Grapevine: Putin's tiger wanted for goat deaths in China

Table Games: Sometimes, you have to put your money on the table and sometimes the table is worth a heck of a lot of money.

Kean University in New Jersey is under fire for buying a $219,000 conference table from China -- a country where the taxpayer-supported school is trying to expand its campus.

The 22-foot table has an illuminated world map and a motorized two-tiered glass turntable.

The price tag is prompting one lawmaker to ask the New Jersey attorney general to review the bidding process.

Quote -- "Whether or not this is legal, it's certainly not ethical and it's a waste of taxpayer money...I don't need a study to know a university shouldn't be spending up to $219,000 for a conference table. I already know it's wrong. So do the students and families struggling to afford a higher education."

The university's president told The Record News that the school got a good deal by going to China.

They're Great: Russian President Vladimir Putin's tiger is wanted by Chinese authorities.

State media say one of the Siberian tigers that Putin released into the wild is the prime suspect in a series of goat deaths in China.

Three goats are still missing.

The tiger -- which carries a tracking device -- crossed into China last month after being set free in May by the Russian president.

I Pardon Thee: Finally, tomorrow President Obama will fulfill his traditional role in pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

But in Seattle, the mayor is putting a West Coast spin on the tradition.

The mayor of Seattle has pardoned a tofurky.

It even had a name Brayburn the Tofurky.

For the unaware, tofurky is not a living creature.

It is a vegan food made of protein and tofu that is supposed to taste like turkey.

The event was part of a food drive competition between the city council and the Mayor's office, with the losing office having to hand deliver doughnuts to the winners.

Washington Reacts to Ferguson Decision

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

“There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it will make for good TV,” President Obama said minutes after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced, “But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible . . . and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place. . . I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully." 

But viewers tuning into the President’s call for calm simultaneously saw the heart-wrenching images of scores of violent protesters silencing any “constructive dialogue” in the town of Ferguson, Missouri.

By shortly after midnight, at least 2 police cars and over 2 dozen business buildings in the area had burst into flames. Countless businesses were vandalized. Many of them were looted—including the very same store 18 year old Michael Brown stole cigars from moments before his death.

Those on the scene heard over a hundred rounds of shots fired throughout the night. Reports indicated that firefighters couldn’t rush to quench the flames after they themselves were the targets of several of those gun shots.

Many of the incidents occurred underneath a large banner that read, “Seasons Greetings.”

The decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18 year old African-American Michael Brown refueled already heighted racial tensions following Brown’s death on August 9th.

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” the President said, “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. . . I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.”

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement late Monday emphasizing an ongoing, independent federal investigation into both the incident as well as regular practices of the Ferguson police force. He also went on to caution against violence, which wouldn't "honor the memory" of Brown. 

On Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus deplored the grand jury’s decision as a “miscarriage of justice” and a “slap in the face.”

“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions,” CBC Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Oh) indicated in a statement before the violent clashes broke out, “This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”  

Other CBC members took to twitter to call for more meaningful roads to healing and change.

“I know this hard. I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptation of violence. There is a more powerful way,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga).

“This fight for justice, in Ferguson and all over, demands far more firmness of purpose than a fight in the street,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D- Mo), adding in another tweet, “It will take a coalition, not a confrontation. “

Both Missouri US Senators also weighed in.  

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt called Brown’s death a tragedy and said that “the right of Americans to exercise their free speech must be balanced with the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities.”

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill indicated that she’s “praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another” while the DOJ looks into “solutions to systematic issues highlighted by this tragedy.”

What's next for Scott Brown?

President Obama to Bypass Congress and Grant Legal Status to 5 million

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

President Obama tonight will announce his plans to bypass Congress and issue an executive action to shield over 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. And while the President’s legal path appears to be clearing, the door is closing on the GOP’s first funding plan to block Obama’s action.

Though White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to divulge into specifics, White House officials and briefed Democratic lawmakers have disclosed significant details of the plan.

The bulk of the effected illegal immigrants, about 3.7 million, would be permitted to stay in the U.S. through a provision granting temporary legal status to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents.  

An additional 1.5 million illegal immigrants would be granted legal status through the removal of the age limit found in the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 2012 memorandum previously permitted those under 30 years of age, illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents, employment authorization and temporary legal status. The parents of these 1.5 million, however, are not expected to be eligible for legal status.

The plan will also reportedly contain added visas for those pursuing STEM fields

White House officials claim that the plan won’t include a path to citizenship or eligibility for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D- NM) also indicated that those affected must undergo a background check and pay any taxes they may owe.

Unspecified border buffers will be part of the plan, as Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson told reporters last week.

The executive action comes as President Obama repeatedly indicated that bypassing Congress would be illegal, previously stating “that’s not how our constitution is written,” later adding, “I’m the President of the United States, not the Emperor of the United States.”

After saying Sunday that his position “hasn’t changed,” the Washington Post Fact Checker awarded the President an “Upside-Down Pinocchio”--   the most grave of The Post Fact Checker’s ratings.  

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority,” Speaker John Boehner stated through his spokesman, “he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue—and many others.”

As the GOP furiously cautions the powerful precedent that the executive action may set, strategies to counteract the plan vary.

Perhaps the most discussed mechanism was to defund the executive action in the spending bill to be voted on December 11th. But that path appears to be crumbling.

The House Appropriations Committee today put out a statement saying, “The primary agency for implementing the President’s new immigration executive order [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)] . . . is entirely self-funded through fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its appropriations . . . Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to ‘defund’ the agency.”

“We’re considering a variety of options,” Senator Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor, “but make no mistake—make no mistake—when the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for blocking President Obama’s nominees (except those relating to national security) until the President reverses his action.

Others, like current Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbot, say they will almost immediately file a lawsuit protesting the constitutionality of the President’s actions.  

President Obama himself told Telemundo in 2013 that executive actions on immigration would be “very difficult to defend, legally.”

But because tonight’s executive action would not grant a path to citizenship, just “deferred action”, 136 law professors sent a letter to the White House justifying the President’s actions under “prosecutorial discretion.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler also points out that there is some level of presidential precedent, though not to this extent. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush granted up to 1.5 million work permits to spouses and children of illegal immigrants who gained legal status through a law passed 4 years earlier. The 1986 law placed numerical limits on permits, which President George H.W. Bush later expanded through executive authority.

GOP aides say there would be no public, official response to the President’s remarks slotted for 8 pm tonight.

Banking on the plurality of Americans who disapprove of the President acting alone on immigration, one GOP lawmaker told Fox News, “Let him self-immolate, we don’t want our reaction to become the news” 

Dr. Fuad Hussein

Dr. Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to Kurdish President Barzani, sat down with Bret for an exclusive interview for The Daily Bret. Dr. Fuad is here as part of a delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government to meet with administration officials on the recent advances in the US policy on ISIS in Iraq.

He spoke to Bret about the situation on the ground in the Kurdish region of Iraq as they defend against ISIS, and their remaining needs from the US government.

Senate to Vote on Keystone XL Pipeline

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction are today jostling to lock up the 60 votes needed to pass the bill ahead of the vote slotted for around 6 pm this eveining.

The House on Friday passed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline with 31 Democrats voting yes. It marked the 9th time the House approved the construction.

Lame duck Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is finally allowing a vote on the Senate floor today, with the runoff between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy less than 3 weeks away.

The votes come as both candidates aim to bolster their commitment to the booming oil and gas industry in the state of Louisiana, though the proposed pipeline won’t cross the state.

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has long been a major talking point in her campaign. But Bloomberg today reported that Landrieu stood silent at about 70% of committee hearings since January 2009.

All 45 GOP Senators are expected to support the bill’s passage, and 14 Democrats have previously expressed approval.

With the unofficial tally at 59, Sen. Landrieu, who introduced the bill in the Senate, voiced confidence that Keystone XL will get at least 60 supporters in the Senate tonight, but refused to disclose who the 60th vote might be.

But even if the Keystone XL vote clears Senate, because the proposed pipeline would cross international borders, a Presidential permit is required.

The White House continues to indicate that the President isn’t on board.

At least not yet.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest today brushed off questions regarding a Presidential veto should the bill pass. Instead, Earnest emphasized holding off until the Nebraska Supreme Court rules on the path of the pipeline in the state, a position the administration has held since April of this year. The court decision is expected anytime from late November to early February.

Earnest also continued to stress the State Department’s ongoing inquiry into Keystone XL’s national interest, involving the conjunction of eight other federal agencies announced in April.

But in what was thought to be the State Department’s final review back in January, they concluded that there would be no significant environmental harms. Additionally, they predicted the project would generate 42,100 jobs and about $3.4 billion to US GDP.

Still, President Obama continues to express his skepticism, arguing that it wouldn’t “have an impact on U.S. gas prices” and that the pipeline’s effect on global climate change is still in question.

Tune into Special Report tonight as we report live on air as the Senate’s votes are tallied. 

Gruber and Supreme Court Thrust Obamacare into the Spotlight

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

On November 5th, in their first press conferences following the midterms, reporters swarmed President Obama and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with many of the same questions—how will the GOP wave alter Washington’s actions on the issues?

Each gave similar answers. They would work to find common ground, with priority given to defeating ISIS and containing Ebola. Dealing with Obamacare would inevitably come, but later.

‘Later’ lasted about 2 days.

On November 7th, the US Supreme Court announced it would take up King vs. Burwell and decide the legality of health insurance subsidies given to those enrolled through the federal Exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

The legal dispute arises from the letter of the law that gives the IRS authority to grant subsidies to those enrolled through an “Exchange established by the State.”

To date, only 14 states plus D.C. have established their own state Exchanges, while the rest of the nation’s enrollees receive subsidies through the federal healthcare.gov Exchange.

On July 22, 2014, two similar cases in Federal Appeals courts gave opposite rulings. In Halbig vs. Burwell, the court ruled that the IRS does not have the power to grant subsidies through the federal Exchange according to the health care law. But in King vs. Burwell, the court ruled in favor of the IRS.

The King vs. Burwell Appeals court sided with the government on the grounds of “ambiguous language” in the law, defending the administrative deference taken by the IRS in granting subsidies to those enrolled through the federal Exchange as well as state Exchanges.

However, the court opinion also states that they “cannot ignore the common-sense appeal of the plaintiffs’ argument; a literal reading of the statute undoubtedly accords more closely with [the plaintiffs’] position.”

The US Supreme Court will hear King vs. Burwell in March 2015, with a decision expected by June 2015.

Should the lawsuit succeed, about 4.6 million people who enrolled through the federal Exchange would be deemed ineligible for federal subsidies—which covers, on average, about 76% of the plans’ premiums.  

Premiums across all states would be expected to rise by an average of about 422%. Ron Pollack of Families USA (a liberal health policy and Obamacare advocacy group) called the legal argument “the most serious existential threat” to the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

And one man who had previously made the plaintiffs’ case? Jonathan Gruber—an Obamacare architect, MIT professor, and a nearly $400,000 paid Department of Health and Human Services consultant.

In July, a video surfaced of Gruber speaking on a January 18th, 2012 forum stating, “… if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at state here in setting up these Exchanges.”

Shortly after, Gruber told Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, “I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off the cuff. It was just a mistake.”  

However, that wasn’t the only time Gruber “mistakenly” spoke of the need to establish state Exchanges in order to get federal subsidies. Soon after, Breitbart uncovered another video of Gruber speaking at a different forum 8 days earlier, making the same points.

More recently, Gruber was caught up in yet another scandal.

Footage from a 2013 Obamacare forum at the University of Pennsylvania showed Gruber saying, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really, critical for the thing to pass.”

And while the US Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the individual mandate on the grounds that the repercussion for not doing so was actually a “tax,” not a “penalty,” Gruber indicated that the law was purposely written in a “tortured way,” saying, “If the CBO scored the [individual mandate] as a tax, the bill dies.”

Though he told MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow that he regretted the remarks and that he, again, was “speaking off the cuff,” at least 2 other videos have since been uncovered of Gruber giving similar “off the cuff” remarks.

The Democrats are today playing cleanup.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi today said, “I don’t know who he [Gruber] is. He didn’t help us write the bill . . . let’s put him aside.”

However, the former House Speaker’s website cites Gruber’s Obamacare analysis, and CSPAN today unearthed video of Pelosi publically mentioning Gruber in 2009.  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also weighed in, saying, “the process associated with writing, passing, and implementing the ACA has been extraordinarily transparent,” adding, “the fact is I think it is Republicans who haven’t been transparent or particularly honest about the true impact of this.”

For more on Gruber and the political and legal implications of his remarks, tune into Special Report tonight.  

Social Media Goes Presidential: President George W. Bush responds to President Bill Clinton

Who doesn't love social media these days? Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush seem to have their own personal favorites when it comes to social media sites-- President Clinton seems to prefer Twitter while President Bush is more of an Instagram kind of guy.

Clinton tweeted a photo letting everyone know he had received his copy of "41: A Portrait of My Father," Bush's book that was released this week. In it he included the hashtag #HowAreYouSTILLNotOnTwitter..presumably after he tried to tag #43 in his Tweet. Bush responded via his Instagram account with his on hashtag of #HowAreYouSTILLNotOnInstagram and added the hashtag #BrotherFromAnotherMother.

Politics aside, it is nice to see both sides of the aisle having a little fun with social media!

What do you think? Which is your favorite--Instagram or Twitter? 

Obamacare Architect Under Fire Over Comments

The Wounded Warrior Experience

The Wounded Warrior Experience is presented by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation and put on by the American Veterans Center and the United Sates Navy Memorial. The event brings together wounded warriors who have served on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq in panel segments to share with viewers their personal experiences in serving our country and what they go through when they return from war. 

Our very own Jennifer Griffin served as moderator for the event--below are a few photos. 

If you are interested in learning more you can visit www.woundedwarriorexperience.com.  Thank you to all who serve our country-- we are grateful today and everyday. 

 

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Ferguson: the sequel. The St Louis suburb prepares for a second night of violence since a grand jury refused to indict the police officer who killed an unarmed African-American man. Plus, we'll examine the misinformation coming from the media during the investigation.

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