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Updated: 4 years 40 weeks ago

GOP rules fight flares up behind scenes

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:14pm

Donald Trump's continuing onslaught against the Republican Party's nominating rules has top members fighting behind the scenes shortly before their critical meeting in Florida later this week.

The spat comes as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has been playing defense for more than a week, beating back charges from Trump that the party has "rigged" the nominating fight against him.

"Lyin' Ted Cruz can't get votes (I am millions ahead of him) so he has to get his delegates from the Republican bosses. It won't work!" Trump tweeted Sunday.

Republican National Committee Rules Chairman Bruce Ash, who is part of a group of conservatives who want to openly debate rules changes when they meet in a few days, on Saturday accused the party's top lawyer, John Ryder, of attempting to stifle that debate and a "breach of trust" in an email obtained by CNN.

But Ryder, who is supporting Priebus' efforts, replied that it had been a misunderstanding. He cautioned in a reply email that "it is important that the RNC not take action that can be interpreted as attempting to favor one candidate or another ... Major changes now are dangerous and not a good idea, in my humble opinion."

On Sunday, Priebus echoed Ryder's position. He said given the "politically charged environment" it doesn't make sense for the RNC's rules panel to recommend any changes to the current nomination process, particularly because the delegates in Cleveland will ultimately decide how to go about it anyway.

"I don't think that it's a good idea for us next week, I mean, before the convention to make serious rules changes or recommendations of changes right now," he told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union." "I think it's too complicated. I think that the RNC Rules Committee, going forward, with making rules suggestions is not a good idea."

Responding to Trump's accusations, Priebus said: "I don't sit here and internalize the charge because there's no there there because there's nothing the RNC can do about it."

Trump's complaints come as his rival, Ted Cruz, has managed to engineer a highly successful delegate operation, in some cases netting him additional delegates or getting friendly ones elected who could switch their support to him in the event of a contested convention.

If the Rules Committee declines to offer a recommendation on the nomination process, it would break with tradition. In most previous elections the RNC rules panel has sent its thoughts to the convention panel, where they were then approved without much debate.

The committee is set to meet Thursday in Hollywood, Florida.

"Obviously the chairman (Priebus) correctly has concluded that any changing of the rules, even changing a comma or a semicolon at this point in time would be perceived by some as a conspiracy to cheat somebody," said Curly Haugland, a member of both the party and convention rules committees.

Ash did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. Ryder directed questions to Republican Party communications director and top strategist Sean Spicer, who said Ryder's reply speaks for itself.

At the center of the most recent fight is a push by conservatives on the Republican National Committee to have Robert's Rules of Order govern the convention instead of the rules of the U.S. House. It sounds arcane, but conservative RNC members argue the change is needed to prevent party establishment figures from pushing through someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan in the convention.

PHOTOS: Columbia's Carl Edwards celebrates NASCAR win at Bristol

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:07pm

Carl Edwards dominated in winning the Food City 500 Sunday at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. (Photos by Matt Hazlett, Matt Sullivan and Robert LaBerge/Getty Images)

Carl Edwards wins Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Speedway

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:05pm

Columbia, Missouri's Carl Edwards avoided tire issues that hampered his teammates and took off on the final restart to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Starting on the pole for the second straight week, Edwards led 276 of 500 laps in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 19 Toyota en route to his first victory of the season and fourth on the half-mile oval. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Trevor Bayne. Edwards' flawless day contrasted the right-front tire problems endured by teammates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin after all of them started in the top five. Busch, the defending series champion and points leader, had trouble throughout the race. He exited after his car smacked the wall on Lap 259 and sustained heavy damage, failing to finish a race for the first time since June at Michigan.

URGENT - Brazil Lower House Impeachment Vote Begins

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:04pm

(CNN) -- Lawmakers in Brazil's lower house have begun voting on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. For the measure to pass, at least 342 of 513 lawmakers must approve it.

Michelle Fields says Trump and aide 'defamed' her

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:03pm

Journalist Michelle Fields says she never wanted last month's altercation with Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to "blow up" into a big story.

But Lewandowski and Trump lied and "defamed me," Fields says, which is why she is now weighing whether to file a defamation lawsuit.

On CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday, Fields said the incident "sheds light on the character of the campaign," adding, "I think a lot of people were surprised by their blatant lies about me. That's why it became a huge story."

A Trump campaign spokeswoman declined to comment.

Last month the police in Jupiter, Florida found probable cause to charge Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery for yanking Fields' arm. The incident happened at a March 8 press event when Fields tried to ask Trump a question.

On April 14, however, the Palm Beach County Florida State Attorney David Aronberg said he would not prosecute Lewandowski. Fields called the prosecutor's handling of the case "a little sketchy" and "very unprofessional."

"Look at the prosecutor and his wife's social media," she said. "They are at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's resort, all the time."

Aronberg's wife Lynn runs a local public relations firm. Photos of the Trumps are on the firm's web site home page and social media.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but if I was a prosecutor, and my wife was trying to monetize her relationship with Donald Trump, and it's right there on her web site... I would recuse myself," Fields said.

Aronberg's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In explaining the decision to drop the charges, prosecutors said Lewandowski had a "reasonable hypothesis of innocence" and could say he was defending Trump.

But Fields rejects that explanation. Sunday marked her first TV interview since the prosecutor's decision.

By her own account, her life has been turned upside down by the momentary encounter at the press conference.

She quit her job at Breitbart News because she felt the web site did not properly support her. She moved out of her apartment because news outlets, including Fox News, inadvertently published her address.

"The D.C. police have been incredible...[I'm] working on hopefully getting some of these very serious threats handled," she said. As for what Fields plans to next, she said, "I'm taking it day by day."

Fields' numerous critics believe she exaggerated the incident and sought out media attention.

However, she insists she "stayed quiet" initially because she "didn't want this to become a story," and an apology would have been sufficient. Fields says she was told by a Breitbart editor that she'd receive one.

But Fields says that never happened. Lewandowski said on CNN's "New Day" that he called Fields the night of the incident to find out what happened, but "I never heard back, and to this day I've never heard back from Michelle."

Fields said she was unaware of any call from him.

"There was no voice mail, there was no text, there was no e-mail following up to try to communicate," she said.

On March 10, Fields published a first-person account of what happened. She described being "grabbed tightly" and said she "almost fell to the ground."

Some Trump supporters and other observers have mocked her for overdramatizing the interaction.

When asked if she exaggerated, Fields said, "That's what I felt... I was going up to him and felt someone pull me back. I'm in high heels. I'm not expecting anyone to yank me."

After Fields wrote the essay, the Trump campaign called her accusation "entirely false." Lewandowski called her "delusional" and an "attention seeker." Trump said the Secret Service told him that "nothing happened" and said he thought "she made the story up."

Fields said those comments were part of a smear campaign. "I think they were trying to defame me, and I think it shows malice," she said, adding that she hasn't ruled out a civil suit, but also hasn't committed to filing one.

She also said she would still appreciate an apology from Lewandowski: "I don't think I'm going to get an apology anytime soon, but it would be nice."

CB Browner about to return to Seahawks

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:48pm

The Seattle Seahawks reportedly will reacquire a key member of the secondary that helped them win the Super Bowl following the 2013 season.

Free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner will sign with the team on Monday, NFL.com reported Sunday.

Browner played three seasons with Seattle from 2011 through 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. He started 36 games over those three seasons and was part of the Seahawks' strong pass defense in those seasons.

He left Seattle and signed with the New England Patriots prior to the 2014 season, and he played for the New Orleans Saints in 2015.

Browner was hit with a number of pass interference penalties last season, and ended up committing the most penalties in a single season (24, counting three that were declined) since 2001.

He was released by the Saints following last season and later claimed he played the entire 2015 season with a torn MCL suffered in the first preseason game.

If he is completely healthy Browner still may have trouble getting playing time with the Seahawks next season. Besides three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, the Seahawks have cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead on the roster.

Drone apparently crashes into plane

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:46pm

A drone apparently slammed into a British Airways plane headed to London on Sunday, officials said.

The plane was headed from Geneva, Switzerland, to London's Heathrow Airport when the pilot said he thought a drone had struck the aircraft, London Metropolitan Police said.

The Airbus A320 had 132 passengers and five crew members on board, British Airways spokesman Michael Johnson said.

After the plane landed safely at Heathrow, authorities said they believe a drone struck the front of the aircraft.

It's unclear whose drone may have hit the plane. No arrests have been made.

Johnson said engineers thoroughly examined the plane and cleared it for its next flight.

Dodging drones in the sky

While it's unusual for a drone to strike a plane, there are plenty of close calls -- especially in the United States.

Hundreds of drones have flown dangerously close to manned aircraft in U.S. airspace, forcing pilots to sometimes take evasive action, according to a study released in December.

Experts reviewed 921 cases involving drones and manned aircraft between 2013 and 2015. Of those cases, more than one-third involved drones and manned aircraft coming within 500 feet of each other.

"Our findings indicate that incidents largely occur in areas where manned air traffic density is high and where drone use is prohibited," experts said in a statement.

Drones flying too close to commercial flights pose a serious threat to larger aircraft, and can be sucked into the engine or crash into the cockpit window, injuring or killing a pilot.

BALCO Fast Facts

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:37pm

Here's a look at BALCO, the lab that provided steroids to several professional athletes, including baseball player Barry Bonds and track and field star Marion Jones.

The BALCO scandal began as two separate, independent investigations: one by federal agents in California looking into BALCO, and one by investigators for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency working on a tip from an anonymous source.

BALCO stands for Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Timeline: August 2002 - Federal agents begin investigating BALCO, a California lab suspected of selling banned performance enhancing drugs to athletes.

June 2003 - THE USADA receives an anonymous tip that an undetectable, designer steroid is being distributed by Victor Conte, founder of BALCO. The tipster sends the USADA a syringe filled with the steroid. The tipster is later identified as Trevor Graham, the former coach of runners Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones.

September 2003 - BALCO offices are raided by agents of the Internal Revenue Service and a San Mateo County narcotics task force. Also raided is the home of Greg Anderson, a personal trainer for Barry Bonds.

October 16, 2003 - The USADA announces it has uncovered a doping "conspiracy" involving previously undetectable steroids used by track and field athletes.

October 23, 2003 - A grand jury investigation into BALCO begins. Dozens of high profile athletes are subpoenaed to testify during the investigation.

2004 - Marion Jones files a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Victor Conte accusing him of trying to "destroy her career and reputation" when he said he supplied her with performance enhancing drugs. The lawsuit is settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

February 12, 2004 - Victor Conte, BALCO executive James Valente, trainer Greg Anderson, and track coach Remi Korchemny are indicted on charges of money laundering, fraud and possession with intent to distribute steroids. The following day all of the defendants plead not guilty.

December 2, 2004 - The San Francisco Chronicle begins revealing secret grand jury testimony from several major baseball players, during which some of the baseball players admit to steroid use. Barry Bonds testifies that he used a substance given to him by trainer Greg Anderson, but that he (Bonds) did not know they were steroids.

December 3, 2004 - U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan requests a formal investigation into who is leaking grand jury testimony to reporters.

July 15, 2005 - Victor Conte and Greg Anderson plead guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering. James Valente pleads guilty to steroid distribution.

July 29, 2005 - Track coach Remi Korchemny pleads guilty to reduced charges. He is later sentenced to one year of probation.

October 18, 2005 - Victor Conte is sentenced to four months in prison and four months house arrest. Greg Anderson is sentenced to three months in prison and three months house arrest. James Valente receives probation.

February 2007 - Troy Ellerman, former attorney for Victor Conte, admits to showing grand jury testimony to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter. Ellerman pleads guilty to four felonies, including contempt of court and obstruction of justice.

July 12, 2007 - Ellerman is sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

October 5, 2007 - Marion Jones pleads guilty to charges of lying to a federal agent in 2003 about her steroid use.

November 15, 2007 - A federal jury indicts Barry Bonds on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The indictment is in connection to an investigation of the use of steroids in major league baseball.

January 11, 2008 - Marion Jones is sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation for lying to federal prosecutors investigating the use of performance enhancing substances.

April 13, 2011 - Bonds is convicted of one count of obstruction of justice. A mistrial is declared on three counts of perjury after jurors report they cannot reach an agreement.

December 16, 2011 - Bonds is sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and two years of probation for obstruction of justice.

May 3, 2012 - Bonds files a brief with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to overturn his obstruction of justice conviction.

April 22, 2015 - A federal appeals court overturns Bonds' obstruction of justice conviction.

Athletes involved (not comprehensive):

Major League Baseball Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield: Testified before the federal grand jury that they unknowingly took steroids given to them by Greg Anderson.

Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Armando Rios, Benito Santiago, Bobby Estalella: Testified before the federal grand jury that they used steroids provided to them by Greg Anderson.

Track & Field Marion Jones admitted that she used steroids before the 2000 Summer Olympics and lied to federal prosecutors about it. She was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation.

Regina Jacobs tested positive and was suspended from competition for four years.

Alvin Harrison and Michelle Collins: Suspended from competition for four years.

Kevin Toth, John McEwen, Dwain Chambers, Calvin Harrison, Melissa Price: Tested positive and suspended from competition for two years.

Tim Montgomery testified before the federal grand jury that he unknowingly used steroids provided to him by Victor Conte. He was suspended from competition for two years.

Chryste Gaines and Kelli White: Suspended from competition for two years.

Sandra Glover, Christopher Phillips, Eric Thomas: Tested positive and given a warning.

NFL Bill Romanowski tested positive, but had already retired.

Barret Robbins, Dana Stubblefield and Chris Cooper: Tested positive and fined by the NFL.

Boxing Shane Mosley admitted he unknowingly took steroids provided by BALCO.

Yankees 4, Mariners 3

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:33pm

NEW YORK -- Moved down to sixth in the lineup, Alex Rodriguez homered on the first pitch he saw Sunday afternoon as the New York Yankees defeated the Seattle Mariners, 4-3.Hitless in 19 at-bats since hitting a long home run off Mike Pelfrey during the first inning in Detroit on April 9, Rodriguez was moved down three spots after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and two groundouts Saturday. With a runner on first base and nobody out in the second inning, Rodriguez lined a pitch clocked at 86 mph from Hisashi Iwakuma (0-2) into the left-field seats. It was his 689th career home run and fourth hit of the season and the hit gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead.Rodriguez struck out in the third and fouled out in the fifth against Iwakuma. He struck out in the eighth against Nick Vincent and is batting .118 (4-for-34) with 13 strikeouts.New York snapped a four-game losing streak and also ended a 30 at-bat hitless stretch with runners in scoring position on an RBI double by Brett Gardner in the third. The other Yankees' run came when Gardner scored on a wild pitch in the fifth.Masahiro Tanaka (1-0) won the 12th matchup of Japanese pitchers while facing his former teammate from the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan's Pacific League. Tanaka allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in seven innings.Dellin Betances struck out the side in the eighth and Andrew Miller recorded his third save. Seattle was attempting to win three straight games in New York on three straight days for the first time since 2002. The Mariners swept the Yankees here two years but the third game was a makeup game in June.Kyle Seager had an RBI groundout and scored on a single by Steve Clevenger. Seattle's other run was on an RBI single by Seth Smith.Iwakuma made his 100th start and allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings. Before Rodriguez's home run, the Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the first when second baseman Starlin Castro made a wide throw on a force attempt and shortstop Didi Gregorius was unable to complete the double play as Smith scored.After Rodriguez's home run, Gardner made it 3-1 with a double over center fielder Nori Aoki's head. The Mariners made it 3-2 on Clevenger's single in the fourth and tied the game in the fifth when Smith singled through a drawn-in infield after Aoki's triple eluded Jacoby Ellsbury's diving attempt in center field.The Yankees regained the lead when Gardner scored on a wild pitch during an at-bat by Mark Teixeira with one out in the fifth.NOTES: Sunday's demotion of DH Alex Rodriguez to sixth coincided with the one-year anniversary of him being moved up to third in New York's lineup. ... Sunday was the fifth time the Yankees were involved in all-Japanese pitching matchup and the fourth time against Seattle. The first instance was May 7, 1999 against Seattle when Hideki Irabu beat Mac Suzuki in New York's 10-1 win at Yankee Stadium. ... Seattle manager Scott Servais said RHP Joaquin Benoit appeared to be throwing "free and easy" and with no restrictions Saturday when he pitched for the first time since April 8 due to right shoulder stiffness. ... Sunday was the 65th anniversary of former public address announcer Bob Sheppard's first game at Yankee Stadium. The first batter he introduced was Boston's Dom DiMaggio.

Rays 3, White Sox 2

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:33pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays got strong pitching from Matt Moore and an offensive spark from outfielder Brandon Guyer, edging the Chicago White Sox 3-2 on Sunday to take two of three games at Tropicana Field.The Rays (5-7) saw Guyer go 4-for-4 with two runs scored, and Moore struck out 10 while pitching into the seventh inning. Alex Colome got the final five outs for the Rays' first save of the season. The White Sox (8-4) were held in check for the second day in a row after coming to town with a four-game win streak. Tampa Bay improved to 3-1 against left-handers, beating Chicago's Jose Quintana a day after beating John Danks.For the second game in a row, the Rays jumped out to an early lead thanks to strong pitching and the kind of hitting they had missed in a 3-7 start. Moore had eight straight outs by strikeout at one stretch and held the White Sox to just three hits in the first five innings.The Rays jumped ahead in the first as Guyer singled and scored on Steve Pearce's RBI double. Chicago tied the game in the third, after what looked to be an inning-ending out at first was called safe -- and upheld on review -- setting up Austin Jackson's RBI single.Tampa Bay led off the third with three straight hits off Chicago starter Jose Quintana, with Logan Forsythe doubling and scoring on a single by Guyer, who then scored when Logan Morrison reached on an error by Quintana, who missed the bag with his foot trying to cover first.NOTES: As expected, the Rays got back two key starters injured in a collision in the outfield Friday -- both had sat out Saturday's game after leaving in the middle of Friday's loss. Logan Forsythe was back leading off and playing second and Kevin Kiermaier was in center field and batting eighth. Kiermaier's promotional weekend continued with all fans 14 and under getting a blue Kiermaier glove, this after fans got bobbleheads at Saturday's game. ... Rays OF Steven Souza, who jammed a finger on his left hand sliding into home late in Saturday's game, was not in the starting lineup, with Brandon Guyer replacing him in right field. The injury isn't believed to be anything long-term. ... The White Sox had OF Austin Jackson hitting second in their order, trying to get a spark from him, batting just .194 with three RBIs in the first 11 games of the season.

Sanders: Clooney is backing the wrong horse

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:24pm

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says actor George Clooney, who said the amount of money he'd raised for Hillary Clinton is "obscene," is backing the wrong candidate in the 2016 presidential race.

Sanders praised Clooney's acknowledgment in an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "it's ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics."

"They're right to protest," Clooney said of Sanders backers who protested his fundraiser for Clinton. "They're absolutely right. It's an obscene amount of money."

Asked in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" Sunday if Clooney is backing the wrong horse, Sanders said, "Well, I think he is."

'Movement toward oligarchy'

"He is honest enough to say that there is something wrong when few people -- in this case, wealthy individuals, but in other instances for the secretary, it is Wall Street and powerful special interests -- who are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money," Sanders said. "That is not what democracy is about. That's a movement toward oligarchy."

He added: "This is the issue of American politics today. Do we have a government that represents all of us, or only the 1%? And you're not going to have a government that represents all of us so long as you have candidates like Secretary Clinton being dependent on big-money interests."

A group of around 100 Sanders supporters showered Clinton's motorcade in 1,000 single-dollar bills as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate drove to Clooney's fundraiser on Saturday. To co-host the event, a couple was asked to donate $353,400 to the fund. Single tickets cost $33,400.

Sanders' criticism of special-interest money in politics is at the core of his campaign, even though he has outraised Clinton in recent months on the strength of a powerful online, small-dollar fundraising operation.

On Friday, he released his tax returns from last year. On Sunday, Sanders said more years are coming, "probably" this week.

Pope Francis

Sanders, who just returned from a brief trip to the Vatican where he briefly met Pope Francis, denied any suggestion that the Pope was embracing his politics.

Showed a clip of Vice President Joe Biden in an interview with CNBC saying any insinuation that Pope Francis was endorsing Sanders' political proposals was off-base, Sanders agreed.

"I love Joe, and no one is suggesting that the Pope was embracing my policies," he said. "I was very proud to have been invited by the Vatican to an important conference dealing with morality in economics, and in my view that is exactly the issue of the day."

Sanders added: "We have got to create an economics that is based on morality, dealing with the needs of working families and the elderly and the children and the sick and the poor, rather than an economy that is based on greed and the needs of big corporations."


Sanders also talked guns on Sunday. He said he supports the assault weapons ban backed by the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

But he still doesn't want the owners of gun stores who sell small firearms legally to people who later use them in crimes to face legal liability for those crimes, he said.

400 years of Shakespeare in posters

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:17pm

Four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare is the most performed playwright in history.

And just as long as the Bard has inspired theater companies to bring his works to the stage, he has moved visionary designers and artists to create bold and memorable posters to advertise them.

"Presenting Shakespeare," a recent release from Princeton Architectural Press, shines a light on these artists, bringing together 1,100 posters from 55 countries.

Director Juliet Taymor writes in the book's introduction: "Like the director and the stage designer, the poster artist searches for emblematic clues in Shakespeare's poetry, from its fantastical and graphic imagery presented in both word and action, and also from the overarching political, psychological, and philosophical themes of the play."

Together, the posters selected span every major artistic movement and style, from brash Western caricature (including an illustration by Hunter S. Thompson favorite Ralph Steadman) and Pop Art to Soviet-era minimalism and conceptual photography.

Check out the gallery above for the most creative, provocative and puzzling posters from productions around the world.

"Presenting Shakespeare" by Mirko Ilic and Steven Heller (Princeton Architectural Press) is out now.

Missouri grad students to vote on representation

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:12pm

University of Missouri's interim chancellor says the union representation election set for this week won't change the administration's decision to not recognize graduate students as employees. Interim Chancellor Hank Foley told The Columbia Daily Tribune Friday that he has tried to address every concern raised by graduate students since they began organizing last fall. Graduate assistants will vote Monday and Tuesday to decide whether the Coalition of Graduate Workers will become their bargaining agent. But the university has not recognized graduate assistants as employees. Graduate students who are hired as teaching or research assistants receive a stipend, a tuition waiver and university-paid health insurance. Connor Lewis, who is co-chairman of the Coalition of Graduate Workers, says the vote is following all state and federal best practices for an election.

Opinion: Can Amy Schumer defeat ISIS?

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 2:12pm

ISIS had better watch out because a new weapon might soon be deployed that it will really hate. No, not a new fighter jet or bomb. I'm talking "Borat." And maybe even Chris Rock and Amy Schumer.

At least that's what U2 frontman Bono told a Senate subcommittee last week, citing Sacha Baron Cohen, Rock and Schumer by name as he told the senators, "I think comedy should be deployed" in the fight versus ISIS.

Before you laugh -- or while you're laughing -- Bono is on to something. The singer/activist continued on to tell the senators, "It's like if you speak violence, you speak their language." He then added the most important line of his testimony, "but you laugh at them when they're goose-stepping down the street and it takes away their power."

Bono, despite what some right-wing media outlets have claimed, was not suggesting that jokes alone would destroy ISIS, which experts estimate has as many as 25,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

No one is saying that ISIS will suddenly surrender if Amy Schumer features a sketch on her Comedy Central TV show that mocked ISIS' obsessive use of Twitter as if it were the terrorist equivalent of Justin Bieber. That's just as laughable as people on the right saying if we would just all use the term "radical Islam" to describe ISIS it will then suddenly say, "Oh they're on to us, everyone go home."

What Bono was saying is that comically ridiculing ISIS should be another tool in countering this terror group. And he is 100% right. The last thing ISIS terrorists want is us laughing at them. They want us scared. That's why ISIS releases images of its brutality. It wants us to believe that it can attack any of us anywhere at any time.

And Bono is not alone in his view that comedy should be part of our arsenal in fighting ISIS' propaganda war. Muslim comedians in the Middle East who have been risking their lives to mock these barbaric killers in ISIS say the exact same thing. And, yes, there are Muslim comedians in the Middle East, and as someone who has performed with them, I can tell you firsthand they are hilarious.

Over the last two years Muslim comedians have increasingly used comedic videos to trash ISIS. Why? Two reasons. As one Iraqi told the UK's Daily Mail, the comedians want to "raise awareness" that "we are against ISIS."

And the second reason was exactly what Bono stated. These comedians believe that by encouraging people to laugh at ISIS, it undermines the group's power. For example, a Syrian comedy troupe created a video mocking ISIS because they want the terrorists to "look silly" in the hope it makes people "stop being afraid."

There are now videos being made by comedians across the region ridiculing ISIS for everything from being unIslamic to being a bumbling group of idiots. But it takes a lot of courage to mock ISIS when you live in the Middle East. I've played some tough rooms in my time, but never have I been threatened with death for my comedy. (Some have told me to go back to my own country, which is New Jersey.)

For example, Saudi comedian Nasser al-Qasabi wrote/performed in a comedy sketch that was popular on Arabic TV that ridiculed ISIS for being hypocritical morons who were not acting in any way Islamic. The result was that ISIS and its supporters publicly threatened to kill the comedian. Despite the death threats, Qasabi declared he would not stop mocking ISIS, noting this is his way of "fighting them with art not war."

So should American comedians increasingly be mocking ISIS? Each has to make that decision, but I say yes. In fact, I already have in my shows at comedy clubs and performing for Muslim American groups. But if famous comedians did it like Schumer, Rock and others, it would reach many more people and hopefully undermine ISIS' propaganda.

But as we saw, not everyone is on board with this concept. Last year when "Saturday Night Live" mocked ISIS, there was outrage by some because they thought "SNL" was inappropriately making light of a serious issue.

The reality is we need even more of this type of comedy. Not only does it counter ISIS' propaganda war, comedy truly can be cathartic and helps us deal with scary things (which is why I tell many jokes about Donald Trump).

Bono could not be more correct. It's now time to let loose the jokes of war and turn ISIS into a punch line.

PHOTOS: NASCAR makes first stop of the season at Bristol's short track

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 1:15pm

NASCAR ran the Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday. (Photos by Matt Hazlett, Matt Sullivan and Robert LaBerge)

Missouri bill would bar communities from banning pit bulls

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:57am

Missouri cities no longer could ban pit bulls under a bill advancing in the Legislature. The measure passed 117-17 by the House this past week would ban breed-specific local ordinances. That means municipalities no longer could ban pit bulls or other dog breeds sometimes considered dangerous. Rep. Ron Hicks, (R) St. Peters, said ordinances targeting specific breeds amount to discrimination. He said pit bulls are no more dangerous than other breeds, and that the owners are to blame if a dog becomes vicious. Hicks owns a boxer named Rosie that he said could be mistaken for a pit bull. Independence banned pit bulls in 2006 following a series of attacks. Mayor Eileen Weir said it should be up to local governments and not the state to decide how to handle certain dog breeds.

Arkansas, EPA at odds over list of polluted state waterways

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 10:20am

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is at odds with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality over the way it assesses impaired and polluted waterways in the state. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the department submitted its 2016 Impaired Waterbodies list on April 1. The EPA has until April 30 to act on it. But the EPA has not approved a list submitted by the agency since 2008, citing its disagreement with how the state assesses water quality. In 2014, the state approved changing water quality standards that would allow certain water bodies to remain in quality compliance. That allowed up to 25 percent of total mineral samples within a testing period to exceed water quality criteria for a particular body of water. The previous standard was up to 10 percent.

Florida offers reminder of Cruz's tough slog ahead

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 10:01am

If Wyoming's victory and a strong showing in Georgia boosted the morale among Ted Cruz supporters on Saturday, Florida proves a reminder that it's going to be a tough fight to wrest the Republican presidential nomination from front-runner Donald Trump.

GOP leaders in Florida selected 15 of their 99 delegates, all of whom were pledged to vote for Trump through three ballots at the Republican National Convention in July.

But former rival Marco Rubio, who ended his presidential bid, did well here in the battle over so-called "double agents" -- delegates committed to voting for one candidate but who actually support another -- that has had Trump crying foul for weeks. These delegates are free to vote against Trump on convention rules, possibly elevating Cruz, John Kasich or even a nominee not in the race right now.

Picking up delegates has been a strength for Cruz for almost a month now, and he continued placing his supporters into Trump delegate slots throughout Georgia on Saturday.

But the largely Cuban-American crowd that jammed into the Oliva Cigar Company, located just outside Miami, demonstrated that Rubio could be a player at the Cleveland convention, too. Of the 15 delegates selected Saturday, three were members of Rubio's Florida leadership team and two were top party leaders supporting Rubio. No Cruz or Trump supporters could be found on the list.

Rubio is holding onto his 173 delegates, making his team one of the most important blocs of supporters heading to the national convention.

"He's holding on to them for the same thing as Kasich: for strategy, for leverage," said Gaetano Rivana, a Trump supporter who lost his bid for one of the 15 seats. He said afterward that the system was "rigged."

Cruz's campaign director in Miami, Manny Roman, who is also the vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, said the support for Rubio runs deep in his hometown, but many conservatives were unhappy with his performance in Washington.

"I voted for Rubio in 2010, and this time around I decided to support the conservative who went to Washington and did what they said they were going to do," he said.

The Cruz campaign's focus in Florida now, he said, is convincing those Rubio supporters to unite behind Cruz in Cleveland with one-on-one lobbying. Roman said he wasn't prepared to say who he was lobbying, but said he began working immediately yesterday after the delegates were selected.

"Some of the delegates that were selected yesterday I know very, very well," Roman said. "It's about talking to these folks."

Dozens of Cuban-American Republicans filtered through the jam-packed lobby here. They included top supporters of Rubio and numerous candidates for delegates who seemed resigned to the fact that neither of Florida's native sons -- Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- would be on the ballot.

Saturday's selection process lacked the hallmarks of other delegate fights -- harried delegate wranglers racing around convention halls and big-name surrogates plying party leaders in private meetings.

Instead, party leaders met behind closed doors and interviewed prospective delegates one-by-one.

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a good friend of Rubio's who served with him in the Florida statehouse dodged when asked if he would have trouble supporting Trump.

"I am an avid supporter of anyone who is the nominee of this party," said Rivera, who lost his bid for delegate.

When asked whether he considered himself a Trump or Cruz supporter now, he began singing, "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be."

Even though Trump is assured support through three ballots from Florida delegates (one of the longest commitments from any state), his supporters were still parked across the street, protesting the closed selection process Saturday and chanting "99 for Trump!"

As they walked into the private interviews Saturday, delegate candidates were first asked if they could support whoever won their district before plunging into a litany of questions about service to the Republican Party and other qualifications.

Jessica Fernandez, president of the Miami Young Republicans, won a delegate seat from the 24th District. Even though she supported Rubio and was a member of his Florida leadership team, she said she was ready to follow the rules in Cleveland.

"The first question was, 'Do you pledge to support Donald Trump for the first three ballots, because that's what you're here to do?' And I had to say yes," Fernandez said.

Playing by the rules has become the mantra of Republican Party stalwarts, from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus down through the ranks amid an ongoing assault from Trump accusing them of using a "rigged" system.

But Fernandez was still angry at the complaints from Trump and his supporters.

"We could all say that this is not fair, but there are people who have been grinding this and working on the rules and have been part of this process for many years, or maybe a few years, but they got involved in the process more than six months ago. And if that makes you 'establishment,' so be it," she said.

Unlike in Wyoming and Georgia, it was hard to find any clear victories for Cruz in Florida Saturday.

Clinton: 'I don't respond' to Trump insults

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:57am

Hillary Clinton wouldn't respond directly Sunday to Donald Trump's new nickname for the Democratic presidential front-runner: "Crooked Hillary."

Instead, Clinton called attention to the insults the Republican she could face in the general election has lobbed at bigger groups.

"I don't respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults about me. I can take care of myself," Clinton said on ABC's "This Week."

"What I'm concerned about is how he goes after everybody else. He goes after women. He goes after Muslims. He goes after immigrants. He goes after people with disabilities," she said. "He is hurting our unity at home. He is undermining the values that we stand for in New York and across America. And he's hurting us around the world."

Clinton added: "He can say whatever he wants to say about me. I really could care less."

It's the same line Clinton has used for months in response to Trump's personal attacks and could preview her strategy if the two face each other in the general election.

Both Clinton and Trump face high unfavorability ratings that could hurt them in the general election. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton with 56% of registered voters with a negative view of her and 32% hold a positive view. Trump's numbers are even worse: 65% view him unfavorably and 24% favorably.

Clinton has tried to avoid making exchanges with Trump into a personal battle, instead trying to play up his barbs directed at broader, better-liked groups.

"I'm going to stay focused on the issues because there are stark differences between where I think our country needs to be headed and where he would turn us back and undermine the progress that we've been making," Clinton said.

"So when I talk about jobs, when I talk about climate change, when I talk about equal pay, when I talk about a woman's right to make her own health care decisions and so much else," she said, "I know that he doesn't believe any of that, and that in this campaign he wants to set Americans against each other and I'm not going to stand for it."

Rams plan to meet with QBs Goff, Wentz ahead of draft

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 9:48am

The Los Angeles Rams, now with the No. 1 pick, plan to meet with Cal quarterback Jared Goff and North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz ahead of this month's NFL Draft.

The Rams acquired the No. 1 overall selection from the Tennessee Titans in a blockbuster trade Thursday.

A league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Rams still are leaning toward using the pick on Goff but want to meet with both quarterbacks before making a choice.

The Titans sent the top selection and their fourth- (No. 113) and sixth-round (No. 177) picks this year to the Rams in exchange for Los Angeles' first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round selections (Nos. 43 and 45) and a third-round pick (No. 76) in 2016. The Titans also will get the Rams' first- and third-round picks in 2017.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher talked to reporters Thursday about both Goff and Wentz.

"We've also done private workouts with Jared and with Carson already," Fisher said. "We did those at the end of February, early March. We were the first ones in. We're familiar with both of them in addition to those other prospects on this roster. So, the skill sets are different, the personalities are different, the background is different, the competition is different, and that's what makes this such a challenge."

The Rams now have less than two weeks to make their decision as the draft gets underway on April 28.

"This is the best thing for our football team," Fisher said of the trade during Thursday's news conference in Oxnard, Calif. "When you take into consideration what's ahead for this franchise and the enthusiasm and excitement, the timing couldn't have been better."