Iran's president orders stepped-up missile production

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday ordered the accelerated production of missiles in response to possible new U.S. sanctions.

In a letter to the defense minister published on the president's website, Rouhani said Iran won't accept any limitations on its missile program.

A senior U.S. official told the AP on Wednesday that America is considering designating a number of additional targets for sanctions related to Iran's ballistic missile program.

Both the U.S. and Iran insist the missile program is not part of a landmark agreement Tehran reached with world powers in July that is to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.

"Apparently, the U.S. government ... is considering adding new individuals and institutions to the list of its previous oppressive sanctions," Rouhani said in the letter. "It's necessary to continue with greater speed and seriousness the plan for production of various missiles needed by the armed forces within the approved defense policies," he wrote.

Rouhani added that the "development and production of Iran's ballistic missiles, which have not been designed to carry nuclear warheads, are important conventional instruments to defend the country and will continue."

Iran had earlier denied U.S. accusations that it launched a provocative rocket test last week near Western warships in the Strait of Hormuz, dismissing the claim as "psychological warfare."

Gen. Ramezan Sharif, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman, said its forces did not carry out any drills in the key Persian Gulf waterway. Sharif said the security of the strategic Persian Gulf remains among Iran's top priorities. His comments were posted on the Guard's website.

Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said Wednesday that Guard vessels fired several unguided rockets about 1,370 meters (1,500 yards) from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and other Western warships and commercial traffic last Saturday. Raines said the firing came 23 minutes after Iranians announced a live fire exercise over maritime radio.

While the rockets weren't fired in the direction of any ships, Raines said Iran's actions were "highly provocative."

"Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law," he said.

Nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war.
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U.S. spying on Israel swept up members of Congress

The U.S. continued to spy on select leaders of allied nations, a new report cites. | Getty

U.S. spying programs scooped up communications between members of Congress and Israeli leaders, giving the White House insight into Israel’s lobbying of U.S. lawmakers against the Iran nuclear deal, current and former U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The article, published Tuesday afternoon, reports that the U.S. continued to spy on select leaders of allied nations despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to curb such surveillance two years ago, and that it was a top priority to maintain spying on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

As part of that continued surveillance, the National Security Agency also swept up communication showing Israeli officials trying to turn lawmakers against the international deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the article said.

One senior U.S. official described the discovery of the swept-up communication as an “Oh s— moment” and feared that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.

According to the report, Obama administration officials thought the information it uncovered could potentially counteract Netanyahu’s crusade to stop the nuclear deal. But rather than make a formal request to the NSA for the back-and-forth, an official said, the White House opted to allow the NSA to decide on its own — without leaving a paper trail by submitting a formal request.

“We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’” a senior U.S. official told the newspaper. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”
The report said the NSA removed the names of the lawmakers and personal information, as well as “trash talk” about the White House.

Officials said Obama insisted that keeping tabs on Netanyahu served a “compelling national security purpose.” In a speech, Obama alluded to an exception for certain leaders but didn’t name any specific individuals.

Behind closed doors, the White House agreed on which allied leaders would be exempt from surveillance, such as French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders, the report said. But the administration still allowed the NSA to target their advisers, officials told the Journal, as well as other allies, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Wall Street Journal conducted interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence officials. Government officials representing Israel, Germany and France all declined to comment to the Journal. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA also declined.

The Paul Ryan Compromise

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
When Paul Ryan was handed the speaker’s gavel in late October, he pledged to restore normal order to the People’s House and eliminate the sort of backroom deals that rank-and-file members complain are shoved down their throats at the 11th hour. So, late Tuesday night, Ryan unveiled a few thousand pages of consequential tax, spending, and regulatory legislation costing roughly $2 trillion and gave Congress and the public two whole days to review everything.

To be fair to Ryan, the buzzer-beating legislating has more to do with the workload and deadlines John Boehner left him than anything he did wrong. The agreement Ryan reached with fellow congressional negotiators also looks much like one Boehner would have reached: Each side scores some points, but Republican congressional majorities again will fail to deliver a high-profile, base-pumping, ideological victory over some nefarious aspect of the “Obama agenda” on which conservatives had drawn a red line. Will this land Ryan in the same hot water that eventually cooked Boehner? He’ll get a pass, for now.

The two towering paper stacks are the 2016 omnibus appropriations package, which funds the government through next September, and a “tax-extenders” bill that, well, extends (and in many cases makes permanent) a bunch of tax breaks that were set to expire. Though they will be voted on separately, they were negotiated together. The omnibus is more favorable to Democrats, and the tax extenders are more favorable to Republicans.

Considered as a whole, an overriding theme is that everyone gets a lot of money but neither side hammers home that big-ticket ideological victory. In other words, it’s a compromise, something Democrats usually accept as part of the process while Republicans scream bloody murder.

Republicans’ major “get” in the omnibus is a lift on the longtime ban of crude oil exports. That’s a big deal. But since it’s such a big deal, Democrats dangled it to win all sorts of other concessions of their own (even if these were mainly concessions to the status quo). In terms of energy and the environment, Democrats won multiyear extensions of critical tax credits for solar and wind energy production. They successfully nixed a rider that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “waters of the United States” rule that would expand its jurisdiction against polluters under the Clean Water Act. Riders blocking proposed regulations of power plants were cut out. The U.S. government’s contributions to the international Green Climate Fund will continue, a crucial component of the Paris climate agreement.

Somehow the financial services industry, which owns the United States Congress, came up on the losing end too. A provision that would designate fewer financial institutions as “systemically important” (and thus subject to greater oversight under Dodd-Frank) was dropped. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will maintain its independence from congressional appropriations—i.e., Republicans who want to defund it. Another rider that would have blocked a proposed Labor Department rule better aligning financial advisers with their clients’ interests was cut.

The Zadroga Act, a health care and compensation fund for 9/11 first responders and nearby workers, will be reauthorized until 2090, a hilarious year to settle on but one that effectively means permanent. Jon Stewart is an effective lobbyist.

Conservatives also lost on their most well-publicized demands that have dominated cable news.Language restricting Syrian and Iraqi refugee resettlement, defunding Planned Parenthood, or blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will not be included. (The Senate will, however, take up the stand-alone Syrian and Iraqi refugee bill that passed the House with a veto-proof majority. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said that it will not fare nearly as well there.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s annual chip-away at campaign finance regulations, which this year would have blown up the McCain-Feingold fundraising coordination caps between parties and campaigns, did not make it through. (This was an interesting fight, in which Democrats joined up with Tea Party conservatives who don’t want to enhance the power of party committees.)

Meanwhile, over in tax-extenders land, Republicans made all sorts of business tax breaks permanent without any new way to pay for them, so, hooray! This roughly $600 billion package of treats includes permanent extensions of the research-and-development tax credit and other depreciation credits. Democrats got extensions of certain tax credits from the 2009 stimulus. Both got to chip away at funding for the Affordable Care Act, by delaying implementation of the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans (this one was technically tacked onto the omnibus, not the tax package) and the medical device tax. This half of the deal will be a big, fat budget-buster, and it will pass with mostly Republican votes.

Both packages, and the way in which they were negotiated, look … an awful lot like the packages that Boehner would have negotiated and the way in which he would have negotiated them. 

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who have said at various points that they would not vote for a spending bill that funded either Planned Parenthood or Syrian and Iraqi refugee resettlement, are sticking to their word. Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, does not expect his group to support to omnibus and doesn’t even expect that many rank-and-file Republicans to support it either. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, among the more vocal Freedom Caucus members, also predicted that a majority of Republicans would vote against the $1.1 trillion appropriations package that he’s calling the “Boehner legacy bill.”
In other words, Ryan will have to pass the omnibus with the same organic governing coalition of mostly Democrats and some Republicans that Boehner himself used to pass most necessary legislation. That’s a violation of the so-called Hastert rule in which a speaker has pledged to only call up legislation that has support of a majority of the majority party. Ryan assured conservatives that he would abide by this rule if they supported his bid. On his first big funding bill, Ryan will just … not follow the rule that he said he would follow.

That’s great news for America but might be awful news for Ryan in the long run. He’ll get a pass for a number of reasons this time: He’s finishing a process Boehner initiated; he’s offering Republicans a mammoth tax-break package in exchange; and most importantly, Freedom Caucus members would embarrass themselves if they started talking about how Paul Ryan is a failure and must be overthrown this early in his tenure. Perhaps his fetching new manly man-beard also played some sort of hypnotic role on the House Republican Conference.

This appropriations package will expire near the end of the 2016 election, so Congress may pass a continuing resolution then to kick the major political fights past the campaign. Ryan’s next real tests on must-pass legislation should come when there’s a new president. Until then, he can enjoy the honeymoon.

Obama says no 'specific and credible' threat is facing the United States

President Barack Obama delivers a statement at the National Counterterrorism Center in Mclean, Virginia on Thursday. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Speaking at the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington on Thursday, the president insisted Americans should feel safe.
“We do not have any specific and credible information about an attack on the homeland,” Obama said, flanked by members of his national security team and vice-president Joe Biden. “That said, we have to be vigilant.”
The president’s speech arrived on the heels of growing unrest over the threat of terrorism following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Obama has spent recent weeks underscoring his commitment to fighting the Islamic State and to countering the rise of homegrown radicalism.
Echoing his address to the nation earlier this month, Obama on Wednesday said attacks like those in San Bernardino “stiffens our resolve” in terms of preparedness. Resilience, he added, was one of the nation’s “greatest weapons”.
“When Americans stand together, nothing can beat us,” Obama said. “We cannot give in to fear or change how we live our lives because that’s what terrorists want, that’s the only leverage they have.”
The president spoke before 105 employees of the National Counterterrorism Center and intelligence community following a closed-door briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. 

On Monday, Obama paid a visit to the Pentagon for a meeting on military progress against Isis.
The moves come as the president seeks to toughen his message against Isis amid diminishing confidence among the American people over national security.
The Obama administration has already called for a review of the K-1, or so-called “fiancee” visa, the program under which San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik arrived in the United States. Malik, 
who aided her American-born husband Syed Rizwan Farook in the attack that left 14 dead and 21 more injured, is believed by investigators to have been radicalized prior to her arrival in the US.
Obama said the US was stepping up its efforts to prevent attacks at home, while acknowledging the increased prevalence of lone-wolf style plots as “a new phase of terrorism”.
“My highest priority is the security of the American people,” Obama said. “We will not be terrorized. We have prevailed over much greater threats than this. We will prevail. Again.”

Madoff Victims Getting Holiday Treat With $1.1 Million Checks

Bernard Madoff (AP Photo)
Bernard Madoff’s victims are getting an early holiday treat as the trustee unwinding his fraud begins sending out a total of $1.2 billion in recovered funds, with checks averaging $1.1 million each.

The biggest payout to victims in more than three years comes a week before the anniversary of Madoff’s Dec. 11, 2008, arrest, when thousands of retirees, charities, investment funds and other clients discovered they’d lost $17.5 billion in principal in the decades-old Ponzi scheme.

The distribution starting Friday boosts victims’ recoveries to $9.16 billion, or about 57 percent of their lost cash, trustee Irving Picard said in a statement. Checks will range from $1,298 to $202 million, he said, and when the payout is complete almost 1,300 victims will have been made whole. It’s the sixth distribution of funds.

Picard said in a statement that his recoveries “exceed similar efforts related to prior Ponzi scheme recoveries, in terms of dollar value and percentage of stolen funds recovered." He said he’ll send out another $320 million after pending litigation is resolved.

The U.S. Justice Department hasn’t yet paid anything from the agency’s $2.35 billion Madoff Victim Fund, part of a forfeiture agreement with one of Madoff’s biggest customers.

The fund, overseen by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Richard C. Breeden, has been analyzing tens of thousands of claims since at least December 2012.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York, who prosecuted Madoff after his arrest, didn’t have an immediate comment on the forfeiture process. Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 and is serving a 150-year sentence. A jury last year convicted five of his top aides.
Friday’s distribution was made possible after the U.S. Supreme Court refused in October to hear an appeal from victims who argued for years that they should receive interest on their losses.

Customers who invested with Madoff for years believed they had a combined total of about $64 billion, including profit from fake securities trading.

© Copyright 2015 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Radiation from Japan nuclear disaster spreads off U.S. shores

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Radiation from Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster has spread off North American shores and contamination is increasing at previously identified sites, although levels are still too low to threaten human or ocean life, scientists said on Thursday.

Tests of hundreds of samples of Pacific Ocean water confirmed that Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to leak radioactive isotopes more than four years after its meltdown, said Ken Buesseler, marine radiochemist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Trace amounts of cesium-134 have been detected within several hundred miles (km) of the Oregon, Washington and California coasts in recent months, as well as offshore from Canada's Vancouver Island.

Another isotope, cesium-137, a radioactive legacy of nuclear weapons tests conducted from the 1950s through the 1970s, was found at low levels in nearly every seawater sample tested by Woods Hole, a nonprofit research institution.

"Despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific," Buesseler said in an email.

In March 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck the Fukushima nuclear plant, 130 miles (209 km) northeast of Tokyo, causing triple nuclear meltdowns and forcing more than 160,000 residents to flee from nearby towns. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Last year, Woods Hole reported detectable radiation from about 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of northern California, and in April radiation was found off Canada's shores.

The latest readings measured the highest radiation levels outside Japanese waters to date some 1,600 miles (2,574 km) west of San Francisco.

The figures also confirm that the spread of radiation to North American waters is not isolated to a handful of locations, but can be detected along a stretch of more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) offshore.

(Editing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Sandra Maler)

San Bernardino Shooter Passed DHS Counterterrorism Vetting

by Joel Gehrke
Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) want President Obama to release the immigration records of the San Bernardino shooters, arguing they should play a key role in the coming debate over funding the Syrian refugee resettlement& program. 
Their request comes as CBS reports that one of the shooting suspects passed the Department of Homeland Security’s “counterterrorism screening as part of her vetting” for a visa. 
Federal officials maintain that they have a rigorous and effective screening process in place for people from countries such as Syria that have significant jihadist movements, making the immigration records of the San Bernardino shooters a potentially significant piece of the debate over refugee policy.
“We are dealing with an enemy that has shown it is not only capable of bypassing U.S. screening, but of recruiting and radicalizing Muslim migrants after their entry to the United States,” Cruz and Sessions wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. 
The letter reiterates the lawmakers’ longstanding request for the immigration records of twelve other terror suspects, which the Obama administration has failed to release even as the debate over the Syrian refugee crisis has heated up. 
“Congress is days away from consideration of an omnibus year-end funding bill that would set the U.S. on an autopilot path to approve green cards, asylum, and refugee status to approximately 170,000 migrants from Muslim countries during the next year,” Cruz and Sessions wrote. 
“The security task involved is immense, and Congress must have the requested information if lawmakers are to act as responsible stewards of American immigration policy.”

BREAKING: New fact about shooter’s wife leaves NO DOUBT about motive for massacre

Written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor

In the wake of Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino that killed 14 and injured 21, President Obama and liberals everywhere have gone to new lengths twisting themselves into pretzels to deny that Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino was motivated by Islamic terrorism — despite mounting evidence pointing squarely to just that.
But the latest fact to emerge about one of the shooters can leave no doubt.
Via Fox News:
The mysterious Pakistani woman who with her husband gunned down 14 Wednesday at a Southern California holiday party reportedly pledged her allegiance to ISIS before the massacre, according to a government source, in what appears to be concrete evidence that the rampage was at least inspired, if not directed, by the terrorist group.
Tashfeen Malik is believed to have posted her pledge to ISIS leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on or around the time of the attack, in which she and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, stormed a San Bernardino party for his co-workers before escaping.

The Daily Mail reports that this pledge was done during Wednesday’s attack. Either way, it is very telling. She wasn’t declaring some grievance against her husband’s workplace, apparently.

14 people killed in shooting at San Bernardino social services facility

<div class='meta'><div class='origin-logo' data-origin='~ORIGIN~'></div><span class='caption-text' data-credit='ABC7/Twitter'>Dozens of people filed out of center, holding hands in air; others being treated.</span></div>

1st large-scale exercise set in military air training area

The Associated Press 

BISMARCK, N.D. — Military airplanes are taking to the skies this week for the first large-scale exercise in a training area over the Northern Plains.

The exercise in the 35,000-square-mile Powder River Training Complex is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Bombers, fighter jets and refueling tankers will be practicing maneuvers in the airspace over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.

After years of consideration, the Federal Aviation Administration in March approved quadrupling the training airspace, making it the largest over the continental U.S. Advocates say it will boost military training while reducing costs, but some people in the region worry about disruptions to towns, ranches and civilian flights.

This week’s exercise won’t involve supersonic speeds, so it will be less noisy, Master Sgt. John Barton, a spokesman for Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, told The Bismarck Tribune. 

There will be little to notice from the ground other than jet contrails, he said.

“If they’re straight, those are from commercial jets. If it’s us, the contrails will be orbital,” Barton said.

The exercises are scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon both days. Regional airports have been alerted that the military will take control of the airspace during those hours, but it might not affect local air traffic because of the short time span and the altitude of the exercise — between 12,000 feet and 26,000 feet, Barton said.

The training will involve F-16 fighter jets, E3 AWACS surveillance and command jets, KC-135 refueling tankers, RC-135 intelligence-gathering planes, and B-1 and B-52 bombers. The military did not disclose the total number of planes involved.

Obama’s Motorcade for Climate Change Talks Costing $784,825

Car service, hotels, and accommodations for the president and other administration officials to attend climate change talks in Paris are costing taxpayers nearly $2 million, according to government contracts.

The COP21 meeting of global leaders, which President Obama said is a “powerful rebuke” to terrorists, began on Monday. Representatives from 195 countries traveled to Paris, burning 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide for the United Nations conference that is seeking to reduce global emissions.

The tab for Obama’s motorcade alone totals $784,825. The State Department issued a $407,868 contract to Biribin Limousines, an international chauffeur service, for vehicles for the president’s security detail.

“No Sustainability Included,” the document states under a section for contract clauses.
Numerous other contracts for passenger vehicle rentals, including $9,042 for accompanying press, totaled $376,957.

Taxpayers were also billed $100,216 to book hotel accommodations for the president’s stay. Hotel rooms and cell phones for the U.S. Secret Service traveling with the president cost $16,642 and $4,034, respectively.

A number of cabinet secretaries are also in Paris for the United Nations conference, including IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, whose car service tab is $5,400.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s car service totaled $76,435, with three separate contracts worth $38,684, $15,789, and $21,962.

Car service for Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is costing $19,080, and two contracts worth $10,153 and $10,737 were issued for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chauffeur service.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is also attending the conference, with hotel accommodations at the Tuileries Finances in Paris costing $36,091, and her car service totaling $13,903.

In all, costs associated with the climate change summit totaled $1,805,282.

The spending included $51,337 to rent a hangar for Marine One for the duration of the trip, $4,744 to rent office equipment, $12,478 for a hotel suite for a control room, and $7,239 hotels for the United States Agency for International Development.

The government also paid Decoral, an interior design agency running accommodations for COP21, $486,989 and $134,778.

Spending on the conference dates back to August, when the government paid $9,576 to rent a meeting room.

President Obama’s goals he proposed for the conference are estimated to cost up to $45 billion per year and would reduce global temperatures by less than two-tenths of one degree.

Emanuel Fires McCarthy As Chicago Police Superintendent

CHICAGO (CBS) — Saying public confidence in the Police Department “has been shaken and eroded” in the wake of the Laquan McDonald controversy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is out as the city’s top cop.

The mayor said he and McCarthy began discussing the future of the department on Sunday, and on Tuesday morning, he asked for the superintendent’s resignation. First Deputy Supt. John Escalante will serve as acting superintendent while the Chicago Police Board conducts a national search for a permanent replacement for McCarthy.

McCarthy’s ouster comes a week after Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Hours after Van Dyke was charged, Emanuel and McCarthy released police dashboard camera video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.

The high-profile shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer sparked several days of protests across the city, including a Black Friday march that shut down several stores on the Magnificent Mile.

“The public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded,” Emanuel said Tuesday at City Hall, as he announced the formation of a task force to review police accountability, oversight, and training.

Just hours before the mayor’s formal announcement of the task force, McCarthy did a series of TV and radio interviews about the McDonald shooting and the mayor’s task force plan, and appeared to have grown weary of questions about his future with the department, declining to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times editorial calling for him to be fired.

The mayor said McCarthy has been an “excellent leader of our police department over the past 4 ½ years,” but said “now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department and our community and our city are facing as we go forward.”

“Our goal, as I would say to you, is to build the trust and confidence with the public, and at this point and this juncture for the city – given what we’re working on – he has become an issue, rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction,” he added.

Emanuel and McCarthy have been under fire for the past week, with activists, protesters, religious leaders, and multiple elected officials – including the City Council Black Caucus, several Latino aldermen, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – demanding McCarthy resign or be fired for his handling of the McDonald case.

Preckwinkle was especially harsh in her criticism of McCarthy on Monday, noting that the morning after McDonald’s death, the Police Department issued a statement that he had lunged at police with a knife. However, the video of the shooting showed McDonald was walking away from officers when he was shot, and was not lunging or making any sudden moves.

“Either they did not have the video cam recording in their possession, and therefore made the statement without full knowledge of the facts; or they had the facts, and they deliberately distorted the facts to make it look like the shooting was justified. I think that’s disgraceful,” Preckwinkle said.

Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has been one of the loudest voices to call for McCarthy’s resignation, said he’s glad the superintendent was removed, but he said the problem is deeper than one man.

“Removing McCarthy as the head of the department is not going to solve the core problem. This is a department that needs a total transformation,” Pfleger said. “We need a federal prosecutor that subpoenas everybody to find out who knew what and when; and anybody – anybody, from the top to the bottom – that knew hand helped this cover-up needs to go.”

McCarthy had repeatedly said he had no plans to step down over the McDonald case, and as recently as last week said he had the mayor’s full support; but he was called into the mayor’s office Tuesday morning, and left around 8:45 a.m., with a “sour” look on his face, sources said.

Earlier, he had been making the rounds on local TV morning shows to discuss the McDonald case, but canceled further interviews after leaving the mayor’s office.

The mayor said McCarthy’s removal as superintendent was just one of several steps he has made in an effort to restore public trust in the department, including an increase in the number of police body cameras used by the department, and Tuesday’s announcement of a police accountability task force.

Emanuel said the task force would help make sure “we are effectively policing the police.”

The task force will be co-chaired by five “respected leaders in criminal justice,” including three former federal prosecutors, a former top city and state police official, and a former Cook County Public Defender.

• Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and current a partner at Chicago-based Hinshaw & Culbertson;
• Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson, also a federal prosecutor;
• Former Illinois State Police Director and former Chicago Deputy Police Supt. Hiram Grau;
• Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, a partner at Chicago-based Mayer Brown, a former federal prosecutor, and former head of the Police Department’s now-defunct Office of Professional Standards;
• University of Chicago law professor Randolph Stone, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project Clinic, and a former Cook County Public Defender.

Chicago native and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who once led the civil rights division of the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, will serve as a “senior advisor” to the task force.

“These six Chicagoans know, like I know, that the vast majority of our officers are committed to the committed to the communities they serve; but they also know, as I do, that any case of excessive force or abuse of authority undermines the entire force, and the trust we must build with every community in the city,” Emanuel said.

The panel will present a report to the mayor and the City Council by the end of March next year.

Murdoch unloads on Kerry, Obama, the left

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, in a discursive speech Monday evening, blasted Secretary of State John Kerry and attacked the left for creating an “identity crisis” that he charged has undermined American strength and fostered terrorism around the world.
And he drew a connection between U.S. foreign policy and domestic culture, arguing that “in recent years, there has been far too much institutionalization of grievance and victimhood.”

The Australian-born media mogul, a naturalized U.S. citizen, also touched on the Republican presidential primary, which he said “has articulated a deep distaste for the slow descent of our country.”
“Before delivering my modest message,” Murdoch joked at the outset of his address accepting the Hudson Institute's Global Leadership Award, “I feel obliged to alert college students, progressive academics and all other deeply sensitive souls that these words may contain phrases and ideas that challenge your prejudices — in other words, I formally declare this room an ‘unsafe space.’”
After a few words of praise for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had just introduced him to the hawkish think-tank crowd, Murdoch quickly pivoted to a sweeping indictment of U.S. foreign policy under Barack Obama, though he did not mention the president by name.

“For a U.S. secretary of state to suggest that Islamic terrorists had a ‘rationale’ in slaughtering journalists is one of the low points of recent Western diplomacy and it is indicative of a serious malaise,” Murdoch said, referring to Kerry’s recent mangled attempt to draw a distinction between the assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the more recent Paris attacks. “For America to be embarrassed by its exceptionalism is itself exceptional and absolutely unacceptable.” 

(Kerry quickly walked back those comments, remarking the next day that “such atrocities can never be rationalized, and we can never allow them to be rationalized.”) 

Murdoch also laid out a mission for the next U.S. president, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
“For America to have a sense of direction, two conditions are essential: A U.S. leader must understand, be proud of and assert the American personality,” he said, noting that Kissinger had offered a forthright defense of American exceptionalism in his book “World Order.”
“An identity crisis is not a starting point for any journey; and secondly, there must be clear goals informed by values and by a realization of the extraordinary potential of its people,” Murdoch continued.
He then offered a brief tour of 20th century diplomatic and military history, hailing the U.S. role in defeating Japan during World War II and standing up to North Korea — fortitude he said the United States had lost in recent years in favor of a culture of self-obsession.
“The left seemed to be happy for the incarceration of millions, whether in Vietnam under Ho or in China under Mao,” he said. “Why agonize over inhumanity when you could blithely celebrate yourself?”
Praising Kissinger’s role in nudging China toward a market economy, which he called “a modern miracle” that had lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, Murdoch said, “this fundamental, irrefutable truth must be denied by those who despise America and detest economic freedom.”
“The soft left,” he added, “cannot countenance that remarkable human success.”

In a seeming digression, Murdoch also weighed in on the U.S. domestic debate over hydraulic fracturing, which he said “has become a litmus test of principle.”
“Those governments that forbid fracking are the flat-earth fraternity, yes, including New York state,” he said. “They believe that the Earth revolves around them.”
Environmentalists fail to recognize the need for oil and gas to remain the dominant sources of energy, he charged. “To deny that reality is to condemn the most vulnerable to the indignity of poverty for the sake of an ideology -- that being the ideology of self. The triumph of the me over the needs of the many.”
Liberal “self-indulgence” had hobbled America’s sense of moral purpose, Murdoch suggested, asking: “How can we in this room be content with poverty, intellectual or economic, and how can we be content with a world defined by the ideologies of those who seek to please and appease?”

“We are here not to apologize for America, but to celebrate America,” he concluded. “We are here to reflect upon the world as it might have been without America — a much, much lesser world.”

Putin to the Western Elites: World War III Is Inevitable

(DC Clothesline)

In his strongest speech, ever, directed at the United States, in front of the rest of key members of the Western world, Putin drew a line in the sand with regard to American imperialism.

The following are excerpts of Putin’s speech delivered at the Valdai conference in Sochi, just a few days ago. The speech was directed at Western elites.

“Russia will no longer play games with the United States and engage in back-room negotiations… Russia is prepared for serious agreements, but only if these agreements are conducive to collective security… All systems of global collective security now lie in ruins. There are no longer any international security guarantees at all and the party responsible for the destruction of global collective security is The United States of America…

…The builders of the New World Order have failed by having built a sand castle…Russia favors a conservative approach to introducing innovations into the social order, but is not opposed to investigating and discussing such innovations, to see if introducing any of them might be justified…

…Russia has no intention of building an empire of their own, but will not go fishing in the murky waters created by America’s ever-expanding “empire of chaos…

…Russia’s challenges lie in developing her already vast territory)…Russia will not attempt to reformat the world in her own image, but neither will she allow anyone to reformat her in their image. 

Russia will not close herself off from the world, but anyone who tries to close her off from the world will be sure to reap a whirlwind. Neither is Russia willing to act as a savior of the world, as she has in the past…

…Russia does not wish for the chaos to spread, does not want war, and has no intention of starting one. However, todayRussia sees the outbreak of global war as almost inevitable, is prepared for it, and is continuing to prepare for it. Russia does not war, nor does she fear it…

…Russia does not intend to take an active role in thwarting those who are still attempting to construct their New World Order, However, Russia will oppose their efforts if they begin  to impinge on Russia’s key interests. Russia would prefer to stand by and watch them give themselves as many lumps as their poor heads can take. But those who manage to drag Russia into this process, through disregard for her interests, will be taught the true meaning of pain…

…Russia’s will rely not on the elites to set the tone for the future, and these decisions will result from the will of the people…”

Russia Is In War Mode

Russian air incursions are the worst that they have been since the height of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The RAF has intercepted Russian military aircraft as they neared UK airspace for the second time in the past week. This incident follows Norwegian interception of two Russian bombers last Wednesday.
The Baltic countries are also witnessing a dramatic increase in Russian military violations of NATO air space in which the Russians appear to be testing their ability to penetrate NATO’s air defenses.

Even the number of times that Japanese fighter jets have been forced to scramble to intercept Russian military aircraft has more than doubled in the last six months, amid the escalating diplomatic tensions between Japan and Russia.

Russia has even violated American airspace in Alaska with multiple air incursions designed to test and discover the sophistications of America’s ability to detect and intercept Russian fighters and nuclear bombers.
russian arctic oil and gas fields

Coupled with the air incursions, Putin has the Russian economy in war mode. He even has the Russian military prepared to militarily seize the “resource rich” Arctic.


Putin has warned that “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” Putin said. “This is a reality, not just words.”

The United States would be wise to prepare in kind.

'Spying' on Islamic State instead of hacking them

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the vigilante hacker group Anonymous has declared war on so-called Islamic State using the internet and claims to have shut thousands of Twitter accounts used by IS operatives. But a much smaller online group has also emerged, with quite a different strategy - and they claim they've already thwarted at least one terror attack.

This group say they were fed up with what they saw as unsophisticated Anonymous tactics. Things came to a head after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, and after that, the founding members of Ghost Security Group decided to make a clean break from Anonymous.

"They [Anonymous] don't have any counterterrorism experience whatsoever," said Ghost Security Group's executive director, who spoke to BBC Trending via phone, asking for anonymity to protect his safety. "We felt that not enough was being done and the Charlie Hebdo attack made it clear that ISIS was not confined to the Middle East."

Security agencies such as the US FBI have refused to comment on the group - and it's difficult to independently verify the claims they have made.

But the director of Ghost Security Group said volunteers live in the US, Europe, and the Middle East, and include linguists and "people familiar with intelligence gathering techniques."

Instead of trying to shut down accounts and attack jihadi websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks - basically flooding a website with traffic to take it offline - Ghost Security Group members operate more like spies than hackers. They monitor suspected IS Twitter accounts and infiltrate militant message boards to find information, which they say they then pass along to law enforcement.

"We would much prefer to stop attacks than shut down websites," the executive director said. "I don't think DDoS attacks do a huge amount of damage to Islamic State. Anonymous are hitting some extremist forums that have intelligence value, but we would like forums to stay online so we can see what people are saying and gather intelligence from them."

The group claims that it has already helped to thwart one attack in Tunisia by picking up on what they say was online jihadi chatter which indicated that militants would attack a specific location on the island of Djerba. The plot, Ghost Security says, was designed to be a follow up to the June beach massacre which killed 38 people, mostly British tourists. Reports indicate that Djerba did indeed appear on a list of IS targets in Tunisia in July. Like the other claims the groups have made, though, it's difficult to verify that they thwarted an attack.

Michael Smith, chief operating officer of security consultancy Kronos Advisory, works with the group and says they spotted tweets that were being sent back and forth between IS accounts. Although the tweets would sometimes only exist for minutes before being deleted, Ghost Security Group operatives were watching. The group sent Trending screen grabs of examples of the types of messages it found on now-deleted Twitter accounts:

"They are not just identifying channels [of communication], they have put together a list of accounts which are utilised by people with influence," Smith said. "These people have saved lives."

Smith told Trending he works with the group to funnel the information they gather to security services, and said they came to him after realising they needed a conduit to pass along information, and to alert authorities to their operations so that they themselves wouldn't be targeted for investigation, thus wasting time and resources.

Homeless Man Finds Stolen Army Weapons: NYPD

A homeless man walking through a Bronx park near Yankee Stadium found several guns that had been stolen from an Army facility in Massachusetts, police said Sunday.

Investigators traced the weapons to a recent break-in at a military armory in Worcester.

The 51-year-old homeless man stumbled upon the weapons while collecting bottles and cans at Mullaly Park near Yankee Stadium. 

The man reported his find to police, who said the weapons included a fully automatic M4 carbine and two 9mm handguns.

James Morales, 34, a former army reservist accused of child rape in an unrelated case, faces federal charges accusing him of stealing the weapons. A surveillance video shows Morales leaving the armory with duffel bags and placing them in a black car, according to an FBI affidavit.

Blood drops found at the scene were tested and match Morales' DNA, authorities have said. 

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in New York said Morales waived identity and probable cause hearings during an appearance in court Friday.

Chicago Area Digs Out From Record Storm

(CBS) — The first snow storm of the season was a record breaker, with some areas getting over a foot of snow. The snow storm was the biggest November storm in Chicago in more than 100 years.

11.2 inches of snow fell at O’Hare Airport, the second largest November total after an 1895 storm that dumped 12 inches on Chicago. Midway recorded 5.8 inches of snow.

Areas to the the north and west of the city were hardest hit. Mundelein received 16.9 inches of snow, Woodstock got 13.5 inches, Buffalo Grove got 11.5 inches and 9.5 inches of snow fell on Westchester. In Elgin, the storm toppled trees and took down electric lines.

WBBM 780’s Nancy Harty

snow elgin Chicago Area Digs Out From Record Storm
WBBM 780/105.9FM

In Indiana, 7.1 inches of snow accumulated in Crown Pointe and Schererville received 6.3 inches.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Saturday at O’Hare and Midway. On Sunday,230 flights have been cancelled and there are 45 minute delays. There are no Sunday cancellations reported at Midway. To check the status of your flight, click here.

Meantime, Chicagoans also contended with frigid temperatures. For six hours, Shalena Needom braved subzero temperatures selling tickets for a big bus tour. But as bundled up Chicagoans pass by in mid-November, Shalena admits an odd mix of temperatures and timing fills air.