January 05, 2016

Florida official predicts surge in concealed weapons permits because of Obama executive action

@JeremySWallace

A key Florida official is blasting President Barack Obama for his latest executive action on guns, saying it is only going to result in a dramatic increase in the number of Floridians who will want a concealed weapons permit.

“Due to this overreaching executive action, we anticipate a surge in the number of applications for concealed weapon licenses in Florida, and we are preparing to meet this increased demand,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office handles concealed weapons permits.

Florida has 1.4 million concealed weapons licenses currently.

“Our right to bear arms is enshrined in our U.S. Constitution, yet President Obama has again circumvented Congress with this executive action, infringing on law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” said Putnam, a Republican who served in Congress for 10 years before being elected the state’s Agriculture Commissioner in 2010.

At the centerpiece of Obama's plan is a more sweeping definition of gun dealers that the administration hopes will expand the number of sales subject to background checks. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. But at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often skirt that requirement by declining to register as licensed dealers.

Aiming to narrow that loophole, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is issuing updated guidance that says the government should deem anyone "in the business" of selling guns to be a dealer, regardless of where he or she sells the guns. To that end, the government will consider other factors, including how many guns a person sells, how frequently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

December 31, 2015

Is Gitmo a key part of ISIS recruitment propaganda?

Supporters of closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, including President Barack Obama, often refer to the military prison’s existence as a major recruitment tool for terrorist groups.

The theory is that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can rally potential followers by highlighting alleged human rights abuses against suspected terrorists held at the prison.

But Weekly Standard senior editor Stephen Hayes said this is flat-out wrong.

Guantanamo has "never been a key component of ISIS or al-Qaida propaganda, and yet the president is insisting on moving forward and closing it," Hayes said on Fox News Sunday Dec. 27.

We decided to get to the bottom of this question. See what Lauren Carroll of PunditFact found.

December 28, 2015

Jeb Bush dishes about Donald Trump and Barack Obama at West Palm Beach Forum Club event

Jeb Bush laid out familiar criticisms of Donald Trump and President Barack Obama in a speech in West Palm Beach Monday.

Bush spoke to about 900 people at the Forum Club, an event that draws a business and government crowd. It followed an event Bush held at Chico’s restaurant in Hialeah earlier in the day.

Bush criticized Obama’s handling of the war on terror.

“Our president can’t even call it what it is,” Bush said, a veiled reference to Obama avoiding the term “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Bush said that Obama “brags about containment and then within hours the Paris attacks take place and then the San Bernardino attacks takes place.”

When Obama made a comment about “containment” of ISIS in November, he was referring to ISIS’s territorial expansion in Iraq and Syria, PolitiFact found. Obama did not rule out the potential for a terrorist attack.

Bush repeated familiar lines about his tenure as governor including his nickname of “Veto Corleone” and about cutting state jobs while overall jobs in the state grew (during a booming economy).

In response to a question on immigration, Bush snuck in an attack on some of his GOP rivals when he said “I haven’t changed my views. Candidates seem to go into the witness protection about this issue.”

That could have been a veiled attack on his rival, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who backed comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 and now calls for a piecemeal approach. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has also changed part of his message on immigration -- for example he no longer supports expanding H1-B visas.

Bush made several jabs at Trump including that Vladimir Putin had praised the GOP frontrunner and Bush also knocked Trump for referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

Although most of the event focused on serious topics such as terrorism, guns and ISIS Bush managed to sprinkle in a tad of humor -- particularly about Trump.

At the end of the event, the moderator asked Bush what he would say to Trump if he walked into the room.

“Donald I will take you on one on one in a debate. Anytime, any place.”

December 17, 2015

Obama: 'Important steps' taken in past year between U.S., Cuba

From the White House:

One year ago, I announced that after more than 50 years, America would change its relationship with Cuba and put the interests of the people of both countries before the outdated ways of the past. Since then, we have taken important steps forward to normalize relations between our countries—re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies; facilitating greater travel and commerce; connecting more Americans and Cubans; and promoting the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. We are advancing our shared interests and working together on complex issues that for too long defined—and divided—us. Meanwhile, the United States is in a stronger position to engage the people and governments of our hemisphere.Congress can support a better life for the Cuban people by lifting an embargo that is a legacy of a failed policy.

Today, the Stars and Stripes again fly over our Embassy in Havana. Today, more Americans are visiting Cuba and engaging the Cuban people than at any time in the last 50 years. We continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but we raise those issues directly, and we will always stand for human rights and the universal values that we support around the globe. Change does not happen overnight, and normalization will be a long journey. The last 12 months, however, are a reminder of the progress we can make when we set the course toward a better future. Over the next year, we will continue on this path, empowering Cubans and Americans to lead the way.

Miami Republicans slam U.S.-Cuba policy, a year after change

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's Cuban-American Republicans in Congress used Thursday's one-year anniversary of renewed U.S.-Cuba relations to bash President Obama's policies.

In a statement, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the change a "sham." In an op-ed published on Medium, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart noted that "Cubans are departing Cuba in record numbers." And in a news release styled as an email tipsheet, presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio decried a Cuban "chokehold on freedom."

Here's Rubio's statement:

The first year of President Obama's Cuba policy has been like the rest of his foreign policy: a disaster that prioritizes legacy-shaping headlines over freedom and results, treats our enemies far better than our allies, and negotiates deals from a position of weakness -– as if we are ashamed of our moral obligations as the world’s most powerful nation. Because of President Obama's Cuba policy, the U.S. has never been closer to the tyrants that rule the island or more alienated from the Cuban people working tirelessly to build a free and democratic future. Because of President Obama's weakness in negotiating with the Castro regime, cop killers, terrorists and other fugitives from U.S. justice continue to enjoy greater freedoms in Cuba than average Cubans who are experiencing a historically relentless wave of repression and political arrests this year.

American businesses have placed a risky bet to enrich themselves and, in the process, enrich the Cuban military that actually controls the economy. The next U.S. president should end the many concessions this one has made to the regime, and send a clear message that betting against the Cuban people's free and democratic future is a losing bet. With a year to go, President Obama can still inflict a lot of damage that further sets back the cause of a free and democratic Cuba, but those who care about freedom and the fate of the Cuban people will continue to fight him at every turn.

Here's Ros-Lehtinen's statement:

Continue reading "Miami Republicans slam U.S.-Cuba policy, a year after change" »

A year of change in U.S.-Cuba relations

via @HeraldMimi

In the year since the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement began, some things have seemed to move at warp speed, but others have smacked into the reality that the two former Cold War enemies still have two very different systems and have barely talked to each other in five decades.

There have been important symbolic changes. An American flag now waves over a U.S. Embassy in Havana, and a Cuban flag flies at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., after an absence of more than 54 years. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro have met face-to-face twice and talked by telephone three times, even joking about the famously long speeches of Fidel Castro.

Cuba has been removed from the U.S. black list of state sponsors of terrorism, and there have been talks on prickly issues such as migration, human rights, and claims for confiscated property of U.S. citizens and corporations.

But because expectations were so high and many U.S. businesses were so eager to engage after a half-century drought, some say Cuba has been slow in taking up the United States on the new business opportunities the Obama administration began outlining in January. Obama also has said he wants to work with Congress to lift the embargo.

Expectations were high among the Cuban people, too, said Domingo Amuchástegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer who left the island in 1994, because “in Cuba’s political culture, when the president says something is going to be done, take his word, it will be done. Cubans who heard Obama thought this is the president’s word.”

More here.

View an interactive timeline here.

December 14, 2015

Yahoo Politics: Obama hopes to visit Cuba, if he can meet with dissidents

From Yahoo Politics:

President Obama promised in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News that he “very much” hopes to visit Cuba during his last year in office, but only if he can meet with pro-democracy dissidents there.

“If I go on a visit, then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody,” Obama said. “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President [Raul] Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”

Speaking in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Obama strongly hinted that he would make a decision “over the next several months.”

The president said he hopes that “sometime next year” he and his top aides will see enough progress in Cuba that they can say that “now would be a good time to shine a light on progress that’s been made, but also maybe (go) there to nudge the Cuban government in a new direction.”

White House aides privately describe an Obama visit – under the right circumstances – as the logical culmination of the new policy direction that he announced almost exactly one year ago.

More here.

December 08, 2015

Following Paris attack, did White House rule out an ISIS attack at home as Joe Scarborough says?

President Barack Obama seems "clueless" on the threat of the Islamic State, said MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.

"First of all he won’t even call it Islamic radicalism," said the former Florida Congressman on Morning Joe Dec. 4, the day after the deadly terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. "His White House said, the weekend of Paris, that this couldn't happen in the United States. ISIS couldn't reach us here."

It’s accurate that Obama doesn’t call ISIS "Islamic radicalism" or "Islamic extremism." A reader asked us to look into the second part of Scarborough’s statement: that in the days following the Friday, Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris, the Obama administration said an ISIS attack couldn’t happen in the United States.

An MSNBC spokesperson directed us to comments made by Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, on ABC’s This Week on Nov. 15. But they don’t back up Scarborough’s claim in the least.

See what Lauren Carroll of PunditFact found.

December 04, 2015

Do fish really swim in the streets of Miami as Barack Obama says? See what the Truth-O-Meter found

ObamaParisReuters

As the world watched President Barack Obama’s news conference about climate change, he drew on South Florida to illustrate a point about the impact -- and he zeroed in on fish.

"As the science around climate change is more accepted, as people start realizing that even today you can put a price on the damage that climate change is doing -- you go down to Miami and when it's flooding at high tide on a sunny day, fish are swimming through the middle of the streets, you know, that -- there's a cost to that," Obama said at the climate change conference in Paris Dec. 1.

That opened the floodgates to a question about whether there are truly fish in the streets.

At a town hall event in Iowa, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was among the skeptics: "Obama said today the streets of Miami are flooded and fish are falling on them. I live there. I don’t know what he’s talking about.’’

So is it a tall tale that fish swim in the streets of Miami? It’s certainly not a regular occurrence. But some people, including a few public officials, say they have seen it. And most importantly, it's been caught on video.

See how PolitiFact Florida rated this claim.

December 01, 2015

Obama on climate change in Miami: 'Fish are swimming through the middle of the streets'

Obama France Climate Countdown@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama once again used Miami as an example of a place already feeling the effects of climate change, giving reporters Tuesday a somewhat exaggerated example about the city's high tides showing the costs of letting seas continue to rise.

"I think that as the science around climate change is more accepted, as people start realizing that even today you can put a price on the damage that climate change is doing -- you know, you go down to Miami and when it's flooding at high tide on a sunny day and fish are swimming through the middle of the streets -- you know, that there's a cost to that," Obama said at the Paris climate talks.

While Miami Beach has certainly suffered from sunny-day floods during high tides, recent reports about fish swimming in the street have come from further north in Broward County and are far from widespread. No one's pulling out their fishing rods on the road.

WSVN-FOX 7 reported in September that a mullet was spotted swimming in Fort Lauderdale. A member of the Miami Herald and WLRN radio's Public Insight Network reported in October that she saw fish in the streets of Hollywood during a king tide.

Former Vice President Al Gore told the public radio show The Takeaway last week: "I was in Miami last month and fish from the ocean were swimming on some of the streets on a sunny day because it was a high tide. In Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, many other places -- that happens regularly." "Regularly" sounds a like a bit of a stretch.

Obama referenced Miami last year when he spoke about climate change to the United Nations. "Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods in high tide," he said then. 

--with Jenny Staletovich

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press