Shorter Question Everything
• Statement by the President on Senate voting down background checks. The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?
• Gabrielle Giffords: Senators say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
• NRA new ad campaign, claiming that 80% of police officers believe background checks will have no effect on violent crime. Is that true? Actually, no — William Saletan explained today it’s a “bald-faced lie.” Saletan added, “The NRA’s ad is a lie. It flunks a simple background check. Senators should ask themselves what else the NRA is lying about.”
• This afternoon, 124 days after the tragedy in Newtown, the U.S. Senate voted down a bipartisan amendment to increase background checks to include gun purchases online and at gun shows. The measure failed 54-64, with four Democrats joining in opposition: Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AR).
• Minnesota radio host Bob Davis last week said last Friday he would like to personally tell the families in Newtown, Connecticut whose children were murdered to “go to hell.” On his show Davis & Emmer, which is broadcast by Twin Cities News Talk AM 1130, he attacked the families of those killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School for speaking in support of stricter gun laws. “I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting,” Davis said. “I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims.” “I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘go to hell,’” he added.
• Idiotic: A bill passed by Arizona Republicans on Tuesday would force cities and counties to resell — instead of destroy — the firearms turned in to gun buyback programs, potentially allowing the weapons to end up back on the street. In an 18-12 vote along party lines, the state Senate passed House Bill 2455, which states that local government “shall sell” any firearm turned over to any authorized business “that shall sell the firearm to the public according to federal and state law.” The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer (R). It was not immediately clear if she intended to sign it into law.
Boston Marathon Bombing
• Chris Hayes: Taking on the media – reporting matters. CNN and FOX had a grand old time inventing the news but who did they really hurt? They certainly didn’t help themselves.
• Clear Images of Bombing Suspects to be Released: The Boston Globe is reporting this morning that law enforcement officials have clear images from video of suspects at each of the bombing sites, and they plan to release them to the public today. Both suspects are reportedly carrying black bags — that match the scraps found in the bomb site — and police need the public’s help to identify them. In a separate Globe report, authorities are said to be “very close” in their pursuit of the bomber, which may help explain some of the conflicting stories reported by media outlets Wednesday.
• Authorities are now seeking two men seen in video near the scene of the Boston Marathon for questioning, officials told NBC News Thursday. The FBI has given law enforcement agencies a surveillance photo of a man wearing a baseball cap at the scene of the marathon bombing and is asking for help identifying the man, a senior federal law enforcement official who has seen the photo told NBC News Wednesday. The official who has seen the photo described it as showing a man about six feet tall, wearing a white or off-white baseball cap.
• The federal courthouse in Boston was given the all clear on Wednesday afternoon after being evacuated because of an apparent bomb threat earlier in the day.
• Today, in Gohmert says something stupid: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert (R) on Wednesday connected the Monday bombings in Boston to the immigration debate and warned that “radical Islamists” were “being trained to come in and act like Hispanics.”
• Which is why I watch MSNBC: The only cable news network that applied the rigorous standards of journalism and refrained from jumping on the erroneous story was MSNBC. Pete Williams, NBC’s justice correspondent, and NBC anchor Brian Williams, both made appearances to refute the reports that were coming out of other news outlets.
• New poison letter sent to Obama; police clear packages found at Capitol: Authorities said Wednesday they had intercepted a letter to the White House that tested positive for ricin poison. The Secret Service acknowledged the letter addressed to President Obama contained a suspicious substance, and the FBI later said tests showed it was ricin, the same deadly toxin sent in a letter addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). The Wicker letter was made public on Tuesday. The Secret Service said the letter was sent to Obama on April 16 and discovered at a remote White House mail screening facility.
• CNN is reporting that a third “suspicious envelope” was sent to Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) office. Parts of two Senate office buildings have been cleared.
• Federal agents arrested a man on Wednesday who is suspected of sending letters believed contaminated by the poison ricin to President Obama and a Republican senator. The F.B.I. identified the suspect as Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss.
• An explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant Wednesday night in the area of West, Texas, sending a massive fireball into the sky and causing dozens of injuries, officials said.
• The wife of a jailed former justice of the peace in the Texas county where a district attorney and his wife were found dead in their home in March has been arrested and charged with capital murder. Michael and Cynthia McLelland were found shot to death in their home March 30. Michael McLelland’s deputy, Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, was killed in a separate shooting Jan. 31. Kim Lene Williams has been charged with capital murder in connection with all three deaths, Kaufman County sheriff’s Lt. Justin Lewis said Wednesday afternoon. Williams was admitted to the Kaufman County jail just before 3 a.m. local time Wednesday. She was held on a $10 million bond.
• American use of torture ‘indisputable,’ says new, nonpartisan report: A report released Tuesday finds that many of the interrogation techniques United States forces used on detainees in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks constitute torture. The report states “that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” In December 2012, the Senate Intelligence Committee adopted a 6,000 page report drawn solely from CIA records; however, that report remains classified. The nonpartisan Constitution Project commissioned the report from their Task Force on Detainee Treatment more than two years ago with the intent of compiling a thorough, publicly available presentation of past and current interrogation techniques. The report concludes that neither the techniques constituting torture nor the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment led to any useful intelligence: “there is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.”
• A judge has delayed an upcoming hearing for five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks due to suspicions that confidential defense emails were monitored, a lawyer said Wednesday. The next preliminary hearing had been set to take place on April 22 at the US military base at Guantanamo. It was now scheduled for June 17-21, according to a Pentagon spokesman. Lawyers for four of the accused had filed an emergency motion with presiding Judge Colonel James Pohl, seeking a delay in proceedings after revelations that defense emails and computer files had been compromised.
• NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire on Tuesday condemned New Hampshire state Rep. Peter Hansen (R-Amherst) after news broke that he referred to women as “vaginas” in an email. Responding to debate over the state’s Stand Your Ground law, Hansen wrote on April 1 that “children and vagina’s” were missing from “the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat.” The law allows deadly force when someone believes their life is in danger, without the obligation to first retreat. “Are you really using ‘vaginas’ as a crude catch-all for women? Really?” state Rep. Rick Watrous (D-Concord) replied. “Please think before you send out such offensive language on the legislative listserve.”
• Rehtaeh Parsons’ family being ‘harassed’ by supporters of alleged rapists: Rehtaeh Parsons’ mother on Wednesday slammed those who put up posters in support of four alleged rapists, saying it “felt like someone kicked me in the stomach.” “They’re not learning any lessons,” Leah Parsons told Global News. “They’re doing the exact same thing as when Rehtaeh was alive. They’re continuing with the hate.”
• U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Syria has still not allowed a team of experts into the country despite the country’s calling on the international body to investigate alleged chemical weapons use by rebels.
• Villagers near Yanshi, China, are blaming the mass overnight deaths of 400 pigs and 100 dogs on a nearby chemical plant, officials said. A number of villagers living in Dongtun village in Henan Province awoke Monday to find their pigs and dogs dead or dying, Beijing’s Global Times reported Thursday. Villagers described pigs running around foaming at the mouth and dogs suddenly barking before dropping dead, the Dahe Daily reported. A nearby chemical plant, which manufactures fluorine products, was shut down in response to the incident, the Times reported.
• A new report from a bipartisan group of former U.S. officials urges the Obama administration to strengthen and expand diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program instead of relying solely on sanctions to convince the regime in Tehran to change course. The Iran Project’s report says that the U.S. sanctions policy may be backfiring and has “contributed to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran” and “may be sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the United States.”
• The United States plans to deploy 200 troops in Jordan because of “the deteriorating situation” in war-torn Syria, Information Minister Mohammad Momani said on Wednesday.
• US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged Wednesday that nobody had lied about last year’s attack on a US mission in Libya that killed four Americans, and he urged lawmakers to move on. The former senator found the tables turned as he was grilled about the hot-button issue by his old congressional colleagues during his defense of the State Department’s 2014 budget request at the House foreign affairs committee. “I don’t think anybody lied to anybody,” Kerry insisted about the attack in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, which sparked a ferocious backlash from Republicans during the 2012 US presidential race. Kerry also said he would not investigate statements made by Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations in the days after the September 11 attack last year.
• The former military ruler of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, fled a courtroom here in the capital on Thursday, making a dramatic escape after a judge revoked his bail over a case dating to his nine years in power.
• The ethics investigation targeting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is based on allegations she improperly used campaign funds. What’s more, former aides who’ve been interviewed as part of the probe believe the scope of the investigation is broadening.