The news: It wouldn't be the first time Barack Obama smoked weed, but sadly it was not to be. While at a Denver bar on Tuesday night, the president met with residents in Colorado — where weed is now totally legal — and one person asked the POTUS if he wanted a hit of something green. "You wanna hit this?" the guy shouted. The answer was no, but the president just laughed.
In a speech in Oslo, Norway, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that he expects the number of Americans that travel to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremists to grow. He also called for targeting westerners for surveillance and potential prosecution if they show signs of becoming radicalized.
American intelligence estimates that there are about 23,000 fighters in Syria. About 7,000 of these are foreign fighters. Of these, "dozens" come from America and about 50 come from Norway. One of them is ISIS-spokesperson Abu Safiyya, who recently taunted Obama to buy diapers in a propaganda video.
Holder spent the day reviewing the Norwegian action plan against radicalization with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Minister of Justice Anders Anundsen. He then called for other countries to enact a four-step multilateral plan to fight the "global crisis of influx of U.S.- and European-born violent extremists into Syria."
"If we wait for our nations’ citizens to travel to Syria or Iraq to become radicalized, and to return home, it may be too late to adequately protect our national security," said Holder.
He asked that other countries join the U.S., France, and Norway to enact laws that criminalize preparatory acts to terrorism. The plan also includes use of undercover operations to identify people that are planning to travel to Syria to fight. Holder pointed out that the FBI already has conducted several successful operations that have identified people that were planning to leave America to fight in Syria.
The third step in the plan includes international collaboration and intelligence-sharing, including information about travelers.Interpol and its Fusion Task Force will coordinate this effort. He also called for mutual legal assistance and extradition of foreign fighters to combat violent extremism. Finally he called for countries to enact counter-radicalization programs, such as the Norwegian one.
The Norwegian plan includes 30 steps ranging from research on radicalization and public awareness campaigns to detailed plans for how schools officials, social security officials, and law enforcement officials should deal with reports about individuals that might be in the radicalization process.
Holder emphasized the administration’s commitment to civil rights throughout the speech. This was probably to reassure people who would have rightful concerns about even closer international intelligence-sharing collaborations and law enforcement misconduct. Failed projects such as the illegal no-fly list come to mind.
"While we are committed to ensuring that we protect the safety of our fellow citizens, we are also committed to protecting their privacy," he said. "These undercover operations are conducted with extraordinary care and precision, ensuring that law enforcement officials are accountable for the steps they take—and that suspects are neither entrapped nor denied legal protections."
The Attorney General reiterated his proposal that the U.S. should enact legislation that would permit non-U.S. citizens to seek judicial redress for access, rectification, and disclosure of law enforcement information transferred to the U.S.
"This is an historic commitment by the United States to extend privacy protections beyond U.S. persons in this context," he said.
It would indeed be a historic commitment, if enacted and implemented.
While WhatsApp and Facebook's previous $1 billion acquisition of Instagram were in keeping with its social network roots, Oculus Rift was in the video game industry and had yet to release a product. This led many to ask: what was Zuckerberg thinking?
Insurance firms participating in New York’s ObamaCare health exchange are seeking double-digit hikes for patient medical premiums in 2015, new figures reviewed by The Post reveal.
The average hike sought by insurers for individual plans is 12 percent—but a number of firms serving large numbers of patients want to boost individual premiums by nearly 20 percent.
Leading the charge is Excellus Health Plan, which is seeking to sock more than 24,000 customers with a 19.7 percent hike.
The even larger MVP Health Plan, with nearly 33,000 customers, is seeking a 19 percent boost.
While a number of smaller plans put in for lesser increases or, in a number of cases, decreases, Health Republic Insurance of New York — the largest on the exchange with more than 68,000 members — requested a 15.2 percent increase for individual plans.
The proposed rate increases call into question one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act — curbing runaway health-care costs.
In some letters to customers, insurers cited requirements in ObamaCare as contributing to the proposed rate increases.
“Our goal in pricing is to match expected medical spending — including medical costs, utilization and mandated coverage — with premiums. Other factors include plan design and new taxes and fees,” said Maria Gordon Shydlo, a spokeswoman at UnitedHealthCare.
The Rye-based health insurer wants a 12.5 percent increase for small group plans, but a decrease of 2.4 percent for individual plans.
The overall rate hike sought by insurers, which includes those both on and off New York’s health exchange and those serving either small groups or individuals, was 13.2 percent, according to officials at the state Department of Financial Services, which regulates the insurance industry.
They noted that the agency has final say over what the rate hikes will actually be in 2015, the second year of the exchange.
Officials said the submissions are under review and a final decision is expected to be made by the end of August.
“We are going to scrutinize these rate requests very closely in order to protect New Yorkers and ensure they are not subject to any unjustified rate increases,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky.
The folks at Quinniapiac College have just released a new poll that must surely be making the rounds of the White House bunker. After talking to about 1,500 registered voters nationwide, Quinniapic finds that one-third of Americans rate Barack Obama as the worst president since 1945. Another 28 percent say George W. Bush was the pits and a relatively tiny fraction call out Richard Nixon for the dubious honors. Who did people say was the best president? Ronald Reagan pulled 35 percent, Bill Clinton a solid 18 percent, and John Kennedy took home the bronze with 15 percent. Perhaps the worst dig at Obama from the poll? Forty-five percent of respondents said the country would have been better off if Mitt Romney had been elected in 2012 (38 percent said the country would be worse off).
Trolleys and light rail trains are great for getting around a city and all, but let's face it, they're just sitting there empty a lot of the time, just begging you to trip over them. So why not turn that underused resource into a new form of mobility: A DIY pallet-train for one?
All Aboard Florida’s cross-state passenger rail line took one step forward and one step back Tuesday as the company unveiled its plans for a gleaming 30,000-square-foot station in Fort Lauderdale, but also confirmed that service to Orlando will be...