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The 'fakes' industry is worth $461 billion

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:52am

Think twice before you buy those shoes online.

The shady business of "fakes" and counterfeit goods has ballooned into a global industry worth as much as $461 billion, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Counterfeit trade amounted to as much as 2.5% of world trade in 2013, up from an estimated 1.9% in 2008. That's equivalent to the size of Austria's economy.

Global data on customs seizures shows Rolex, Nike, Ray Ban and Louis Vuitton were the brands with the most knockoffs.

Footwear is the product counterfeited the most, followed by clothing, leather goods and gadgets, according to the report, which was created in partnership with the European Union's Intellectual Property Office.

The OECD singles out China as the top place where counterfeit goods are made and sold and noted that imports of "fakes" into the European Union accounted for 5% of total imports.

While buying a fake purse or pirated movie may seem harmless on the surface, the report warns that it is "a significant economic threat that undermines innovation and hampers economic growth."

Ultimately, it harms the firms that created the original products by diluting their brand and ripping off their intellectual property, patents and trademarks.

Furthermore, the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and children's toys can be a health and safety hazard.

Ecuador earthquake: Rescuers rush to find more victims

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:46am

Thousands of Ecuadorians awoke Monday from a second night sleeping outside or in temporary shelters following a weekend earthquake that killed at least 272 people and collapsed overpasses and buildings.

"What am I going to do?" asked Nely Intriago, standing in front of the rubble of a home. "Cry, that's what. Now we are on the street with nothing."

With the death toll expected to rise -- at least 2,527 people were hurt and others are missing -- Ecuadorian rescuers searched for more victims of Saturday's quake, which struck 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"The first hours are crucial," President Rafael Correa said Sunday night. "We're finding signs of life in the rubble. We're giving this priority. After, we'll work to find and recover bodies."

Ecuador deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas. Troops set up mobile hospitals and temporary shelters. The military also brought in search dogs to help find survivors and bodies.

Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru and other countries sent rescuers and aid. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was prepared help "in any way we can."

The hardest-hit area of the South American nation was the coastal Manabi Province, where about 200 people died, said Ricardo Peñaherrera of Ecuador's national emergency management office. The cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, a tourist destination, saw the most devastation but damage was widespread throughout the country.

Videos showed rescuers pulling a young girl underneath the rubble of the Hotel Miami in the province of Manabi, finally getting her out and taking her away on a stretcher.

Getting supplies and rescue crews to the affected areas has been a challenge.

"The lack of water and communication remains a big problem," Peñaherrera told CNN en Español. "Many highways are in bad shape, especially in the mountainous area because it has been raining recently due to (the) El Niño weather phenomenon."

Correa arrived in the city of Portoviejo on Sunday night after cutting short his visit to a Vatican conference.

"I have infinite gratitude to the spirit of the Ecuadorian people, of our firefighters, our soldiers, our policemen and all workers who haven't slept, haven't eaten as they work hard to save lives," he said after arriving.

The President's official Twitter account used a hashtag that translated to "Ecuador ready and in solidarity" and showed him at one of the disaster sites.

The earthquake hit Saturday around 7 p.m. in this country of 15 million people, buckling overpasses and trapping drivers. A shopping mall partially collapsed on customers and several buildings were flattened, their contents spilling out into the streets.

Video from a store in Guayaquil showed kitchen utensils swinging back and forth as some items tumbled off shelves.

"It was the worst experience of my life," survivor Jose Meregildo said Sunday about the tremors that violently shook his house in Guayaquil, 300 miles away from the quake's epicenter. "Everybody in my neighborhood was screaming, saying it was going to be the end of the world."

All six coastal provinces -- Guayas, Manabi, Santo Domingo, Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Galapagos -- are under states of emergency.

Ecuador's Interior Ministry ordered all nightlife venues in affected areas closed temporarily, and the nation's soccer federation suspended the Ecuadorian championship tournament.

The earthquake was the deadliest to hit the nation since March 1987, when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed 1,000 people, according to the USGS.

On Sunday, Pope Francis asked for prayers for those affected by the earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.

"Last night a violent earthquake hit Ecuador, causing numerous victims and great damages," Francis said. "Let's pray for those populations, and for those of Japan, where as well there has been some earthquakes in the last days."

Japan was hit with a series of earthquakes last week that killed dozens.

Can you be too fit for a heart attack?

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:42am

What you probably don't know about heart attacks can kill you. Working out every day and eating healthy doesn't mean you're immune to the leading killer of men and women in the United States.

Alex Small started his 37th birthday last September the same as any other day. "I wake up at 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning, and go work out. Work out for about an hour, come home, eat breakfast, shower and go to work."

That morning, after having breakfast with his wife and two children, Small started to feel a burning sensation and discomfort in his chest, the most common heart attack symptom for men and women. He started to worry as it became more persistent while he drove to work. Then came a little chest pressure, and he wasn't able to breathe full and deep breaths.

"In the back of my mind, I was thinking maybe I had eaten something and was having an allergic reaction," Small recalled. "Maybe I pulled a muscle from working out."

He was actually having a major heart attack. He knew about the symptoms of a heart attack -- his wife works with heart surgery patients in a hospital. But between his healthy lifestyle and lack of family history of heart disease, it just didn't occur to him.

Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack

According to the American Heart Association, warning signs and symptoms besides chest discomfort and shortness of breath include discomfort in other areas of the upper body, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Because symptoms can include chest pressure, not just pain, people often think it's just indigestion. People need to be conscious of all the symptoms, especially if they already have risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Minutes matter when it comes to anyone having a heart attack. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before seeking help. The longer you wait, the more heart or brain tissue dies, and the greater the likelihood of death or disability. About every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.

Small pulled his car into a parking lot but then thought, "If this is bad, this is the last place I want to be, because nobody is here." He then pulled into a gas station nearby to get an aspirin, hoping to relieve some of the discomfort. Aspirin "thins" the blood and helps prevent blood clots from forming. It's a common thought for many when experiencing discomfort.

By that time, Small was starting to sweat and feeling more pressure in his chest. He also felt dizzy. Small passed out at the gas station, and an ambulance was quickly called.

Small was in cardiac arrest and was rushed to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, where Dr. Christopher Meduri, an interventional cardiologist, took over care. A father of four young children himself and the same age as his patient, Meduri immediately related to Small's case.

By going through Small's wrist, in a process known as radial cardiac catheterization, doctors were able to take pictures of his heart. What they found was blockage in the left anterior descending artery, an area called the "widowmaker" because blockages at the beginning of its course can shut the whole artery down. Meduri was able to quickly get that artery back open, and stented it.

The sooner a patient gets to an emergency room, the sooner he or she can receive treatment to prevent total blockage and heart muscle damage or reduce the amount of damage. "It really builds on the idea that people must identify their symptoms quickly, and address them quickly," Meduri added.

Small's heart function was only 20% to 25% after the procedure, said Meduri. "We usually have (the patient) take it easy for the first month or two afterward." With medication, cardiac rehab and the help of a special heart monitor, within a month Small had almost a full recovery of his heart function. By three months, his heart had fully normalized.

Who's at risk?

The risk of a heart attack climbs for men after age 45 and for women after age 55. Small had no heart disease history in his family, normally another risk factor.

With Small being so physically active, Meduri said he thinks the strength of Small's heart, independent of his heart attack, boded well for his recovery. Meduri said it doesn't appear that there would be any direct correlation with Small's vigorous exercise activities and his risk of heart attack. The best guess is that he is that one person out of 1,000 who may have a higher risk by doing higher intensity workouts.

According to Meduri, having a healthy heart revolves around two things: diet and exercise. "We want to really make sure we are having a healthy heart diet with controlling the salt intake we have in our diet, and fat intake as well. Someone should also be active and participate in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity four to five times per week. Also, if someone does have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or diabetes, (it's important) to really have these things under control," Meduri added.

Now friends, Small and Meduri plan to run their first 5K together. As Small pushes himself to that level for the first time since the heart attack (he has run marathons in the past), it will be reassuring to have his cardiologist right by his side.

Report: Up to 500,000 Californians may be blocked from voting

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:40am

Nearly half a million California voters may be unable to participate in the state's presidential primaries on June 7 as a result of confusion in the voter registration process, a Los Angeles Times investigation has discovered.

Hundreds of thousands of Californians who intended to register as independents may have accidentally registered instead with the ultra-conservative American Independent Party (AIP), which opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and calls for building a fence along the entire U.S. border.

The LA Times reports that "a majority of (AIP) members have registered with the party in error" and that "nearly 3-in-4 people did not realize they had joined the party" after surveying registered members.

The Times had a team of Republican and Democratic pollsters contact a list of 500 AIP members, obtained through a public records request, who determined that "fewer than 4% could correctly identify their own registration as a member of the American Independent Party."

Many of those contacted were confused by the inclusion of the term "independent" in the party's name and thought they had registered as independent voters with no party affiliation -- which would have allowed them to participate in the state's Democratic primary, unlike AIP voters.

The Times found that more than 50% of those polled said they wanted to leave AIP after being read parts of the party platform.

Additionally, the registration rolls of AIP revealed some high-profile figures who unwittingly joined the party when they meant to declare they had no party affiliation.

Members include celebrities Demi Moore, Emma Stone, Sugar Ray Leonard and Kaley Cuoco, as well as Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of the state's former GOP governor, and Silicon Valley power players Mark Pincus and Jim Breyer.

All of the public figures and celebrities who were mentioned in the report responded to the investigation with statements saying they intend to change their registrations.

The deadline to register or change voter registration in California for the June 7 primary is May 23. But state rules block voters who are mistakenly registered with AIP from participating in other primary contests, so voters accidentally enrolled in AIP will need to act in order to cast primary ballots.

California Republicans are holding a closed primary, meaning only registered Republicans can participate. In the Democratic primary, registered Democrats and "no party preference" voters are allowed. Neither primary allows for participation by AIP members, who are explicitly registered with the party and can only vote for candidates on the AIP ballot.

Despite the widespread confusion revealed by the LA Times investigation, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he wasn't looking to address the situation, according to the report.

"My office isn't in the business of censoring or amending a political party's name. It's a very imperfect process," he told the LA Times.

Meanwhile, Mark Seidenberg, the AIP chairman of Aliso Viejo, "expressed skepticism" about the Times investigation.

"I'm just sorry that people get confused. A lot of people just don't understand what they're doing when they fill out a form," he told the LA Times.

But other election officials have expressed concern and frustration. Gail Pellerin, Santa Cruz County's registrar of voters, told the newspaper: "I think the name should be something different. Right now, it's misleading."

Recent polling shows competitive matchups on both sides in the state, and with razor-thin margins of error in the delegate races, candidates will need every available vote in the final contest of the 2016 primary.

Obama adviser explains why Clinton's Syria plan won't work

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:30am

The no-fly zone in Syria proposed by Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be both ineffective and a poor use of resources, according to White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.

"A no fly zone in Syria would not solve the problem," Rhodes told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. "If you had an area of geography in Syria where planes couldn't fly over it, people would still be killing each other on the ground. ISIL doesn't have planes, so that doesn't solve the ISIL problem. They would still be able to massacre people on the ground. And we would have to devote an enormous amount of our resources -- which are currently devoted to finding ISIL and killing them wherever they are -- to maintaining this no-fly zone. So it's just not a good use of resources."

Clinton, who served under President Obama as Secretary of State, has argued in favor of a no-fly zone. At a CNN/NY1 Democratic debate last Thursday, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton reiterated her support for such a move.

"I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and so they have some place they can be safe," she said.

In an hour-long interview with Axelrod, Rhodes reiterated the administration's opposition to Clinton's stance.

"How would it be safe if there is no ground force? If you have a no fly zone, yes, there's not a risk of air attack, but there are many different forces fighting on the ground in Syria, including extremist forces that would still be able to carry out attacks on the ground," he said. "And the fact is we have the ability to target them and to bomb them already. A no fly zone might create some additional ability to manage some of the refugee flows and brush back some of the Syrian regime's air attacks on civilians, but frankly that violence could just manifest itself in different ways on the ground or migrate to different areas."

Rhodes, who worked with Clinton in the Obama administration, did offer praise for her work at the State Department.

"She is someone who has been open to military solutions in general, and in debates that we had in the Situation Room she supported taking military action on a lot of the questions that emerged," he said. "However, she is also a real internationalist. She is someone who values alliances. And so I don't think she would subscribe to kind of the rash, neoconservative interventionism where we are doing things by ourselves. I think she would be more someone who's trying to build coalitions."

Despite taking the reins at State following her bitter defeat to Obama in the 2008 election, Rhodes described Clinton as "warm" and "gracious" during her time in the administration, noting that she "became close" with Obama.

"She totally threw herself into the job from the second she accepted it, so that made it much easier to leave that past behind," he said.

To hear the whole interview with Rhodes, which also touched on Saudi Arabia's role in the September 11 attacks, the proposed lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the White House reaction to recent criticism from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com.

To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.

Bernie Sanders draws record crowd in Prospect Park

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:27am

Bernie Sanders drew a hometown hero's crowd Sunday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park during a rally his campaign billed as its biggest ever.

More than 28,000 people turned out on the sunny spring day to see the Vermont senator who grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, according to Doug Lehman, who produced the event with 42 Inc.

The senator stuck to his usual stump speech, heavily hitting the big banks of nearby Wall Street and drawing contrasts between himself, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican front-runner Donald Trump, two others who claim New York as home turf.

"We do not represent the interests of Wall Street or the billionaires' class or corporate America. We don't want their money. We're going to do it a different way," he told the crowd in the waning afternoon sunshine.

He was introduced by several high-profile surrogates, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and actor Danny DeVito.

"There were 28,300 people who came out to Brooklyn yesterday, not for a rock concert, but because they care about the future of this country and they care about taking action to make things better, to be able to put some of these strong changes forward," Gabbard told CNN's Chris Cuomo Monday on "New Day."

Sanders, who thrives in big-rally settings, has recently held a series of mega-events in the New York area, with another rally drawing tens of thousands to Washington Square Park in Manhattan last week.

Johnny Depp, Amber Heard sorry over dogs

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:26am

Actor Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard have issued a somber apology for failing to declare their two Yorkshire terriers properly when entering Australia last year.

Heard was spared a conviction over the dog-smuggling saga by an Australian court Monday afternoon. She pleaded guilty to knowingly producing a false or misleading document, while two other charges of illegally importing her dogs were dismissed.

In the video apology released by the Australian government, a stony-faced Heard sits alongside Depp to state she is "truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important."

"Australia is a wonderful island with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people," the actress said.

"Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws."

Depp added: "Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell your firmly. "

"Declare everything when you enter Australia."

Light sentence

The court magistrate gave Heard a one-month good behavior bond sentence, CNN-affiliate 7 News Australia said. If Heard breaks the bond, she will have to pay a fine of 1,000 Australian dollars ($767) but the incident will not go on record.

According to 7 News, the magistrate took into consideration her need to travel for work, and said while the offense was not trivial, she doesn't believe Heard thought she was above the law.

The celebrity couple arrived in Australia last April aboard a private jet, with Depp in the country to film a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.

Depp was not charged over the incident but accompanied his wife to appear at the Southport Magistrates Court on the Gold Coast where they received a red carpet-like reception.

The two were besieged by media although police were on hand to keep things under control.

Heard's defense team described the Pistol and Boo "saga" as a "tired, terrible mistake."

The actress said she was "distracted" when filling out the immigration forms upon her arrival however the prosecution countered that it was "no excuse" -- Australia's famously strict biosecurity law "applies to everyone."

According to 7 News, Heard's assistant was responsible for the dogs' travel arrangements and was dismissed after the incident.

The illegal import of animals carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of 102,000 Australian dollars ($75,000); the false document charge has a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of 10,200 Australian dollars ($7,500).

War on Terrier

The incident gained international attention when Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce threatened to have the dogs put down.

"Mr. Depp needs to take his dogs back to California, or we're going to have to euthanize them," Joyce said.

The couple was given a 72-hour ultimatum to get the dogs out of the country.

The Depps quickly returned to California but not before sparking the hashtag #WaronTerrier.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel won't return Golan Heights

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:22am

Israel's Prime Minister has declared that the Golan Heights will remain permanently under the country's control, during Israel's first Cabinet meeting held in the territory.

"The time has come for the international community to recognize reality, especially two basic facts," said Benjamin Netanyahu during a Cabinet meeting Sunday.

"One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel's sovereignty permanently."

Israel seized parts of the Golan Heights, a strategic, rocky plateau to its northeast, from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.

Syria unsuccessfully attempted to retake it during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, before Israel annexed the region in 1981 by extending its laws over the territory and its occupants.

The international community considers the Golan Heights to be occupied territory, and Israeli settlement-building there to be illegal.

Syria wants the return of the territory, which has been monitored by U.N. peacekeeping forces for decades.

'Integral part' of Israel

Netanyahu said the presence of ancient synagogues in the Golan Heights showed that the territory, with a population of about 50,000, had been "an integral part of the Land of Israel since ancient times," and that it remained an integral part of modern Israel.

"During the 19 years that the Golan Heights were under Syrian occupation, when they were a place for bunkers, wire fences, mines and aggression, they were for war. In the 49 years that the Golan Heights have been under Israeli rule, they have been for agriculture, tourism, economic initiatives and building. They are for peace," he said.

"In the stormy region around us, Israel is the stabilizing factor; Israel is the solution, not the problem."

Netanyahu said he had spoken Saturday night with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and told him that he doubted that war-torn Syria would ever revert to its pre-war state.

He said the Syrian state had "persecuted minorities, such as the Christians, Druze and Kurds, who are justly fighting for their future and their security," while the chaos of the conflict had allowed "terrorist elements, especially Daesh (another name for ISIS), Iran and Hezbollah" to flourish across the border.

Those factors highlighted the need for the area -- which, beyond its military significance is an important source of water and fertile land -- to remain under Israeli control.

"The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel's hands," the Prime Minister said. "Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights."

Syria appeals to U.N.

Syria responded angrily to the Cabinet meeting, with state-run SANA news agency reporting that Damascus had sent letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the head of the U.N. Security Council condemning "in the strongest of terms the holding of a provocative meeting in the occupied Syrian Golan."

The letters called on the United Nations to intervene to ensure the meeting was not repeated, SANA reported.

The agency also ran a statement saying that the "people of the occupied Syrian Golan emphasized that the Golan has always been and will forever be part of the Syrian land and that this truth is firm no matter how the Israeli occupation authorities try to show otherwise."

Buffer against Syrian fighting

Weapons fire from Syria has intermittently struck the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights as the country's five-year civil war rages.

In comments made to Israeli forces in the Golan Heights last Monday, Netanyahu said Israel had conducted "dozens" of attacks across the Syrian border.

"We operate when we need to operate, including across the border in dozens of attacks to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring weapons that break the balance," he said in a video released by his office. "We operate also in other theaters near and far."

The admission that Israel conducts strikes in Syria was significant, since no Israeli leader has ever openly acknowledged Israel's operations in Syria. It comes as world leaders are trying to negotiate an end to the civil war in that country.

Obama adviser: Ex-defense secretary's comments 'disturbing'

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:17am

A top White House advisor is hitting back against former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' criticism "micromanagement" by the National Security Council hurts President Obama's foreign policy approach.

"If it's micromanagement to have civilian control of the military and to have a situation where you ask tough questions before you use force, I would take issue with that characterization. That's the responsibility of the Commander in Chief. The Commander in Chief isn't there to rubber stamp requests for US military forces to go into harm's way. He's there to make sure that's the right decision, to make sure that they have a clear mission, to make sure that we're weighing that mission against a whole host of other priorities, both foreign and domestic," Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security advisor, told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

"I think it's frankly a disturbing notion that having a White House and a President of the United States who's going to be very careful and deliberate in making decisions about when to use force, I think it's very disturbing that that's somehow seen as a negative trait," he added. "I think that is one of the best attributes of how President Obama has approached the job."

Gates, who served in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, claimed last week that "micromanagement" by the National Security Council hurt the President's efforts, leading to "an image that he's being dragged kicking and screaming to each new stage" and that there is "reluctance to assert American power."

To hear the whole interview with Rhodes, which also touched on Saudi Arabia's role in the September 11 attacks, Hillary Clinton's support for a no-fly zone in Syria and the proposed lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, click on http://podcast.cnn.com.

To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.

Donald Trump wants 'some showbiz' at GOP convention

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:15am

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is still in pursuit of his party's nomination, but he has some thoughts about how the GOP convention should go, saying in an interview he wants to "put some showbiz" into the proceedings.

Trump described 2012 as "the most boring convention I've ever seen" and vowed to liven things up for 2016, according to an interview with The Washington Post published on Sunday evening.

"It's very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep," the former reality TV star said. "We don't have the people who know how to put showbiz into a convention."

Trump has previously raised the specter of violence at the convention in Cleveland, warning of potential "riots" if he is denied the nomination and saying the Republican National Committee will have a "rough time at that convention in July" if the GOP nominee does not reflect the will of the voters. He has, however, also said he hopes for a peaceful gathering.

Trump told The Washington Post he expects some level of input on the convention proceedings, whether or not he secures the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination before things get underway. And he dismissed the security concerns prompted by his past remarks.

"It should be a monumentally magnificent convention, and it should be (brilliantly) staged, but they're spending $50 million on security," he said in the interview.

Trump also said in the interview that he wants to award the high-profile convention speaking slots to business leaders and non-politicians.

"Nikki Haley would not be my first choice" for keynote speaker, he told the Post.

And following a week during which he repeatedly called the GOP nominating process rigged and blasted RNC officials, Trump demurred when asked whether he would retain current RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other officials.

"I don't know. I haven't made the determination," Trump said.

But while Trump sounds ready to take the reins of the Republican Party, some primary rivals aren't ready to concede.

John Weaver, a top adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, responded to Trump's comments to The Washington Post by noting the business mogul is not yet the nominee.

"He's not the nominee. He can decide anything if he gets to 1,237. But until then, no. If you're ahead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, you don't get to decide who gets the Lombardi Trophy," he said.

KSPR Monday Morning Forecast: RAIN RAIN RAIN

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 6:01am

KSPR Meteorologist Lindsey Slater

Colorado hit hard by spring snow

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:56am

Colorado is living up to its reputation as a state with a wild side -- for weather, that is.

A spring storm brought enough snow to make even hardened residents used to it take notice.

Sunday morning, Denver had received 11.8 inches of snow so far, making it the second largest snowfall there this season, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. Denver averages 8.9 inches of snow during April, so it's already received 133% of its April average, he said.

Reports of up to a whopping 40 inches of snow were received along the Front Range.

Interstate 70 was shut down Saturday night because of heavy snow, but it has reopened, according to the Colorado DOT.

The amount of snow within a tight range was also widely variable, according to CNN affiliate KDVR. For instance, 35 inches of snow was reported in Golden, about 15 miles west of Denver, while Morrison, just 17 miles to the southwest, reported 3 inches.

An additional 6 to 12 inches is possible through Monday morning in the southern Rockies, Morris said.

'Everyone is pretty excited'

For natives, this kind of snow is something to take in stride -- and enjoy.

Andrew Knudtsen, a 51-year-old economist and resident of Denver, said, "Everyone is pretty excited. Everyone loves snow."

Knudtsen was born in southern Colorado and also spent 10 years in Vail. He points out that these big swings in weather are par for the course in his home state; it's expected to be almost 80 degrees in the Denver area by Friday. "It's a little bit of a hassle now, but in five days, it will be gone," he said.

And for many in Colorado, all this extra white stuff will turn into green. "Snow is a major driver for the economy," Knudtsen said.

The spring snow is also great for people who love winter sports, with CNN affiliate KCNC reporting euphoric skiers at the Breckenridge's Spring Fever Festival.

Meanwhile, in warmer climes ...

Meanwhile, the eastern half of the United States is basking under a high pressure system that's bringing warmer temperatures.

At 5 p.m. ET Sunday, Atlanta was enjoying a sunny day and 73 degrees with residents casting an eye more toward its hot and humid summers with winter-type weather in the rear view mirror.

The Endless Table: How recipes keep memories alive

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:48am

Chef Jody Adams' father Thomas knew his health was declining when he could no longer complete the New York Times crossword puzzle.

The Brown University rare books librarian had never let physical limitations stand in his way, but when his brain stopped working the way he wanted it to -- at age 87 -- he knew that he needed to prepare for the end of his life.

Adams' parents discussed his end of life wishes during a quiet, private evening before her mother, Virginia, let the rest of the family know. Thomas had decided to receive hospice care at home and in November 2008, the entire family gathered at his home in Providence, Rhode Island to care for him by his bedside.

Adams did what she knew best -- she cooked for him.

Food is love

Adams, a famous Boston chef, had learned how to rejoice in food as a child from her father. .

Even though her mother did most of the cooking, he was known for a few mainstays, such as delicious cornmeal pancakes and the perfect mayonnaise, made from a supposedly top secret recipe -- Adams later learned the recipe was verbatim from "The Joy of Cooking."

Although her father's appetite was waning, Adams kept cooking for him until the end. He particularly loved the cream of mushroom soup recipe she had created just for him.

"I've always known the importance of food through bringing people together and nurturing them, but I also learned that food can be enormously healing," Adams said.

"This was how I could say goodbye with love. I put all of myself into that soup."

Her father passed away on December 1, 2008. While the family felt the deep impact of his loss, nothing had been left unsaid and her father died the way that he had wanted to, surrounded by his loved ones.

"We were all very present with him and it allowed him to let go and know that he was forgiven and he was sent off surrounded by love and warmth," said Adams.

"It showed me that death can be as important as birth, and as beautiful. Through my father's death, I learned so much about life."

Adams recently shared her story of loss and food in a digital cookbook, "The Endless Table: Recipes from Departed Loved Ones." She was one of 20 top chefs to share their stories relating to death in their families.

A recipe for discussion

The stories -- and recipes -- for the cookbook were collected and edited by Ellen Goodman of The Conversation Project and Michael Hebb of Death Over Dinner.

They both reached out to chefs they knew, or were acquainted with, like Ina Garten, Jose Andres, Tom Colicchio and Christopher Kimball to ask for their contribution and were amazed by the memories the chefs were willing to share. They shared everything from treasured family recipes to vignettes of personal loss, which inspired Goodman to each share a family recipe, and story, of their own.

Many of the chefs had in fact already had these kinds of conversations with their loved ones and shared how liberating it was. They also revealed that making the recipes of their deceased loved helps maintain their memories and a connection to them. This was the aim of the project.

As well as maintain connections, Goodman and Hebb want their cookbook to encourage people to have end-of-life discussions with their loved ones before it's too late.

Goodman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, co-founded The Conversation Project when she lost her mother to dementia, unable to know what she really wanted in the end when Goodman was faced with making choices on her behalf.


Both Goodman and Hebb have since given TED talks on this subject highlighting how conversations that may seem intimidating, uncomfortable or even scary over a normal and soothing occasion like dinner can break their taboo.

"For some, talking about death is like letting it in the room," Goodman said. "The end of life isn't just a medical thing that happens, it's a human experience. People aren't dying the way they want to or having their wishes honored...so having a conversation like this is a gift you give your family."

To make things easier, the cookbook also contains a guide on how to approach talking about end-of-life wishes, compiled using advice from both health experts and families who have had successful discussions.

Time for a toast

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, which has inspired Goodman and Hebb to encourage families across the country to use the week as a chance to host a dinner party.

They want the occasion to be used to toast one another, honor people who have been lost, and for families to talk about their own end-of-life wishes -- because it's always too soon until it's too late, Goodman said.

Hebb, a former restaurateur, came up with the idea for Death Over Dinner when he struck up a conversation about mortality with two physicians on a train. This led to a class Hebb taught at the University of Washington in 2012 -- The Table of Truth: Reimagining the Dinner Table as Digital Media -- and soon grew into a social campaign.

To date, over 100,000 dinner parties inspired by Death Over Dinner have taken place across the country.

The diners begin by going around the room and acknowledging someone who has passed away and had a positive impact on people's lives, and raise a glass in their memory. The group can then decide how to progress in a "choose your own adventure" style approach, depending on who is in the group and the intention of the conversation. Based on the intention, they can work from a series of prompts provided by Hebb's website.

A popular prompt asks what someone would do if they knew they had only 30 days left to live: How would they spend it, where are they, who are they with and what about the final day and hours of that day?

"Vulnerability begets vulnerability. People who have nothing in common reach a common ground almost immediately around this topic," said Hebb. "It's people looking inside themselves within a group setting."

Hebb has seen the dinners change the relationship between a parent and a child as they each reveal things they've never told anyone else. "It's not that people are afraid, it just needs a proper place. So just honor it with the space and time that it needs," he said.

Jasper White, a fellow Boston chef, also shared his recipes and memories in the digital cookbook and opened up during the project to stress that every death is not a tragedy.

"Love never dies," said White. "Neither do recipes, and it's a wonderful way to remember someone."

State-by-state look at marijuana laws

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:37am

Pennsylvania recently became the 24th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana. Take a look at which states currently allow marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal purposes.

Supreme Court weighs Obama's immigration actions

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:30am

The Supreme Court on Monday will take on a case that could torpedo the Obama administration's controversial executive actions on immigration that have become a flashpoint in the 2016 race.

President Barack Obama announced the moves to great fanfare in late 2014, as a response to congressional inaction on immigration reform, but a federal court blocked them after Texas and 25 other states sued.

Busloads of immigrants' rights activists -- some of them undocumented -- are expected on the court's plaza to support the policies that could affect around 4 million people. The moves are meant to shield them from deportation and allow them work permits.

Critics of Obama's moves say they are part of a pattern of the White House looking to go around the Republican Congress.

"Basically the President has stepped in and taken over what normally would be associated with Congress," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an interview. "Congress makes the laws."

The GOP Congress will be involved at oral arguments as well. The House of Representatives, in an unusual move, intervened in the case against the administration, and will have 15 minutes before the eight justices to argue its case Monday.

That only eight justices are hearing the case -- due to the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia -- could impact the final result. A split court between the four Democratic-appointed justices and four GOP-appointed justices would mean the programs remain blocked and the case is sent back to the district court in Texas that blocked them in the first place.

For the administration, a key argument before the court is to say that the states do not have the legal right to bring the case in the first place. If it can convince a majority of justices on that issue, the court may not even get to the merits of the immigration debate.

Should it win on that count, the injunction would be lifted, and the programs would be able to go into effect during the final months of the Obama presidency.

However, because the actions can be changed or reversed by the next President, immigrants would have to decide whether to come forward for the remaining months of the Obama administration or risk doing so with the possibility of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House.

"There's no question that the ultimate fate of the deferred action policy hangs in the balance of the upcoming election," said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor of law at American University and CNN Legal Analyst.

"Like any other executive order, it can be modified, rescinded, or expanded by the next President, and codified or overruled by the next Congress," he added. "But the fact that the Supreme Court expedited its consideration of the Obama administration's appeal so that it could resolve the dispute by June suggests that, even short-handed, the justices want to have their own say first."

The White House announced the programs in November 2014, issuing a five-page guidance memo enabling qualifying undocumented workers to receive temporary relief from the threat of deportation and to apply for programs that could qualify them for work authorization and associated benefits.

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) targets the nearly 4.3 million undocumented parents of citizens and lawful residents, and the second rule expands Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), initiative aimed at non citizens who came to the country as children.

"We'll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check and get right with the law," Obama told an audience in Nevada after the programs were announced.

The programs remain frozen nationwide. They were first blocked by a federal judge in Texas and a divided federal appeals court later upheld the preliminary injunction.

Obama's lawyers argue in court papers that the lower court rulings threatened great harm, "not only to the proper role of federal courts and to federal immigration law, but also to millions of parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, aliens who are the lowest priorities for removal yet now work off the books to support their families."

As a threshold issue, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli says that the states don't have the legal right to be in court, because the Constitution "assigns the formation of immigration policy exclusively to the National Government precisely because immigration is an inherently national matter."

He stressed that the guidance from the government does not provide any kind of lawful status under immigration law as the aliens remain removable at any time.

"Immigrant communities fought for these programs," said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. She says that her groups have been informing people about the risks of the rules being changed by the next president and she believes many will come forward should the Obama administration win.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argues that the states have standing to bring the challenge in part because DAPA would create a new class of recipients for state subsidized driver's licenses in Texas. He says that Texas would stand to lose millions of dollars if even a small fraction of DAPA eligible aliens applied.

"DAPA is an extraordinary assertion of executive power," Keller wrote in court papers. "The Executive has unilaterally crafted an enormous program -- one of the largest changes ever to our Nation's approach to immigration," he said. "In doing so, the Executive dispensed with immigration statutes by declaring unlawful conduct to be lawful."

He points to the guidance and says that the eligible undocumented immigrations would be permitted to be "lawfully present in the United States," which would make them eligible for work authorization and some types of Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Texas is supported by the GOP-led House of Representatives, who say that the programs went forward after the President failed in his attempts to persuade Congress to revise immigration laws.

Erin E. Murphy, a lawyer for the House, called the administration's position, "the most aggressive of executive power claims."

But Vladeck says standing is where justices may look to find a path forward.

"Because the justices will want to avoid a 4-4 tie if at all possible, there's a more than decent chance that they'll gravitate toward the standing issue, and hold that any injury suffered by Texas is its own fault, since nothing requires the state to subsidize driver's licenses -- and to thereby incur the costs on which it is relying.

"And such a holding might unite the liberal and conservative justices, the former of whom would want to see the program survive, and the latter of whom typically favor narrower standing rules," he added.

Andrew Pincus, a lawyer who supports the administration's position, says that allowing Texas to bring the case would have broad implications.

"If a state can sue every time the federal government does something to increase the state's costs, states could sue to challenge almost anything the federal government does," he said.

Pincus points out that Texas is not objecting to the administration's use of prosecutorial discretion, it just doesn't want the undocumented workers to be able to work legally.

"You are saying to these people, you can stay here, but we are keeping you in a bubble," he said.

Nelson's Column: Gas masks on London statues

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:30am

Forget vandalism and bird droppings -- Greenpeace believes the 52-meter tall Nelson's Column in London needs protection from the city's air pollution. By wearing a gas mask.

Campaigners scaled other statues around the city, including Winston Churchill in Parliament Square and footballer Thierry Henry outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. Once at the top, they strapped imposing gas masks over their faces.

"We wanted to draw attention to the air pollution problem because nearly 9,500 people a year are dying because of air pollution alone (in London)," Greenpeace campaigner Paul Morozzo, told CNN, who abseiled down the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

"Air pollution is an invisible problem and we wanted to make it visible before the mayoral elections (in May), because it's important that the mayor puts it as one of their main things to deal with."

Several parts of London used up their entire EU legal air pollution allowance in the first week of 2016, he says. London also has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide of any capital city in Europe in 2010, according to Clear Air in London.

Eight people were arrested over the protests at Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Hyde Park Corner, Scotland Yard said. But Morozzo said that Greenpeace make it clear to police and the public ahead of the protest that it is a intervention by the organization.

In July 2013, Greenpeace activists scaled the Shard, one of Europe's tallest buildings, to rally against Shell's Arctic drilling plan.

Oil prices drop after producers fail to reach deal

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:25am

Oil prices are heading south after the world's top producers failed to reach a deal on freezing output.

U.S. crude futures tumbled as much as 6.8 percent in Monday morning trade in Asia after a big meeting of key oil nations the day before ended without an agreement.

The hope had been that a production freeze would help prop up the price of oil, which had risen from $26 per barrel in February to above $40 on expectations a deal would be reached.

But when that didn't happen, markets took it badly.

By mid-morning Monday in Hong Kong, U.S. crude was trading down 4.9 percent at $38.38 per barrel. The drop in oil prices also appeared to be contributing to falls in stock markets across Asia, with Tokyo's Nikkei down 3 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng off 1.3 percent.

Oil producing nations have been wrestling with a supply glut that earlier this year pushed prices to their lowest levels in more than 12 years. Rather than idling their wells, major producers have kept pumping amid fears they could lose market share.

Efforts to try to reach a truce have had to contend with a deep rift within OPEC between its biggest member -- Saudi Arabia -- and Iran, which is increasing production after years of international sanctions.

Iran has made clear that it will not participate in a freeze until it is able to pump 4 million barrels per day and has regained much of the market share it lost under sanctions.

Iran was asked not to attend the big meeting Sunday in Doha, Qatar, if it was not willing to sign up to a production freeze, an Iranian source told CNNMoney. The source said the country will stick to its plan and gradually increase output by 700,000 barrels per day.

Saudi officials have given mixed messages about whether they would be willing to agree to a freeze without a reciprocal commitment from Iran.

Those who attended the meeting Sunday included the oil ministers of most OPEC member countries, along with Russia and a handful of other outsiders. Together, they supply more than half of the world's oil.

But it's not clear when major producers will meet again to discuss a potential freeze, suggesting there will be further delays in their efforts to reverse a historic price collapse that has lasted nearly two years.

-- Charles Riley and John Defterios contributed to this report.

Michelle Payne: Gender equality fight goes on

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:23am

It's been a whirlwind five months of autographs, red-carpet premieres and book deals for Michelle Payne, but the Melbourne Cup winner has not lost sight of the bigger picture.

Payne was thrust into the global spotlight after she became the first woman in history to win the $4.2 million "race that stops a nation" on board 100-1 outsider Prince of Penzance back in November.

Getting stopped on the street is now a regular occurrence for the 30-year-old Australian, as is hobnobbing with the stars of film and sport, while this month even saw the release of her own autobiography.

Yet while Payne admits her life "has probably changed in every way really you could imagine," she's not forgotten about the fight against gender inequality which she feels still dominates the world of horse racing.

"It's been a bit of a battle my whole career and a lot of the other female jockeys in our industry have really fought the battle," she told CNN's Winning Post.

"I think that we've proven ourselves against the guys and we just don't seem to get the opportunities that I think we deserve, so hopefully that can continue to change."

Payne has certainly fought that battle in the past, none more so than immediately after her Melbourne Cup triumph.

Fresh from making history at Flemington Racecourse, Payne was soon laying into the "chauvinists" who had doubted her ability as a female jockey, telling them simply to "get stuffed."

Slowly but surely, however, she feels progress is being made on that front.

"It's definitely getting better and I think if we can continue to get the opportunities to prove ourselves then that's the main thing," Payne said. "If you don't get the good rides, you're not going to be able to show that we can match it with the boys, so [I'm] just hoping we can make the most of those."

After her Melbourne Cup outburst hit the headlines, and with her new-found role in the public eye, does Payne feel she's now leading the charge for the next generation of female jockies?

"Yeah I think so, I think it obviously opens their eyes that if you work really hard and you're dedicated, and you do your best and you're lucky enough, then you can obviously mix it with the boys in the bigger races," she said.

"That's what every young jockey wants to do, especially females. So I think it's definitely helped and I hope that the next generation can continue on.

"I'd love to work with the younger girls," Payne added. "We need them to do well to continue on all the hard work we've been doing. And without as much help as they can get, it's tough, so that's something that I'm really looking forward to doing."

Looking forward

Helping to bring the next crop of female jockeys through is just one part of Payne's master plan.

Having been in the jockey business for half of her life, her next steps could see her eventually swap the saddle for a more active role in the stables.

With Racing Victoria introducing a new license allowing jockeys to prepare their own horses in August, Payne has grand designs to try her hand at becoming a trainer.

"This is something I've been thinking about for a while as probably a transition period from being a jockey to a trainer and retiring from jockey life, which has been my life for 15 years," Payne said.

"It would be a great thrill to be able to train a horse and ride it in a race. It would be the ultimate to have done all the work on them, and the dream is to obviously find some good horses and do the best with what I can, knowing that I'm not going to lose the ride because I'll be the trainer."

"Losing a ride" is something Payne touches on a lot, something that, she admits, can be common in the "cutthroat" world of horse racing.

The plan to train up and race on her own horse, she reveals, is partly borne out of the fact that it can be a struggle to secure rides as a jockey.

"I think that's probably what stemmed me to the idea of giving it a go because obviously it's so tough to get on the horses in the first place that have that ability and then to know at any chance you can get taken off is really obviously quite tough," Payne said.

"But I also love the idea of working with the horse, so for me that's something that I'm just so passionate about to give it a go."

Most would assume that becoming the first woman in history to win the Melbourne Cup would come hand-in-hand with increased demand for more rides.

During the past five months, though, Payne simply hasn't had the time.

"You've got to be out there doing your best every week and working really hard [to get a ride]," she said. "And I've sort of been here, there and everywhere around Australia and sort of promoting the industry and doing a lot of different, various things."

Published author

Payne's latest commitments, as part of her increasingly hectic schedule, have seen her out promoting the release of her new autobiography "Life As I Know It."

The book is recognition that Payne has risen to become the golden girl of Australian horse racing, but she hopes her often-painful life story will strike a chord with readers.

Payne, the youngest of 10 children, lost her mother Mary to a car accident when she was just six months old, while older sister Brigid died in 2007 after suffering an aneurysm and heart attack eight months after falling from her horse.

"The book's been a bit of a journey," Payne said. "It's obviously been something that's so different to what I'm used to -- speaking about your life and spending a lot of time with the writer was very challenging because it was a short time span that we had to do it in.

"But it was a lot of fun and I'm glad that it's all finished, and I just hope that everybody just enjoys my story and doesn't get too bored in the midst of it.

"It's not just about my story, but the family and going through the tragedy of losing my mum and everything," she added. "So I hope that people will enjoy the read."

Payne's career saddle has been no easy ride, either.

Her Melbourne Cup success was the culmination of a journey that has seen her suffer, amongst others injuries, a fractured skull, 10 fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and a dislocated ankle.

And it's been a journey that Payne's family have often pleaded with her to cut short.

"I guess probably the last fall was the first time I thought about if maybe I should continue on," Payne said.

"It just seemed as though I was pretty unlucky and I didn't want to go through those again, but at the same time I didn't want to be forced out of a job that I love through injury.

"I wanted to make that decision myself and yeah I took the chance that it wouldn't happen again."

Riding high

Take a chance she did and the rest, as they say, is history.

You're now just as likely to spot Payne on a chat show or walking down a red carpet as you are riding a horse.

But whatever has gone on in her life since that momentous afternoon in November, she's always remained grounded.

"I try to generally go about my business just as normal and back to real life, back to normality. I do try to enjoy that [celebrity] side of things, but at the same time try to just get back into my normal routine as much as I can," she said.

"Just walking down the street now people will say, 'Do I know you?' And a lot of time I'll say, 'Oh no I've got one of those faces.' But they usually work it out. It's been pretty crazy but it's been a lot of fun and I've experienced some amazing things."

Impeaching Dilma Rousseff -- what's next?

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 5:13am

A total of 367 lawmakers in the Brazilian parliament's lower house voted to impeach Dilma Rousseff, the country's first female president, comfortably more than the two-thirds majority required by law.

It's been a tumltuous process so far, with mass pro- and anti-government protests dividing the country, and mayhem breaking out in Congress ahead of the vote.

It's not the first time an impeachment process has made it this far in Brazil. In 1992, proceedings were brought against then-President Fernando Collor de Mello, who was eventually pressured into resigning.

So what happens next?

The impeachment motion will next go to the country's Senate. If a majority approves it there, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial.

If the motion is approved in the upper house, Rousseff could be suspended as early as May.

The process is long and involved, and involves several steps. However, Rousseff's fate should be decided by the end of the year at the latest.

So here's what will happen between now and then:

This week

On Monday, the process will be sent to the Senate -- Brazil's upper house -- and the following day it will be read on the Senate floor.

Also on Tuesday party leaders will announce a committee of 21 parliamentarians -- along with a list of alternates -- who will consider the matter. After this, the committee will nominate its president and speaker within 24 hours. Thanks to a public holiday, the identity of the senators who will be on the committee, and who will head it, will be known by next Monday.

The week after

Once the committee is established, it has 10 days to recommend whether to go ahead with the impeachment process. This will be voted on by the committee by simple majority. Whatever the outcome is -- and it is expected that it will proceed -- the recommendation will also be considered by the Senate as a whole, the outcome also determined by a simple majority.

Next month

If the Senate takes on the case, which should be decided in early May, Rousseff will be notified and is obliged to step down from office for a maximum period of 180 days while the Senate examines the case.

In this case Vice-President Michel Temer assumes the presidency for the interim. Temer's party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, has also been implicated in the corruption scheme and could be further weakened by the ongoing investigation.

The succession, however temporary, could also be problematic as Temer himself could have impeachment proceedings coming his way as well.

The next step

At this stage -- early November at the latest -- the process will return to the special committee for the investigation phase. Rousseff will have a further 20 days to present her defense and after this the committee shall examine all the elements, documents and evidence for both her defense and the motion for impeachment. For the examination, there is no time limit defined by law.


A final determination on the findings will be voted on by special committee and on the floor of the Senate, also decided by a simple majority. If this is also approved, then the final vote will be scheduled.


Once scheduled, the final vote, chaired by the president of the Supreme Court, will take place in the Senate. In this last vote, it will take a two-thirds majority to remove the president from office.

Whatever happens, it is unlikely to be an entirely smooth process. Rousseff's supporters have vowed to take to the streets in retaliation, ensuring a long, and potentially messy, battle ahead.

Obama official who worked on 9/11 Commission addresses the 28 pages

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 4:14am

A top aide to President Barack Obama who also worked on the 9/11 Commission report, said the the Saudi government did not overtly support al Qaeda leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks, but that individuals in the country did.

Ben Rhodes would not speak directly about the classified 28 pages of the report that have become the subject of new scrutiny as Congress weighs legislation that would allow Americans to sue the Saudi government.

But in an a new episode of "Axe Files," the David Axelrod podcast produced jointly by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of politics, Rhodes did talk broadly about the report, the Saudis and how the U.S. relationship has evolved. The U.S., said Rhodes, is much more blunt with Saudis, who he said have become an anti-terror partner of the U.S.

Before the terror attacks in 2001, Rhodes said he doesn't think the government was actively funneling money to al Qaeda, but they weren't trying to stop it, either.

"The question is two things -- one is, was the government actively trying to prevent (funding of al Qaeda) from happening? And I think the answer is no," said Rhodes. "Not because they necessarily supported them, just because there was a bit of unregulated space, you know, and rich people can make different contributions. And, but the other element of this is, you know, there may be individuals, you know, who are operating, who kind of get to do their own thing."

Listen to the whole podcast and read the portion on the 9/11 Commission report below:

DA: What did you learn on that commission? Obviously what you guys learned has become an issue again recently. Bob Graham (former Florida senator) set off about the role of the Saudis, but tell me what you took away from that because you didn't have a background in national security issues then even though you studied international relations. This is a whole different education.

BR: Yeah. You know what was interesting about that is you learned that- I mean there are all these very practical things about homeland security and aviation security and how the intelligence community is organized and kind of the wiring of the U.S. government that is important and the 9/11 Commission led to significant reforms in those areas. But I think the main thing that the 9/11 Commission did that was interesting beyond that was tell the story of how we got to 9/11, and did it in this book that, you know, is written almost like a novel.

DA: And you participated in that?

BR: I did, I did. You know, Hamilton was very focused on the recommendations, so that was the main part that I focused on, but I also, you know, was tracking all these other things. I think what I learned is that as this was kind of happening ... how deep the roots were that led to 9/11. You know, it went back to Afghanistan, to the war that the Mujahadeen fought against the Soviet Union, and Bin Laden kind of cut his teeth there, and then he bounced around Sudan and Afghanistan. And you know, Americans weren't really paying attention to some of these things, but ...

DA: Although we were supportive of their effort to repel the Russians ... the Soviets at that time.

BR: That's right, that's right. And you know, kind of what you learn is that there are all these unintended consequences to our foreign policies, because in the '80s we were supporting the Mujahideen, that ends up including people like Bin Laden, the people who became the Taliban. In the '90s we had the Gulf War. Bin Laden kind of used that event and the fact that U.S. Troops are stationed in Saudi Arabia as kind of his pivot point to focusing on the United States. And you know, these things were right at the time, it was the right thing to do, for us to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, and to support opponents to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but you know, there are unintended consequences to everything that we do, and there are these trends that build up in different parts of the world. And the other fact of the matter was that Al Qaeda also prayed upon the grievances of young people in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia, who resented their repressive governments. So all of these different forces, you know, created this space that Bin Laden filled with Al Qaeda, and in many ways we're dealing with similar problems today.

DA: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about the Saudis, and I know you probably are proscribed from being too responsive, but I'm going to take a run at it anyway, which is how valid is the charge that they were complicit through various sponsorships and so on.

BR: Well I think that, you know there's this issue of the 28 pages, and without getting into that ...

DA: They are classified.

BR: Without getting into that specifically because that's still classified, I think that it's complicated in the sense that, it's not that it was Saudi government policy to support Al Qaeda, but there were a number of very wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia who would contribute, sometimes directly, to extremist groups, sometimes to charities that were kind of, ended up being ways to launder money to these groups. So, a lot of the funding - and you know Bin Laden himself was a wealthy Saudi - so a lot of the money, the seed money if you will, for what became Al Qaeda, came out of Saudi Arabia.

DA: Could that happen without the government's awareness?

BR: I think that's ... I think there are two ... The question is two things -- one is, was the government actively trying to prevent that from happening? And I think the answer is no. Not because they necessarily supported them, just cause there was a bit of unregulated space, you know, and rich people can make different contributions. And, but the other element of this is, you know, there may be individuals, you know, who are operating, who kind of get to do their own thing, you know ...

DA: Within the government?

BR: Within the government, or family members you know, because remember you have a large royal family, and they have you know, people -- the Bin Ladens for instance were contractors essentially for the, that royal family -- So basically there was, at - certainly, at least kind of an insufficient attention to where all this money was going over many years from the government apparatus.

DA: What about the notion that they wanted to keep quiescent extremists within the country, and this was a way of doing that?

BR: Yea, well, I think there has been a margin for many years in Saudi Arabia, where essentially the royal family, kind of runs the affairs of state, and runs kind of the oil company, and the security services, but then there are clerics who have enormous power and can operate on their own. And that's kind of the bargain. Now, some of those clerics are completely legitimate, some people you know, over the time have propagated a more rigid form of Islam, again not necessary the vision of al Qaeda and ISIL, but a fairly rigid version of Islam, that we saw over time get taken and perverted by the more extremist elements into the ideology that we see out of al Qaeda.

DA: Do you - this to me underscores sort of the complexity of foreign policy and national security, because the Saudis are considered an ally, and yet there are elements of activities there that seeded the greatest attack perhaps helped seed the greatest attack on our country. How do you explain that to Americans, that, you know, on the one hand we call them an ally on the other hand they have these deep roots in these extremist elements?

BR: Well, you know again, first of all it is important, I wouldn't, I would stop short of saying that there was any willful government intention from Saudi Arabia to support al Qaeda. Again, this is more just how are individuals operating in Saudi Arabia. I think the difficult thing that Americans need to understand is we forge these relationships with governments because we have some shared interest with them. And for many years the basic interest at the root of the U.S.-Saudi was simply they provided the oil that sustained the global economy and we provided essentially security for the Saudi state. And we didn't really think about any other aspect of it at great length at least, and yet over time these trends emerge with respect to extremism and funding of extremist groups. And we were slow to pay attention to that because the way the relationship was set up was we just kind of thought about security and oil and didn't kind of go that other layer down. And I think the point for Americans is sometimes we fail to recognize how omnipresent we are around the world. People in other countries are aware of the role we play and are aware the fact that we are the most important country in the world, so if they have grievances against their own government or against their own economic situation they blame us. So I think it's hard for Americans to understand why does this constantly come back to us, but the fact of the matter is we are inevitably seen as the one superpower as a potential source of grievances from all kinds of people all over the world.

DA: But the obvious question is -- well let me ask it this way: how blunt are the conversations with the Saudis about breaking ties of some of these elements?

BR: Well, they're very blunt. And look, since 9-11 the Saudi government has shifted and now they are a counter-terrorism partner. And so now it's not just oil and security, it's also cooperation against terrorist organizations. So we're very blunt. We're very direct. And they too now are threatened by these groups themselves, so they have turned hard against al Qaeda in the aftermath of 9-11. They're working with us against ISIL. So they share the counter-terrorism policies that we would pursue. They still have a system of government that is very different from ours and in some cases a view of regional conflicts that are different from ours, so we're not totally aligned -

DA: Plainly they were unhappy with the Iran agreement.

BR: They're kind of the center of Sunni Islam in some ways. Iran is Shia. So there's a sectarian element to a lot of these regional conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq that in our view sometimes takes more precedence to some of our allies and partners than the necessity of focusing on these extremist elements like ISIL.

To hear the whole interview with Rhodes, which also touched on Hillary Clinton's support for a no-fly zone in Syria and the proposed lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, click on http://podcast.cnn.com.

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