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Feb. 7 2016 9:44 AM

Global Anger at North Korea After It Launches Rocket Into Space Seen as Missile Test

The United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, and NATO all criticized North Korea’s move to launch a long-range rocket on Sunday, which the DPRK said was carrying a satellite. The country’s neighbors and Washington quickly described the move as a covert program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States. The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected a missile entering space, and two objects have been detected in Earth’s orbit. South Korea confirmed the rocket had put an object into orbit.

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting is planned for later on Sunday to discuss a potential response to the “deeply deplorable” launch, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described it. The move was seen as a particularly strong provocation considering it took place a month after Pyongyang said it tested a hydrogen bomb (a claim other countries have disputed).

The launch was also seen as an example of how North Korea is willing to defy China, its one major ally that had repeatedly called on Pyongyang to not proceed with the planned launch. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “regret over the launch” but called on global powers to “act cautiously.” China is likely to be none too happy about word that South Korea and the United States have agreed to begin talks on possibly deploying a missile defense system in South Korea.

Some believe that the timing of the launch was a way for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to show off advances in the missile program ahead of the birthday of his late father, Kim Jong-il, on Feb. 16. Others, however, say he could be looking further ahead, trying to show clear successes ahead of the Seventh Party Congress in May.

Condemnation may have been fast and furious for most of the world, but in Pyongyang it seems celebration was the name of the game. Crowds cheered and clapped as they watched the news of the launch, reports the Associated Press from Pyongyang. “As far as I know, there are few countries in the world that launched their own satellites,” said a Pyongyang resident.

Feb. 6 2016 11:37 PM

Chris Christie Says Taxing Millionaires Cost New Jersey Billions. The Evidence Is Murky.

In Saturday night’s Republican debate, Chris Christie claimed raising taxes on millionaires cost New Jersey $70 billion. Is he right?

Well, maybe. But maybe not.

In 2004, then–New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey signed legislation that added a 8.97 percent tax increase on income of more than $500,000, a surcharge that was quickly dubbed “the millionaires tax.”

Then what happened? It depends who you ask.

In 2010, the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College released a report studying the movement of wealthy households to and from New Jersey. It concluded that wealthy people did consider the tax when deciding whether to move to or remain in New Jersey. According to its data-crunching, from 1999 to 2003, there was “a net influx of $98 billion (in 2009 dollars) in household wealth.” Most of those people came from the neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania. After the tax was implemented, the well-to-do families that left the state were less likely to be replaced by high-earning households. The study’s authors calculated this resulted in a loss of $70 billion in wealth.

Case closed? Not so fast. The following year, Cristobal Young, a professor of sociology at Stanford, and Charles Varner, then a doctoral student at New Jersey’s Princeton University (he’s now affiliated with Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality) released a study comparing households subject to the new tax with those earning between $200,000 and $500,000—people who were prosperous but not quite rich enough to get hit by the millionaires tax. They found little difference in relocation rates between the two groups.

But you can’t keep a good myth down. In 2014, RegentAtlantic Capital, a New Jersey–based financial advisory firm, released a study claiming to show that “New Jersey residents who are already considering moving to another state often solidify their decision when they realize the amount they can save in taxes.” The proof, however, was less than convincing.

The 2014 survey showed households moving within New Jersey earned “about 50% less” than the ones relocating to lower-taxed Florida and neighboring Pennsylvania. One problem: The households moving from New Jersey to Florida were earning an average of $74,000—not even close to enough to be subject to the millionaires tax. Even the survey’s authors concluded, “Tax migration may currently be more of a threat than an actual problem.”

Earlier this year, Phoenix Marketing International, a market research firm, released a study showing New Jersey lost 10,000 millionaire households in 2015. While the study’s lead researcher claimed in an interview that he believed the state’s tax rate led some people to relocate from New Jersey to other states, he offered no proof.

In fact, any number of things could be going on in New Jersey. The moves might reflect a natural tendency of older residents to move to places like Florida. As Young and Varner pointed out, Florida doesn’t have a state tax, but taxes are also low in Texas, Tennessee, and New Hampshire. What does Florida have that no other state does? If you’re thinking Miami and Palm Beach, well, so were they. “It is difficult to know whether the Florida effect is driven by tax avoidance, unique geography or some especially appealing combination of the two,” they wrote.

The change in New Jersey’s appeal could also indicate the changing residential preferences of generation X and millennials, who are lingering in cities longer than their parents did. That’s been documented in New York’s Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, bedroom communities that are struggling to keep and attract younger residents.

Finally, it could even mean people in New Jersey do want to pay lower taxes. But the proof for that is less than robust—despite what Chris Christie claims.

Feb. 6 2016 11:18 PM

Moderator: None of You Served in the Military. Rubio: My Brother Lost Two Teeth in the Army.

American politicians talk a lot about their respect for the armed forces, but few politicians of either party are veterans. This reality was underlined at Saturday night's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire by WMUR's Josh McElveen, who mentioned during a question about veterans' affairs that none of the candidates onstage had “ever worn a uniform as a member of the armed services.” Marco Rubio then mentioned a personal connection that he did have to veterans' issues: his brother's teeth.

To be fair to Rubio and especially to his brother, that does sound like it would be real annoying.

The transcript of McElveen's question:

None of you onstage tonight have ever worn a uniform as a member of the armed services, that's the reality of it. As commander in chief, you are charged with the care of veterans in this country. Some have suggested privatizing the V.A. is a way to enhance care and increase the quality of care and access. Others say that veterans should carry I.D. cards to allow them access to any hospital or health care provider. ... What specifically would you do to ensure those who have sacrificed for us are cared for? 

Rubio's answer:

Well, my brother's a veteran. We're very proud of him in our family. He served as a Green Beret from 1968 through 1971. And as part of his training he jumped out of an airplane and he lost his two front teeth. For years he has had dental claims. When he goes to get one filled, the V.A. says, “How do we know you lost your teeth in the Army?” He said, “Well, it's the only time I've jumped out of a plane.” I worked in a bipartisan way—we passed a V.A. accountability bill that for the first time allows us to fire, allows the V.A. secretary to fire someone who is not doing a good job who is a senior executive. 

And [Jeb Bush] is right. They have only fired three people up until now. More people will be fired if I'm president. But the portability part of it is incredibly important. Veterans should be able to take their benefits to any hospital or doctor they want to go to. When I am president of the United States, veterans will be able to take their benefits to any hospital or doctor that they choose. 

Mario Rubio, who's now 65, works for the city of Jacksonville and appeared alongside Marco in Iowa in December as the younger Rubio brother delivered a speech about veterans' care.

Correction, Feb. 7, 2015: The headline of this post originally referred in error to Mario Rubio having "chipped" his teeth. Marco Rubio said that his brother lost two teeth.

Feb. 6 2016 9:49 PM

Trump Gets Booed Heavily as Jeb Scores First-Ever Point Against Him

The feud between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush has been one of the most prominent storylines of the 2016 presidential election, and Bush has rarely gotten the better of Trump during their exchanges at Republican debates—until Saturday night, when Bush's attack on the real estate developer about an attempted Atlantic City eminent domain seizure left Trump being booed heavily by the audience at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

The transcript of Trump's end of that exchange (via the Washington Post) is pretty funny:

Trump: A lot of time—let me talk.
Bush: How tough it is to take away a property from an elderly woman?
Trump: Quiet. A lot of times ...
Trump: ... that's all of his donors and special interests out there.
Trump: So—it's what it is. That's what—and by the way, let me just tell you, we needed tickets. You can't get them. You know who has the tickets for the—I'm talking about, to the television audience? Donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money
Trump: That's who it is. The RNC told us. We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're not loving me...

For what it's worth, Katy Tur of NBC reports (seemingly via the Republican National Committee, which did manage ticket allocation and would probably prefer that Trump isn't the nominee) that there are 75 donors in the audience:

Here's more on conservative concerns about Trump's use of eminent domain.




Feb. 6 2016 9:16 PM

Watch the Super Awkward Introduction of the GOP Debate

The GOP primary has had its share of uncomfortable moments, but nothing thus far has been as awkward as the introduction to this evening’s ABC debate. Apparently no one briefed the candidates on what to do as they were being called onto the stage. That might explain why a befuddled Ben Carson hesitated after being named, forcing the other candidates to push past him. Moments later, Trump too declined to enter when called, perhaps because the announcers had forgotten to name Kasich—who was literally left waiting in the wings until Marco Rubio, of all people, introduced him. The whole thing played out like an especially embarrassing incident from Veep. Have a look for yourself:

Feb. 6 2016 9:14 PM

Best Lines of the ABC News GOP Debate

With Tuesday’s caucus results delivering a dose of momentum to Marco Rubio and demonstrating Donald Trump’s vulnerability, Saturday's GOP debate is certainly not one to ignore. Will Trump’s bravado be tempered by some humility? Or will he see it as an opportunity to reclaim his position? Will other candidates approach the podium with a new sense of authority and conviction? In any case we’re collecting the best lines of tonight’s debate right here.

Christie on Rubio's lack of experience

You have not be involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven't. And the fact is—when you talk about Hezbollah sanctions act that you list as one of your accomplishments, youweren't even there to vote for it. That's not leadership. That's truancy. The fact is that what we need to do, what we need to do in this country is not to make the same mistake we made eight years ago.

Kasich on immigration

I couldn't even imagine how we would even begin to think about taking a mom or a dad out of a house when they have not committed a crime since they've been here, leaving their children in the house? I mean, that is not, in my opinion, the kind of values that we believe in. And secondly, I think at the end of the day, that Americans would support a plan like this. I think Congress would pass a plan, to finish the border, guest worker, pay a fine, a path to legalization, and not citizenship. And we've got to get this done.

 Cruz on why he will repeal Obamacare

We're going to ration end of life care. We're right now heading into a medical system with about a 90,000-doctor shortage in America and socialized medicine, whether proposed by the Democrats or proposed by a Republican would hurt the people of this country. What should we do on health care? If I'm elected president, we will repeal every word of Obama care.

Bush response to Trump's support of eminent domain

The difference between eminent domain for public purpose, roads and pipelines, that's for public purpose. What Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to try to take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City. That is not public purpose. That is down right wrong.

Rubio on fighting ISIS

Sunni cities and villages can only truly be liberated and held by Sunnis themselves. If they are held by shias, will start sectarian violence. Kurds do not want to liberate and hold Sunni villages and towns. It will take Sunni fighters toe take those villages and cities and to avoid the sectarian violence that follows in the past. And why that is important is because if Sunnis are not able to govern themselves in these areas, you are going to have a successor group to ISIS.

Christie on Bush's suggestion to raise taxes on millionaires

After New Jersey raised taxes on millionaires, we lost, in the next four years, $70 billion in wealth, it left our state, to go where it would be treated more kindly. If the United States raises taxes any further, that money will leave the United States, as well. We won't have better jobs. Let New Jersey be the canary in the coal mine. It is a failed idea and a failed policy, it's class warfare. It happened in my state. I've stopped it from happening again. But we cannot do it.

Trump on his willingness to bring back waterboarding

Well, I'll tell you what. In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians. We have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before, as a group, we have never seen before, what's happening right now. The medieval times, I mean, we studied medieval times, not since medieval times have people seen what's going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

Christie on supporting heroin treatment programs

And I'm pro life, not just for the nine months in the womb, when they get out and it's a lot more complicated. 16-year-old heroin-addicted drug girl on the floor of a county lockup, the 42-year-old who his own family.

Kasich on his first 100 days

if I get elected president, head out tomorrow and buy a seat belt, because there's going to be so much happening in the first 100 days, it's going to make your head spin. We're going to move America forward. I promise you. We're going to move us forward.

Christie on gender equality in Secret Service registration

The fact is, we need to be a party and a people that makes sure that our women in this country understand anything they can dream, anything that they want to aspire to, they can do. That's the way we raise our daughters. That's what we should aspire to.

Ben Carson on the Super Bowl

With 100 percent certainty, I will predict the winner, it will either be Denver or Carolina.

Feb. 6 2016 1:29 PM

Police Kill Transgender Man With Asperger’s Who Was Suicidal

Police in Arizona knew they’d be dealing with someone who may not be in the right frame of mind when they arrived at the home of 24-year-old Kayden Clarke. Friends had called police fearing Clarke, a transgender man, was suicidal. When police arrived Clarke allegedly charged at two officers with a knife and at least one of them opened fire, reports the Arizona Republic.  

Police identified the person they killed as Danielle Jacobs, although friends said they knew him as Kayden Clarke. Clarke had been struggling to find support to transition from female to male and chronicled the frustrating obstacles in a series of YouTube videos. “Arizona has the worst mental health system across the United States,” he says in a video posted less than a month ago.

In December, Clarke had posted a video in which he announced that his insurance would pay for his sex reassignment surgery. "I'm so happy," he said.  

Clarke gained worldwide attention last year after posting a video in which his service dog Samson provides comfort during a mental breakdown. “This is what having Asperger’s like,” Clarke wrote alongside the video that had since been made private. “When I have a meltdown, I often have self-injurious behavior and I often self-harm,” Clarke told the Huffington Post.

“Before the police arrived she wasn’t posing a threat to the community at all,” Clarke’s mother, who refers to Clarke as her daughter, told the New York Daily News. “And the police came into her own place. They shot and killed a 24-year-old autistic, mentally ill individual whom they had been familiar with and aware of her special needs.”

Feb. 6 2016 11:20 AM

Democratic Party Officials Recognize Errors in Iowa Caucus Count

The caucus results are shifting. So far there’s no sign that the final outcome will flip, but Democratic Party officials have found some discrepancies in the results of the Iowa caucus and the final tally is being corrected, reports the Des Moines Register. The change in the final tally comes days after Democratic Party officials had said there wouldn’t be a review of the caucus results despite the claims of inconsistencies and Hillary Clinton’s tiny margin of victory over Bernie Sanders.

“Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have flagged a very small number of concerns for us, and we are looking at them all on a case-by-case basis,” Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau said.

The confirmation that counts were being reviewed came shortly after the Des Moines Register’s editorial board joined the calls to carry out a full audit of the caucus results. Calling the caucuses “a debacle,” the paper’s editorial board said the Democratic Party needs to figure out what went wrong and make sure it never happens again.

The Register says it has received “numerous reports” that the results announced at precincts did not match the official tally. Clinton’s camp insists the whole thing, though, amounts to making a mountain out of a molehill, because even if Sanders were to win all of the questioned caucus sites, it wouldn’t be enough to flip the result.

Feb. 6 2016 11:04 AM

Watch Bill Maher Mock Climate Change Skeptics With Attack Ad Against Punxsutawney Phil

Bill Maher is no stranger to making fun of Republicans for their penchant to deny climate change. On Friday night he took that mockery a step further by releasing a mock attack ad, noting that the Iowa caucuses fell on the same day as Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. “Naturally, the conservatives now think that Punxsutawney Phil is in the tank with the liberals on global warming,” Maher said. “They’re crazy about this issue.”

The ad describes Punxsutawney Phil as “just another scientist” who is “another climate alarmist.” He “doesn’t just hug trees, he lives under one,” notes the ad.

Feb. 6 2016 9:16 AM

Rescuers Race to Find Survivors After Taiwan Quake Kills More Than 12

More than 100 people remain missing after a powerful 6.4 earthquake shook southern Taiwan early in the morning and caused a high-rise apartment building to collapse in Tainan. At least 11 of the dead and 30 of the missing were from the 17-floor apartment building that had 256 registered residents, although authorities think more people could have been inside due to upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations.

The apartment building "first starting shaking horizontally, then up and down, then a big shake right to left," Tainan resident Lin Bao-gui, who lives across the street, told the Associated Press. "I stayed in my bed but jumped up when I heard the big bang that was the sound of the building falling.”

Rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake.

Photo by SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

Although Taiwan is used to earthquakes, lying in the seismically active area known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” this one was particularly shallow meaning its effects were felt more strongly. There have been at least five aftershocks.

“This was strong enough to not only be felt here in the [Taiwanese] capital city of Taipei but also in the southern provinces of China,” Elise Hu, an NPR correspondent who was in Taipei, told CNN. “Taiwan is very used to earthquakes and tremors, but this is far more significant than the island has seen in quite a while.”

While rescuers continued to try to find survivors, many immediately began raising questions about whether poor construction was to blame for the collapse of the building. The government vowed to investigate.

A survivor is lifted from a collapsed building on February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan.

Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images