COUNTERTERRORISM … CUBA … ON THE HILL … NORTH CAROLINA DISCRIMINATES, HUH? … SENATE STATE OF PLAY 2016 … ALL EYES ON WISCONSIN (and not just because of the Sweet 16) … THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG … CELEBRATING NATIONAL PUPPY DAY (with a picture) … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Will Stone, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
Two siblings flying to New York. A Peruvian chef. A Belgian law student. These are some of the dead and missing in Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels. At least 31 people were killed and 300 wounded in Tuesday’s attacks at the Brussels Airport and a subway, authorities said. The victims span 40 nationalities. Lives cut short by cowards. Just heartbreaking.
INSIDE THE FBI’S AMERICAN MUSLIM NETWORK Michael Hirsch “While candidates stoke fears of Islam, a little-known counterterror program has been going exactly the other way”: “Dearborn, Michigan, may be the closest thing America has to a Mollenbeek, the seething, Islamicized neighborhood of Brussels … An ordinary Detroit suburb sometimes called the ‘Arab Capital of North America,’ Dearborn has the nation’s largest mosque; it’s home to the Arab Museum, Middle Eastern cafes, and halal beef burgers at McDonald’s.” Interesting read in Politico Magazine.
SPEAKING OF COUNTERTERRORISM Check out Capstone CEO (and counterterrorism expert) John Rogers’ live interview on TMJ4 this week, where he talked about the terrorist attack in Brussels. Click Here.
PUERTO RICO PLAN ADVANCES NYTimes: “Politicians in Washington are coalescing around a financial plan to rescue Puerto Rico, just weeks before an expected major default on bond payments that would spread more turmoil through the island’s shaky economy. The plan, being drafted as legislation by House Republicans, would not grant Puerto Rico’s most fervent request: permission to restructure its entire $72 billion debt in bankruptcy.” –“It would, however, give the island certain crucial tools that bankruptcy proceedings can offer — but only if it first comes under close federal oversight and meets other conditions. The oversight would be provided by a five-member voting board, selected by the president of the United States from candidates with expertise in finance, law or other relevant fields.”
OBAMA’S CUBAN ADVENTURE “For a split second, it was if as two boxers had finished slugging it out after 57 years in the ring, and neither was sure who had won. In the red corner, Raúl Castro, grizzled veteran of the revolution led by his older brother Fidel, and now president of a Cuba once again undergoing dramatic change. In the blue, Barack Obama, the clear winner of the last round: an American-style political press conference held in the communist heart of Havana’s Palacio de la Revolución.As they prepared to walk off stage this week, Castro seized the initiative. Determined at the very least to signal that the cold war was tied on points, he grabbed Obama’s arm by the wrist and hoisted it up alongside his own. [The President] kept smiling, but he let his arm go limp, his hand flopping from the wrist in a clear signal of non-compliance. It is a move that may be taught to aspiring diplomats for decades to come. Had he tried to wriggle free, the abiding image of the first trip by a US president in 88 years would have been one of continued political struggle. Had he simply left a straight arm aloft, Obama would have gifted the Cubans the photo opportunity of the century: a US president vindicating the revolution with a socialist salut.
It may have looked just another awkward fumble, but at that moment, the central question of the trip hung in the air. Who was the victor and who was the vanquished? For most Americans, this fight was not even close. Cuba was the last in a long line of authoritarian regimes to accept that communism could not meet the needs of its people. By inviting its “cretinous” arch enemy into the marbled sanctum of the revolution and subjecting itself to the humiliation of media questions about imprisoned dissidents, the politburo was surely signifying defeat. By the standard quid pro quo of diplomacy, the US had given up much by coming here and ending its increasingly embarrassing cold war sulk; Cuba very little.
Obama’s visit to Havana – like those of Nixon, Clinton, Bush and other US presidents to Beijing – carried the short-term risk of being criticised about human rights abuses and a lack of freedoms and democracy, but he evidently decided the potential long-term gains made it worthwhile. The events of this week are likely to have made him feel he made the right call.” (The Guardian)
ON THE HILL by Will Stone: “House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on Military Construction and VA held the first a mark-up for FY17 on March 23. The budget spending cap allocations numbers known as 302(b) have not been set and Speaker Ryan said there’s no need to do a budget. This means the Republican majority will simply “deem” the numbers to avoid an intra-GOP fight over the spending caps. Ryan wants to hold to the agreement made last year in the budget deal while the Tea Party Caucus, Freedom Caucus and the far right want to break the deal and make additional cuts. The passage of the first bill is significant because it gives the committee a vehicle to attach a Continuing Resolution (CR) in September since the 12 [spending] bills won’t be completed on time. All signs sill indicate action.”
NAMING NAMES “A special House committee empaneled to investigate fetal tissue research is preparing to issue 17 subpoenas to medical supply companies and laboratories, seeking the names of researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel. … Many of the universities and organizations blacked out names and other identifying information before submitting hundreds of pages of research documents in response to the committee’s earlier requests for information … citing security concerns. But those redactions frustrated committee investigators and prompted the subpoenas. The House investigation into how some of the nation’s most prestigious universities acquire fetal tissue has prompted charges of intimidation and coercion, escalating a battle that some researchers fear could shut down studies seeking cures for Parkinson’s disease, the Zika virus and a host of other conditions.” House Republicans have tried and failed to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but their investigation is having an impact. Some medical studies have been delayed or canceled because researchers can no longer acquire fetal tissue samples from their usual suppliers, who have grown concerned about the investigation, researchers said.
“We’ve been trying to educate policy makers about why this research is needed and why it can’t be replicated in other ways,” said a spokesperson for the Association of American Medical Colleges, which sent a letter citing “grave concerns” about laws restricting fetal tissue research, signed by more than 50 medical schools and societies.The American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter noting that vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis A, polio, rabies and rubella are all grown in cells derived from fetal tissue (that is acquired from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and abortions). Federal law forbids profiting from the sale of human organs or tissue. (NYTimes)
UNDER PRESSURE Politico: “Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection this year, said Wednesday that he will meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. His announcement came after a barrage of protests in his home state pressuring him to act on the high court vacancy … Toomey said he agreed to [meet] following the White House’s request ‘out of courtesy and respect for both the president and the judge. … Still, he stressed that he would not support moving forward with the rest of the confirmation process until after November … Democrats have mobilized nationwide during the current two-week Senate recess to pressure vulnerable Senate Republicans to take up Garland’s nomination this year. Toomey has been a prime target.” BY A MARGIN OF 2-to-1 — 62% of American voters say the Senate should consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, according to the results of a national Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday.
HERE’S HOW LONG IT TAKES THE SENATE TO VOTE ON SCOTUS PICKS Roll Call: “The chamber has never waiting more than 125 days after receiving the president’s nomination. Check out the chart.
SENATE STATE OF PLAY 2016 WashPost: “Even without a controversial presidential candidate to contend with, Senate Republicans face a challenging map. Fresh off reclaiming the majority for the first time in eight years, the GOP now faces the daunting prospect of defending 24 of the 34 Senate seats that are up for grabs this November, largely because the six-year terms for the many Republicans who swept into office in the 2010 elections have come due. FOR Rs TO KEEP MAJORITY The party can afford to lose only three seats to stay in the majority, and at least two incumbents are already facing difficulties: Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose state is seen as a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats, and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is struggling in the polls. Five more GOP seats are up for grabs in states that President Obama won twice, including some, like Pennsylvania, by comfortable margins. “LOUD FOOTSTEPS upstairs in the presidential race could easily shake the Senate races below,” veteran analyst Charlie Cook wrote this week, adding that if the GOP loses the White House by a larger margin than it did in 2008 or 2012, “hanging onto the Senate would be a long shot at best.” THE DEMS Politico: “Democrats have expanded the Senate map this year, recruiting viable candidates in states no one expected them to compete in, such as Arizona and Missouri, and arguably positioning themselves to ride an anti-Trump wave to the Senate majority. THE GOP SCRAMBLES TO INSULATE CONGRESS FROM TRUMP WashPost: “Establishment Republicans and their big-money allies are rushing to build a multistate defense system to protect Senate and House candidates, fearing that the party could lose its hold on Congress if Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket in November. The anxiety about Trump’s potential spillover effect on down-ballot races was underscored Wednesday when House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin lamented the “disheartened” state of the campaign and criticized the “identity politics” on display in the increasingly toxic race for the GOP presidential nomination.The efforts are being driven by major players such as the Koch brothers’ political network. The Koch operation – which aims to spend almost $900 million before the November elections — is now considering abandoning Trump as a nominee and focusing its resources on behalf of GOP congressional candidates.”
NORTH CAROLINA DISCRIMINATES. HUH? The Atlantic: “The North Carolina General Assembly called lawmakers back to Raleigh on Wednesday for a special session. The reason … to overrule a local ordinance in Charlotte that banned discrimination against LGBT people…. Once released, it was clear that the legislative language was more sweeping than expected. Not only does it prevent local governments from writing ordinances that allow people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify, it also preempts cities from passing their own nondiscrimination standards, saying the state’s rules—which are more conservative—supersede localities.The bill would also ban cities from passing their own minimum-wage laws. It’s a striking example of how North Carolina’s Republicans have decided that culture-war issues take precedence over traditional conservative preference for local control and a desire to improve the business climate in the state. Companies and organizations like American Airlines, Wells Fargo, Apple, Microsoft, Dow Chemical and the NCAA — many of which have a significant presence in North Carolina — have strongly opposed North Carolina’s law.
ALL EYES ON WISCONSIN NPR On Tuesday April 5, Wisconsin is the only state holding primary elections. … Trump could benefit from the fact that Wisconsin is an open primary, meaning voters with any party registration, rather than just committed Republican voters, can participate. State officials said earlier this week that they expect voter turnout to hit 40%, a number not seen since 1980 in Wisconsin—and high turnout is often good news for Trump, who tends to draw voters with little previous involvement in the political process. BUT THEN THERE’S MIDWEST NICE … a factor that could benefit Kasich — or Cruz — according to Carroll University political science professor Lilly Goren [is that] Wisconsin has a reputation of being a “nice” state, meaning voters here may not respond well to the brash persona of Donald Trump, even though he has led in the polls here.”
Bernie Sanders has called Wisconsin a priority. He may perform well here on April 5, according to Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll [that] has shown growing support for Sanders. “Clinton led by 12 in September, by just nine in November, by just two in January. And then Sanders took a one-point lead in February. So in both January and February, those margins were well within the margin of error,” Franklin says.
FOR CRUZ Politico: … Winning Wisconsin would be a huge boon. Forty-two delegates are at stake, and the victor takes almost all of them. Not only would that severely complicate Trump’s quest to get to 1,237 delegates, a purple-state win would also go a long way toward proving Cruz can win outside the deeply conservative states where his wins have been concentrated so far. The heart of the Republican vote in Wisconsin is in suburban counties around Milwaukee, and that area in particular has been hostile to Trump,” said Mark Graul, a longtime Wisconsin-based GOP strategist unaligned this cycle. Demographically, the state should favor Trump, who tends to do better with blue-collar workers: according to exit polls from the 2012 GOP primary in the state, 57% of those who voted had no college degree and 98% were white, 38% were Evangelical Christians.”
REPUBLICAN CONFIDENCE IN ELECTION PROCESS PLUMMETS Gallup’s Frank Newport: “30% in U.S. say election process is working, down from 37% in January … Republicans … down from 46% to 30% … The decline is driven mainly by Republicans’ increasingly cynical views as the campaign season has progressed. Democrats’ … views haven’t changed.”
AND SO WELL-SPENT … USA Today “[Presidential] candidates and … super PACs … had raised a little more than $1 billion through the end of February … $402.7 million at this point in the 2012 election.”
THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG PBS NewsHour: “The wheels of international justice may turn painfully slowly, but they do still turn, and at least some of those leaders who commit crimes against humanity one day pay a price. It’s 24 years since Radovan Karadzic, embarked on a brutal war in Bosnia. [The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] found him guilty of the worst act of genocide since World War II. This was a war by the Bosnian Serbs to conquer the Bosnian Muslims.That war took 100,000 lives at least, 2.5 million refugees, and it culminated in this great, great tragedy at Srebrenica in July 1995, when the Bosnian Serbs, under Karadzic’s orders, murdered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in two-and-a-half days in a soccer stadium. And that was the worst massacre in Europe since the Nazis. It galvanized the United States and Europe to act, because we had not acted sufficiently between ’91 and ’95. And it led to the U.S. air campaign in September and October of that year, and it led to the Dayton peace talks. And that’s where the peace was made. So this was a significant event in the history of Europe.”
LAW MAKERS ‘PAWS’ TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL PUPPY DAY Congress can’t agree on much, but one thing it’s doggone sure about is that puppies are great. Lawmakers stopped barking at each other about
policy differences and celebrated National Puppy Day on Wednesday by unleashing photos of their favorite four-legged friends on social media. Dogs make people happier … so true.
So here,s what makes me happy, everyday. Meet my English Springer Spaniel, Truman, as a 5-week old puppy (he’s now 6). Stay tuned for puppy pictures from the rest of the Capstone Team. We can celebrate National Puppy Day all year!