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.”
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.
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.
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."
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.
Russia Says It Won’t Retaliate Militarily Against Turkey. But It’s Not Exactly De-Escalating.
While the Kremlin has ruled out direct military retaliation to Tuesday’s downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey, it has begun taking steps to respond to what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested was a “planned provocation.”
Some of these steps are entirely symbolic—Russian tour groups are canceling Turkey trips and the Russian Parliament is debating criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide, a sore subject for Turkey. Others are more consequential: Vladimir Putin has ordered state-of-the-art missile defense systems to be deployed to Russia’s base in Latakia, Syria, capable of shooting down Turkish jets up to 400 kilometers away. (The base is only 50 kilometers south of the Turkish border.) It has also deployed one of its largest air defense ships just outside Turkish waters in the Mediterranean and cut off all military-to-military communication with Turkey.
Both sides have publicly expressed a desire to de-escalate the situation, but these steps have likely increased the likelihood of dangerous incidents in the increasingly crowded skies over Syria. Even if Russia doesn’t intend to retaliate directly, the new anti-aircraft systems in the area, the lack of communications between the two militaries, and the heightened atmosphere of tension make another incident where the two sides start shooting at each other all the more likely.
And this isn’t just a Russia-Turkey problem. The U.S. and NATO have both backed Turkey’s version of events—that the Russian jet transited Turkish territory before it was fired upon—and affirmed their ally’s right to defend its own airspace. The Russian government, meanwhile, has inferred that NATO was complicit in Turkey’s actions. The Russian military had just begun to share information about its airstrikes with its U.S. counterparts after weeks of talks about the “deconfliction” of their respective operations. With Russian officials not so subtly inferring U.S. culpability in the incident, they’re less likely to maintain open lines of communication, particularly as Russia continues to attack rebel groups in Syria, some of which have received U.S. backing.
Neither side may want to escalate the situation further, but they also may not be able to control what happens next.
These Photos of the Queens “Manger Baby” Are Stirring
A healthy newborn baby with his umbilical cord still attached was left in the nativity scene of a Queens, New York, church on Monday, just four or five hours after his birth. The child, whose name was not yet known, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Center for treatment, the New York Times reported. He seemed to be in good health when he was discovered. An unknown woman was captured on video arriving at the Holy Child of Jesus Church with the baby wrapped in a towel and leaving without him.
More from the Times:
On Tuesday afternoon, detectives were seeking to speak with the woman, who was believed to be the child’s mother.
Late Monday morning, a custodian, Jose Moran, arranged the empty manger at the front of the church, facing the pews, the crèche still empty of all the animals and statues of the Christmas story.
Then he went to lunch. When he returned, around 1 p.m., he heard the cries of a baby and discovered the child, the police said.
Church members seemed to voice sympathy for the woman who left the child.
“It wasn’t an abandonment,” Rev. Christopher Ryan Heanue told CBS. “It was placing him in the hands of God.”
“She was probably just thinking that this is a safe place and that the person who would find him would do the right thing,” congregant Lauren Shiner told the Washington Post.
But it’s unclear whether the woman who left the child could face any criminal repercussions. From the Post:
New York has a “safe haven” law which protects from prosecution anyone who anonymously leaves an unwanted newborn in certain designated locations, such as hospitals, firehouses, police stations and churches. But anyone seeking to take advantage of the law is obligated to leave the newborn in someone’s care or to alert authorities immediately that a baby has been left at a safe haven location, neither of which happened in this case.
However the justice system treats the woman who left the child, he is not the first to enter the world under such circumstances. In 2008, an hours-old child was discovered in a church manger in a small village in southern Germany and named Peter by nurses. And earlier this year, it was reported that a 44-year-old Baltimore man who had been left in a manger in Houston six days after his birth in 1971 was looking for his birth mother. “Knowing someone exists who looks like you, maybe has you same nose, whatever it might be. You want to have that connection,” said DJ Williams, who had to returned to Houston in August to try to find information about the woman who had given birth to him.
Three White Suspects Detained in Minneapolis Black Lives Matter Shooting
Three white men have been arrested in Minnesota for suspected involvement in the shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis after a confrontation on Monday night. (The five individuals who were shot sustained non-life-threatening injuries.) From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Allen Lawrence “Lance” Scarsella III, 23, was arrested in Bloomington. Sources said Nathan Gustavsson, 21, of Hermantown, and Daniel Macey, 26, of Pine City, were taken into custody after they turned themselves in. All three suspects are white. Earlier Tuesday, police arrested a 32-year-old Hispanic man in south Minneapolis, but he was later released because, police said, he was not at the scene of the shooting.
The paper reports that the case may be treated as a hate crime; a Black Lives Matter spokesman said the Monday shooting occurred after "a group of white supremacists" arrived at the site of the protest. One of the suspects is known to have posted an image of a Confederate banner on his Facebook page.
The ongoing protests are related to the death of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a police officer under disputed circumstances on Nov. 15.
Liberia Backslides in Ebola Fight; Records First Death Since Being Declared Virus-Free
A 15-year-old boy in Liberia died of Ebola on Monday, according to health officials, marking the first case of the virus since the country was declared free of the disease in September. The death was also the first Ebola fatality since July. The unfortunate news comes as the country announced an ominous “fourth wave of the Ebola Virus” last week. That is dispiriting news in Liberia, the heart of the outbreak over the last two years, where more than 4,800 people have died from the more than 10,600 recorded cases of the virus.
“The boy’s father and brother also have tested positive for Ebola and have been taken to an Ebola treatment center along with his mother and two other siblings,” the Associated Press reports. “Health officials have identified nearly 160 people who might be at risk of being infected with the disease, including eight health-care workers ‘who are at high risk because they came in direct contact with the boy,’” a health ministry official told the AP.
Liberia was first declared Ebola-free on May 9, only to record two deaths from the virus the following month. The WHO again declared the country rid of the virus on Sept. 3, which held until last week's diagnosis. “Our working hypothesis is that the virus is reintroduced into the human population through uninfected people and we know that it is a possibility that people who have been infected with the virus previously may continue to transmit," Dr. Alex Gasasira, the WHO’s Liberia country representative, told Reuters.
Protests in Chicago After Video Released of Deadly Shooting of Laquan McDonald by Police
On Tuesday evening, the city of Chicago released grisly footage of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Oct. 24, 2014. Last week, a Cook County judge ordered the footage be made public and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference appealing for calm ahead of the release of the dashcam footage that shows white Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald, who is black, 16 times on the street. (You can read more about the case from Slate’s Leon Neyfakh here.)
Laquan McDonald’s family opposed the video’s release and also appealed for calm in a statement. “No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful,” the family said. “Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that.”
Here are some of protest scenes on the streets of Chicago Tuesday evening. We’ll keep updating them as they come in.
*This post has been updated with new information as it became available.