Colbert Nationalism

Stephen Colbert diagnoses Obama with a bad case of 'senioritis'

July 16, 2014

On Tuesday night's Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert picked up on a new conservative complaint that President Obama has traded in governing for early retirement — dinner parties in Europe, beer and pool with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), and preparations to vacation on Martha's Vineyard. (Here's Ed Morrissey's version at The Week.) Obama is "doing something far worse than destroying America," Colbert said, in his version. "He is slacking off at destroying America."

"It's clear what's going on here: The president has senioritis," Colbert said. "He's in the last two semesters of his presidency, and he's totally checked out." This is where things get sort of delightfully strange, and possibly personal, on the Report. But Colbert brings it on home at the end, telling Obama: "Let's face it, you've only got two years left before graduation, and you are looking at an 'F' in econ." --Peter Weber


Kurds declare victory over ISIS in Kobani

3:13am ET

The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters drove Islamic State to the edge of Kobani over the weekend, and late Monday they declared victory in the 131-day battle for the strategically and symbolically important Syrian town. "The city of Kobani is fully liberated," Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union said on Twitter, and Kurds in Kobani and across the border in Turkey celebrated.

Fully liberated may be a bit of an overstatement, though. The entire town is under YPG and peshmerga control, Kobani Kurdish leader Anwar Muslim tells the BBC, but YPG fighters are conducting a "final clean-up" on the eastern edge of town, and the situation is "a little tense."

The Kurds' apparent victory in Kobani is being seen as evidence that the U.S.-led airstrikes can help defeat ISIS, at least if there is a ground force that can capitalize on the strikes. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that it "congratulates these courageous fighters and thanks them for their efforts." The fight against ISIS "is far from over," CENTCOM noted, but ISIS's "failure in Kobani has denied them one of their strategic objectives."

That ISIS lost this round is important, but the Islamist would-be caliphate is doing well in other parts of Syria and Iraq, and has even started to expand into Afghanistan. As CNN notes below, ISIS reacted to its loss by calling for attacks against the West. —Peter Weber

snow joke

Yeti braves blizzard to lurk around Boston

1:50am ET

Boston residents, this news is bigger than the snowstorm: There's a yeti on the loose, and it has internet access.

Yes, someone wearing an abominable snowman outfit is wandering the cold streets and tweeting about it, using the handle @BostonYeti2015. So far, he's posted rather creepy pictures on deserted highways, sidewalks, and roads around town, and who knows where he's headed next. Your move, @NYCBigfoot212.

Surveillance States

Report: The DEA is spying on millions of U.S. cars

1:21am ET

Since 2008, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been secretly compiling a Justice Department database of millions of U.S. license plates and tracking the associated cars through a network of license plate readers, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday night, citing "current and former officials and government documents." The program started as a means to seize drugs and other contraband near the U.S.-Mexico border — a part of the program the DEA had previously acknowledged — but it has expanded nationwide. How does it work? The Journal explains:

The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction, and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program. [Wall Street Journal]

As of 2011, the DEA had 100 such cameras around the country, but the agency also uses state-operated license-plate readers — and lets some state and local law enforcement agencies tap the database, run from the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center in Texas. The formerly secret program "raises significant privacy concerns," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). "The fact that this intrusive technology is potentially being used to expand the reach of the government's asset-forfeiture efforts is of even greater concern." Read more about the surveillance program at The Wall Street Journal.


Lance Armstrong says he would 'probably' cheat again

1:15am ET
Handout/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong admitted that although it was a "bad decision" for him to start doping, he would likely do it all over again.

"My answer is not a popular one," he told the BBC. "If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn't do it again, because I don't think you have to. If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I'd probably do it again." Armstrong continued to reiterate that everyone else was doing it, saying, "When I made the decision, when my team made that decision, when the whole peloton made that decision, it was a bad decision and an imperfect time. But it happened." He also added that his high profile allowed his charity to go from "raising no money to raising $500 million, serving three million people. Do we want to take it away? I don't think anybody says 'yes.'"

In August 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport of cycling. Since then, he said his life has "slowed from 100 mph to 10," and he would like it to go up to "50, 55." Armstrong also said he thinks the world is ready for his comeback, and he's ready to start the next chapter in his life. "Of course I want to be out of timeout," he said. "What kid doesn’t?"


Fidel Castro: 'I don't trust the politics of the United States'

12:04am ET
Handout/Getty Images

In a statement sent to a student federation at the University of Havana, Fidel Castro spoke out for the first time since the U.S. and Cuba announced plans to restore full diplomatic relations. "I don't trust the politics of the United Sates, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts," wrote the 88-year-old former president of Cuba. He continued:

Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people of Latina America that doesn't imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles. We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries. [Castro]

Castro's remarks also appeared in the Communist Party newspaper, Granma.


Deflategate: Louis CK is sure the Patriots cheated, and he thinks that's great

January 26, 2015

Louis CK is from Boston, so naturally he's a Patriots fan. And like a lot of Patriots fans, he isn't too worked up about NFL allegations that the team illicitly deflated its footballs. In fact, he's positive that quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick cheated, "because they want to win real bad," and "I have no problem with it — I think it's hilarious," he told David Letterman on Monday night's Late Show. "And why not? It's a stupid football game. I mean, just deflate the balls, poke a guy in the eye, or whatever — it's football!" He has a point. And there's more in the video below. —Peter Weber

lest we forget

Elderly survivors return to Auschwitz for liberation anniversary

January 26, 2015
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

For Marcel Tuchman, the best revenge against the Nazis was living well. After surviving four concentration campus, Tuchman, now 93, moved to the United States, became a doctor, and taught at NYU School of Medicine.

He returned to Auschwitz this week along with 200 other survivors to mark the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation by the Soviets on Jan. 25, 1945. Tuchman says he had to be there to speak for those who didn't make it out alive. "Their voices have been silenced by gas chambers and crematoria, so we the survivors have the duty to honor their memory and speak the best we can for them, and tell this unprecedented story of destruction of millions of people," he told NBC News.

It's been a hard trip, both emotionally and physically, for the elderly survivors. Many brought along their children and grandchildren, who say they will keep their stories alive. That's important for Tuchman: "The reason why I am here, I am going to stress and request that this would be repeated and repeated and repeated, 'Lest we forget.'"

it's the law

In Seattle, residents who throw away food will be fined

January 26, 2015

In Seattle, a new city law makes it illegal to put food in trash cans, and violators will have to soon start paying up for their transgressions.

If a garbage bin is filled with more than 10 percent food, a red tag will be placed on it for public shaming. The goal is to keep food out of landfills while helping Seattle increase its recycling and composting rate to 60 percent of all its waste, NPR reports, and Seattle is the first city in the U.S. to fine people for not sorting their trash properly.

Seattle Public Utilities estimates that each family in the city tosses out about 400 pounds of food annually. To keep food out of landfills, households receive a bin for food and yard scraps so they can compost it themselves (or, for a fee, the city will do it). Right now, offenders of the sorting law are just being warned, but starting in July, they will have to pay $1 per violation at a house and $50 at an apartment, condominium, or commercial building.

See you in court

Melissa Rivers sues clinic over the death of her mother Joan

January 26, 2015
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Melissa Rivers has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the doctors and clinic where her mother, comedian Joan Rivers, suffered a medical emergency that led to her death.

In late August, Rivers was at the Yorkville Endoscopy Center so doctors could check her esophagus in an attempt to see why her voice was changing, the New York Daily News reports. Court papers say that after the endoscopy started, Rivers' blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, and oxygen levels plummeted and doctors did not cut her trachea in order to restore oxygen flow to her brain. Rivers died seven days later at the age of 81.

"The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect, and outrageous behavior is shocking and frankly almost incomprehensible," Melissa Rivers said in a statement. "Not only did my mother deserve better, every patient deserves better."

oh technology

Sheriffs speak out against popular app that tracks police

January 26, 2015

Citing safety concerns, sheriffs from across the United States are asking Google Inc. to turn off a feature in its Waze app that warns users where police officers are located.

The app — which Google bought in 2013 for $966 million — has 50 million users in 200 countries, and provides real time traffic conditions as well as notifications of car accidents, traffic cameras, and construction zones; the locations of officers are marked with a police icon. Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, said this feature is a "police stalker," and Google needs to "act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application."

Nuala O'Connor, head of the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Associated Press she doesn't think it's a legitimate request to disable this part of the app, and privacy advocates are actually more concerned over how much information Waze, which monitors the locations of its users as long as the app is open, gives to law enforcement about customers.

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