slate’s Josh Keating pointed out at the time: "It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreakingly ironic fate than fleeing violence in your home country only to be vilified for violence perpetrated by some of the same people you were fleeing." On Wednesday, the Obama administration sent a helpful reminder to state officials across the country that they don’t actually have the authority to refuse refugees and doing so would be illegal.

The notice came in the form of a letter from the Office of Refugee Resettlement that serves as a reminder that states may not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, and, most importantly, religion or country of origin. “States that do not comply with the requirement would be breaking the law and could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension or termination of the federally funded program, according to the letter, signed by the director of the federal resettlement office, Robert Carey,” the Associated Press reports.


Three are some 4 million Syrian refugees that have fled and are living outside of the country; most of the refugees live in either Turkey or Jordan, far and away the two largest state recipients. The numbers that have made it to the U.S. are microscopic in comparison: Some 2,200 Syrian refugees have been allowed in the U.S. over the last four years and the Obama administration committed to allowing another 10,000 to resettle in the country before the Paris attacks spooked public opinion and galvanized G.O.P. presidential candidates. “A spokeswoman in the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the resettlement office, said 49 states and the District of Columbia have refugee resettlement programs,” according to the AP. “Wyoming does not have a refugee resettlement program.”

Nov. 25 2015 6:58 PM

ISIS Claims Tunisia Bombing That Killed 12 Members of Presidential Guard

ISIS claimed responsibility on Wednesday for another deadly terrorist strike in a recent string of attacks, this time in Tunisia. The attack took place on Tuesday on a bus carrying presidential guards in the capital of Tunis when a suicide bomber detonated what is believed to be a backpack or a belt, killing 12 officers. Officials say the explosives likely came into the country from Libya.

“An unnamed official with the union representing the presidential guard told the popular Radio Mosaïque FM that witnesses had seen a young man trying to board the bus ahead of others and that when he was confronted, he detonated his bomb,” according to the New York Times. Here’s more from the Times on what is the third major attack by militants in the country so far this year:

The blast, which also wounded 20 others, prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, temporarily close the airport and tourist sites and impose a curfew. Officials also closed Tunisia’s southern border with Libya for 15 days beginning on Wednesday… Tunisia is the lone country that, after the Arab Spring uprisings, established a genuine democratic transition by adopting a new Constitution in 2013 and holding its first national presidential elections in 2014. But the transition has been marred by attacks by extremist Islamist groups, including two this year that killed more than 60 people at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and at a resort hotel in Sousse, about 87 miles south of Tunis. Many of the victims were foreign tourists.

Nov. 25 2015 5:31 PM

In Worst News Dump Ever, U.S. General Explains Cause of Doctors Without Borders Airstrike

In what amounted to a ridiculous Thanksgiving news dump, U.S. officials issued an explanation on Wednesday for last month’s U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan that killed 30 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Ultimately, Gen. John Campbell, the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the attack was a matter of American military personnel firing on the wrong target.

More from CNN:

The October 3 mission had several technical and human errors, several administration officials acknowledge. A U.S. military fact-finding investigation into the incident detailed the mistakes and revealed that the U.S. aircraft targeted the wrong facility.
"The proximate cause of this tragedy was the direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failures," Campbell told reporters in Kabul Wednesday.
"U.S. forces would never intentionally (strike) a hospital" or other protected sites, he said.
The report determined that U.S. forces directly involved in the airstrike did not know the compound targeted was the Doctors Without Borders hospital, and that the facility was misidentified as a target by U.S. personnel who believed they were striking a nearby building where there were reports of insurgents taking shelter.

The personnel most closely involved in the accidental strike have been suspended and are awaiting an adjudication process, Campbell announced.

CNN reports that an official familiar with Campbell’s thinking says that he feels further disciplinary action may be warranted. Campbell could discipline the military personnel involved himself, or leave such punishment to the various military services to which each service member belonged.

Nov. 25 2015 4:31 PM

Frank Gifford Had CTE, His Family Says, as Doctors Call for End of High School Football

Former New York Giants star and NFL broadcaster Frank Gifford suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, his family announced in a statement on Wednesday. (Gifford passed away in August of this year.) The news coincides with the pre-publication of an editorial in the prestigious American Journal of Bioethics calling for an end to public school tackle football programs.

CTE is only diagnosable after death and has been discovered in nearly 90 NFL players whose brains were donated to science. Some of these players showed symptoms of memory loss, depression, and dementia while they were alive.


While Gifford’s family did not report what symptoms he had, they said in a statement that they had decided to have his brain examined because he was a champion of player health and had experienced symptoms firsthand:

During the last years of his life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms—which he experienced firsthand. We miss him every day, now more than ever, but find comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had; that he might be an inspiration for others suffering with this disease that needs to be addressed in the present; and that we might be a small part of the solution to an urgent problem concerning anyone involved with football, at any level.

The Journal of Bioethics article, co-written by doctors Steven H. Miles and Shailendra Prasad, is framed as a rebuttal to the American Association of Pediatrics' endorsement of youth tackle football safety reforms, an endorsement which Miles and Prasad (reasonably) interpret to mean that the AAP believes the game itself is a legitimate activity for minors to engage in. Given documented rates of head injuries, the Journal of Bioethics authors say, a more reasonable position is that the game is too dangerous to deserve the official imprimatur that an association with high schools provides it. "The medical community," the authors say, "could help students, schools and society leave a sport on which the sun is setting."

Nov. 25 2015 3:57 PM

Politico’s Shady Offer to Chelsea Clinton Is About Access Journalism, Not Liberal Bias

Politico’s chief White House correspondent Mike Allen, one’s of the publication’s most prominent ambassadors, has been caught committing a serious journalistic faux-pas.

On Tuesday, Gawker, which has obtained a bevy of Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines’ emails from the former’s tenure as secretary of state, published a January 2013 email from Allen to Reines requesting an interview with Chelsea Clinton. It is not a simple Hey, may we interview Chelsea Clinton sort of thing. It offers inappropriate incentives for Clinton to give the interview (emphasis Gawker’s):


This would be a way to send a message during inaugural week: No one besides me would ask her a question, and you and I would agree on them precisely in advance. This would be a relaxed conversation, and our innovative format (like a speedy Playbook Breakfast) always gets heavy social-media pickup. The interview would be “no-surprises”: I would work with you on topics, and would start with anything she wants to cover or make news on. Quicker than a network hit, and reaching an audience you care about with no risk.

Anyone familiar with the basics of journalistic ethics, which generally frown upon making promises to go easy on a subject, will recognize this as inexcusable. All of it is bad, but the “you and I would agree on [the questions] precisely in advance” is a clear violation of the rule that one should not share questions with a subject or her handlers prior to an interview.

Politico editor Susan Glasser, in an email to Gawker, writes, “We didn’t end up doing any interview with Chelsea Clinton and we have a clear editorial policy of not providing questions to our guests in advance.” That the interview never went down is irrelevant, though. Allen, in his email, offered to break the “clear editorial policy” that Glasser herself named. It’s hard to see how Allen doesn’t deserve to be reprimanded by his employer here, but since he’s so central to Politico’s brand, the publication is likely hoping that interest in this discovery dissipates over the holiday weekend. Allen, for his part, tells the Washington Post, “I don’t remember this e-mail.” That’s a poor defense, since Gawker has remembered it for him.

This seems like a cut-and-dry instance of a journalist stepping over the line in order to secure access to a famous person. Some conservatives, however, witnessed something else: smoking-gun proof of the liberal media in action.

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Breitbart’s John Nolte writes, “Allen is hoping to curry favor with Hillary Clinton by offering her daughter a sweet piece of public relations on any subject Chelsea chooses.” He concludes: “Democrats sure got it good.”

I am not sure what any of this has to do with Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s affiliation with the Democratic Party. Chelsea Clinton is a famous person. Had they done this interview, it would have been extremely vapid and boring, but people only would have known that after they clicked the “EXCLUSIVE: POLITICO SITS DOWN WITH CHELSEA CLINTON” headline. Allen was trying to secure access to a famous person who’s protected quite closely by her handlers. If he was doing that as a show of fealty for access to Hillary Clinton later on, that, too, would have been because Hillary Clinton is a famous politician who’s protected quite closely by her handlers. It has nothing to do with liberal bias, and everything to do with access to political celebrities. (It’s worth noting that negotiating coverage is something that happens in entertainment journalism all the time, but coverage of political actors should be held to a higher standard.)

There are many Republicans who are protected quite closely by their handlers, too. We don’t know what emails Allen has sent to George W. Bush or the Koch brothers or Jenna Bush Hager, because their emails aren’t being FOIA’d like hotcakes (or weren’t until now). Perhaps Allen has sent similar offers to Jeb Bush’s aides about interviewing his children in order, later on, to secure an interview with Jeb Bush. These are all famous Republicans whom Allen might like to interview. I can, just off the top of my head, remember all the fawning emails that reporters sent to Republican and then-Gov. Mark Sanford’s office in 2009 after the boss had disappeared to “hike the Appalachian trail.”

Allen got busted offering positive coverage for access to a famous person. That’s a problem. Its connection to the political press’ liberalism is more tenuous.