Top Stories for Monday, December 1, 2014

Obama Convenes Ferguson Meetings at White House

From UK Daily Mail, “Obama proposes $263 million plan that will put body-worn cameras on police officers and reviews police ‘militarization’ as he meets Al Sharpton at the White House”: “President Barack Obama met with controversial black pastor Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday at the White House, amid word that he would demand $263 million from Congress to put 50,000 body-worn cameras in U.S. police departments and train local cops to better use surplus military equipment.

The moves came in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Sharpton called the get-together ‘a historic meeting that the president and vice president sat with all of us and law enforcement to commit to not just another commitment, another study … but that he would put his full weight behind it.’

‘We live in a country that we must support law enforcement but law enforcement must support justice,’ he said.

In a brief statement to the press, Obama said that the Brown shooting in Ferguson ‘laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis … and that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.’

‘He cited civil rights leaders’ opinion ‘that in a country where one of our basic principles, perhaps the most important principle, is equality under the law, that too many individuals – particularly young people of color – do not feel as if they’re being treated fairly.’

Brown’s parents have pushed body-worn cameras as one way to limit distrust between police and criminal suspects following physical encounters. The White House said in August that it agreed with the idea in principle.

‘We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation,’ the administration wrote in response to a public petition that attracted more than 154,000 supporters on the White House website.

The new initiative will provide 50 per cent of the funding for cameras, but will not pay for them entirely, at a cost of $75 million.

It will also provide new training resources and funds to study how to reform police practices.”

US Debt Hits 18 Trillion, 17% Increase Since Obama Took Office

From ZeroHedge, “Total US Debt Rises Over $18 Trillion; Up 70% Under Barack Obama”: “Last week, total US debt was a meager $17,963,753,617,957.26. Two days later, as updated today, on Black Friday, total outstanding US public debt just hit a new historic level which probably would be better associated with a red color: as of the last work day of November, total US public debt just surpassed $18 trillion for the first time, or $18,005,549,328,561.45 to be precise, of which debt held by the public rose to $12,922,681,725,432.94, an increase of $32 billion in one day…

It also means that total US debt has increased by 70% under Obama, from $10.625 trillion on January 21, 2009 to $18.005 trillion most recently.”

Supreme Court Hears “True Threat” Case With First Amendment Implications

From The Hollywood Reporter, “Supreme Court Chief Justice Quotes Eminem in Weighing What’s a ‘True Threat’ Online”: ”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court delved into modern times by looking at social media, rap music and how to balance an individual’s freedom to shoot from the hip with society’s interest in protecting against those who would cause fear and disruption. Anyone betting that Eminem would be the rapper to be mentioned today at the high court is a little richer.

Elonis believes his Facebook posts were misinterpreted, and on appeal, his lawyers have made the argument that his social media postings are stylized as rap music lyrics. As a result, in the months leading up to today’s hearing, the nine justices of the high court got an earful about both the history of hip-hop and contemporary modes of communication.

Most directly, the case examines what’s a “true threat” for the purposes of criminal prosecution, but given the widespread acceptance that online rants and rap music can often be prone to hyperbole, the coming decision figures to be a landmark First Amendment one that weighs a speaker’s intent versus a reader’s understanding — a balancing act that could easily be applied in other legal contexts like an analysis of defamation.”

Republican Aide Quits After Criticizing First Daughters

From Politico, “GOP aide quits after criticizing Obama daughters”: “Elizabeth Lauten, the Republican congressional aide who faced a backlash after sharply criticizing the first daughters, has resigned.

Lauten told NBC News that “she is ‘resigning today’ following her comments about Sasha and Malia Obama,” according to a tweet from an NBC News Capitol Hill producer.

Reports of the resignation came after Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s communications director, took to Twitter early Monday morning to comment on a recent Facebook post made by Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)…

The post read, “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

It continued, “Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.””

Terror Plots Uncovered Targeting US and Europe

From Judicial Watch, “Oprah Targeted in Foiled Terror Bomb Plot“: “The Chicago studios of talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey and the iconic “Sears Tower” (renamed Willis Tower) were the targets of a terrorist truck-bomb plot in 2009.  But initially unbeknownst to federal authorities, two of the conspirators recently were arrested for unrelated state crimes in different parts of the country. The alleged bombers targeted Ms. Winfrey’s Harpo Studios because they resented her popularity and power, while the tower was selected because of its obvious landmark status.  The bomb plot itself, planned in 2009, was inspired by militant Islamist hatred of American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to law enforcement and other sources interviewed by Judicial Watch…

The plot called for the use of a U-Haul-style trailer, as well as a delivery-style “step van,” that was purchased at auction in El Paso, Texas.  Sources say the bombs were constructed with the plastic explosive C-4 and Tannerite, a binary explosive of ammonium nitrate and aluminum designed for detonation by means of a high-velocity firearms cartridge.  Officials believe the C-4 explosives were obtained from Fort Bliss, the sprawling US Army base in El Paso, and the Tannerite was brought into the United States from Mexico.Federal law enforcement officials and Illinois police reportedly interdicted the bombers before they arrived in Chicago, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.  It is not clear if federal law enforcement officials were entirely successful in exploiting intelligence opportunities presented by the foiled bomb plot.”

From Express, “Al Qaeda plot to blow up 5 passenger planes in Christmas ‘spectacular'”: “The threat has been taken so seriously it came close to leading to an outright ban on all hand luggage, a senior insider has revealed.

Mobile phones and electronic devices could still be banned from plane cabins, with the threat of a 9/11-style coordinated attack on London and other major cities feared imminent.

The warning comes as Whitehall officials admit that a terror strike on the UK is now “almost inevitable” particularly with British jihadis returning from fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

An airport security source told the Sunday Express: “We’ve been told that five planes are being targeted in a high profile hit before Christmas. They’ve been waiting for the big one.

“We have many scares but this one nearly got hand baggage pulled from all airlines. The threat is still alive and real.”

The plot, which has been known about for the past two months, is thought to involve Islamists smuggling bombs on to planes bound for major European destinations before Christmas.

The well-placed security insider said talks had been held about how to deal with it, with suggestions made to ban hand luggage.”