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Good News: UN Invites Iran to the Syria Peace Talks

Via Washington Post:

The prospects for a Syrian peace conference due to be held in Geneva this week were thrown into doubt Monday after the United Nations unexpectedly invited Iran to attend, prompting a threat from the Syrian opposition to withdraw.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York on Sunday evening that Iran had been invited after it had agreed to accept that the premise of the peace talks is to pave the way for a transitional authority in Syria that would take power away from President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Opposition Coalition, which had only voted to attend the conference the day before, immediately announced it was suspending its decision to attend “unless Ban Ki-Moon retracts Iran’s invitation,” according to a tweet from its account.

The United States, which also has opposed Iran’s attendance, seemed to have been caught off guard by the U.N. invitation.

“If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. . .

Tell me again why we need the UN. . . - Greg Pollowitz

POTUS: My Choom Smoking was a ‘Bad Habit’

Via AP:

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, ‘‘in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.’’

‘‘As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,’’ the president said an interview with ‘‘The New Yorker’’ magazine.

Smoking marijuana is ‘‘not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,’’ Obama said.

Obama’s administration has given states permission to experiment with marijuana regulation, and laws recently passed in Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana recently went into effect. The president said it was important for the legalization of marijuana to go forward in those states to avoid a situation in which only a few are punished while a large portion of people have broken the law at one time or another.

The president said he is troubled at the disproportionate number of arrests and imprisonments of minorities for marijuana use. ‘‘Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,’’ he said. ‘‘And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.’’. . .

If it's just a bad habit, why not get behind a national push to legalize marijuana? Answer: because it's too political for him to do so. Why let your convictions get in the way. . . - Greg Pollowitz
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War on Christian Bakers: Oregon Rules Civil Rights Violated over a Same-Sex Wedding Cake

Via Oregonian:

State labor investigators have determined a Gresham bakery violated the civil rights of a same-sex couple when it refused to make a cake for the women’s wedding.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries said Friday that it has wrapped up its investigation into Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Spokesman Charlie Burr said investigators found substantial evidence the bakery unlawfully discriminated against the couple based on their sexual orientation.

Oregon law bans discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in jobs and in places that serve the public, such as restaurants and bakeries.

The controversial case began a year ago. Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman of Portland say they were denied a wedding cake by the bakery’s owners, who cited their own religious beliefs. Cryer and Bowman, who are domestic partners, soon lodged a complaint with the state.

The state will now oversee a conciliation process between the two parties to see if a settlement can be reached. If not, the labor bureau may pursue charges before an administrative law judge. . .

I reall don't get these cases. Eventually the KKK will go to an African-American baker demanding a giant Confederate-Flag cake. Is that a civil-rights violation, too, if the African-American baker -- rightfully -- tells the KKK to go to hell? Because if the same standard used for Christian bakers is applied to African-American bakers, then, yes. The government would force an African-American baker to make a cake he or she doesn't want to make for obvious reasons. - Greg Pollowitz

Afghanistan Bombing Investigation Continues; Officials Suspended

Via BBC:

A number of Afghan officials have been suspended as an investigation is carried out into a suicide bomb and gun attack in Kabul that killed 21 people.

The Taliban has admitted targeting a Lebanese restaurant, leaving 13 foreigners and eight Afghans dead.

Among the victims were a local IMF head and Canadian, American, UK, Lebanese, Russian and Danish citizens.

The Afghan interior minister has warned security officials in the capital that negligence will not be tolerated. . .

Gird your loins. - Greg Pollowitz

Chicagoland: Landlords for Proposed Charter Schools Have Ties to Mayor Emanuel

Via Chicago Sun-Times:

Two people with ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel could be among those to benefit from new, publicly financed charter schools up for approval next week by Chicago Public Schools officials.

A South Side minister allied with the mayor and a real estate broker who is an Emanuel friend could end up as landlords for new schools, collecting rent paid for by taxpayers.

The Chicago Board of Education is set to vote next week on 22 proposed schools being sought by nine charter operators. Those that are approved would come back before the school board in May for final approval.

One of two schools that Des Plaines-based Concept Schools chain hopes to open next school year — at 8522 S. Lafayette Ave. in Chatham — would be the first tenant in a building owned by an arm of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. . .

Of course they do. It's Chicago. - Greg Pollowitz
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Huh? Obama to Recommend Outsourcing NSA Data Control. Maybe to CGI Federal?

Via AP:

President Barack Obama on Friday will call for ending the government’s control of phone data from millions of Americans, a senior administration official said. The move marks a significant change to the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone record collection program.

Obama will announce the move in a highly anticipated speech at the Justice Department. However, the official said Obama will not recommend who should control the phone data and will instead call on the attorney general, intelligence community and Congress to make that determination. He’s asked for a recommendation on where to move the data before March 28, when the collection program comes up for reauthorization.

A presidential review panel proposed moving the data to the telephone companies or a third party. But the phone providers have balked at changes that would put them back in control of the records, citing liability concerns if hackers or others were able to gain unauthorized access to the records. . . 

This makes no sense at all. Imagine the new secruity clearances for this? Remember, Snowden was an "outsourced" contractor. What's needed is an oversight board that understand databases and tech. I highly doubt and congressman or senator sitting in oversight of the NSA right now fully understands the programs. - Greg Pollowitz

New Report Questions the Intel on the Sarin Attack in Syria that Almost Sent the U.S. to War

Via McClatchy:

A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.

A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated.

Separately, international weapons experts are puzzling over why the rocket in question – an improvised 330mm to 350mm rocket equipped with a large receptacle on its nose to hold chemicals – reportedly did not appear in the Syrian government’s declaration of its arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and apparently was not uncovered by OPCW inspectors who believe they’ve destroyed Syria’s ability to deliver a chemical attack.

Neither development proves decisively that Syrian government forces did not fire the chemicals that killed hundreds of Syrians in the early morning hours of Aug. 21. U.S. officials continue to insist that the case for Syrian government responsibility for the attack in East Ghouta is stronger than any suggestion of rebel involvement, while experts say it is possible Syria left the rockets out of its chemical weapons declaration simply to make certain it could not be tied to the attack. . . 

Would Secretary Kerry, Senator McCain, or President Obama care to comment? - Greg Pollowitz

There Will Be Blood: Oprah Not Nominated for an Oscar

Via the Washington Post:

First, you kvell.

When the 2014 Academy Awards nominees were announced early Thursday, all ears were attuned to the expected names. Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o, Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey and Bruce Dern given nods in their respective categories? Check.

“Gravity,” “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave” dominating nominations for acting, writing, directing and best picture? No big surprises there, and all as it should be.

Then, you cry. No nomination for Robert Redford for his astonishing one-man show in the gripping seafaring thriller “All Is Lost”? Outrage! No Tom Hanks, who delivered such a subtle tour de force in “Captain Phillips”? The nerve! No Oprah Winfrey or Forest Whitaker for their superb performances in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”? Robbed, I tell you, robbed!. . .

Hey, you don' t see me complaining that Katy Perry was overlooked as the voice of Smurfette in "Smurfs 2," do ya? Suck it up, Hollywood. (I honestly liked "Smurfs 2." I took my daughter twice, voluntarily for the second time.) - Greg Pollowitz

America’s Conscience, Harvey Weinstein, Out to Destroy the NRA

Via Washington Times:

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern’s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Stern asked Mr. Weinstein on Wednesday whether he owned a gun. The Hollywood heavyweight replied that he did not and never would. “I don’t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it,” the producer said. “I think the NRA is a disaster area.

Mr. Weinstein then revealed his secret project about the gun rights group. “I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,” he said. “I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.”

The shock jock asked whether the film was going to be a documentary. Mr. Weinstein said no, that it would be a “big movie like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’”. . .

What a hypocrite. If you don't like guns in American, how about making a movie that doesn't have guns in it? "Pulp Fiction,"the "Kill Bill" series, "Mob Wives," "Piranha 3DD," etc., etc., etc. He was even executive producer on "Rambo". Oh, and Weinstein, at one point, wanted more "Rambo" movies, "bringing the character back to the United States." Maybe "Rambo U.S.A." was gun-free.

This man's wealth is in large part due to America's gun culture, that he now thinks he can destroy with a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"-type film on gun violence? Good luck.

And a spoiler alert: Mr. Smith isn't real. He's like Santa Claus. A figment of the imagination. Members of Congress never have, and never will, be "Mr. Smith." So, have fun making your anti-gun film, but I hope it doesn't conflict with your announced reboot of "Knight Rider". Maybe KITT can fight the NRA, too?

- Greg Pollowitz

Springsteen and Fallon Skewer Chris Christie in ‘Born to Run’ Parody

Via Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

Now this is pretty funny. - Greg Pollowitz

Image of MLK, Jr. Used to Promote ‘Freedom to Twerk’ Party

Via The Smoking Gun:

The owner of a Michigan party space has canceled a “Freedom 2 Twerk” party after the event’s promoter began circulating promotional flyers featuring a Photoshopped image of Martin Luther King, Jr. wearing a large gold chain and medallion and flashing what appears to be a gang sign. . .

Idiots. - Greg Pollowitz

War on Books: New Film Based on ‘1984’ will be a Romantic Drama

Via Telegraph (U.K.):

Kristen Stewart has signed on to play the lead in Equals, director Drake Doremus’ futuristic love story, and it’s making her a nervous wreck.

“I can’t believe I agreed to do it,” said the Twilight actress about her upcoming role in the sci-fi drama, which also stars Nicholas Hoult of the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Stewart describes Equals as a slightly updated version of the 1956 film 1984, based on George Orwell’s classic 1949 novel about rebellion in a repressed futuristic society. Equals begins filming later this year.

“I’m terrified of it,” said the 23-year-old actress in a recent interview. “Though it’s a movie with a really basic concept, it’s overtly ambitious.”

“In Equals, things go wrong because you can’t deny the humanity in everyone,” said Stewart. “It’s the most devastating story.”. . .

Pixar should re-imagine "Animal Farm" -- in 3D. -

Kanye West Under Investigation for Assaulting an 18-Year-Old

Via LA Times:

Beverly Hills police launched a battery investigation Monday involving rapper Kanye West, police said.

The alleged incident was reported about 12:15 p.m. Monday in the 8800 block of Wilshire Boulevard, a commercial district, according to a statement from the Beverly Hills Police Department. 

“The named suspect was identified as Kanye West by the victim and several witnesses,” police said in a statement. West left the scene before officers arrived, police said. 

Authorities are conducting a follow-up investigation. No further information was available, said Beverly Hills Police Sgt. George DeMarois. . .

The early report is that West attacked the teen after the teen made some racial comments directed at his wife, Kardashian. Maybe Kanye will try a "stand your ground" defense?

- Greg Pollowitz

War on Babies: Infanticide Increasing in Pakistan

Via Al Jazeera America:

Just days after she gave birth, Zaitoun says, her husband killed the child, their first, because she was a girl.

The infant’s fate wasn’t a surprise to Zaitoun, 26, who moved to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, from the rural northwest three years ago. Zaitoun (who asked that her last name not be used) has a round face and thick brown hair that she coils into a bun. Her marriage was arranged, she says, and her husband found her a job working as a nanny for a family in one of Karachi’s wealthy neighborhoods, where he works as a doorkeeper.  

When Zaitoun realized she was pregnant, she didn’t speak of it to her husband, knowing money was tight and that having a baby would likely mean she would lose her job. Her in-laws, whom Zaitoun did tell of her pregnancy, advised her to pray that it wouldn’t be a girl. Two days after her daughter was born, Zaitoun says, she woke up to find the baby gone. That afternoon, when her husband returned home for lunch, she asked him what had happened. “I took care of it,” he said.

A few days later, she says she saw an ambulance crew pick up a tiny corpse from a trash dump outside her apartment building. In the six months she had been living in Haryana Colony, a squatters’ settlement where some of Karachi’s poorest families live, Zaitoun saw three other dead babies removed the same way, she says. . .

Our allies. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Best Thing You’ll Read Today: Justin Bieber’s House Raided Over Felony Egg-Throwing Incident

Via TMZ:

. . .Eleven L.A. County Sheriff’s patrol cars descended on Bieber’s house this morning to execute a search warrant in connection with Bieber’s egg-throwing incident last week outside his neighbor’s home … law enforcement sources tell TMZ.

Sources tell us … deputies are looking for any evidence that links Bieber to the egg assault.

We’re told this is a FELONY search warrant — meaning Justin is under a microscope for a crime that could land him in prison.

A Sheriff’s official told us they were NOT looking for eggs in Justin’s house, but another law enforcement source said cops were searching for anything that was relevant to the egg incident, including eggs and possibly video. 

Sheriff’s deputies have looked at TMZ’s video of the incident and believe Justin has surveillance video that might have captured the egging. We’re told deputies dismantled Justin’s security system and took it during the search. . .

Use an egg, go to jail. - Greg Pollowitz

2nd Best Golden Globes Moment: The ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 Trailer

Via IMDB.com:

Winter The Polar Vortex is coming. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark Bought by the Japanese

Via AP:

Beam, the maker of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbons along with other liquor brands, has agreed to be acquired by Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd. for approximately $13.62 billion.

Shares of the spirits maker jumped in Monday premarket trading.

Suntory has a portfolio of spirits, with whiskies including Yamazaki and Hakushu as well as Midori liqueur and other beverages. It already distributes Beam’s products in Japan. Beam distributes Suntory’s products in Singapore and other Asian markets.

Suntory President and Chairman Nobutada Saji said in a statement that the acquisition will help Suntory further its global growth.

The combined company is expected to have annual sales of spirits products of more than $4.3 billion. . .

Sounds like a rare merger that could work. - Greg Pollowitz

Fed Investigating Christie for Improper Use of Hurricane Sandy $

Via CNN:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office said in a statement on Monday that the “Stronger than the Storm” campaign was part of an “action plan” approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of showing that the New Jersey shore was open for business during the first summer after Superstorm Sandy.

“Federal agency reviews are routine and standard operating procedure with all federally allocated resources to ensure that funds are distributed fairly. We’re confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history,” according to the statement issued in response to questions from CNN.

Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.

CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used those relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family. . .

Good lucks with "But President Obama said it was cool" as your defense. When did he approve this? During a hug? The Feds should investigate Bloomberg and Cuomo, too. Who knows what they're really doing. -

My Favorite Moment from the Golden Globes: The Sewage Spill

Via Philly.com:

Hours before Hollywood’s most famous faces took to the red carpet of the Golden Globes, a sewage leak left organizers scrambling to clean up the entrance to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, according to reports.

Several photos of the disgusting spill were posted to Twitter by the likes of Ryan Seacrest and Cosmopolitan magazine.

“Huge water leak on #goldenglobes red carpet…Bev Hills fire trying to clean up,” Seacrest tweeted at about 5 p.m. . .

 

Note the fire department was called in to clean up the mess. That's a little under their pay-grade, wouldn't you say? But it is Hollywood and should be a cautionary tale to the 99% everywhere. Eventually you'll be cleaning up the sewage of the liberal-elite you champion. - Greg Pollowitz

Team Obama Ends Contract with CGI Federal

Via Washington Post:

The Obama administration has decided to jettison CGI Federal, the main IT contractor that was responsible for building the defect-ridden online health insurance marketplace and has been immersed in the work of repairing it, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Federal health officials are preparing to sign a 12-month contract worth roughly $90 million, probably early next week, with a different company, Accenture, after concluding that CGI has not been effective enough in fixing the intricate computer system underpinning the federal Web site, HealthCare.gov, the individual said. 

Accenture, which is one of the world’s largest consulting firms, has extensive experience with computer systems on the state level, and it built California’s new health insurance exchange. But it has not done substantial work on any federal health-care program. . .

Prediction: This is the first step in the Feds starting from scratch on HealthCare.gov 2.0. - Greg Pollowitz

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