ST.-DENIS, France — After a series of gun battles that began before dawn on Wednesday, the French police raided an apartment in the medieval heart of this northern Paris suburb in an attempt to find the Belgian man suspected of orchestrating the Paris terrorist attacks on Friday. Two people died in the raid, including a woman who detonated an explosive vest; five people were arrested. The raid began around 4:15 a.m., when special police forces, backed by truckloads of soldiers, cordoned off an area near the Place Jean Jaurès, a main square in St.-Denis not far from the Stade de France, where three of the seven attackers who died on Friday night blew themselves up. Inside the apartment, on the third floor of a building on the Rue du Corbillon, at least five suspects were holed up. One of them, the woman, opened fire and then killed herself. Then, a man died when a grenade detonated. The other three were arrested, along with a man and a woman detained outside the apartment. The office of the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, confirmed that the target of the operation was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is thought to have organized the attacks, but it was not clear if he was in the apartment at the time of the raid. The police operation unfolded over nearly seven hours, with an initial series of explosions followed by sporadic bursts of gunfire. About 110 members of the security services were involved. Five police officers were lightly wounded, and a 7-year-old police dog, a Malinois named Diesel, was killed. At 11:47 a.m., Stéphane Le Foll, the agriculture minister and a government spokesman, announced on Twitter that the operation was over and that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would soon provide details. At 11:58 a.m. the city of St.-Denis announced on Twitter: “The operation is over BUT the security perimeter is still set up. Do not leave your homes.” More:
France’s Real Problems Are Getting Lost in the Fog of War
As gunshots broke out and suicide vests exploded in and around the French capital, the signs of an Islamic State attack were as blaring as the sirens on police cars screeching across Paris through that long, dark night. The attacks — simultaneous, sophisticated, and multipronged — on Nov. 13 bore all the hallmarks of the self-proclaimed caliphate’s murderous ideology. But until it was officially claimed and blamed, we were still in the realm of conjecture. As things happened — and things happen very fast these days — we didn’t have to wait for long. The very next morning, as sleepy Parisians were barely surfacing after a harrowing night, French President François Hollande made a televised address to the nation. Looking less shaken than he did the night before, Hollande wasted no time dropping the D-word: Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. Friday’s attacks, Hollande wasted no time declaring, “was an act of terror committed by the terrorist army of Daesh.” Barely an hour later, the Islamic State’s official claim of responsibility came in a statement issued in Arabic and perfect French. Bearing the appropriate jihadi media insignias, the communiqué featured the usual bluster about crusader France, capital of abomination and depravity. But then it cut to the core. “Eight brothers wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles” conducted a “blessed attack” on France because it was “guilty of striking Muslims in the caliphate with their aircraft.” And with that, France — and the rest of the crusading Christian world — crossed a major milestone on the global jihadi highway to security hell. The Nov. 13 attacks, which killed 129 people, were the first suicide bombings on French soil — this in a country that’s no stranger to Islamist violence dating back to the 1990s Algerian “dirty war” between Islamist militants and Algerian security forces. France has already experienced a blowback from the Syrian conflict, including the Jan. 7-9 terrorism spree that is now simply called “the Charlie Hebdo attacks.” But those were lone-wolf attacks or plots conducted with a nod to, but no sanction from, the so-called caliphate. The Paris attacks of last Friday constitute the first successful terrorism plot on Western European soil to be “officially” claimed by the Islamic State. In the old days, when al Qaeda was the only global jihadi game in town, we used the term “central command” or “core” to refer to the network’s Afghanistan-Pakistan nerve center. It’s time to revive that term for the Islamic State — whether it’s Raqqa, the de facto capital; a roving bunch of elites around the self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; or some nasty former-Baathist mastermind — it doesn’t matter. It was central command that sanctioned and claimed the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the worst violence on French soil since World War II. More:
The French Way of War
France’s military may suffer from a poor reputation in American popular imagination, dating from historical events like the rapid fall to Nazi Germany in World War II and the colonial-era defeat at Dien Bien Phu. This is a mistake: The French airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria are only the beginning of the counterattack against ISIS, as French officials themselves are promising. And as anyone familiar with France’s military capabilities can attest, when it comes to war the French are among the very best. Moreover, whatever France does probably will not look like anything the U.S. would do. There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military’s lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, often behind the scenes; they can go bigger if they have help from the U.S. and other allies—which they will probably have in any case and know how to put to good use. Emblematic of the French approach was France’s military intervention in the Central African Republic in March 2007. To stop a rapidly moving rebel advance into the country from the Sudanese border, the French attacked using a single fighter plane and two waves of paratroopers totaling no more than a “few dozen” who dropped into the combat zone in the Central African town of Birao. In military terms, what the French did was a pinprick, yet it was sufficient to break the rebel advance like placing a rock in the path of a wave. It was, moreover, a risky thing to do: Airborne assaults are intrinsically dangerous, all the more so when one has little capacity to reinforce or withdraw the lightly armed soldiers in an emergency. The first wave of “less than 10” soldiers reportedly made a high-altitude drop. The French military, moreover, did all this quietly, with the French press only learning of the intervention a few weeks after the fact.
Can Terrorists Really Infiltrate the Syrian Refugee Program?
If you look solely at the U.S.’s long record of taking in refugees from countries torn apart by war, it’s hard to argue that national security should be a top concern in the debate over Syrian migrants. In the 14 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees from around the world, according to data from the Center for Migration Studies, a D.C. think tank. And within that population, three people have been arrested for activities related to terrorism. None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas. “I think I can count on one hand the number of crimes of any significance that I’ve heard have been committed by refugees,” said Lavinia Limón, a veteran of refugee work since 1975 and the president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “It just hasn’t been an issue.” Yet it is the issue now, as the Obama administration tries to fend off a revolt by Republican governors over its plans to resettle more than 10,000 Syrian refugees escaping the brutality of both the Islamic State and the Assad government. The coordinated attacks in Paris have fanned fears that terrorists could infiltrate the U.S. by slipping in among the refugees—as might have occurred in the case of one of the Paris attackers. As U.S. officials and refugee advocates point out, that has never happened in modern history. Not when the U.S. took in tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s. Not when 125,000 Cuban “Marielitos” arrived by boat in 1980. And not in the desperate aftermath of more recent wars in Bosnia, Somalia, or Rwanda. “Those fears have proven unfounded,” said John Sandweg, a former acting director of ICE who previously served as a top lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security. Is there any reason why Syria should be different? More:
Repeat after me: Obama is not admitting 100,000, 200,000 or 250,000 Syrian refugees
“If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region — if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.” — Ben Carson, Nov. 13, 2015. “I am angry that President Obama unilaterally decides that we’ll accept up to 100,000 Syrian refugees while his administration admits we cannot determine their ties to terrorism.” — Former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, Nov. 14.
“Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria. I mean, think of it. 250,000 people. And we all have heart. And we all want people taken care of and all of that. But with the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 people — some of whom are going to have problems, big problems.” — businessman Donald Trump, Nov. 14. “When the president says things like, you know, through an executive order, ‘I’m going to bring 100,000 people in here from Syria,’ Congress needs to say ‘you do that and we’re going to defund everything including your breakfast.’ “ — Carson, quoted in a SuperPac ad released Nov. 17. Sometimes fact checks have an impact, sometimes unfortunately they don’t. In October, Donald Trump earned Four Pinocchios for repeatedly making the outlandish claim that President Obama was planning to admit 200,000 refugees from war-torn Syria. Rather than drop the figure, Trump has boosted it to 250,000. And other candidates have followed his lead with exaggerated figures, just not quite as high. Ben Carson claimed 200,000 from the Middle East “region” and 100,000 from Syria; Fiorina said 100,000 from Syria.
In a tweet, Trump even evoked the image of a flood of Syrian refugees “now pouring into” the United States: (We initially thought Sen. Rand Paul might qualify for scrutiny as well, since he told reporters in Florida on Nov. 14 that “I would not admit 200,000 people from Syria.” But a check of the audio found that he was responding to a question from an uninformed reporter who flatly stated that the administration had agreed to admit 200,000 from Syria.) In fact, the planned number of Syrian refugees thus far is 10,000. How can people running for president — even if they are all political novices — continue to get this so wrong? The Facts: As we have explained before, the only thing close to a 200,000 figure is an announcement in September by Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States was prepared to boost the number of total refugees accepted from around the world in fiscal 2016, from 70,000 to 85,000. Then, in 2017, Kerry said that 100,000 would be accepted. That adds up to 185,000 over two years. But this would be the total number of refugees, not the number of refugees from Syria. By law, the president every fiscal year sets the maximum number of refugees the United States can accept in a year. (Note to Carson: This is not done by executive order; it is a legal requirement.) Over the past decade, the annual limit has been between 70,000 and 80,000, according to the Congressional Research Service. (In fiscal 2013, about 30 percent came from the Middle East, mostly from Iraq.) So, 100,000 from around the world in 2017 would be a big jump, assuming Obama goes through with the pledge to authorize that level. But nothing is set in stone. As for Syria, Obama has only directed the United States to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. That’s certainly an increase — fewer than 2,200 Syrians have been admitted to the United States since the uprising began in March 2011, according to State Department officials — but it’s hardly the flood that Trump worries about. (Indeed, it’s only a drop in the bucket of some 4 million Syrian refugees.) In theory, if Obama lifted the ceiling to 100,000 in 2017 and then filled the gap entirely with Syrians, that would be 25,000 more–but that’s still far less than 100,000. Of those admitted to the United States so far, about half have been children and a quarter are adults over 60. There are slightly more men than women, but only 2 percent of those admitted are single males of combat age, officials said. Representatives for Trump, Carson and Fiorina did not respond to queries.
The Pinocchio Test: There is no excuse for repeated, false statements that have no basis in fact – and have been proven wrong. These candidates each earn Four Pinocchios.
Obama’s biggest terrorism struggle: how to sell “Don’t do stupid shit” as a strategy
What do you do when the moral and emotional stakes of an attack seem to call for war but there is no war that can be constructively fought? That’s a question Barack Obama’s national security advisers have grappled with for months, if not years, as I understand from conversations with them dating to before Friday’s Paris attacks. Many senior administration officials at this point are part of the permanent national security apparatus, but the core group of real “Obama people” has a surprisingly dovish self-conception, where they see themselves operating in a world in which demands for military intervention are constant and endless— from the media, from congressional Republicans, from foreign governments and their allies in Washington, and from the permanent security bureaucracy itself — but America’s actual ability to engage in non-counterproductive interventions is quite limited. In that context, the administration is faced with a nightmare. And it’s a nightmare that looks a lot like what played out in Paris on November 13. Not the shooting but the aftermath: The nightmare is that in a country where we know it is relatively easy to obtain guns and ammunition and we know that mass casualty shootings are a frighteningly regular fact of life, someday soon a mass casualty shooting will be perpetrated by someone with ties to international Islamist terrorism. When that happens, it will, of course, be a tragedy, just as the shootings in Sandy Hook and Charleston and elsewhere are tragic crimes. But the real nightmare is what comes next. As the scale of the carnage became evident in Paris, major newspapers leapt toward declarations like “war in the heart of Paris” (la guerre en plein de Paris) and “this time it’s war” (c’est fois, c’est la guerre) that are, of course, reminiscent of the post-9/11 declaration of a “war on terror.” But a war against whom? And with what purpose in mind? More:
U.S. pursuing criminal cases against RBS, JPMorgan executives: WSJ
REUTERS: Federal prosecutors are pursuing criminal cases against executives from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co for allegedly selling flawed mortgage securities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. People familiar with the probes said officials were trying to determine whether the bankers ignored warnings from associates that they were packing too many weak mortgages into investment offerings and whether they can prove that constituted fraud, the newspaper said. (http://on.wsj.com/1QKB76u) If filed, the charges would be among the first pursued against specific employees of the largest Wall Street firms over the housing collapse, the WSJ said. Prosecutors are scrutinizing a US$2.2 billion deal that repackaged home mortgages into bonds in 2007 at RBS and two people who worked on a different residential-mortgage deal at JPMorgan, the Journal said. JPMorgan, RBS and Department of Justice declined to comment. JPMorgan said in a filing in November that it was responding to an investigation by the DoJ’s criminal division. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are preparing a civil case against UBS Group AG that could result in substantial penalties, some of the people told the Journal. UBS received a subpoena from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in 2014, seeking documents and information related to UBS’s residential mortgage-backed security business from 2005 through 2007, the company said in a filing.
House passes bill to end pay raises for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac CEOs
Here’s at least one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on: The big pay raises the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were awarded earlier this year should go away. Monday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would suspend new annual target compensation of $4 million each for Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton and Fannie Mae CEO Timothy Mayopoulos. If signed into law by President Obama, the bill would return the cap on their pay to $600,000. That level was set in 2012 in the wake of anger over high bonuses that were paid to executives of the housing entities, which were in government conservatorship and had been bailed out by taxpayers. The bill, first introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in May, passed the House Financial Services Committee by a 57-1 vote in July. It was soon followed by a Senate version sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which passed by unanimous consent in September. The latest House version was a voice vote, a procedure typically used for bills that draw little controversy or on issues where individual Congress members may not want a yea or nay vote recorded. In July, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two mortgage finance firms, said the bigger paydays were designed to help compete with the private sector for executives. In a statement from July, FHFA Director Mel Watt said the raises were intended “to promote CEO retention, allow reliable succession planning, and ensure the continuity, efficiency and stability of enterprise operations.” An FHFA spokeswoman declined to comment Monday on the latest House bill. Initial frustration with pay levels at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac erupted in the wake of the financial crisis, after the CEOs of the two housing entities were awarded a total of $17 million in 2009 and 2010. Watt’s predecessor pledged to cap pay in 2012 before the raises were awarded this year. Obama is expected to sign the bill. White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said in the past that “it is entirely legitimate for the executives at those institutions to be subject to compensation limits,” especially given the advantage they have as entities backed by taxpayers.
Learn Your State’s Cell Phone Location Tracking Laws With This Chart.
Whether you have anything to hide or not, privacy, and the laws regarding your privacy, are important. This interactive chart tells you what each state’s current laws say about law enforcement’s capability to access cell phone information. Your phone is almost always logging everywhere you go. This chart, from the American Civil Liberties Union, gives you a quick glance at what cell phone data of yours can and cannot be a accessed without a warrant. According to the ACLU, the status of your privacy protections completely depends on where you are in the country, and the more you know about your state’s laws the better. For example, Utah requires a warrant for anyone to access your historical or real-time cell phone location information, but in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia, there’s no warrant required to get to your historical location information. You can hover you mouse over each state for a general explanation, or click it to see more specific information; including links to decisive cases. Check it out at the link below.
Privacy Not Included: Federal Law Lags Behind New Tech
Jacqueline Stokes spotted the home paternity test at her local drugstore in Florida and knew she had to try it. She had no doubts for her own family, but as a cybersecurity consultant with an interest in genetics, she couldn’t resist the latest advance. At home, she carefully followed the instructions, swabbing inside the mouths of her husband and her daughter, placing the samples in the pouch provided and mailing them to a lab. Days later, Stokes went online to get the results. Part of the lab’s website address caught her attention, and her professional instincts kicked in. By tweaking the URL slightly, a sprawling directory appeared that gave her access to the test results of some 6,000 other people. The site was taken down after Stokes complained on Twitter. But when she contacted the Department of Health and Human Services about the seemingly obvious violation of patient privacy, she got a surprising response: Officials couldn’t do anything about the breach. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a landmark 1996 patient-privacy law, only covers patient information kept by health providers, insurers and data clearinghouses, as well as their business partners. At-home paternity tests fall outside the law’s purview. For that matter, so do wearables like Fitbit that measure steps and sleep, testing companies like 23andMe, and online repositories where individuals can store their health records. In several instances, the privacy of people using these newer services has been compromised, causing embarrassment or legal repercussions. In 2011, for instance, an Australian company failed to properly secure details of hundreds of paternity and drug tests, making them accessible through a Google search. The company said that it quickly fixed the problem. More:
SEC’s White Defends In-House Courts, But Sees Need To Modernize
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White acknowledged the need to “modernize” the agency’s in-house court system, even as she defended the fairness of the proceedings that it has relied on increasingly in recent years as an alternative to federal district court. Ms. White spoke at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO forum in Washington, offering her views on a range of issues from exchange-traded funds and GAAP earnings to executive pay and bond market liquidity. The SEC chief said that the commission recently proposed rules to modernize the administrative law proceedings and submitted a draft for public comment. The proposal came amid calls for overhauling the system, which critics say is biased toward the agency and provides few protections to defendants. The proposed change, she noted, includes allowing for additional time and discovery depositions before the trials. Ms. White described the administrative law judge system as “very fair proceedings” that offer even more due-process rights to defendants than district court. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law allowed the SEC to handle a broader range of cases in the in-house court. Still, she acknowledged that the agency needs to critically examine the system for the sake of both fairness and appearance because “the rules haven’t been modernized for almost 10 years.” Turning to the SEC’s ongoing study of ETFs, Ms. White said the outcome of its initial review of severe gyrations in the ETF market on Aug. 24 will be released in the near future. Ms. White said the events on that day – when sharp declines in broader stock markets triggered extreme movements in ETF prices – served as a “mini stress test” for the popular financial product.
That encouraged the SEC to study issues like how the ETFs operate, how the limit-up and limit-down rules work, and whether pilot rules should be set up. “All the commissioners are very focused on ETFs, among other products,” she said. Ms. White said the report will be disclosed “in the near future. Not days but not far down the road.” Asked if the SEC has been sending fewer cases to in-house judges, Ms. White noted that such changes are “cyclical,” depending on the nature of the cases that are brought by its enforcement division. The success rate for the administrative procedures versus that for cases tried in district court also varies, she said, brushing aside criticism about the unfair advantage of the in-house system. “If you look at the past year, we are having essentially nearly 100% win in district court and a lesser success rate in APs,” she said, referring to administrative proceedings. The Journal reported in May that the SEC won against 90% of defendants before its own judges from October 2010 through March of this year – markedly higher than its 69% success rate in federal court over the same period.
Sen. Dick Brewbaker won’t seek re-election
Sen. Dick Brewbaker said Monday he will not seek re-election to the seat he has held for five years. The Montgomery Republican, whose district includes Montgomery, Elmore and Crenshaw counties, said in a phone interview that he wanted to honor a pledge to serve just three terms in the Alabama Legislature. But Brewbaker also criticized the state’s representative bodies, saying “our political system is obviously failing in Alabama.” “How do you change that math?” Brewbaker said. “The way to do it is to change the people in the chamber. We’re not traditionally very good at that in Alabama. I’m hoping some of the people who talk about term limits will follow.” Brewbaker served in the House of Representatives from 2002 to 2006. He won election to his Senate seat in 2010 and was re-elected last year. He owns Brewbaker Motors in Montgomery. The senator said he planned to serve to the end of his term in 2018, but added that he might reconsider if a federal court orders new legislative elections before then. Black legislators sued the state in 2012 over the redistricting map, which they say stacks black voters into legislative districts, hindering their ability to form coalitions with like-minded white voters. The case is pending in federal court. A conservative, Brewbaker served as chairman of the Education Policy Committee and managed to pass a virtual schools bill in the Regular Session of the Legislature in the spring. Brewbaker also helped pass legislation authorizing the State Board of Education to intervene in schools. “We’ve opened the door to school choice, empowering school boards at the expense of the State Board of Education,” he said. “Almost every bill I passed put emphasis on what’s best for their district. I’m very proud of that.” Reflecting his district, Brewbaker also sponsored legislation in 2013 to provide a staggered cost-of-living increase for state employees. The bill did not pass. The senator has never been afraid to offer his opinion or criticize his party. During the budget debates this year, Brewbaker accused Senate Republican leadership of trying to “stampede” the Senate to vote for gambling. Brewbaker has also criticized what he called a “mania we’ve developed for streamlining state government,” saying the state had seen “no savings and no increase in benefits to the public.” More:
Unions to meet at Max’s Deli to discuss Alabama immigration law
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A coalition of unions from across the country fighting Alabama’s immigration law will have a lunch meeting today at 1 p.m. at Max’s Deli in the Colonnade shopping center just off U.S. 280. The meeting aims to allow small business owners to talk about how the new immigration law has affected their employees, both documented and undocumented, and its impact on their business in general, according to the Rev. Angie Wright of Greater Birmingham Ministries. Union representatives from Alabama, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and other states are expected to attend. “They are not coming to push a union vs. business perspective,” Wright said. “They want to listen.” Max’s Deli owner Steve Dubrinsky made headlines nationally last month when, after defending his nine legal kitchen workers from Mexico, some immigration law supporters called for a boycott of his restaurant. He talked about it in a story you can read here. Among the attendees signed up are officials from the state AFL-CIO unions from North Carolina, New York, Georgia and Michigan, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, International Longshoreman’s Union, American Postal Workers Union, United Steelworkers, Transport Workers Union of America, American Federation of Government Employees and American Federation of School Administrators.
Groups: States blocking refugees ‘in small-minded panic’
“If ISIS hoped its attacks in Paris would provoke the US and its allies into acting in small-minded panic, some governors are granting their wish,” Linda Hartke, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said on a press call Tuesday morning. The groups also questioned the legality and practicality of the moves, citing federal supremacy over immigration matters and the fact that refugees admitted to the United States are legal residents. Bentley Sunday night announced he would oppose the settlement of Syrian refugees in Alabama, following the attacks in Paris Friday. Most of the attackers identified so far were French nationals. One apparently had a Syrian passport, though its authenticity is uncertain. The governor Monday night ordered state agencies to not cooperate with resettlement plans. The governor sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday informing him of his decision and repeating his assertion that he believed the federal government could not properly screen Syrian refugees. “One mistake by the federal government in allowing a refugee with a terrorist connection (to enter the country) poses a major safety threat to our people,” the letter said. “Failure to change course exposes millions of Americans to the possibility of terrorist acts on American soil.” Bentley said Sunday there were no plans to settle Syrian refugees in the state, or credible threats of violence in Alabama. Earlier on Tuesday, Bentley claimed on CNN that “major threats” had come from refugee organizations, threats he did not identify. According to The Economist, only two refugees out of 750,000 admitted to the country since September 11, 2001 have been arrested on terror charges. The arrests involved planning in Iraq. Representatives of refugee aid groups said Tuesday that refugees entering the country go through far more intense background checks and security screenings than other group. The process can take an average of two years.Syrians face even more scrutiny. “They are pointed in looking for indicators of difficulties,” said Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “We’ve seen many cases cancelled and we don’t know why. (But) we move on from there and the refugees never come to the United States.” Hartke said rejecting refugees “would be nothing less than signing a death warrant” for those fleeing the Syrian civil war. “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves, violence like we witnessed in Paris,” said David Appleby, migration director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The groups also cited the Refugee Act of 1980, a U.S. law that gives Congress the final word in refugee resettlement. “I would think in any court case, the states would have a difficult time proving they have a right to deny a certain legal resident (the right) to travel and live in their state,” Appleby said. The groups all said they supported strong checks on refugees entering the country, saying it was crucial to helping refugees enter communities. But they noted the United Nations does both iris scans and biometrics on refugees, which assists with food distribution and helps track movement. Bentley’s order Monday evening specifically told the Alabama Department of Human Resources to not participate in refugee resettlement. DHR administers many programs for the state, and refugees in the country are entitled to federal benefits, said Limon. She said that governors could not choose to cut off groups from state services. “It would be pretty amazing for a governor to discriminate in the provision of services based on ethnicity and racial makeup,” she said. Five refugees, none from Syria, have settled in Alabama in the current fiscal year. 381 refugees came to Alabama between 2011 and 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Settlement. Only one was Syrian.
Fight continues to tackle sewage problems across Black Belt
LOWNDES CO., AL (WSFA) – Alabama’s Black Belt counties have struggled with inefficient or non-existent sewer systems for years. Some residents have raw sewage filtered right into their yards. It’s a complex issue that officials say is tied to poverty and to the soil itself. Efforts to address the problem are ongoing. Activists and researchers have raised public health concerns, and the region has received recent national attention as new steps are taken to make improvements and improve access to proper sanitation. Charlie Mae Holcombe dreads a stormy forecast. “If it rains constantly for several hours, then my yard is flooded,” Holcombe said. “This is a place of terror.” Holcombe lives outside of Hayneville’s city limits but says sewage from the city wastewater lagoon across the street regularly backs up in her front yard. “My situation is terrible. I’ve been dealing with this ever since 1987 when I moved here, and I have gotten no results. I’m still going through and fighting the same problem over and over again,” Holcombe added. “The city has had to come out here and pump with the truck and pump the waste up out of my yard. When it gets so bad, waste even comes back up in my bathtub. There are times when the water comes out black.” At a home down the street, residents are dealing with a different situation but similar woes. Sewage runs straight from the bathroom into the yard. Wads of toilet paper and waste are visible near the water meter. Catherine Flowers is the founder and executive director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable initiatives to strengthen the infrastructure of families in rural and impoverished communities. “People are living amongst raw sewage. And part of the reason is because, in the case of Lowndes County, you have people who are poor and we have soils that are not conducive to conventional systems and the systems are very expensive and people can’t afford them,” Flowers explained while standing in front of a pit of waste behind a disabled veteran’s house in White Hall. ACRE has been working for years to shed light on the long-standing sewage issues plaguing the Black Belt counties. In Lowndes County, Hayneville, Mosses and Fort Deposit have sewer systems, and White Hall is getting one. In rural areas, residents rely on on-site septic systems, which come with massive challenges in that section of the south.
Uber: Operating in Birmingham by Christmas is feasible
Uber tells ABC 33/40 operating in Birmingham by Christmas is feasible if city council moves forward with changes to the transportation ordinance next week as planned. Representatives from Uber attended Birmingham City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday evening. After a two week public comment period, council discussed changes to the city’s transportation code that could allow for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. Council President Johnathan Austin said he went through the new ordinance line by line with Uber. The new ordinance is scheduled to go before the full council for a vote next Tuesday. Trevor Theunissen, Public Policy Manager for Uber Southeast, called the meeting productive. “I think Birmingham is a really important market for us, and I know it is for the constituents,” said Theunissen. “We’ve heard loud and clear from potential riders and drivers all over Birmingham that they want this type of service and we’re ready to provide it. And I hope this draft, I’m confident that this draft that’s provided today is something that will get us to Birmingham.” Uber is looking for three specific changes to the code. Those deal with insurance, business licenses and background checks for drivers. Austin says those issues will be debated by the full council next Tuesday. “The council will at that point have an opportunity to ask any questions, raise any issues, work with the law department and try to resolve any issues that may exist,” said Austin. “I believe we have a really good working document in place. I believe it’s something both the council and the transportation network companies, particularly Uber, can agree on and we need to move forward.” During the meeting, Transportation Committee Chair Councilor Kim Rafferty said she’s also gotten feedback on the code from Lyft. She expects Lyft to meet with the city during the next few weeks.
Bentley’s new refugee stand is old Alabama politics
Syrian refugees, there are good reasons to stay away from Alabama, but not because Gov. Robert Bentley doesn’t want you here. This week, Alabama’s governor issued an executive order to state officials telling them to do what they can to obstruct refugees fleeing the humanitarian disaster in Syria from seeking shelter in the Heart of Dixie. And in a letter to President Barack Obama, he asked the White House to reconsider letting as many as 10,000 refugees into the country. Ultimately, Bentley doesn’t have much authority to keep refugees out. The federal government decides who gets in and who doesn’t. But the governor has always been the Wile E. Coyote of Alabama politics, with 90 percent of a successful plan that always ends with the anvil landing on his own head. Bentley said it was about safety. Don’t believe it. He said his heart goes out to the refugees. Certainly don’t believe that. He said this is about Alabamians, and maybe part of that is true, if only because his last year in office has left him deeply in need of their approval. Let’s start with how most natives start out in Alabama — being born. During the last decade, Alabama’s infant mortality rate has consistently been 50 percent greater — or worse, depending on how you look at it — than the U.S. average. Our mortality rate has hovered just above 8 deaths per 1,000 live births. That looks bad, but take away the white people from those numbers and it gets much, much worse. Between 2003 and 2013, non-white infant mortality was 13.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Or to give you a better sense of what that means, Syria’s infant mortality rate in 2012 was better than non-white Alabama’s. Today Syria’s is estimated to be 15.61 deaths per 1,000 live births, although that’s just an estimate. I don’t imagine ISIS collects good data. But judging by infant mortality alone, there are only two worse states where to settle — Louisiana and Mississippi. And if you look at most of the other statistics used to measure quality of life, you’ll see similar results. In Alabama, we even have a saying about it, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Or thank Allah, if that’s your thing. You see, there’s a reason Bentley is taking the lead in opposing refugee settlement in the United States. Had Bentley said nothing, and no refugees came, that would have been an embarrassment. Now if none come, it’s a victory. Also, he’s walking point on this because it’s a distraction from his meager record as Alabama governor, and distraction politics are old politics in Alabama. Before refugees, it was illegal immigrants from Latin America and the disastrous bill Bentley signed into law, HB 56, which tried to make Alabama an unbearable place for them to live. And before immigration it was integration. Governors George Wallace and John Patterson used pro-segregation politics to stoke fear in Alabama, just as Bentley is today, and deprive basic citizenship rights even from its native born. And they did it for the same reasons — to distract the voting public here from the reality that their government isn’t delivering for them, much less anybody who might come to visit. This is the same governor, remember, who refused Medicaid expansion, and by doing so left health care out of reach of about 200,000 Alabamians, in addition to billions of federal dollars left on the table that could have been spent here. By at least one study, that decision by Bentley costs Alabama not just money but also about 210 lives per year. The terrorists in Paris he’s getting so worked up about killed only 129. Maybe once in America we lived by those words from “The New Colossus” hung at the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor,your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” But Bentley and his cohort are doing their damnedest to jam that door shut, and replace those worlds with a new take on another old sign. “Refugee, don’t let the sun go down on you in Alabama.”
Time to Prepare for the Unthinkable
The tragic Paris attacks serve as a poignant reminder of the dangers that free and open societies face from the forces of violent extremism. This carnage comes on the heels of other high profile terrorist attacks including the Russian airliner downing and the Beirut bombings. Together these three attacks have caused hundreds of casualties in a two-week period. The Islamic State group now has operational cells in over a dozen countries and about three dozen jihadist groups across at least 18 nations have pledged support or allegiance to the group. In a very short period of time, the Islamic State group has developed unprecedented reach and demonstrated a proclivity for employing extreme violence tactics to strike at the very heart of civilized societies. Given its strategy, it seems only a matter of time before these extremists might attempt an attack here in the United States. The irony is that the very rights that Americans hold so dear – liberty, privacy, freedom – place it at greater risk. So what should America do to prepare? First, the obvious conclusion must be that drone strikes against Islamic State group leaders in Syria alone will not be the answer. Over the past six months, drone strikes in Syria have killed on average one mid- to high-level commander every two days. Yet during this time, these militants have been largely undeterred and even continued to gain strength and momentum. Here in the homeland, the United States must rely on a different kind of preparedness. It begins with the individual. A better understanding of the factors that are contributing to self-radicalization and strategies to counter these forces are necessary. The Department of Homeland Security has a program and has recently stood up an organization for countering violent extremism that reaches down into state and local governments and communities, seeking to identify at risk individuals and alter their path to radicalization. Programs such as these must continue to be supported and strengthened. Individuals have a role and an important stake in serving as a first line of defense. The DHS’ “see something, say something” campaign provides recognition of the importance of individual vigilance and reporting of suspicious behavior. Post-attack forensics and analysis will likely identify pre-attack behaviors or actions that were out of character. Had these anomalies been reported earlier, perhaps pre-attack intervention could have been successful.
GOOD MORNING FROM DES MOINES! — POLITICO is holding a great event here today beginning at noon central (1 p.m. EST) and bringing POLITICO’s Iowa Caucus members together for the first time for a deep-dive discussion, featuring yours truly along with Steve Shepard and a variety of perspective about the economic policy issues facing the next president.
Featured speakers include: Steve Deace, Host, The Steve Deace Show; Steve Grubbs, Chief Strategist, Iowa, Rand Paul for President; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum; David Oman, Senior Adviser, Jeb Bush Presidential Campaign; Gene Sperling, Former National Economic Advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama; President, Sperling Economic Strategies. Details here: http://politi.co/1QyTU4q
READ THE SURVEY ANALYSIS ahead of today’s event: http://politi.co/1OegFs1.
LIVE STREAM: http://politi.co/1MQVLjN
WARREN WEIGHS IN ON TAX REFORM — Sen. Elizabeth Warren this afternoon will give a speech at the National Press Club on corporate international tax reform. Live stream at 12:40 p.m.: http://bit.ly/1H7RVSX
KANDARIAN BACKS TPP — Met Life CEO Steve Kandarian today plans to become among the first big financial services industry executives to back the TPP. Kandarian is backing the trade deal despite other dustups with the administration including the insurer’s labeling as a SIFI. .. From Kandarian’s statement: “After analyzing the text of the TPP, MetLife will support the agreement and seek congressional support for its ratification.
“As one of the largest life insurers in the world with operations in nearly 50 countries, MetLife has four key priorities in assessing any trade deal: improved market access, a level competitive playing field, ease of cross-border data flows, and regulatory transparency. The TPP makes meaningful progress on all of them.”
RYAN WARNS OF BUDGET FIGHTS — WSJ’s Kristina Peterson: “New House Speaker Paul Ryan struck a confrontational stance with the Obama administration Tuesday, setting the stage for showdowns over domestic spending and national security matters as Congress works to wrap up business for the year. Mr. Ryan, speaking at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting, said a spending bill needed to avoid a government shutdown in December must include Republican policy measures, injecting fresh drama into the year’s final budget fight.
“He also forcefully warned President Barack Obama against using executive action to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its detainees to the U.S. The Wisconsin Republican didn’t explicitly suggest government operations could lapse when funding expires on Dec. 11, but he didn’t rule out such a possibility. He said Republicans will force Mr. Obama to accept some conservative provisions, known as “riders,” in the sweeping spending bill.” http://on.wsj.com/1O1bRbo
FRENCH PLANES GROUNDED — Reuters: “Two Air France flights en route to Paris from the United States were diverted on Tuesday following anonymous bomb threats, and hundreds of passengers and crew were safely removed, the airline and the Federal Aviation Administration said. Flight 65, an Airbus A-380 that departed from Los Angeles landed safely in Salt Lake City, where passengers and crew were being taken off the plane and escorted into the terminal, an FAA spokesman said. The Salt Lake Tribune, citing an airport official, reported the plane was carrying 497 passengers and crew.
“A separate flight that left Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Flight 55, was diverted to Halifax International Airport in Nova Scotia, where passengers and crew had also disembarked. The Halifax Airport tweeted that 262 passengers and crew members had been aboard. In a brief statement, Air France said both flights had been the “subjects of anonymous threats received after their respective take-offs.’” http://reut.rs/2113TnY
GUNFIRE ERUPTS IN PARIS — Bloomberg: “Gunfire erupted in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis from around 4:25am Wednesday morning during the course of an anti-terrorist operation not far from the Stade de France … A large bang and exchanges of gunfire which lasted many minutes could be heard, the news service cited unidentified witnesses.” http://bloom.bg/1NaxEhK
DRIVING THE DAY — POLITICO Caucus events begins at noon CST, 1 EST … Joint Economic Committee has a hearing at 2:00 p.m. “on the economic challenges of the Millennial Generation and policy solutions to improve its economic future” … Brookings has an event on 2016 at 9:00 a.m. on the 2016 campaign featuring Vin Weber, Bob Reischauer and many others … Treasury holds a Financial Literacy and Education Commission meeting … The meeting “will focus on how to prepare more Americans to plan and take action for long-term financial goals such as retirement” … Secretary Lew, CFPB Director Rich Cordray, and SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin will deliver remarks at this meeting … FOMC Minutes at 2:00 p.m. … House Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. holds a hearing “Examining the SEC’s Agenda, Operations, and FY2017 Budget Request” … SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White testifies
BROOKINGS PAPERS … to be released at the event today: http://brook.gs/1PNatsP
David Wessel’s paper for the event: http://brook.gs/1O0wi8f
TREASURY FINANCIAL LITERACY EVENT http://1.usa.gov/14r8eDJ
ALSO TODAY: Treasury Deputy Secretary Raskin will deliver keynote remarks at an Economists for Peace and Security forum on inequality & growth at 9:15 a.m. Live stream: http://bit.ly/1MAFZFW
CLINTON HITS SANDERS ON MIDDLE CLASS TAXES — POLITICO’s Annie Karni: “Hillary Clinton is spoiling for a fight over middle class tax hikes. Three days after the fairly cordial second Democratic debate, Clinton’s campaign is mounting an attack against Sen. Bernie Sanders for proposals to raise taxes on the middle class that were part of the national single-payer health care bills he introduced in Congress.
“‘Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health-care plan,’ said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, referring to legislation Sanders introduced in 2013, ‘and simple math dictates he’ll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda. … The latest attempt to draw a contrast on tax hikes and wage increases can be seen as an attempt by Clinton to undercut any momentum Sanders is building among union workers and middle class voters” http://politi.co/210kYyg
SANDERS HITS PAUSE ON SOCIALISM — POLITICO’s Annie Karni: “Bernie Sanders’ ballyhooed speech on socialism is now on indefinite hold. Details about how Sanders would pay for his proposed single-payer national health insurance program to provide Medicare for all Americans have yet to be fleshed out — even though a July 30 post on his campaign website says the Vermont senator would file legislation on single-payer ‘perhaps as soon as next week.’ … And with two-and-a-half months to go before the first votes of 2016 are cast, the candidate whose raison d’etre is ending income inequality has yet to unveil any details of his tax plan, such as whose tax rates would go up and by how much.
“As Sanders attempts to evolve from a niche politician who appeals to a frustratingly uniform group of young, white progressive voters to a major threat to the Hillary Clinton presidential juggernaut, he appears to be stalled on the threshold of mainstream success. Once sure-footed and decisive in expressing his view of the most important issue facing the country, income inequality, Sanders now appears to be holding back, hesitant to put meat on the bones of his big-picture ideas” http://politi.co/1SWG1fU
THE FED’S INFLATION PUZZLE — WSJ’s Justin Lahart: “Prices of goods and services are taking divergent paths. So, too, are the fortunes of many companies. The Labor Department on Tuesday reported that overall U.S. consumer prices in October were up just 0.2 percent from a year earlier, while core prices, which exclude food and energy items, rose 1.9 percent. That suggests the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of core prices remained up just 1.3 percent on the year, according to J.P. Morgan. So while the central bank is on course to raise rates next month, it isn’t clear how rapidly it will be able to raise rates thereafter. … Part of why the Fed’s rate prospects are such a muddle is the wide gap that has emerged between prices for goods and services.
“Core goods, heavily exposed to dollar strength and overseas economic weakness, were down 0.7 percent in October from a year earlier. Core services, more insulated from abroad, were up 2.8 percent. The 3.5-percentage-point difference between the two series marks the widest gap since before the recession. The decline in goods prices is transitory — the global economy won’t be weak forever — so there is some sense to the Fed looking through them. But nothing is going to change overnight. And companies that make and sell goods, like manufacturers and retailers, are losing sales to deflation” http://on.wsj.com/1kD6aoO
VETO THREAT ON MORTGAGE BILL — Per White House SAP: “H.R. 1210 would broaden the definition of qualified mortgages — those that qualify for the safe harbor — to include all mortgages held on a lender’s balance sheet. Under the bill, depository institutions that hold a loan in portfolio would receive a legal safe harbor even if the loan contains terms and features that are abusive and harmful to consumers. The bill would limit the right of borrowers to file claims against holders of such loans and against mortgage originators who directed them to the loans”
CARSON LOST OF FOREIGN POLICY — NYT’s Trip Gabriel: “Ben Carson’s remarks on foreign policy have repeatedly raised questions about his grasp of the subject, but never more seriously than in the past week, when he wrongly asserted that China had intervened militarily in Syria and then failed, on national television, to name the countries he would call on to form a coalition to fight the Islamic State. Faced with increasing scrutiny about whether Mr. Carson — who leads in some Republican presidential polls — was capable of leading American foreign policy, two of his top advisers said in interviews with The New York Times that he had struggled to master the intricacies of the Middle East and national security and that intense tutoring was having little effect.
“‘Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,’ Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so ‘we can make him smart.” http://nyti.ms/1HWLX1R
ALSO FOR YOUR RADAR —
GLOBAL FINANCIAL LITERACY SURVEY — S&P Ratings Global FinLit Survey will be released at 8:30 AM at an event being held at Gallup HQ in DC and featuring closing remarks by Asst Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs Marisa Lago.
From the findings: “Globally, 2 out of 3 adults are not financially literate. The US ranks 14th in terms of financial literacy (Norway, Sweden, Denmark are #1; Israel #2)
On virtually every country across the globe, there’s a gender gap between women and men on financial literacy. Globally, the gender gap is 5 percent. In the US, it’s twice that” http://bit.ly/1PNBhZX
FOX BUSINESS GETS RATINGS BOOST — Via Deadline.com: “Fox News Channel and Fox Business News ranked No. 2 and No. 4 for the week in primetime, with an average of 2.3M and 1.6M viewers, respectively. (FNC also ranked No. 1 in total day with an average of 1.4M). … Boosting FBN was its Tuesday night GOP debate, which brought 13.5M viewers and 3.7M news demo viewers — a record for the network. It was basic cable’s most watched program for the week. Fox News Channel’s numbers were goosed by its coverage of the attacks in Paris on Friday, and aftermath over the weekend” http://bit.ly/1kDOqcQ
In the morning, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines.
Later in the morning, the president will deliver remarks at a CEO Summit, attended by 800 business leaders from around the region representing U.S. and Asia-Pacific companies.
In the afternoon, Obama will participate in the first meeting of the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries since the conclusion of negotiations and public release of the complete text of the agreement.
Later in the afternoon, Obama will participate in an informal dialogue of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) leaders with the Pacific Alliance.
In the evening, the Obama will attend an APEC welcome dinner and cultural performance. The president will remain overnight in the Philippines.
The House returns at 10 a.m. First votes expected: 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. Last votes expected: 5 to 6 p.m. The Senate returns at 10 a.m., with votes as early as 10:15 a.m.