Thaw Your Body, Mind and Soul with a Winterized Yoga Practice

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

by Holly Walck Kostura, certified Iyengar yoga teacher “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back.” —Albert Camus, French Nobel Prize–winning author […]

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Maria’s Five Favorites: Health & Healing

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

Toxic chemicals are all around us—in our foods, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, soaps, and lawn and garden products. These chemicals (in “fragrance,” BPA, phthalates, and other ingredients) harm our bodies and our earth. And when it comes to healing ourselves, often many of us are reaching out to what is ultimately a toxic product. But what […]

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Opinion: White House changed drilling discussion

Story highlights

  • The Obama administration asks Congress to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • John Sutter says the way the administration made the request is important
  • The White House is arguing, essentially, that the refuge is “too pristine” for drilling

Editor’s note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and creator of CNN’s Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at ctl@cnn.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Yet, until a surprising announcement from the Obama administration on Sunday, that’s rarely what the public has heard about Alaska’s highly politicized Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

We heard that it was full of oil. Or it wasn’t.

That it would create a bunch of jobs. Or it wouldn’t.

That it would solve the energy crisis.

Or, you know, maybe not.

A former U.S. rep actually said “there’s no wildlife” there.

But after decades of fighting over data and political talking points, the refuge — also called ANWR — started to emerge for me this week as an actual, living-breathing place. The shift came in how the White House announced that it would now treat the refuge as wilderness, which has infuriated Alaska Republicans since it could prevent oil and gas drilling on a contentious piece of land, at least for now.

The administration asked Congress to give a disputed part of the refuge a wilderness designation. And the Interior Department released a new conservation plan that aims to protect the area.

Instead of arguing the demerits of drilling, the White House basically turned the old Sarah Palin argument on its head. “The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge, one of the few remaining places in the country as pristine today as it was when the oldest Alaska Native communities first set eyes on it, is too precious to put at risk,” John Podesta, a counselor to Obama, and Mike Boots, head of the Council on Environmental Quality, wrote at WhiteHouse.gov.

“By designating the area as wilderness, Congress could preserve the Coastal Plain in perpetuity — ensuring that this wild, free, beautiful, and bountiful place remains in trust for Alaska Natives and for all Americans.”

Instead of “Drill baby, drill,” it’s “protect, baby, protect.”

Or maybe Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, put it better: “Some places are simply too special to drill,” he said in a statement.

That’s a sorta new — or at least very retro — way of talking about the refuge, said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. The go-to arguments for environmentalists, she said, have concerned a lack of economic impact from drilling. “The most compelling arguments are the ones we forget about using — and that is the beauty and the special nature and the wildness of the place,” she told me.

“It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but the fact of the matter is it is unique. It truly is the last great wilderness. A lot of people like the idea that there’s a place like that that’s still left, and they want it to be left for future generations.

“It sounds corny, but it really is the last place we have left to do this.”

It’s a throwback to John Muir, the Sierra Club founder, who wrote, according to that group’s website, that “our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”

To underscore the rhetorical shift, the White House released a nature video about the refuge in which President Barack Obama says he hopes this “amazing wonder can be preserved for future generations.”

The administration is proposing that 12.3 million acres of the refuge be protected as wilderness. Now, about 7 million of the far-north Alaska refuge’s 19.8 million acres are managed in that way. “If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago,” the U.S. Department of Interior said in a news release.

If the administration wanted to take this a step further, it could argue that the Arctic Refuge is not just threatened by oil and gas development in its backyard, but also by oil and gas development worldwide.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Already, substantial changes are being seen.

“(The Arctic and Antarctic) are kind of the canary in a coal mine of global warming,” says Walt Meier, a research scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in this video about climate change and the melting of the Arctic sea ice. Another scientist in the video says the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

But back to the central argument here: I tend to get overwhelmed by sweeping generalizations about the grandness and wonderment of nature. I mean, how wonderful is it? Or in what way? Why should we all be happy it’s there?

So I asked Shogan, from the Alaska Wilderness League, to give me a little more detail about what’s actually going on in this epic wilderness. What lives there, and why is it unique?

She told me about the porcupine caribou, of course, which migrate along the Porcupine River and are somewhat analogous to the migratory animals of the Serengeti. That’s a parallel that hadn’t occurred to me before and really puts it in context.

“Like antlered gypsies, barren ground caribou are always on the move,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says on its website. “Exactly when and where they go is impossible to predict. Most herds, however, are drawn to a specific calving area. The 169,000 member Porcupine caribou herd has such a connection with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Shogan told me about the birds, such as the lesser yellow legs and the plovers, which migrate into the “Lower 48.” She told me how this is “the only place that all three kinds of bears hang out” — polar, black and grizzly.

But the factoid that made me most love this refuge was also the strangest and most apocalyptic: There are so many mosquitoes in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the summer that they literally can swarm and kill large mammals, such as caribou. They get in their noses and jab their backs. It’s so brutal, so panic-inducing, that the caribou retreat to the ocean.

“It’s really awful, but that’s the wilderness right? That’s wildlife,” she said.

Well, at least it’s wild.

So much of the United States has been carved up by people — from the farmers’ plows on the Great Plains to the mountain-blasting miners in Appalachia — that it’s comforting to know this place is left.

Bears, caribou — and, yeah, mosquitoes.

But maybe I’m too swept up in this. I’m curious what you think of the President’s framing of the Arctic Refuge — and his request that Congress protect it more permanently. Do those arguments convince you, especially at a time when oil and gas prices are low and when the United States is already, without ANWR, the top oil and natural gas producer in the world?

Or do you agree with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said called the move a “stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive.”

Let me know in the comments or by writing me on Twitter. I’m @jdsutter.

Celeb

Why the alleged Russian spy ring matters

Story highlights

  • Alleged Russian spies seem hapless but may hint at wider operation
  • Arrest comes at time of sharp U.S.-Russia tensions

In an affidavit unsealed in federal court on Monday, the Justice Department accused Evgeny Buryakov, also known as “Zhenya,” of posing as a Russian banker in Manhattan to funnel economic intelligence to the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency.

Two other Russians, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, were ostensibly diplomats in Russia’s UN mission in New York but are accused of being Buryakov’s SVR handlers. While Buryakov was operating deep undercover and therefore had no diplomatic protection, the other two have immunity and have already left the the United States.

Anecdotes in the affidavit portray the accused spies as bumbling and hapless compared to the stereotype of hard-eyed Soviet-era KGB professionals. Still, news of their existences comes at the most perilous moment in U.S.-Russia relations in decades, with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at a standoff over issues ranging from Ukraine to Moscow’s claims it has a right to a “sphere of influence” in its backyard.

A spy operation will only serve to deepen the hostilities.

Professor Mark Galeotti, a specialist in transnational organized crime, security affairs and Russia at New York University, said that Russian operations are cranking up against the U.S. and its European allies.

“It is clear that this is a process that has been taking place over time,” he said. “It is not just about throwing money and people into it. It is the tempo and the aggressiveness that is at the height of Cold War levels.”

FBI: Russian spies used tickets and hats to try to hide New York activities

‘Open society’

Edward Lucas, author of “Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today,” said “Russian espionage in the West is on a bigger scale than it was during the Soviet period.”

“We are an open society so we are very easy to spy on and we are in competition with a very closed society, which is Russia. They use intelligence as one of the most important tools in the Kremlin tool kit.”

U.S. authorities agree.

“More than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War, Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Assistant FBI Director Randall Coleman warned that despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, “espionage is as pervasive today as it has ever been.”

“This case is especially egregious as it demonstrates the actions of a foreign intelligence service to integrate a covert intelligence agent into American society under the cover of an employee in the financial sector,” he said.

The affidavit contains details of alleged — and apparently fumbling — attempts by the accused SVR agents to recruit female students at a New York University and a boastful American businessman dreaming of riches in the Russian energy industry.

Those tid bits have sparked derisive assessments of Moscow’s espionage prowess, echoing the ridicule drummed up by the outing of Anna Chapman in 2010. She was exposed in an FBI probe into 10 Russian deep cover “sleeper agents” and was later exchanged with Moscow in a spy swap.

According to the unclassified affidavit, the 2015 spies, like the 2010 brigade, appeared to extract little useful intelligence and appeared not to penetrate deeply into the U.S. financial industry.

In fact, the two alleged handlers, were caught on an FBI surveillance tape complaining that life as a spy in the United States wasn’t like it was in the movies.

James Bond

Podobnyy is quoted in the affidavit as saying that he didn’t expect to be “James Bond” but had expected a little more excitement.

“Of course, I wouldn’t fly helicopters,” he said, but confessed he had expected to “pretend to be someone else” under an assumed identity.

The pair apparently communicated with Buryakov using covert and coded methods and conducted 48 clandestine meetings, unaware they were under surveillance by the FBI.

Lucas said that in retrospect their missions might look amateurish, but “all espionage operations look brilliant if they succeed and blundering if they fail.”

Close observers of the spy trade argue that media mockery over Chapman, now a TV star and model in Russia, and her apparently unsuccessful comrades in New York, detracts from a long-term, well-financed and painstaking effort by Moscow — and Putin, a former KGB agent — to insert “illegals” deep into Western society.

Peter Earnest, a former CIA case officer who now heads the International Spy Museum in Washington, said that a perception had grown that those swept up in the 2010 operation were part of a hapless “Keystone Cops” operation.

“The Russians under Putin have chosen to invest a lot of money into placing people like that overseas,” he said. “It wasn’t clear to the public what these people were doing.”

“They were meant to be sleepers,” Earnest said. “Typically an illegal sent to another country is a sleeper. He or she is available to handle a very sensitive asset, or in the case of wartime, or some sort of confrontation, be available.”

Comprehensive program

While the agents exposed in New York this week were not “sleepers”, they were also evidence of a comprehensive Russian espionage program.

The latest National Threat Assessment by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned last year that Russia, in addition to challenging U.S. cyber security, was also seeking to target U.S. personnel with access to sensitive computer network information.

He named Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. state security and said they were seeking data on advanced weapons systems and information on U.S. firms and research institutions that deal with energy, finance, the media, defense and dual use technologies.

John Schindler, who spent a decade with the National Security Agency working as an intelligence analyst and counterintelligence officer on Eastern Europe and the Middle East, believes the U.S.-Russia spy wars are as vibrant as ever.

“This is the tip of an iceberg,” he said. “The 2010 illegals program that was rolled up by the FBI was a big success but this was not the end of it.”

Schindler said that since the demise of the Soviet Union, Russian intelligence services have rebuilt overseas networks, partly to wage “economic war” against the West.

Such an emphasis is increasingly important at a time when the United States and its allies are imposing economic sanctions on powerful figures and top firms over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and alleged infiltration into eastern Ukraine.

The new Russian intelligence offensive has a world of opportunity. Russian businesses and capital are increasingly important to and invested in the global economy.

And the nexus between vast Russian commercial and energy interests, and organized crime offers a shady world where spies can prosper.

The affidavit in the Buryakov case alleges that the SVR sought to use an official Russian news organization in the United States to get information about high-frequency automated trading systems used on Wall Street and to gauge interest among brokers about Russian products.

Key questions

While it lays out a comprehensive legal case against the three alleged Russian spies, the document also includes several intriguing story lines and leaves key questions unanswered in the fog of the espionage wars.

The document includes transcripts of conversations between Podobnyy, Sporyshev and Buryakov — not just from phone taps, but from what it says are discussions “inside the SVR NY office.”

That leaves open the possibility that the FBI managed to get some kind of bug into the super secure premises. Lucas said its mention may be intended to induce paranoia among Russian intelligence chiefs who may wonder what other sensitive conversations were swept up.

The document also says that in the summer of 2014, Buryakov “met numerous times with a confidential source working for the FBI.” That revelation may also lead SVR bosses to question the extent of FBI knowledge about their operations.

Another question is why did the FBI move now?

“Arresting a foreign spy is the last option, you would rather turn them or watch who they are taking to,” said Galeotti.

“Why did they decide to arrest this guy? Did they think they would be about to return to Russia? Was it because there was a risk that he was going to stumble across something important? “Was it time to put a shot across the Russian bows?”

The idea that the United States wanted to make a political point about its intelligence operations at a time of rising tensions appears supported by the robust language of the Department of Justice Press release.

“We will use every tool at our disposal to identify and hold accountable foreign agents operating inside this country — no matter how deep their cover,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Bharara added: “New York City may be more hospitable to Russian businessmen than during the Cold War, but my office and the FBI remain vigilant to the illegal intelligence-gathering activities of other nations.”

Celeb

BREAKING NEWS: Jordan agrees to swap terrorist for pilot held by ISIS

Jordan has agreed to demands from ISIS that it release a female jihadist held since 2006, in a move that could free a Jordanian pilot captured in Syria last month and possibly a Japanese journalist who pleaded for his life in a video released by the terror group on Tuesday.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said in a statement the nation was prepared to free Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted of taking part in a deadly hotel bombing, if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed. His comments were carried by Jordan’s official Petra news agency. Although he made no mention of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, a hostage audio message released by Islamic State a day earlier tied Goto’s fate to that of Al-Rishawi, as well.

Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack by al-Qaida on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people. Jordan is reportedly in indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in iraq to secure the hostages’ release. The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Jordan’s parliament, Bassam Al-Manasseer, has been quoted as saying that Jordan and Japan would not negotiate directly with the Islamic State group and would not free al-Rishawi for the Japanese hostage only.

“Please save Kenji’s life.”

- Mother of Japanese fraalance journalist Kenji Goto

Earlier Wednesday, the mother of the Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, appealed publicly to Japan’s premier to save her son. The mother, Junko Ishido, read to reporters her plea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which she said she sent after both Abe and Japan’s main government spokesman declined to meet with her.

“Please save Kenji’s life,” Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government until the very end to try to save Goto.

“Kenji has only a little time left,” she said.

The Jordanian government is under growing pressure at home to win the release of the pilot, with his father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, pleading with Jordan to “to meet the demands” of the Islamic State group.

“All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu’ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu’ath means chaos in Jordan,” he told The Associated Press as about 200 of the pilot’s relatives protested outside the prime minister’s office in Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging that it meet the captors’ demands.

The development came after Islamic State released a flurry of grim threats at the West, one of which included an apparent beheading of a captured Kurdish soldier. In that video, discovered by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Tuesday, three Islamic State fighters stand behind the kneeling Kurdish fighter as one of the extremists launches into a diatribe against the U.S. and other Western nations.

“Know, oh Obama, that will reach America,” says one of the fighters, clad in black and wearing a balaclava, in a translation from Arabic provided by MEMRI. “Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House, and transform America into a Muslim Province.”

The extremist also issued warnings to European nations.

“And this is my message to France and to its sister, Belgium,” he said. “We advise you that we will come to you with car bombs and explosive charges, and will cut off your heads.”

The video fades to black as one Islamic State fighter brings a knife up to the unidentified Kurdish fighter’s throat.

In an audio message released Tuesday, Goto said Jordan held his life in it shands.

“Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean [that] they are responsible for the death of their pilot, which then will be followed by mine [i.e. my death],” says a voice believed to be that of Kenji Goto Jogo, one of two Japanese hostages shown in a video released a week ago, along with a demand for $200 million from Japan. “I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less. Please don’t leave us to die.”

Jogo is a freelance journalist who was captured in Syria late last year, after reportedly traveling there to try to help Haruna Yukawa, a private soldier who had gone earlier to fight and was captured. Yukawa is believed to have been beheaded after Japan refused to pay the ransom.

Jogo’s audio message, which is just under 2 minutes long, was released in a file that includes a still photo of himself holding a picture believed to be of al-Kasasibah, the captured Jordanian pilot.

“I’ve been told [by ISIS] that this is my last message,” the Japanese hostage says, adding that the only obstacle remaining for his release is the Jordanian government and that “time is now running very short!”

Yet another ISIS video was released online on Tuesday, according to MEMRI, bringing to three the total of audio and video messages from the terror group since the weekend.

Tuesday’s video matched a message released over the weekend, though neither bore the logo of the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm. The video released over the weekend appeared to show Jogo holding the body of his murdered countryman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Celeb

TOUGH LEGAL CASE Salt death defense an uphill battle for mom

LaceySpears.jpg

One of many postings Lacey Spears put up on social media, chronicling her struggles with a son whom she portrayed as sickly and dependent on a feeding tube.

The defense for a mother accused of killing her 5-old son with salt and documenting his decline on social media faces an uphill battle in her murder case, according to legal experts.

Lacey Spears, 27, of Scottsville, Kentucky, who presented herself online as a supremely devoted mother, is charged with depraved murder and manslaughter in the death a year ago of Garnett-Paul Spears.

Jury selection began Monday in the case of Spears, who was living in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., at the time of her son’s death. Garnett Spears died at Westchester County Medical Center Jan. 23, 2014, after being hospitalized, first at Nyack Hospital, several days earlier. 

Although his mother had for years blogged of his health problems, authorities became suspicious when doctors discovered the alarming sodium level in the child’s body, and the Westchester County medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide. Shortly after the boy was hospitalized for the last time in his short life, his mother called a neighbor and asked that she destroy any evidence of feeding tubes within the home, a source close to the case told FoxNews.com. 

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment.

Spears, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing through her attorneys. 

“Asking her neighbor to take a feeding bag which contained a high dose of sodium is powerful consciousness of guilt evidence.”

- Mark Bederow, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor

The boy’s sodium levels rose to a dangerous point with no medical explanation, prosecutors said, leading to a swollen brain, seizures and death. They believe his single mother, who was sharing his hospital room at Westchester Medical Center, administered salt through a feeding tube into Garnett’s stomach.

All the while, Spears was keeping followers up to date with 28 online postings in the last 11 days of his life, noting his death with, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.” She had tens of thousands of entries over Garnett’s lifetime, many about his doctor and hospital visits.

“My Sweet Angel Is In The Hospital For The 23rd Time,” Spears tweeted on Nov. 9, 2009, adding a sad-faced emoticon. “Please Pray He Gets To Come Home Soon.”

Jury selection began Monday with a pool of 90 potential jurors on hand at the courthouse. Several told the judge they had seen some of the extensive news coverage of the case.

Mark Bederow, a New York-based criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, said Spears and her defense team face many challenges due to strong circumstantial evidence incriminating her in the boy’s death.

“Her Internet search about the dangers of sodium and the properties of iodized salt provide strong evidence that she knew what could happen to her son and thus exhibited a depraved indifference to human life,” Bederow told FoxNews.com. 

“Asking her neighbor to take a feeding bag which contained a high dose of sodium is powerful consciousness of guilt evidence,” he said. 

Prior to his death, the boy had become known as “Garnett the Great” to an online circle who followed reports by his mother. Spears chronicled his many hospital stays and dietary problems on a blog, “Garnett’s Journey,” subtitled “Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.”

The single mother had moved from the South to live in the quiet “Fellowship Community” in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. — a close-knit, rural community about 40 miles north of New York City that cares for the elderly and prides itself on organic farming and other self-sufficient means of living. The legal responsibility for the community is carried by the Rudolf Steiner Fellowship Foundation, Inc., a non-profit licensed by New York state as an adult care facility, according to its website.

In rulings delivered last week, Spears’ messages on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace were determined relevant and are likely to be introduced as evidence. Some of the posted photos depict Garnett’s declining health, said acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary.

Neary also found that prosecutors can tell jurors about Internet research Spears did on her iPhone into the dangers of sodium in children and the properties of iodized salt.

In addition, the judge said Garnett’s hospital records from Alabama, Florida and New York are relevant and “inextricably interwoven into the fabric of this case. They provide a history of the child’s medical issues and treatment leading up to his death. They illustrate the defendant’s role as custodian and care giver.”

Prosecutors believe Spears often lied to doctors about Garnett’s health, for example claiming he had celiac disease when he didn’t.

Spears’ lawyers have not publicly detailed a defense strategy and did not return calls seeking comment. Attorney Stephen Riebling said in July that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Other evidence in the case includes bags used to feed Garnett which prosecutors say have “extraordinary” concentrations of sodium. The prosecution says Spears tried to cover up by asking a friend to take a feeding bag, “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

The trial apparently will not include any reference to Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely but secretly harm children and then enjoy the attention and sympathy they receive. Some experts regard it as a mental illness and a defense to such crimes, while others consider it a motive. Several believe Spears’ case fits the syndrome.

Spears’ lawyers asked the judge to prohibit any mention of Munchausen and prosecutors said they had no plans to bring it up.

“It is somewhat surprising that the defense would not seek to offer evidence consistent with Munchausen by proxy which might emotionally move a jury away from murder and towards a lesser offense,” Bederow told FoxNews.com. “Such a bold defense strategy suggests they are rolling the dice with an ‘its not me’ or ‘this was an accident’ defense.

The murder charge alleges Garnett was killed “under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life” rather than with intent. It carries the same maximum sentence as intentional murder, however — 25 years to life. The manslaughter count alleges Spears killed her son “while intending to cause serious physical injury.”

FoxNews.com’s Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Celeb

Lynch to Cast Herself as Departure From Holder in Bid to Be Attorney General – New York Times

Photo

Loretta E. Lynch, the president’s nominee for attorney general, last month with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.

Credit
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Loretta E. Lynch on Wednesday will cast herself as an apolitical career prosecutor who is a departure from Eric H. Holder Jr. when she faces a new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee that includes some of the administration’s fiercest critics in Congress.

If she is confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office.

In particular, Ms. Lynch is expected to face tough questioning about her opinion of the president’s decision to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder approved the legal justification for that action, enraging some Republicans.

Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, will say that while she had no role in compiling the justification for the president’s action, the legal underpinning was reasonable, according to officials involved in her preparation. Anticipating queries about executive overreach, Ms. Lynch is prepared to say she would treat the Constitution as her “lodestar” in advising the president, the officials said.

Photo

Charles E. Grassley heads the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Credit
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the new Republican chairman of the committee, has promised to allow a thorough airing of questions from lawmakers on both sides.

Besides Mr. Grassley, Republican committee members include Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and David Vitter of Louisiana, all of whom have expressed outrage over the president’s actions on immigration and his exercise of executive power in general. Mr. Vitter has already said he will oppose Ms. Lynch’s nomination, and Mr. Sessions has said he has strong reservations.

“I did express at one point serious concerns about anyone who would support the president’s executive amnesty,” Mr. Sessions said. “That is a big concern for me.”

Ms. Lynch needs at least three Republican members of the panel to vote for her to send her nomination to the floor. Democrats see Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona as those most likely to support her, but they said she could win over other Republicans as well.

Mr. Flake said he had made no decision on Ms. Lynch but had come away with a favorable impression and expected that she would be confirmed. Mr. Graham said he, too, had found her well qualified.

“On paper she is a good choice and I like her personally, but she is going to have some hard questions,” Mr. Graham said.

Foreshadowing a possible theme of the hearing, law enforcement veterans used a conference call with reporters on Tuesday to differentiate Ms. Lynch from Mr. Holder and his political fights on Capitol Hill.

“Attorney General Holder has been a lightning rod for some of those conversations and debates,” Jamie S. Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, said. “At this stage in the department’s life, it would be really wonderful for it to get back to the business of justice and not be distracted by political fights and the debates of the day as much as it has been.”

William J. Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, said Ms. Lynch was a strong candidate to take over the Justice Department at a time of great tension between minority communities and law enforcement. After the deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., last summer, Mr. Holder upset some law enforcement groups with comments that they saw as unsupportive.

Though Mr. Bratton did not mention Mr. Holder directly, he praised Ms. Lynch for not “coming into this with any preconceived notions.”

“It’s going to be critical that the person in this position be able to see both the police position on some of these issues, as well as the community position,” he said.

Ms. Lynch, 55, the daughter of a North Carolina pastor who was active in the civil rights movement, has spent nearly all of her career as a prosecutor. She is to be accompanied by her father and brother on Wednesday.

Officials said Ms. Lynch was expected to testify that she sought a strong working relationship with Congress. She will also try to underscore her record of prosecuting terror suspects — her office has handled the most in the country since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to one official. That is likely to lead to questioning from Mr. Graham and Mr. Sessions, both of whom have been critical of the use of the civilian legal system to prosecute terrorism suspects.

Cybersecurity has been an early and special interest of Ms. Lynch, who established a unit dedicated to the crime in New York. Officials say she intends to make that an “enhanced priority” of the Justice Department if she becomes attorney general.

Ms. Lynch, nominated in early November, has had to wait for a hearing as Republicans organized themselves as the Senate majority after eight years out of power. Even if she does not encounter trouble at the committee level, it will probably be weeks before she can be confirmed, perhaps as late as March, given the calendar and that Republicans are not hurrying.

That some Republicans will need to support her if she is to advance also changes the dynamic for lawmakers who in recent years could sit back and let Democrats move the president’s nominees. But Republicans also argue that a change is merited at the Justice Department.

“We need an attorney general,” Mr. Graham said. “If not her, who?”

Tech

Reports: Jordan ready to trade prisoner for pilot with ISIL – USA TODAY


Jane Onyanga-Omara and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
8:17 a.m. EST January 28, 2015

Jordan is ready to trade a prisoner for a pilot held by Islamic State group, according to reports Wednesday, but it remains unclear whether a deal will be struck to free a Japanese hostage held with him as a 24-hour deadline approaches.

Jordan’s state-run news agency Petra reported that Mohammed Al Momani, the country’s minister for media affairs and communications, said the country’s stance was aimed at preserving the life of Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, who was captured by the militants after his fighter jet crashed near Raqqa, Syria last month.

An exchange would run counter to Jordan’s hard-line approach toward Islamic militants and, like the U.S., its traditional refusal to negotiate with extremists

A swap could also set a precedent for negotiating with a militant group that previously has not publicly demanded prisoner releases.

An online message purportedly from the extremist group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, warned late Tuesday that al-Kaseasbeh and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto would be killed within 24 hours unless a prisoner swap took place with an iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for involvement in a 2005 terror attack that killed 60 people.

The parents of Goto and al-Kaseasbeh appealed for their governments to secure their release Wednesday.

The 24-hour deadline expires late Wednesday night Japan time. ISIL warned it would be the group’s last message and that any delay tactic would result in the hostages’ deaths.

Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, told reporters: “We don’t have much time left, it is extremely urgent. I want the government to do whatever it takes.”

She read to reporters her plea Wednesday to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“Please save Kenji’s life,” she said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government to try to save Goto. “Kenji has only a little time left.”

In Jordan, the pilot’s father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, beseeched the government “to meet the demands” of the group.

“All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu’ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu’ath means chaos in Jordan,” he said.

Abe earlier expressed outrage at the latest threat.

This was an extremely despicable act and we feel strong indignation. We strongly condemn that,” he said. “While this is a tough situation, we remain unchanged in our stance of seeking help from the Jordanian government in securing the early release of Mr. Goto.”

In Jordan, about 200 of the pilot’s relatives protested outside the prime minister’s office in the capital Amman, where they chanted anti-government slogans and urged the government to meet the captors’ demands.

Bassam Al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, earlier told Bloomberg News the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won’t negotiate directly with ISIL and won’t free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only.

Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to coordinate hostage-release efforts with Jordan, but refused comment on details of the talks early Wednesday.

Goto was abducted after entering Syria to search for Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, the 42-year-old founder of a private security firm who was taken captive in August, according to reports on Japanese television.

In a video released Jan 20.,ISIL demanded a $200 million ransom for the release of Goto and Yukawa within 72 hours. Abe refused to pay a ransom.

Another video released Saturday showed a still photo of Goto holding a photo that apparently shows the dead body of Yukawa. In the video, Goto said the militants had changed their ransom demand and wanted the release of al-Rishawi. USA TODAY could not independently verify either video.

Contributing: Associated Press

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Blizzard Impacts the Northeast – NBCNews.com

Taylor Millar, left, hugs her friend Jennifer Bruno, after Bruno was forced to vacate her house when it was heavily damaged by ocean waves in a winter storm, Tuesday, Jan. 27, in Marshfield, Mass. The storm has punched out a section of the seawall in the coastal town of Marshfield, police said.

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Clippers’ Barnes fined, blames Suns owner

Updated: January 27, 2015, 8:55 PM ET


ESPN.com news services


NEW YORK — Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes has been fined $25,000 for directing inappropriate language toward a fan.

The NBA made the announcement on Tuesday. The incident occurred with 4:28 remaining in the second quarter of the Clippers’ 120-100 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at US Airways Center.

Barnes finished with four points, going 1-for-9 from the field.

Barnes reacted to the fine on Twitter, unleashing a series of tweets in which he implicated Suns owner Robert Sarver as the instigator of the incident:

Another 25k! The part of the story the nba hasn’t told you was my language wasnt directed at a fan, I was talkn to the owner of the Suns….

— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) January 27, 2015


..Who was sitting on the baseline & I only said something to him AFTER he cussed at me, BUT because I didn’t SNITCH I get fined!! #thecode

— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) January 27, 2015


I’ve been fined 50k in the last mnth for kicking a “PAPER”Gatorade cup that had alil bit of water in it that didn’t even hit anyone &….

— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) January 27, 2015


Responding to an OWNER who cussed at me first.. 50,000 dollars for that?? Come on now!

— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) January 27, 2015

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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