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Boxer wants tougher federal toy-gun standards

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to take a page from California and enact new requirements that toy guns be marked so that they can’t be mistaken for real firearms.

This is a real handgun“The death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last month is just the most recent example of what can happen when a police officer mistakes a play weapon for a real firearm,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to commission Chairman Elliot Kaye on Wednesday. “The Commission plays a critical role in protecting the public from possible injury or death associated with toys.”

A police officer shot Rice to death Nov. 22, about two seconds after arriving in a park where the boy had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband. The orange safety tip that is supposed to identify the toy as fake might’ve been removed.

Boxer wants the commission to review the Imitation Firearm Safety Act – a new California law that will require all toy guns sold in the state to be painted a bright color – and adopt provisions of it to strengthen current national toy-gun standards.

California’s new law, inspired by 2013′s fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa, requires that pellet guns have not only the orange ring on the barrel as required by federal law, but also fluorescent color on the trigger guard and elsewhere.

“We don’t need another child’s death to remind us that we need to change the current laws regulating imitation firearms,” Boxer wrote. “Any modifications you can make to the existing toy gun standards that will help ensure that law enforcement officers are able to distinguish fake guns from real firearms are much appreciated.”

Critics of the California law have noted many real firearms (like the one pictured above) can have fluorescent-colored parts as well.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Reactions to the CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

    More, after the jump…
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    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, John McCain, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 6 Comments »

    Boxer: NRC has dropped the ball on nuclear safety

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer lit into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday for not living up to its mission of protecting the public and the environment by acting on recommendations following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    Boxer, D-Calif., wielding the Environment and Public Works Committee’s gavel for one of the last times before the GOP takes control of the Senate next month, noted at the hearing that the Fukushima catastrophe – meltdowns caused by damage from a tsunami triggered by 2011’s huge earthquake – still isn’t completely under control, and “is a warning to us that we must do more to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants here in the United States.”

    Diablo Canyon Power PlantYet despite the NRC’s assurances, “the reality is that not a single one of the 12 key safety recommendations made by the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force has been implemented at nuclear reactors in this country,” Boxer said, adding the agency’s “failure to heed these experts’ warnings is especially relevant at California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant.”

    “Even after learning of newly-discovered strong earthquake faults close to the power plant, the NRC has declined to act on its senior inspector’s warning that the reactor should be shut down if it did not come back into compliance with its seismic licensing requirements,” she said. “Approximately 500,000 people live and work near this power plant, and it is my responsibility and yours to protect them. The commission must make safety the highest priority.”

    Among the witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing was former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, who also is a former member of the California Seismic Safety Commission.

    Blakeslee had authored AB 1632, which required PG&E to conduct seismic hazard research of the faults near the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. PG&E just published the Coastal California Seismic Imaging Project Report two months ago, and “the results were astonishing,” Blakeslee said in his prepared testimony. The report documents the presence of a number of earthquake faults discovered after the design and construction of the plant that have been found to be larger and more dangerous than previously understood.”

    “There is no getting around the fact that PG&E has consistently downplayed seismic hazards on the coast near its nuclear plants,” he said. “Especially disturbing is that during these past decades the NRC has repeatedly relaxed its seismic standards to accommodate the operation of Diablo Canyon.”

    “It is time to end this hodge-podge of licensing rationalizations,” Blakeslee said. “We know a great deal more about seismic issues than we did when Diablo Canyon was licensed. It’s time for the NRC to reassess the seismic standards for the plant and submit them to a formal licensing amendment process. The thing that both PG&E and NRC fear most is a public hearing in which they would have to justify what they have done. It is also what we need most to assure seismic safety, and it is what the public deserves.”

    Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, energy, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

    Boxer urges Justice Dept. probe of Ferguson PD

    The Justice Department must thoroughly review the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether there’s a pattern of excessive use of force, mistreatment of prisoners, or racial profiling in its searches and arrests, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter Tuesday.

    Barbara Boxer“I am writing to express my strong support for the Department of Justice investigation into whether the Ferguson Police Department has engaged in discriminatory policing practices,” wrote Boxer, D-Calif. “It is imperative that we find out if there is a pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Ferguson.”

    Boxer noted a lack of diversity on the St. Louis suburb’s police force. “As part of this probe, I would urge you to determine whether the lack of diversity in the Ferguson Police Department contributed to the culture of distrust between local residents and police.”

    Meanwhile, here’s how some Bay Area House members reacted on Twitter to the Ferguson situation:

    Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among more than 200 who retweeted Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.:

    And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among more than 2,200 who retweeted civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

    Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

    Barbara Lee blasts Obama’s Afghanistan expansion

    President Obama has re-broadened U.S. troops’ combat role in Afghanistan.

    The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by authorizing U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan’s security forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year, Reuters reports.

    Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to 9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the end of 2016. Under that plan, only a small contingent of 1,800 U.S. troops was limited to counter terrorism operations against remnants of al Qaeda. The new orders will also allow operations against the Taliban.

    Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)And Rep. Barbara Lee – a staunch critic of the U.S. war in Afghanistan ever since being the lone vote against authorizing military force days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks – is not amused.

    “After more than a decade of open-ended war, I am deeply troubled to see the Administration expanding the role of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Sunday. “Many military and foreign policy experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people.

    “Our brave servicemen and women have performed their mission with courage, valor and commitment in an impossible situation,” she said. “It is time to stop endless war and bring our servicemen and women home to their families.”

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
    Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Rep. Mike Honda schools Sen. Rand Paul

    U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Friday likened President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to President Franklin Roosevelt’s action to put Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who as a child was forced to live in such a camp, issued a statement Monday taking the presidential aspirant to task.

    honda.jpg“Rand Paul’s comments comparing President Obama’s executive order on Immigration with President Roosevelt’s executive order that imprisoned thousands of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II could not be more misguided. At best, he is confused. At worst, he is just wrong.

    “President Roosevelt’s action was based on racism, fear, hysteria, war, and the lack of real political leadership. He succumbed to political pressure to deny Constitutional protections to 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of who were US-born citizens.

    “President Obama, on the other hand, through his commitment to immigration reform and American values, is using his Executive Order to include, not exclude, people. He is working to keep intact immigrant families who play by the rules, not exclude undocumented parents and other DACA eligible individuals.

    “President Obama is showing true leadership by taking action when the Republican leadership of the House has failed to let Congress do so.

    “The incarceration of US citizens of Japanese origin, including me and my family, was a misuse of executive order. As someone who as victim of executive order 9066, I can say without hesitation that Roosevelt was wrong. It was a misuse of power. President Obama’s order is an appropriate use of executive order because Congress did not do its job.

    “Every President has the Constitutional right to use Executive Orders. What Senator Paul fails to say, recognize, or admit to, is the motive and outcome of the use of this power. President Obama is using this power correctly – President Roosevelt did not.”

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Rand Paul, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 15 Comments »

    Electeds react to Obama’s immigration speech

    Talking points

    From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

    “The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together; they don’t support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people’s elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works. Not long ago, President Obama said the unilateral action he just announced was ‘not an option’ and claimed he’d already ‘done everything that I can on my own.’ He said it would lead to a ‘surge in more illegal immigration.’ He said he was ‘not a king’ and ‘not the emperor’ and that he was ‘bound by the Constitution.’ He said an action like this would exceed his authority and be ‘difficult to justify legally.’ He may have changed his position, but that doesn’t change the Constitution.

    “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

    “Tonight, President Obama announced bold action to bring our broken immigration system into line with our values as a people and our needs as a nation. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will secure our borders, prioritize enforcement, and provide relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding families who may now have a happy Thanksgiving free from the fear of separation.

    “The President’s actions fall well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedent set by every president since Eisenhower. Even Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used this authority to refine our immigration system in service of the national interest.

    “Executive action is no substitute for legislation, and the President’s action does not absolve Congress of its own responsibility. Democrats will continue to demand action on bipartisan immigration legislation that will provide lasting certainty to immigrant families, and secure the billions of dollars in economic benefits Republicans’ inaction has denied our country.”

    From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

    “The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again. As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’ We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

    “Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

    “The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

    “While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.”

    From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    “The president tonight announced he will temporarily suspend deportation of some undocumented immigrants, allowing families to stay together and bringing workers out of the shadows. While I continue to believe the House should vote on the Senate bill to address this issue, I support the president’s decision to help millions of individuals who have lived in the United States for years.

    “This decision is not ‘amnesty,’ as some critics contend, nor will anyone receive citizenship or a green card. The president is offering temporary work authorization and halting deportations of certain immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years, including parents of U.S. citizens and individuals who arrived before age 16. The authority he is using has been employed by every president since Eisenhower, including 14 times during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

    “While the president’s executive action will provide much-needed relief for immigrant families, a permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. The Senate bill passed in June 2013 was painstakingly negotiated over many months and received 68 votes, including 14 Republicans. Unfortunately, House leadership has ignored this commonsense bill. I hope they reconsider.

    “The president’s decision is especially important for California. According to the White House, more than 150,000 of California’s agricultural workers will likely be eligible for deferred action and temporary work authorization. This will help ensure that our farms can continue to feed the country and the world.

    “I plan to re-introduce a bill similar to the agricultural worker provisions from the Senate bill as stand-alone legislation next year, which I believe will offer Congress a starting point for further action.”

    Lots more, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 Comments »

    Obama’s immigration speech: video & transcript

    Full transcript of remarks as prepared, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

    House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

    A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

    “You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

    But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

    Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

    “We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

    The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

    Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

    “Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

    UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

    “Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

    “Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

    “I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

    “It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

    “California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

    “It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Agriculture, Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 1 Comment »

    California Dems on Jerusalem synagogue attack

    California Democrats are condemning the killing of four rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians wielding a gun, an ax and a meat cleaver. (UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: A fifth victim – a police officer – has now died.)

    From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

    “I am horrified by the barbaric murder of innocents in a sacred house of worship. This heinous and brutal act of terror has no place in a civilized world and only sets back the cause of peace and humanity. All my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and I am praying for the recovery of those injured.”

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

    “The murder of worshippers at morning prayer is an unconscionable and inhuman act of terror. This attack is beyond the circle of civilized behavior, and Congress and the American people stand united in condemning its brutality.

    “Our hearts ache for the family, friends, and loved ones of those killed and wounded in today’s savage attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem. We join the mourning of American-born Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, and British-born Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. Our thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of all Americans, are with them and all the citizens of Israel at this time of mourning.”

    From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

    “Today’s cowardly and brutal killing of three American and one British rabbi in Jerusalem is an affront to every civilized person and nation. Attacks such as these damage the ability for both sides to come to the table and work out a long-term solution to the underlying conflicts in the region.

    “President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are right to condemn this attack. I agree with Secretary Kerry that the Palestinian leadership must also condemn this attack in the strongest way possible, and to take concrete steps to prevent such attacks in the future. No nation’s or people’s cause is aided by brutal acts of terrorism against innocent worshippers.

    “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the injured, the larger Jewish community, and all who stand for peace during this time of grief.”

    Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Israel, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »