Confident Obama Predicts Success In Immigration Appeal

Confident Obama Predicts Success In Immigration Appeal, President Barack Obama urged immigrants thrown into limbo by legal wrangling to keep planning for eventual relief, professing confidence Wednesday that his deportation directives won’t be thrown out in court.

Obama said he expected to win when a U.S. circuit court hears his appeal, but added that his administration will “take it up from there” if the appeal fails, in an apparent reference to the Supreme Court. He said at each stage of the process, the White House believes it has the better argument.

“This is just one federal judge,” Obama said of the district judge in Texas who put Obama’s order on hold. “We have appealed it very aggressively. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can.”

The strong-willed defense of Obama’s executive actions came as millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally wait to see whether Obama’s order shielding them from deportation will be upheld. A 26-state coalition led by Texas is suing Obama, alleging he overstepped his legal authority.

Dismissing those hoping for a presidential about-face, Obama insisted he was “absolutely committed” to the new policy, which he described as focusing deportation efforts on felons.

“People should be gathering up their papers, make sure you can show you are a long standing resident of the United States,” Obama said at a town hall meeting hosted by the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo. He said immigrants should make sure that by the time the legal issues are sorted out, “you are ready to go.”

As Obama spoke in Miami, another immigration drama was playing out in Congress, where lawmakers were attempting to fund Homeland Security over the insistence by some Republicans that Obama’s immigration actions be repealed at the same time. Obama derided Republicans for holding national security funding hostage and said he would veto a stand-alone measure to repeal his actions being contemplated in the Senate.

The immigration dispute has increasingly taken on political overtones as focus shifts to the campaign for Obama’s successor, raising questions about whether Republicans can appeal to the fast-growing number of Hispanic voters. Obama said the first question for 2016 presidential candidates should be whether they really intend to deport 11 million people living here illegally. If not, voters should demand to know their alternative plan, Obama said.

With 2016 On Horizon, Conservatives Rally At CPAC

With 2016 On Horizon, Conservatives Rally At CPAC, Thousands of American conservatives will gather just outside Washington beginning Thursday with a thinly-veiled mission: vet the Republican politicians who might soon announce bids for the White House.

This week’s annual CPAC convention will see the right wing rallying around core principles it hopes will shape the 2016 presidential election.

But it is the politicians themselves — and how they will be received by the faithful — that will take the spotlight.

The Conservative Political Action Conference is hard to put a label on. But it is part Comic-Con industry trade show, and part Daytona 500, but with the eccentricity and creative ambition of experimental event Burning Man.

While it appeals to young ideological conservatives converging on Washington in the heart of winter — the Potomac River, adjacent to the event’s National Harbor setting in Maryland, is nearly frozen over — CPAC attracts seasoned Republican A-listers who are virtually assured of a warm reception.

Scheduled speakers include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, son and brother of two presidents, as well as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, all of whom have made no secret of their White House interests.

Also committed are former Texas governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina.

Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential nominee and ever-present conservative provocateur who has toyed this year with a potential White House run, is a regular at CPAC, where she has taken pot shots at “Obamacare” and the policies of potential Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, ever the political flirt, will be on hand too.

– ‘Conservative policies matter’ –

The GOP faithful will have closer access to their heroes this week compared with last year, as organizers promise a more intimate stage setting and Q&A sessions with headliners like Bush.

“We have to be able to reach (regular Americans) where they are and explain to them why conservative policies matter,” Matt Schlapp, who heads the American Conservative Union (ACU) which hosts CPAC, said on its website.

“In the last presidential campaign, that connection did not happen,” he added, in a not-so-veiled dig at 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“They want a strong conservative who can convince people that conservative ideas will fix these problems that the country faces.”

Several potential candidates are expected to host meet-and-greets, part of an effort to make the case that their policies shine most brightly.

Along with the headliners, CPAC has lined up breakout sessions, with names like “Can Islam and Democracy Co-exist?” and “Lies Told To You By Liberals.”

Prosecutors Back Off Charges In California Train Crash

Prosecutors Back Off Charges In California Train Crash, A driver who was taken into custody after his truck was hit by a Southern California commuter train in a fiery wreck that injured 50 people will not be criminally charged, at least for now, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, was arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run after police said they found him walking and talking on a cell phone “in distress” more than a mile from the scene of Tuesday’s destruction in Oxnard, California.

Oxnard police have said Sanchez-Ramirez was taken into custody for leaving the scene of the crash and that they were investigating whether drugs and alcohol were a factor. He was scheduled for an initial court appearance on Thursday.

But Ventura County Prosecutors, in announcing that no charges would be filed against the driver for now, said the investigation was complex and involved numerous local and federal agencies.

“The district attorney must await the completion of this investigation before making a formal filing decision,” the office said in a written statement.

“While charges will not be filed at this time, the arrest of Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez by the Oxnard Police Department was clearly appropriate and lawful,” prosecutors said

The crash in Oxnard flipped over three double-decker Metrolink rail cars, derailed two others and tore apart the Ford pickup that authorities said Sanchez-Ramirez had driven 80 feet (24 metres) onto the railroad tracks after making a wrong turn in the pre-dawn darkness.

Three people remain in critical condition, including the train’s operator.

“My father and the rest of my family are praying for everyone’s speedy recovery and our concerns and thoughts are with the victims of the accident,” Sanchez-Ramirez’s son, Daniel, told a news conference.

The driver’s attorney, Ron Bamieh, has described the crash as an accident and said on Thursday that his client had been confused and mistakenly turned onto the tracks instead of a nearby street. He said Sanchez-Ramirez left the scene trying to look for help.

The crossing was a known transportation hazard and the scene of a fatal accident as recently as last year, raising questions about why an overpass had not been built there.

Two Killed In Southern California Street Racing Crash

Two Killed In Southern California Street Racing Crash, Two onlookers were killed and one injured on Thursday after a driver taking part in an illegal street race near Los Angeles lost control of his sports car and plowed into the crowd, police said.

Henry Gevorgyan, 21, was racing his gray Ford Mustang around 2:05 a.m. local time in Chatsworth when the incident occurred, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.

Two pedestrians, 26-year-old Eric Siguenza and another unidentified person, were killed in the accident, police said. A third was taken to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition.

Police said they were searching for Gevorgyan, who did not stop to help any of the injured people before fleeing the scene.

The Los Angeles Times reported that authorities would seek murder charges against the man. The paper said more than 60 people were gathered to watch the early morning street race but they had all dispersed by the time police arrived.

Police were unable to provide additional information when reached.

Accused Boston Bomber’s Lawyers Challenge Jury Selection Process

Accused Boston Bomber’s Lawyers Challenge Jury Selection Process, Lawyers for the accused Boston Marathon bomber filed on Thursday a last-gasp request to dismiss the charges against their client or delay the start of the trial next week, contending that court officials had violated their own rules during jury selection.

Attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of carrying out the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, argued in a court filing that after randomly assigning numbers to the more than 1,350 people who reported for initial selection early last month, the court re-ordered the jurors based on arrival time.

That, they contended, resulted in fewer potential black jurors being screened during the past two months of in-person questioning that wrapped up on Wednesday. They also contend that people who live within the Boston city limits and those under 30 and over 70 were disproportionately under-represented.

The final phase of jury selection is set to take place on Tuesday, when prosecutors and defense attorneys will whittle down the field of about 70 provisionally qualified jurors to 18 people, including 12 jurors and six alternates.

Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted of killing three people and injuring 264 in the April 15, 2013, bombing.

“Extra precautions must be taken to protect the defendant’s right to an impartial and representative jury in a capital case,” his attorneys argued in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Defense lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge George O’Toole three times to move the trial out of Boston, contending that it would be impossible to seat an impartial jury in the city where so many residents were either present at the race or ordered to shelter in their homes four days after the attack as police searched for Tsarnaev.

The judge rejected all three requests, and attorneys are now waiting for an appellate panel to rule on the matter.

Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who moved to the United States with his family a decade before the attack, is also charged with shooting dead a university police officer on April 18, 2013, as he and his older brother, Tamerlan, tried to flee the city.

Legal Pot Arrives In D.C. Amid Wrangle With Congress

Legal Pot Arrives In D.C. Amid Wrangle With Congress, Possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal in the District of Columbia on Thursday, launching a pot “green rush” despite a face-off between local officials and the Republican-led U.S. Congress over the new standards.

The U.S. capital joined Washington state, Alaska and Colorado in making marijuana lawful for recreational use, reflecting a rapidly shifting legal landscape for the drug. It remains illegal under federal law.

“Nationwide, it (legalization) is clearly symbolic in its ability to impact other places” in the United States, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He called the new legal framework “depenalization” since sales were still barred, and said it was unlikely to unseat a thriving black market. City finance officials have estimated the marijuana market at $130 million a year.

Initiative 71, a ballot measure legalizing marijuana possession that was approved by 65 percent of District of Columbia voters in November, took effect at 12:01 a.m.

Oregon voters approved a similar measure in November, but marijuana does not become lawful there until July.

The District of Columbia law allows adults to possess up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of marijuana and to grow six plants at home, three of them mature. Sales are barred but transfers of up to 1 ounce (26 grams) are legal.

Bongs, pipes and other paraphernalia are legal but public smoking is not. Marijuana is barred in about 20 percent of the city that is federal land.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city officials vowed on Wednesday that legalization would go ahead despite warnings from Republicans on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee that the move was illegal.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah contends a December spending bill had barred the District of Columbia from spending funds to make pot legal or lessen penalties. Congress has oversight over the District of Columbia.

Legalization has fueled what NORML’s St. Pierre called a “green rush” for entrepreneurs, users and growers eager to explore the law’s limits and loopholes.

Michael Bayard, owner of Capital City Hydroponics, which sells indoor gardening equipment, said business had gone up about 50 percent since January as legalization neared. The store sells home marijuana kits for $420 to $1,200.

“We’re ready for the influx of people looking for exactly that kind of garden,” he said.

A marijuana expo sponsored by ComfyTree, a Michigan cannabis consultancy, and set for Saturday and Sunday has drawn dozens of exhibitors and hundreds of registered visitors.

Rand Paul Slams Hillary Clinton On Benghazi

Rand Paul Slams Hillary Clinton On Benghazi, If Rand Paul were commander in chief, his strategy for fighting Islamic militants in the Middle East would start with the Kurds.

“I would arm the Kurds directly,” the Republican senator and potential presidential candidate told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. The two sat down in Washington on Wednesday, just hours after the FBI announced it had arrested three men charged with plotting to join the Islamic State, or ISIS, and stage attacks against the United States.

Despite urging Congress to make an official declaration of war – for the first time since World War II – against ISIS last November, the Kentucky senator’s reputation as an isolationist still precedes him. Dismissing that as a “mischaracterization,” Paul told Couric he’s not willing to send American troops to fight anywhere if the people who live there are not also willing to fight.

And he believes the Kurds – the disenfranchised ethnic groups whose Iraqi contingent has been fighting ISIS for months – are particularly up to the task.

“The only people over there that can fight and have been showing some ability to fight are the Kurds,” Paul said. “The president has been sending weapons to Baghdad. They’re not adequately getting to Kurdistan. I would fund them directly. I would take some of the weaponry that we have left over in Afghanistan and I would send that directly to the Kurds.”

But at home where, Couric pointed out, the FBI is currently involved in over a thousand counterterrorism cases in all 50 states, Paul made clear that even the threat of ISIS was not enough to shake some of his staunchest convictions. These include his dedication to sending “a clear signal to the president that it’s unacceptable for him to write the law,” even at the risk of defunding the Department of Homeland Security.

Another conviction is his staunch opposition to the Patriot Act, which Couric said a high-level law enforcement source cited as influential in apprehending the three men arrested Wednesday.

“I think you can have the Constitution. You can have the level that says you have to have probable cause and you have to call a judge,” he said. “You have to name the person that you’re interested in investigating. You can do all of that and stop terrorists at the same time.”

“People weren’t doing their jobs, and they went crazy-hysterical after 9/11, saying, ‘Oh, we need all these new powers. Please, give us your liberty, you know, in exchange for security,'” he continued. “But really they weren’t doing their job [and that] is why we didn’t catch terrorists before.”

‘Jihadi John’ Suspect In IS Beheading Videos Is Identified

‘Jihadi John’ Suspect In IS Beheading Videos Is Identified, The masked “Jihadi John” killer who fronted Islamic State beheading videos has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a British computer programming graduate from a well-to-do London family who was known to the security services.

The black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent was shown in videos released by Islamic State (IS) apparently decapitating hostages including Americans, Britons and Syrians.

The 26-year-old militant used the videos to threaten the West, admonish its Arab allies and taunt President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron before petrified hostages cowering in orange jump suits.

Emwazi’s name was first disclosed by the Washington Post, citing unidentified former associates. Two U.S. government sources who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed to Reuters that investigators believed Jihadi John was Emwazi.

Dressed entirely in black, a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the bridge of his nose and a holster under his left arm, Jihadi John became a menacing symbol of Islamic State brutality and one of the world’s most wanted men.

Hostages called him John as he and other Britons in Islamic State had been nicknamed the Beatles.

Emwazi was born in Kuwait but came to Britain aged 6 and graduated with a computer programming degree from the University of Westminster before coming to the attention of Britain’s main domestic intelligence service, MI5, according to an account given by Asim Qureshi, the research director of the Cage charity that campaigns for those detained on terrorism charges.

Emwazi, a fluent Arabic speaker, said MI5 had tried to recruit him and then prevented him from traveling abroad, forcing him to flee abroad without telling his family, Qureshi told a news conference in London.

Emwazi traveled to Syria around 2012, Qureshi said.

MI5 does not publicly comment on the identity of militants or their backgrounds while an investigation is still ongoing. The British government and police declined to confirm or deny Emwazi’s identity, citing an ongoing security investigation.

“We don’t confirm or deny matters relating to intelligence,” said a spokeswoman for Cameron, who has ordered spy agencies and soldiers to track down the killer.

MOST WANTED MAN

“Jihadi John” rose to notoriety in August 2014 when a video appeared showing a masked man raging against the United States before apparently beheading U.S. citizen James Foley off camera.

Intelligence services in the United States and Britain used a variety of investigative techniques including voice and facial recognition as well as interviews with former hostages to identify the man, intelligence sources said.

But security officials made great efforts to avoid publicly naming Emwazi, fearing that would make him more difficult to catch. Two intelligence sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were uneasy that the name had been revealed.

There was no answer at two addresses in west London where Emwazi was listed to have lived. Neighbors described the family as “normal people” and “friendly”.

“This is the first time anything like this happens in this neighborhood,” said Fatima Al-Baqali. “We have to be careful now. I didn’t know this family and I usually know everyone here.”

“JIHADI JOHN”

Qureshi, of the Cage charity which describes itself as having campaigned against the ‘War on Terror’ for more than a decade, said that although he could not be certain Emwazi was John, there were some “striking similarities”. He declined to elaborate.

In a meeting with reporters in London, Qureshi painted a picture of a kind and thoughtful young man who faced harassment from MI5, which apparently suspected he wanted to join the Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

British authorities have linked Emwazi to another British militant killed in Somalia in a U.S. drone attack.