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  • Is This Performance Artist Behind The Boston Bombing Backpack Hoax?

    kayvon edson

    Boston Police reportedly arrested a man Monday evening after he allegedly caused a disturbance by shouting and dropping a backpack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the anniversary of the bombing there last year. According to CBS Boston, the suspect is a 25-year-old man named Kayvon Edson who is being charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and possession of a hoax device. CBS also reported the bag contained a rice cooker and confetti. Instagram videos show a man wearing a long black veil and shouting "Boston strong!" before he allegedly dropped the backpack.

    A man using the name Kayvon Edson who appears to match photos of the suspect shown by NECN has an extensive digital trail where he documented his activities as a "performance artist." On Facebook, a page for Edson features a picture of one of the brothers charged with last year's Marathon bombing, Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The photo, which was posted by Edson about 14 hours ago has a heading saying, "Had a blast at the marathon!!!"

    "#BloggoristAttack — with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent," wrote Edson in a caption under the photo.

    On Twitter, an account for Edson that has not been updated since late December of last year also includes a message in which he seems to describe himself as a "bloggorist." 

    Edson's Facebook page describes him as being from Boston, Mass. and as a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It lists his occupation as the "Sole Proprietor/Designer/Blogger" at something called Natural Selection. The Facebook page for Natural Selection features a video showing a man who appears to match photos of the bombing hoax suspect pretending to rip photos of pop star Justin Bieber. Edson commented on that video using his Facebook account indicating it was him in the clip. 

    Edson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on Facebook.

    The "Natural Selection" webpage was updated with several pictures of Dzokhar Tsarnaev Tuesday under the tsarnaev kayvon edsonheadline "#SexyBomber." 

    "Happy Anniversary, babe! Next time, I’ll cry a river for our love boat," a note accompanying the pictures said. 

    Text hidden in the code for the Natural Selection website declares, "This is Kayvon's blog."

    There is also a YouTube account for Natural Selection with 19 videos. One of the clips shows what is described as a "Natural Selection Fashion Show." Another is entitled "Bloggorist Warning" and stars a man who matches the photos of the reported hoax suspect draped in an American flag.  

    "You better watch the f**k out," he says. "'Cause I'm coming for you."

    Another one of the videos is entitled "Kayvon Edson." It features the same man introducing himself as Edson.

    "I'm a fashion designer, an entrepreneur, a performance artist, a mental patient a blogger bloggorist, a jailbird, a college dropout, and a drag queen," he says. 

    In the video, the man describing himself as Edson indicates he has been to jail and was "diagnosed bipolar." 

    Boston Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider late Monday night.

    Watch the "Kayvon Edson" video below.

    This post was updated at 12:41 am with information about the Natural Selection webpage. 

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  • MIKE BLOOMBERG: 'I've Earned My Place In Heaven — It's Not Even Close'

    Michael Bloomberg

    Now that he's out of office, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is stepping up his efforts to battle the National Rifle Association and expand gun control laws.

    Bloomberg detailed his plans in an interview with the New York Times published Monday — in which he predicted his crusades against guns, smoking, and obesity would serve him well in the afterlife. 

    "I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close," Bloomberg said. 

    Bloomberg is prepared to spend $50 million this year alone on his gun control push, The New York Times' Jeremy Peters reports.

    According to the report, he will use the investment to build "a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence." Peters wrote that Bloomberg "tossed out the $50 million figure out as if he were describing the tip he left on a restaurant check" and hinted he could spend even more in his battle against the NRA. 

    “I put $50 million this year, last year into coal, $53 million into oceans,” Bloomberg said referencing money he's spent on environmental initiatives. “Certainly a number like that, $50 million. Let’s see what happens.”

    The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Bloomberg's plans. 

    Bloomberg also dismissed the idea his reputation as the "nanny" mayor of a big city who has pushed bans on smoking and sugary drinks in addition to gun control might not make him the ideal face of a gun control campaign that will need to change hearts and minds in red states. 

    “I don’t know what your perception is of our reputation, and mine, the name Bloomberg around the country,” he said noting that in his travels he regularly hears people tell him, “You’re a rock star" and "people yelling out of cabs, ‘Hey, way to go!’”

    Under his plan, Bloomberg would bring two gun-focused groups he currently funds — Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — under one umbrella group called Everytown for Gun Safety. It will focus in the short term on legislation to expand background checks on gun buyers.

    The group's focus will be on field operations, something the NRA and other pro-gun groups have mastered. The focus of their outreach will be on women — mothers, in particular — who they feel can be swayed on the gun issue.

    The topic of gun violence has largely faded from the national scene. It has been almost a year since the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks, and there has been no renewed momentum. That defeat was widely seen as a loss for Bloomberg, who spent over $10 million on his gun control campaign prior to the bill's failure. Supporters tout progress on the background check issue at the state level

    Some groups hinted at plans to punish senators who voted against the background check bill last year. When they did, some Democrats and liberals argued it would be counterproductive, since pushing red-state Democrats to the left on gun issues could lose the party the Senate. 

    Bloomberg doesn't seem to care about causing difficulties for Democrats, saying his focus is squarely on the gun fight.

    “You can tell me all you want that the Republicans would be worse in the Senate than the Democrats,” he said. “Maybe they would. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.”

    This post was updated at 11:30 p.m. ET.

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  • Here's The Heroic Story Of Why An Investment Analyst Is Getting The Medal Of Honor

    Kyle White

    According to his LinkedIn page, Kyle White is an investment analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Charlotte, N.C. However, until July 2011, he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. On Tuesday, the White House announced President Barack Obama will award White with the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry" for his actions during combat operations in Afghanistan on November 9, 2007 when, according to a comrade, he helped save multiple wounded soldiers while being attacked on three sides.

    The military blog "From Cow Pastures To Kosovo" published an interview with Kain Schilling, another soldier who was with White on that fateful day in 2007. Schilling shared the incredible tale of why White is receiving the military's highest honor.

    According to Schilling, White, who was an Army Specialist at the time, was among a group of soldiers who were attending a meeting with "local elders of the village of Aranus in Nuristan Province of eastern Afghanistan." At the meeting, Schilling said the soldiers were about 4 kilometers through mountainous terrain away from the nearest American outpost. The meeting ran late and when they began to leave, Schilling said the soldiers noticed there was an unusually high number of "fighting age males" in the village. 

    After the meeting, Schilling said he, White, and three other soldiers began making their way back to the American outpost. 

    "We were about half way back to Outpost Bella when all hell broke loose," Schilling recounted. "I remember hearing a couple of cracks and instantly knowing what was happening but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. The enemy launched a 3 pronged attack. From my knowledge they attacked from above, in front and across the valley."

    Schilling said the American soldiers were on a narrow trail with steep cliffs on both sides. Along with gunfire, Schilling said the group was hit with blasts from rocket-propelled grenade launchers. According to Schilling, one of these blasts left White knocked out and with shrapnel in his face. 

    "After regaining consciousness we both made it behind cover and tried to orient ourselves and find out where all the incoming fire is coming from," said Schilling. 

    Once they found cover, Schilling said he and White realized both of their radios had been shot. This meant they had no way of communicating with the outpost and were breathing smoke from their radio batteries that left a "burning sensation" in their lungs.

    Schilling said he realized his arm was wounded and he sought protection behind "the smallest tree on earth." Though the bullets were still flying, Schilling said White "ran through some of the most intense fire I had seen to come and help me."

    "He reached my position and applied a tourniquet to my arm," said Schilling. "White applied first aid while the tiny tree we were using as cover was being shredded by incoming rounds."

    Schilling said another soldier in their group, Sergeant Bocks, was also wounded. Bocks was about "10 meters" away from the tree, but Schilling said White still tried to reach him.

    "As SPC White was still trying to get SGT Bocks, the rounds were impacting around his feet.  I could see the impacts when those rounds would hit the shiny shale rock.  Each impact would make terrifying sparks to say the least," Schilling recounted. 

    White was unable to save Bocks. However, Schilling said White was able to get a working radio from him. According to Schilling, White continued to tend to the wounded while calling in reinforcements and medical help on the radio.

    "Kyle saved my life and many others as well as putting himself in harms way for myself and Bocks multiple times," said Schilling. "Six Americans were Killed in Action that day.   Out of all of the Americans alive I think all but one was wounded."

    Read Schilling's entire story here.

    White could not immediately be reached for comment on this story. On LinkedIn, White has received three endorsements for "Afghanistan" and two for "team leadership." 

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  • Watch This Breathtaking Video Of Russian Soldiers Parachuting Onto Arctic Ice

    Russian paratroopers

    More than 50 Russian soldiers parachuted onto drifting Arctic ice near the North Pole last week in a first-ever training exercise, Russia Beyond The Headlines reports.

    The Russian paratroopers parachuted along with airdropped supplies from an Ilyushin-76 military transport aircraft at 89 degrees North latitude Tuesday, April 8. In collaboration with the Expedition Center of the Russian Geographic Society, the paratroopers will build a camp and train in the rescue of polar expeditions.

    Airborne Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Yevgney Meshkov said the drop proceeded without accidents and that soldiers are equipped with knives and hunting guns to guard against wild animals.

    Russian paratroopers

    The Russian military's video captured the jump from multiple angles, including from the first-person perspective of one soldier.

    Russian paratrooper

    Although it cannot be verified from the video, the RT news network reports the Russians planted a Crimean flag upon their landing, coming weeks after Russia annexed that region from Ukraine. “We could not ignore to bring the flag of the Russian city of Sevastopol to such a place," said one of the Russians, reported by RT.

    You can watch the full video from the Russian Ministry of Defense below.

    The mission is not the first time Russian soldiers have parachuted into the Arctic. Just last month, 350 paratroopers landed on a northern Siberian island to help establish a military base there protecting nearby oil and gas resources. That is part of a greater Russian military presence in the Arctic since 2013, intended to protect Russia's national interests in that region, according to President Vladimir Putin.

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  • 27-Year-Old Soldier To Receive Medal Of Honor For Heroics During Hellish 16-Hour Afghan Battle

    Army Sgt. Kyle White

    A former Army sergeant will be awarded the Medal of Honor on May 13 for his heroics during a hellish 2007 battle in Afghanistan, The White House announced today.

    Former Sgt. Kyle J. White, who was just 20 years old during the firefight on Nov. 8, 2007, repeatedly ran through intense enemy gunfire to get to wounded troops, called in steady reports and air support to beat back Taliban fighters, and directed medical evacuations for the dead and wounded, Army Times reports.

    "An RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit right behind my head and knocked me unconscious ... it was just lights out ... when I woke up, I was face-down on a rock," White told Army News Service, recalling that as he was came to, an enemy round fragmented near his head and sent a shower of broken rock chips and debris into the side of his face. "I didn't feel pain at all, just numb like when you go to the dentist."

    With chaos all around him, White realized that 10 of those with his 14-man team embedded with Afghan soldiers had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff. As one of four soldiers left above (and closest to enemy fire), White tended to a wounded soldier for some time before seeing a Marine on the team lying wounded out in the open.

    "I knew he needed help and there was a lot of fire coming in, but it really didn't matter at that point, but by then I already had known, well, sh--, we're not gonna make it through this one; it's just a matter of time before I'm dead," White told Army News Service. "I figured, if that's going to happen, I might as well help someone while I can."

    army soldier kyle white afghanistanDespite heavy fire, he ran and made it, grabbing wounded Marine Sgt. Philip Bocks and eventually pulling him to safety.

    Unfortunately, Bocks' wounds were too severe. "I worked on him until he was no longer with us," White told Army Times.

    As night fell, White — now suffering from two concussions — directed Afghan Army soldiers to set up a defensive perimeter as he kept a badly-wounded Spec. Kain Schilling from falling asleep and marked a landing zone so helicopters could land and bring the soldiers out.

    The battle resulted in terrible losses, with many Afghan and U.S. soldiers injured, and five soldiers and one Marine killed.

    White was briefly sent to Bagram Air Base for treatment, attended the funeral of his best friend Cpl. Sean Langevin, then returned to the fight.

    "He recovered and rejoined his brothers in an extended fight, completing a 15-month tour," Col. Bill Ostlund, White's former company commander, told Army Times. "He was a trained, humble and selfless paratrooper and warrior that did not seek recognition or prod the system for recognition."

    For all his heroics, White was not hit by enemy fire, although his pack, weapon, and radio equipment was hit multiple times.

    "I just want people to know, the fire he moved through was just absolutely ... I can't even describe how intense it was, that's what amazed me," Schilling recalled to Army News Service. "How he went to get Bocks so many times — faster than a speeding bullet — he's definitely lucky and so am I."

    White will be the 14th recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    SEE ALSO: 24-Year-Old Who Covered A Grenade To Save His Friend Will Reportedly Receive The Medal Of Honor

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  • Donald Rumsfeld Says He Has 'Absolutely No Idea' If He Paid His Taxes Properly

    Donald Rumsfeld

    Donald Rumsfeld served as secretary of defense under both President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush, but he can't master the tax code.  

    Every year on Tax Day, Rumsfeld sends a letter to the IRS explaining that he doesn't know whether he did his taxes properly. Rumsfeld published his newest letter on his Twitter page Tuesday.

    "I have sent in our federal income tax and our gift tax returns for 2013," Rumsfeld wrote. "As in prior years, it is important for you to know that I have absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate."

    In his letter, Rumsfeld attributed his ignorance of whether he paid his taxes properly to the complexity of the tax code.

    "The tax code is so complex and the forms are so complicated, that I know I cannot have any confidence that I know what is being requested and therefore I cannot and do not know, and I suspect a great many Americans cannot know, whether or not their tax returns are accurate," Rumsfeld wrote.

    Rumsfeld noted that he was confused about his taxes even though he "spent more money than I wanted to spend to hire an accounting firm."

    "I do not know whether or not my tax returns are accurate, which is a sad commentary on governance in our nation's capital," Rumsfeld wrote.

    Read Rumsfeld's full letter to the IRS below.  

    Rumsfeld Tax Letter

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  • Nevada Ranchers: 'We Embarrassed' Washington

    Cliven Bundy

    A family of Nevada ranchers is declaring temporary victory in their long showdown with federal agents.

    "Rancher Cliven Bundy won his battle against the Bureau of Land Management, at least for the moment," wrote a member of the family on the Bundy Ranch blog Tuesday. 

    The declaration came after federal agents returned hundreds of cattle they had taken from the ranch over the weekend. However, Business Insider called Cliven Bundy's son, Ammon Bundy, Tuesday and he said the family was still "looking for support" from the armed militia members and other conservative activists who flocked to the ranch this month. Though the BLM backed down for now, Ammon, who works on the ranch, said his family still believed they could face "retaliation" from the government if their supporters leave. 

    "We embarrassed them, we gave them a black eye and the federal government doesn't like that," Ammon said. "There'll be some type of, you know, retaliation. We just hope that it's in the daylight, not in the dark. But you know, they've been known to do it in the dark."

    The federal agents had taken about 400 cattle from the ranch. In total, Bundy had about 900 cattle and the BLM planned to spend a month rounding them up

    Cliven Bundy's battle with the BLM stretches back to the 1990s when the family stopped paying grazing fees to the agency, which manages land near the ranch in order to protect an endangered species of tortoise. In 1998, the BLM got the first of many court orders ruling Bundy was trespassing on federal land by having his cattle graze there without paying fees. Now, the agency claims Bundy owes over $1 million in grazing fees accumulated over the years. A judge gave the BLM permission to impound the cattle last summer. 

    After returning the cattle to the Bundy Ranch, BLM spokesman Craig Leff told CBS News the agency would seek to resolve the situation "administratively and judicially." He declined to comment further. 

    Bundy and his supporters framed the showdown as an issue of state's and constitutional rights and argued a federal agency did not have authority to keep him and his cattle off the land.

    "This is a state's rights issue, the Bundys are just caught deep in the middle of it," Ammon Bundy said Tuesday. "This is a state's rights issue. This is a 'We The People' issue and that is what this is." 

    Ammon said Tuesday that a "handful" of armed militia remembers remained at the ranch.

    "They're just kind of there keeping watch and then all the others are on call," explained Ammon. "Militia means what? It's the army of the people. They got to go home and make their livings and be with their families."

    Though the number of armed militia members on the ranch has decreased, Ammon said his family would not back down if the government makes further attempts to remove their cattle.

    "We're not afraid, I'll tell you that. We believe that god is in control and there's no room for fear, because that's what those type of people want," he said of the government. "That's how they build their power is off of fear and we will resist that 100 percent."

    In addition to the militia members, Ammon said the family has as-yet-unidentified allies in Washington. However, he said support from local officials and the public at large is more important to the Bundys than having allies in the federal government. 

    "We do have some supporters in Washington, but not that we want to go public with," said Ammon. "But we feel like we don't need supporters in Washington. We need our county to stand up. We need our state to stand up and that's all we need, because this is a federal issue. What good does it do to get the feds, you know, when it's a federal issue. That just exhibits that they do have more authority than they have and that is certainly not the case."

    Ammon encouraged more militia members to come to the ranch and said his family was willing to "assist" anyone who wanted to help establish a permanent armed presence there. He also said the ranch would play host to a "family" rally Friday.

    "We still are looking for support," Ammon said. "We're calling for a family activity barbeque on Friday afternoon. We're hoping to get a couple thousand people here, and we're gonna feed them, and have a live band, and it'll be more of a fun activity."

     

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  • Vladimir Putin Wants The International Community To Condemn Ukraine

    Vladimir Putin

    Russian President Vladimir Putin told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday that Moscow expects a "clear condemnation" of Ukraine's military actions in the eastern region, which Putin said have made the crisis "significantly worse."

    "The conversation addressed the crisis in Ukraine, which has grown significantly worse due to the use of force initiated by the Kiev authorities in the southeast of the country," the Kremlin said in a readout of the call. "In particular, Mr. Putin stressed that the Russian side expects the United Nations and the international community to clearly condemn these anti-constitutional actions."

    Armed forces in Ukraine launched a "special operation" Tuesday against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of the country. The Ukrainian government said it had retaken control of a small airport that had been occupied by the militiamen. It was the first sign of Ukrainian military action against the pro-Russian separatists who had taken over government buildings in at least nine eastern Ukrainian cities.

    The U.S. has openly accused Moscow of being behind the militiamen, a charge Putin denied on a phone call with President Barack Obama on Monday.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday the U.S. is preparing additional sanctions on Russian officials in the wake of their latest provocations. Such moves, she added, are unlikely to be announced before Thursday, when diplomats from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union are scheduled to meet in Geneva to discuss steps toward de-escalation.

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  • President Obama Had To Fix A Typo That Could Have Kept A Man In Jail For An Extra 3.5 Years

    Barack Obama

    It took a presidential pardon to fix a typo that would have kept a man in jail for 3 1/2 years too long. 

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Ceasar Huerta Cantu, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and money laundering. He was sentenced to a 15-year prison term, but it was subsequently discovered a typographical error had added 3.5 years to what should have been an 11 1/2-year sentence.

    A White House official explained the typo. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a base offense level of 34 under Cantu's plea agreement. However, the typo erroneously put the base level at 36, which increased the sentence by 42 months.

    "A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means; as a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency," the White House official said.

    According to the Justice Department, Obama has issued 52 presidential pardons, and with this one, 10 commutations while in office.

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  • Macy's CEO Explains Why He's Against Raising The Minimum Wage

    terry lundgren macy's

    Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren believes that raising the minimum wage would result in fewer jobs for Americans. 

    "We did this in 2009, that was the last time, and I think there was half a million jobs lost that were attributed to that raise," Lundgren told Sapna Maheshwari at Buzzfeed.

    "What you really have to be careful of is you don’t want to raise the wage and lay people off in order to be able to afford it because that would be the opposite of what we are all trying to do here," he said. 

    While the federal minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour, many states have begun to raise wages higher. California, Connecticut, and Maryland will pay workers a minimum of $10 or more in coming years, according to the Associated Press. 

    Fast food workers have also been petitioning for wages of $15 per hour. 

    Macy's sales associates make an average of $8.76 an hour, according to the website Glass Door.

    Lundgren told Maheshwari that raising the minimum could result in more layoffs. Macy's announced in January that it was cutting 2,500 jobs. 

    "So if your costs go up by X million by taking an initiative like this, what are companies going to do? It doesn’t mean their sales are going to get better, it just means that you’re going to have to offset that expense and how are you going to offset that expense?" Lundgren asked. "The worst thing that can happen is we end up laying off people."

    Lundgren said that he thinks that reducing the corporate tax rate could help create more jobs. 

    SEE ALSO: 17 Reasons Why Wegmans Is America's Best Grocery Store

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  • Here Are The Angry Handwritten Notes Donald Trump Sends To Reporters Who Cover Him

    donald trump you're fired

    After MSNBC Political Reporter Benjy Sarlin wrote about Donald Trump's speech at last weekend's Freedom Summit in New Hampshire, he said he received a handwritten note from the real-estate-mogul-slash-reality-television-star. Sarlin posted a picture of the missive, which was a copy of his article with Trump's criticism scrawled on top on his Facebook page Tuesday.

    Trump drew an arrow pointing to a line that said, "Trump also spoke" and added some thoughts.

    "Benjy — And got the biggest response (by far) + standing ovation," Trump wrote. "Be honest now."

    He finished his note by sending Sarlin "best wishes." Sarlin told Business Insider he was glad to hear Trump's thoughts.

    "I appreciate Mr. Trump's constructive criticism just as I appreciate all reader feedback," Sarlin said. 

    Trump has a habit of sending handwritten annotations of his press clips to reporters. After reading our initial story about Trump's correspondence with Sarlin, Yahoo! News Political Reporter Chris Moody forwarded us a copy of a note he received from Trump in response to a 2011 story he wrote saying Trump "fired himself" from hosting a Republican presidential debate after most of the candidates said they would not attend.

    "Chris—BAD Reporting BAD Reporter," Trump wrote. "No 'WHY'!" 

    Trump's missive to Moody did not include "best wishes."

    In 2011, Trump sent Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter a marked up copy of a blog post from the magazine's website. Sadly, Business Insider has never received any correspondence from Trump.

    View Trump's notes to Sarlin and Moody below.

    Donald Trump Note

    Donald Trump Note

    Full Disclosure: This reporter briefly worked with Sarlin at Talking Points Memo in 2013. 

    This post was updated at 11:17 am to include Moody's letter from Trump. 

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  • MAP: This Is What A Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Could Look Like

    Pro-Russian separatists have stirred up tension in eastern Ukraine over the past few days, occupying and taking control of building in as many as 10 Ukrainian cities. 

    The chances of a full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine have grown, U.S. officials and observers say. The White House has openly accused Moscow of supporting the pro-Russian separatists — or, as they have called them, "provocateurs."

    The Ukrainian government issued an ultimatum on Monday to the separatists — one that has now expired and, so far, gone largely unenforced through any military or diplomatic pressures. The reality is that Kiev has few plausible options, but if it does respond with force, Russia is expected to use it as a pretext for invasion. 

    The Royal United Services Institute, a security and defense think tank based in London, published a report and map last week outlining Russia's potential moves into Ukraine and redeployments of forces (via Foreign Policy):

    Russia Ukraine

    The map lays out Russia's possible military options in Ukraine. The authors of the report — Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at RUSI, and Michael Clarke, the Institute's director general — write Russia has about 50,000 troops lined up on the border. 

    As the authors see it, there are four military options for Russia:

    • The first is the build-up is simply "muscle-flexing" by Russia, the authors wrote, for it to achieve its goal of wielding more influence in local Ukrainian governments. That scenario, however, is not likely.
    • The second: Russia is playing out the "Crimea scenario" with the corridor that connects Crimea to Russia — Donetsk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson. Russia would "covertly support" or even openly engineer civil unrest en route to annexation. 
    • The third: "Unrest and separatist pressures in south and eastern Ukraine, real or manufactured, may present a dangerous, but nevertheless tempting opportunity to split the country in two, south and east of the Dnieper River." Russian troops are currently well-positioned for this scenario, but it would be even more aggressive.
    • The fourth scenario posits Russia could go even further, wherein Russian troops execute a move of "grand strategy" and "create a western corridor from Transnistria in Moldova into Crimea through Odessa and Mykolaiv Oblasts, which would encompass the historic city of Odessa itself." This scenario seems highly unlikely at this point, but the report's authors argued there are reasons to think it could happen, given the fact that key Ukrainian suppliers of the Russian defense industry are located in eastern Ukraine. But the authors also said it would be a very "nineteenth century way of looking at a twenty-first century relationship."

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  • Paul Ryan's Budget Is Facing A Surprise Republican Resistance

    Paul RyanFor all of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's talk about Republicans needing to produce a budget with a clear vision of the party's principles, a conservative confab in New Hampshire proved the House Budget Committee chairman's vision is far from universal. 

    At the Freedom Summit in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday, two of the top likely GOP presidential candidates — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — refused to endorse Ryan's proposed budget or call for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring it up for discussion. Real-estate mogul Donald Trump openly attacked Ryan and his budget in a speech, and his remarks were well received.

    Trump portrayed Ryan's budget as shredding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. He warned the conservative attendees of the political peril of those positions. 

    "I think he's a very nice person," Trump said of Ryan. "But his whole stance is to knock the hell out of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And the Democrats love it. They love it. They just sit back."

    The unveiling of Ryan's budget has drawn groans from Republicans, who worried it could step on their election-year anti-Obamacare messaging. It calls for balancing the federal books over the next 10 years through repealing Obamacare and making massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, essentially privatizing the latter. Medicaid, under the Ryan budget, would be transformed into a block-grant program for states.

    In a show of solidarity, the vast majority of Republicans voted last week to pass the budget through the House of Representatives. 

    However, the Senate is a different story. The Democrats who control the Senate chamber are not planning to write a budget this year, pointing to the spending levels already set through the agreement reached late last year by Ryan and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray late last year. But if their reactions were any indication, Senate Republicans aren't exactly dismayed by the fact Ryan's budget won't go anywhere in the Senate.

    In New Hampshire, both Paul and Cruz refused to say whether they'd support the budget. Cruz, in particular, found it difficult to tiptoe around the questions, repeatedly saying he doesn't spend a lot of time focused on House legislation. 

    "What my focus is on is the challenges we have ahead," Cruz said. "My top priority in office is restoring jobs and economic growth." 

    Cruz demurred when asked if he thought Ryan's budget was the best way to do that and whether he would vote for the budget if it came up for discussion. 

    "It is clear that Harry Reid has no intention of passing legislation this year in the Senate," Cruz said. 

    Later, it was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who declined to endorse Ryan's budget. When he was asked about it, Huckabee instead noted the budgets he brought up as governor of Arkansas were generally a starting point for discussions rather than ideas that would be adopted wholesale.

    However, Huckabee seemed reluctant to describe Ryan's budget as even a positive starting point.

    "It is for Paul Ryan," he said.

    What about for Mike Huckabee?

    "You know, there would be some things that I would probably change," he said.

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  • The Case for a Flat Tax

    Rep. Michael BurgessBy: U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Committee on Rules. 

    The idea of a flat tax as applied to income is not a new one.  In fact, the Member of Congress that held my seat prior to me, former Majority Leader Dick Armey, was a champion of the idea in the 1980’s and 90’s.  Since 2003, at the beginning of every new Congress, I have introduced H.R. 1040, the Flat Tax Act.  That means that I have introduced the Flat Tax Act six times during my tenure as the Congressman representing the 26th District of Texas.

    Despite 10 states and 42 countries around the world enacting some form of a flat tax, the U.S. Federal Government has never coalesced around the notion.  That is, until now.

    Just last week, the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 96 the House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.  Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) once again put forth an economically responsible budget that will balance in 10 years while fostering a healthier economy.  Within Chairman Ryan’s budget there is support for H.R. 1040 as the resolution states that Congress should take a hard look at the Flat Tax Act.

    While I was hopeful that comprehensive tax reform might become a reality, in an election year this may be a bridge too far.  However, I am encouraged at the universality that the notion of a flat tax is beginning to achieve.  Under Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform discussion draft, he lowered both the corporate and individual tax rates and began to take out deductions and expenditures within the code.

    At its core, a flat tax is a simple notion: There exists one rate of taxation applied to a tax filer’s income.  Under my version of the flat tax, H.R. 1040 would dramatically simplify the tax code by offering taxpayers the option to pay a single rate of tax instead of navigating the web of confusing tax provisions.  My legislation follows the principle of choice and allows individuals and businesses alike to opt into a 17% flat tax.  However, those who want to remain in the current system can continue to file as before.  My belief is that once a filer sees how easy filing a flat tax return is, they will not want to return to the previous, convoluted system.

    The benefits of a flat tax are many. A flatter, fairer tax structure would be simple and tax returns would be done on a single page, maybe even on a postcard.  Gone are the days of Americans spending over 6 billion hours filling out their tax forms.  Yet another benefit of the Flat Tax Act is that it eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, capital gains taxes, the estate tax and the marriage penalty.  These are federal gimmicks are unpopular, unfair and stymie economic growth.

    Critics often point out that by lowering the rates and creating one flat rate for all tax filers, the tax will not raise enough revenue necessary for the federal government to function.  However, historically, the amount of revenue that has been collected from an income tax necessary to sustain our federal government has been about 17%.  That is precisely the number that I propose in the Flat Tax Act.

    If one looks at other countries in which a flat tax was instituted, not only is adequate revenue generated, but there is a vast increase in both revenue and economic growth.  The theory is that by lowering the tax rate, taxpayers become more productive and create more economic growth, which in turn, provides more tax revenue because businesses are more successful and the economy is operating at a higher level.

    Believe it or not, around the world, Russia is a considered a prime case of the success of a flat tax.  After the first year of its introduction in the country, the real revenues from its personal income tax rose by 25% followed by a 24% increase in the second year and a 15% increase in the third year.

    Likewise, several U.S. states have also implemented a single flat tax.  Americans from Utah to Massachusetts have realized the benefits of switching to a flat rate of tax as applied to their income. State revenues have increased because of a flat tax as well.

    There is a clear trend developing here.  As evidenced by the recent actions by Chairmen Ryan and Camp, more and more budget and tax experts are supporting a flat rate of tax.  I am very encouraged by this sign.   For far too long, our tax system has been one of complexity, confusion and disenfranchisement.   A flatter and simpler tax where all taxpayers are equal is the answer to the ills of the present tax code.

    I applaud the House of Representatives for passing a fiscally responsible budget.  I applaud the consideration of H.R. 1040 within the House’s budget.  Now, let’s consider how the right change to the tax code could improve an antiquated system, save Americans time and money, and most importantly, deliver enduring prosperity for all.

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  • The FBI's Facial Recognition System Is A Privacy Nightmare That Collects Your Data Even If You've Never Broken The Law

    Girl computer

    The FBI is planning to build out a facial recognition system that can query a huge database of photos to identify someone based on his or her appearance regardless of criminal history, reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    This is part of the FBI's NGI system — Next Generation Identification — which could hold data on as much as one-third of all Americans. Privacy advocates are up in arms, of course. You only need to consider the overwhelming backlash we saw when facial recognition apps became available for Google Glass — they were summarily banned.

    This new arm of the NGI database will build off of the FBI's already impressive collection of fingerprints of approximately 100 million total records, some of which include retina scans and palm prints. Now their facial data will be part of this, joined with personal info such as address, age race, and name.

    By 2015, the system will be querying up to 52 million photos in order to identify people of interest. 46 million will come from criminal images, mugshots and the like. 4.3 million are "civil images" from other sources. 215,000 come from RISC, the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern. But the FBI doesn't specify where the last million photos or so come from — 750,000 from the "Special Population Cognizant" category and 215,000 from "New Repositories."

    Writes the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "[T]he FBI does not define either the 'Special Population Cognizant' database or the 'new repositories' category. This is a problem because we do not know what rules govern these categories, where the data comes from, how the images are gathered, who has access to them, and whose privacy is impacted."

    This plan is already underway in a few states with many more right on their heels. The EFF provides this map to help you determine if your home state gives a rip about your privacy.

    eff_us_map fbi_ngi_face_recognition_2

    Personally, we're most bothered by the FBI's assertion that the system will not actually "make positive identifications," but will instead generate an "investigative lead." It seems like a tedious, semantic way of being able to claim its facial recognition software will never make mistakes: "Therefore, there is no false positive [identification] rate."

    The EFF explains it thusly:

    [T]he FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”

    It is unclear what happens when the “true candidate” does not exist in the gallery—does NGI still return possible matches? Could those people then be subject to criminal investigation for no other reason than that a computer thought their face was mathematically similar to a suspect’s? This doesn’t seem to matter much to the FBI—the Bureau notes that because “this is an investigative search and caveats will be prevalent on the return detailing that the [non-FBI] agency is responsible for determining the identity of the subject, there should be NO legal issues.”

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  • This Map Of The Most Competitive States In America Is A Joke

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — an organization that pushes market reforms around the country — is out with its latest map of the most and least competitive states in America.

    The map is silly. Dynamic economies like New York and California are ranked near the bottom, while un-dynamic economies like Indiana and Wyoming are ranked near the top.

    Obviously ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business.

    Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.35.41 AM

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  • Putin Calls Obama About Ukraine, And The Conversation Is Tense

    AP120618149377

    U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone Monday about the escalating crisis in Ukraine, the White House and Kremlin both said. Readouts from both sides characterized the call as tense.

    The Kremlin said Putin told Obama to "use the American side's capabilities" to prevent the use of "force and bloodshed" — which has become increasingly likely in the face of pro-Russian forces battling government troops in the eastern part of Ukraine.

    In turn, the White House said Obama urged Putin to "use his influence" to convince pro-Russian separatists to lay down their arms. The White House said Obama expressed his "grave concern" about the Russian government's apparent support of the "armed, pro-Russian separatists," a charge Putin denied.

    Tensions heightened on Monday, as the U.S. said CIA Director John Brennan visited Kiev and a Russian war plane "buzzed" a U.S. warship in the Black Sea. The White House said Putin initiated the ensuing phone call between the leaders. 

    The Obama administration has spent the last few days ratcheting up its rhetoric and promising more "costs" for Russia if it continues displaying aggression towards Ukraine. Obama promised to inflict more "costs" on Russia during the phone call Monday, the White House said. Washington has also warned Putin's actions seem eerily reminiscent of the situation last month in Crimea before Russian troops entered that region. 

    The White House has openly accused Russia of supporting the "provocateurs" in Ukraine, and on Saturday, blamed the Russian government for "inciting violence and sabotage" in the country's eastern regions. According to the Kremlin's readout of their call, in response to Obama's concern over Russia's "supposed meddling," Putin said his suspicions Moscow is in any way involved in the pro-Russian protests wracking Ukraine are based on inaccuracies.

    On Monday, the pro-Russian separatists ignored an ultimatum to vacate occupied government buildings in nearly 10 Ukrainian cities. Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov on Monday called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the eastern part of the country.

    Here's the White House's full readout of the call:

    At Moscow’s request, President Obama spoke with Russian President Putin today about the situation in Ukraine.  The President expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilize the government of Ukraine.  The President emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.  The President reiterated the importance of Russia withdrawing its troops from Ukraine’s border in order to defuse tensions.  President Obama noted that despite the rhetoric from Russian officials, the government of Ukraine has acted with remarkable restraint, and he praised the Ukrainian government’s efforts to unify the country by holding free and fair presidential elections on May 25, pursuing inclusive constitutional reform and proposing concrete steps toward the decentralization of power.  The President noted Russia’s growing political and economic isolation as a result of its actions in Ukraine and made clear that the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist.  The President noted the upcoming contact group meeting in Geneva and said that while he continues to believe that a diplomatic solution is still possible, it cannot succeed in an environment of Russian military intimidation on Ukraine’s borders, armed provocation within Ukraine, and escalatory rhetoric by Kremlin officials.  

    And here's the Kremlin's readout of the call:

    The leaders discussed various aspects of the crisis situation in Ukraine, first and foremost in the southeastern regions engaged in a protest movement against the policies of the current authorities in Kiev.

    The Russian side stressed that the protests in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Slavyansk and other cities in southeastern Ukraine are the result of the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population. Vladimir Putin called upon Barack Obama to use the American side’s capabilities to prevent the use of force and bloodshed as much as possible.

    In response to the President of the United States’ expressed concern about Russia’s supposed meddling in southeastern Ukraine, the President of Russia noted that such speculations are based on inaccurate information. The current Ukrainian authorities must think first and foremost about truly involving all the main political forces and regions in a transparent process for developing a new constitution that guarantees the main rights and freedoms for citizens, the nation’s federal structure and its non-aligned status.

    The two sides agreed to continue efforts to seek diplomatic cooperation in the context of the Ukrainian situation ahead of the four-party meeting (EU, Russia, US, Ukraine) scheduled in Geneva on April 17.

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  • Police Don't Believe North Dakota Neo-Nazi Leader Tied To Anti-Semitic Shooting

    craig cobb

    The former Ku Klux Klan leader who has been accused of a shooting that left three people dead Sunday at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Overland Park, Kan. had been in touch with a prominent neo-Nazi who's in a North Dakota jail days before the incident. However, local officials said they do not believe the North Dakota man was tied to the killings.

    A federal prosecutor said Monday they intended to file hate crimes charges against the 73-year-old ex-KKK "grand dragon," Frazier Glenn Miller, aka Frazier Glenn Cross. Miller left behind an extensive history of white supremacist activities online, including a long record of postings on the site Vanguard News Network, where he used the name "Rounder." 

    Some of Miller's recent VNN posts describe him being in touch with Craig Cobb, a Leith, N.D. man who purchased property in the town with the intent of having members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement come in and take over the local government. Cobb was arrested last November after multiple people in the town claimed he and another man intimidated and followed them while brandishing guns. He is currently in jail in North Dakota awaiting charges of terrorizing Leith residents. Cobb is due in court April 29.

    On April 12, Miller wrote on VNN that he had just spoken on the phone with Cobb. Miller also encouraged his fellow "white nationalists," or WN for short, to send Cobb money.

    "I made him promise to visit me IF and WHEN he can," Miller said of Cobb. "I asked if any VNNers had written or sent money in past few weeks. He said none, except for "Paul" who writes him and also sends him $100 bills. Thanks Paul  - a WN with initiative and the will of his convictions."

    On Monday, Cobb told North Dakota's Bismarck Tribune newspaper he was friends with Miller and that they last spoke April 10. Cobb said Miller gave him no sign he was planning and attack and declined to comment further because, as the Tribune put it, the accusations against Miller "have nothing to do with him."

    Grant County North Dakota Deputy Sheriff John Foss told Business Insider authorities in Leith "don't have any belief in any ties" between Cobb and Miller. When pressed about the apparent communications between the two men indicated by Cobb's comments and Miller's postings, Foss explained that local law enforcement does not believe they communicated about the shooting.

    "They just knew each other," Foss said, adding, "All jail communication is monitored."

    Police in Overland Park, where Sunday's shooting occurred, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider Monday.  

     

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  • Here's Howard Stern Facing Off With The White Supremacist Accused Of Anti-Semitic Shooting

    Howard Stern

    Shock jock Howard Stern once traded shots with the suspect in Sunday's shooting that left three people dead at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas. 

    Frazier Glenn Miller, aka Frazier Glenn Cross, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, posted audio of an interview he did on Stern's radio show on his website. The interview appears to date from Miller's unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign as Stern refers to the race and quips Miller is "the only honest politician out there." Throughout the interview, Miller rages about Jews. 

    "Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions," Miller said.

    Stern's co-host, Robin Quivers, asked Miller to explain "the biggest problem with the Jews."

    "They control the federal government, they control the mass media, they control the Federal Reserve Bank, and with those powers, they commit genocide against the white race," said Miller. "The Jews control the United States government according to Patrick Buchanan."

    Stern also asked Miller to explain his campaign slogan, which is: "It's the Jews, stupid."

    "That really tells it all, doesn't it?" Miller said. 

    At one point, Miller challenged Stern, who is Jewish.

    "What gives Jews the right to Israel? You tell us," Miller said to the host. "You're a Jew. You support Israel and you know it."

    "Oh, I do support Israel," responded Stern. "I think it's great."

    Listen to the full audio of their exchange below.   

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  • New York Lawmaker Warns That AirBNB Could Be Used For Gambling And Drugs Next

    Airbnb logo 1

    New York State Senator Liz Krueger issued a statement saying a New York Post report published Monday that described escort services using AirBnB shows how the startup dedicated to letting people rent their homes and apartments to guests could fuel illicit activities.

    In addition to prostitution, Krueger claimed Air BnB could also lead to gambling and drugs.

    "The outcome of this, predictably, has been constant streams of tourists disrupting residential buildings, and other inappropriate, even illegal activity floating from building to building," said Krueger of the company's services. "Today it's a prostitution ring, tomorrow it could be an illegal gambling ring, and maybe next week it could be a drug operation. There's really no way to know."

    The Post report included an interview with a prostitute who said her escort service generally uses Air BnB rooms rather than hotels to "save $200 to $300 a night." The Post also told the story of a woman who said she rented her apartment via Air BnB only to receive a call from police when an alleged prostitute got slashed there after getting into an argument over the price of their services. According to the woman, when she returned to the apartment, she found "baby wipes and 'at least 10 condoms'" inside. Air BnB subsequently paid for the woman to temporarily stay in a hotel, cleaned her apartment, and replaced some of her belongings.

    Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has sponsored legislation in 2010 aimed at helping New York City take action against illegal short term renters, said prostitution was an "obvious" consequence of Air BnB's business.

    "When residential housing ceases to be residential—via online businesses, like Airbnb, turning residential apartments into illegal, unregulated hotel rooms—all kinds of undesirable and illegal activity can be brought into a residential building," said Krueger. "Prostitution wasn't really at the top of our minds when we passed the 2010 law helping NYC enforce against illegal short-term rentals, but in hindsight it seems kind of obvious."

    She also argued Air BnB needs to do more than "textbook PR" to help people avoid "disasters" like finding escort services in their home. 

    "What we do know is that Airbnb continues to demand we legalize its illegal conversion of apartments into short-term hotel rooms," Krueger said. "And while it's nice that Airbnb spares no expense in compensating hosts who experience disasters like the use of their apartment as a headquarters for a floating brothel, that's a textbook PR tactic and shouldn't be mistaken for actual responsibility. Because if Airbnb were truly responsible, they would stop openly violating our local laws, or at least stop enthusiastically encouraging New Yorkers to rent out their apartments without giving them fair warning that it's probably illegal, almost certainly violates their rental lease or coop/condo rules, and could get them evicted."

    Kruger also said Air BnB doesn't isn't concerned about the consequences of its actions because its executives don't live in the buildings where it rents rooms.

    "There's a reason that we zone certain areas, buildings, and neighborhoods to be residential -- both because we need to protect the limited housing stock we have from being arbitraged into other uses, and because residents living side-by-side and on top of one another in apartment buildings deserve some ground rules and guarantees about what they have to put up with," said Krueger. "Companies like Airbnb have decided to ignore all that, so they can pull in revenue from the estimated two thirds of their New York City business that's illegal. What do they care? They don't live in these buildings."

    Last year, a New York City man said his department was severely damaged after Air BnB renters used it for an event marketed as an "XXX Freak Fest." Air BnB customers have also reportedly used rentals for prostitution in Washington D.C. The company responded to the Post story by noting it is cooperating with the police. 

    "The entire hospitality industry deals with issues like this, and we have zero tolerance for this activity," the company said. 

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  • The Guardian And Washington Post Win Journalism's Biggest Prize For Exposing The Snowden Revelations

    Glenn Greenwald

    The Washington Post and The Guardian shared journalism's biggest prize on Monday, winning the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in public service for its reporting on the trove of documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden

    The Pulitzer committee awarded both publications the honor. Of The Washington Post, the committee said it had revealed "widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security."

    Of The Guardian, the committee said it had helped "through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy."

    Barton Gellman led the Post's reporting on the Snowden disclosures, along with filmmaker Laura Poitras. Glenn Greenwald, the brash privacy advocate and journalist who now serves as an editor at The Intercept. 

    The stories have continued to fuel discussion about the NSA's surveillance methods. Late last month, President Barack Obama said he intends to introduce legislation that would overhaul the method by which the National Security Agency collects and stores data.

    Here's the complete list of winners in journalistic categories:

    Public ServiceThe Guardian US The Washington Post

    Breaking News Reporting: Staff of The Boston Globe

    Investigative Reporting: Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, DC

    Explanatory Reporting: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post

    Local Reporting: Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Tampa Bay Times

    National Reporting: David Philipps of The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO

    International Reporting: Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters

    Feature Writing: No award (first time in a decade)

    Commentary: Stephen Henderson of Detroit Free Press

    Criticism: Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Editorial Writing: Editorial Staff of The Oregonian, Portland

    Editorial Cartooning: Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer

    Breaking News Photography: Tyler Hicks of The New York Times

    Feature Photography: Josh Haner of The New York Times

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  • Here Comes The Next Big Fight Over Obamacare

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican leaders plan on using the nomination of White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a full-fledged audit of the Affordable Care Act.

    Last weekend's Freedom Summit rally in New Hampshire provided a preview of how top Republicans hope Burwell's confirmation process will let them renew focus on "Obamacare," with polls indicating hammering the law could cement several GOP victories in the upcoming midterms. 

    "She'll essentially be in charge of what's left of trying to make a system that hasn't been working very well work," Paul told reporters at an event in Dover on Friday. "So I think it's legitimate to ask her some questions on how she's going to make it better."

    Burwell is almost certain to be confirmed — eventually. Senate rules changes last year ensured any presidential nominees only need a majority of Senators' votes to be confirmed. With the Democratic Senate majority, that means no Republicans will have to vote for Burwell. Instead, Republicans plan to use Burwell's confirmation hearings to take on Obamacare, which they're hoping will lead to a political windfall in the upcoming mid-term elections.

    On Friday, Paul rattled off some of those potential questions that could pop up during Burwell's confirmation proceedings. What happens if rates go up significantly? How many people have fully enrolled in plans through the exchanges, including paying their premiums? Will employers scrap renewing their plans in the small-group market and push employees onto the exchanges? And will there be any unexpected surprises, such as patients learning they may have fewer options under their new plans?

    Burwell's confirmation hearings will also be a time for Republicans to question her about some of the more controversial aspects of the law. For example, they will likely ask Burwell to explain why President Barack Obama kept making the now infamous promise people would be able to keep their insurance plans if they liked them.

    "I hope this is the start of a candid conversation about Obamacare’s shortcomings," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement reacting to Burwell's nomination last Thursday. 

    Polls have continued to show Obamacare could be a potent weapon for Republicans this campaign season.

    About eight in 10 voters say a candidate's stance on the law will be important when they vote this November, according to a new Pew Research-USA Today poll released last Thursday. That includes more than half — 54 percent — who say it will be "very important."

    The group rating Obamacare as "very important" is made up of many enthusiastic Republicans as well as Independent voters. By nearly a 2-1 margin, those who say the law will be "very important" in determining their vote disapprove of Obamacare.

    Sebelius' resignation and Burwell's subsequent nomination can help keep the law in the news.

    At the Freedom Summit on Saturday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Sebelius' resignation served as the "latest reminder of the disaster of a failure that has been Obamacare." He also suggested this was a chance to re-examine Obamacare, and he used it as another opportunity to pledge Republicans would repeal "every single word" of the law.

    "I think the reason Kathleen Sebelius resigned is that Senate Democrats are running scared," Cruz said. "They're terrified of how badly the harm Obamacare is causing millions of Americans, and they're looking for a scapegoat. They want to put Obamacare behind them, but the answer is not simply having one person resign. The answer is for congressional Democrats to realize this thing isn't working."

    Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn suggested Senate Republicans grill Burwell on enrollment numbers and the "math" of the law in an interview with Business Insider at the summit Saturday. Blackburn said Obama's selection of Burwell was a signal the administration "knows it has a math problem," hinting she doesn't believe the administration's figure of 7 million Obamacare enrollees.

    "They know that their numbers are not going to work," Blackburn said. "They know something about that 7 million people who have gone to the website and supposedly signed up. They are realizing they are going to have to be spinning this. Whether it is not all of them have paid, or too large a number got subsidies, or there are too many Medicaid enrollees, or there are not enough young enrollees, in actuality, this is not going to be sustainable." 

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  • This CBO Report Is Another Big Win For Obamacare

    Barack Obama

    More than 12 million people will gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office Monday. And millions more stand to benefit from the law over the next decade.

    At the same time, the law's costs to the federal government are shrinking. According to the new projections, the federal government will spend more than $100 billion less on Obamacare's coverage provisions through 2024 than previously projected. That includes a downward estimate of about $5 billion this year. Overall, spending on the federal and state insurance exchanges are projected to cost 14% less than originally forecast.

    The CBO said plans offered through the exchanges are narrower, allowing companies to keep premiums low and the federal government to pay less in subsidies. The lower spending projections on the Affordable Care Act will help shrink deficits overall. The CBO said the federal government will now run a deficit of $492 billion in fiscal year 2014, which is almost a 33% decrease from 2013.

    Through both the federal and state insurance exchanges and the expansion of the federal Medicaid program under the law, the CBO projects more than 12 million people now have insurance who wouldn't have normally been covered in the absence of the law. The CBO also projects 19 million people will gain coverage by 2015, 25 million more by 2016, and 26 million more by 2026.

    In 2014, according to the CBO, about 6 million people gained insurance from the exchanges and close to 7 million people benefitted from the Medicaid expansion. Those gains reduced the number of uninsured in the U.S. to 42 million —16% of the population. By 2024, the CBO projects, about 89% of U.S. residents will have health insurance.

    Here's a chart from the CBO showing the parallel universe between a U.S. with the Affordable Care Act in 2024 and one without it:

    CBO Obamacare

    There's one key difference between the CBO's projections and a study released last week by RAND Corp., which said a net 9.3 million people had gained insurance coverage from September through March: The RAND study said most of those who gained coverage did so through employer-sponsored coverage, something the CBO said did not contribute to any relative gains in coverage.

    The Obama administration has spent much of the past two weeks trumpeting the law in spite of a disastrous rollout. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned last week, said 7.5 million people had enrolled in plans through the exchanges by the end of the law's first open enrollment period on March 31.

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/iNLWvpDX2gk/cbo-obamacare-report-how-many-people-are-insured-2014-4

  • This Chart Shows How The Racial Makeup Of America Will Change In The Next 50 Years

    The racial composition of America has been gradually changing over the past several decades, and we're expected to see a major shift in the coming 50 years. 

    By 2060, the country will be considerably more diverse, according to this chart from the Pew Research Center:

    Pew race chart

    Of the more than 40 million immigrants who have come to America since 1965, half of them have been Hispanic and nearly a third of them have been Asian, according to Pew.

    As the chart illustrates, the Hispanic population is expected to grow significantly throughout the next five decades, while the white population is expected to decline.

    Pew has a new book out called "The Next America" that explores the changing demographics in the U.S.

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/Zb6zfFwNW0U/pew-chart-on-americas-changing-demographics-2014-4

  • Jeb Bush Was Public Enemy No. 1 At One Of The Year's Biggest Conservative Gatherings

    Jeb BushMANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has started, over the past few weeks, to ratchet up talk of a potential presidential run in 2016. If that's the case, the reaction he received this weekend at a gathering of conservatives in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire was not what he was looking for. 

    Bush served as a punch line for — of all people — Donald Trump. 

    "You know, I heard Jeb Bush the other day," Trump said during his speech at the Freedom Summit, hosted by the conservative groups Citizens United and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. 

    The crowd immediately started to boo and groan upon hearing Bush's name. Trump then referenced comments Bush had made on immigration on April 6, when he said most people who cross the border illegally do so out of "love." 

    "He was talking about people that come into this country illegally. They do it for love," Trump said as the boos got louder.

    "And I said, say it again. I didn't get — that's one I've never heard of before," Trump said. "I've heard money, I've heard this, I've heard sex, I've heard everything! The one thing I never heard of was love. I understand what he's saying, but, you know, it's out there, I'll tell you."

    The crowd laughed. 

    Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and younger son of President George H.W. Bush, wasn't just a joke for Trump in New Hampshire this weekend. The man many describe as a potential front-runner for the GOP nomination was public enemy No. 1 at the Granite State's conservative gathering.

    An organizer told Business Insider that Bush was invited to the event but declined. With the sort of reception that the mere utterance of his name received here, it's not hard to see why. 

    The two biggest hurdles for Bush with grassroots conservatives: his support for immigration reform and his support of the Common Core State Standards. Both were lightning rods among attendees in New Hampshire, and most of the invited speakers distanced themselves from these positions.

    Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, generally thought of as the front-runner in New Hampshire, if he pursues a run at the Republican nomination, gave Bush's comments a decidedly backhanded compliment, saying they were "well intentioned" and that you "can't invite everyone who loves America or someone in America" into America.

    Even former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — who's more sympathetic to immigration reform than many other conservatives — characterized Bush's comments as going a bit too far. However, Huckabee said he thought Bush's remarks had been blown out of proportion.

    "I think what Jeb was trying to say was that many people come to the United States to look for opportunity," Huckabee said. "I don't personally support amnesty. I think we ought to have a secure border."

    Huckabee went on to urge conservatives to cut Bush "some slack." Other speakers weren't as sympathetic.

    Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has been at the forefront of a small, vocal vanguard of House Republicans vehemently opposed to immigration-reform legislation, said he would "leave it to Jeb" to clarify what he meant. But King said he could think of a number of reasons why immigrants would cross the border illegally, and most of them have little to do with love. Some are for work — others for illegal purposes.

    "If you extrapolate this, then who would not be exempt from the law if they could claim an 'act of love'?" King told Business Insider. "That's a pretty mushy legal theory."

    Bush didn't get directly slammed for his support of the Common Core standards, but it was clear his stance on the issue will be a problem come 2016. Almost every speaker mentioned Common Core at the Freedom Summit. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the other leading GOP presidential hopeful at the summit, said the standards should be repealed. 

    "Get rid of Common Core and replace it with common sense!" said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who denied she was "testing the waters" for a possible campaign

    One attendee named Sue, who didn't want to provide her last name, said Bush's problems go far beyond his most recognizable obstacle — his last name.

    "You look at some of his positions and you say, 'He just doesn't really seem in step with us,'" she said.

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