Stephen Colbert got in trouble Thursday after his show’s verified Twitter account tweeted, "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." The tweet, which was deleted, was in reference to an episode in which Colbert mocked Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's announcement of the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation as a PR move over controversy surrounding the team's name. It turns out that for a lot of people on Twitter, the satirical tweet went too far, and #CancelColbert began trending. On Friday, an apology was published on the Twitter account saying it was run by Comedy Central not Colbert: "For the record @ColbertReport is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is @StephenAtHome Sorry for the confusion #CancelColbert."
More than six million people have signed up for health insurance plans via federal and state exchanges since October, the Department of Health and Human Services reported today—just four days before the March 31 deadline to enroll. The newest numbers mark a victory for the Obama administration, having surpassed the goal set by the Congressional Budget Office to determine whether the system set up by the president’s Affordable Care Act would be sustainable.
Joni Ernst is looking to castrate Washington and “make 'em squeal.” In her first TV ad campaigning for U.S. Senate, the 43-year-old Iowa Republican looks seriously into the camera and declares, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” Ernst, one of five GOP candidates looking to succeed retiring Democrat Tom Harkin, is aiming to balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending and repealing the Affordable Care Act. With polls showing Iowa Democrats have a good chance of holding the seat, Ernst might be the one squealing.
ABC Family has decided not to move forward with the pilot for Alice in Arabia after an outcry from Muslim groups. The show came under fire on Friday after BuzzFeed obtained a script, which outlined the story of an American teenage girl who is kidnapped by her extended family in Saudi Arabia and forced to live with them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which led the protest, asked ABC to meet to discuss “concerns about potential stereotyping” in the show, and said the network had decided to cancel it instead.
On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan told a rally in Bursa that “We will eradicate Twitter.” He added “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” It appears Erdoğan utilized a recently passed and controversial law that allows the government to shutdown sites due to “privacy violations.” Last month, he said Twitter bots, what he calls the “robot lobby,” targeted the government, and he has also threatened to block Facebook and YouTube. Twitter is currently investigating the claims that it has been banned and told users alternative ways to tweet via SMS. The U.S.--as expected--responded quite negatively. Despite the ban, Twitter activity continues within the country's borders.
Public-health officials confirmed that almost two dozen people at Ohio State University have been newly infected with the mumps. Three individuals had been temporarily hospitalized but have since been released. While it is unclear how the outbreak began, authorities are focusing on those infected to find any links and urge students and faculty to take extra precautions. The disease, which typically spreads through saliva, can infect anyone who has not been previously infected or vaccinated. Symptoms of the contagious disease include fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
The son of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, Sr. announced on his Facebook page that his father had been excommunicated in August 2013 and is gravely ill. Nathan Phelps, who left the church and became an LGBT and anti-child-abuse advocate, did not indicate in the post why his father was excommunicated last year or what he was dying of. His post offered mixed feelings about his father, whose former church was famous for leading protests at the deaths of war veterans and waving signs that say “God hates fags.” Phelps wrote, “I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many,” but also "I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved.”
Images from a Chinese satellite show potential wreckage from the missing Malaysian Airlines plane in the South China Sea, near the flight's projected path. The images have not yet been investigated by search teams, but would corroborate an eye-witness account from an oil rig worker who claims he spotted an aircraft on fire. It would, however, clash with claims that the plane turned course. The last known radar signal transmitted from the flight came at 2:14 a.m. on Saturday, according to Malaysian authorities. The last contact was a message from the cockpit saying, "All right, good night." There are now a series of questions left unanswered.
According to figures released yesterday by the Department of Revenue, the state collected more than $3.5 million in taxes and fees from marijuana sales in January, when it was legalized. More than $2 million came from recreational pot, the rest from medicinal marijuana. Fifty-nine businesses filed a tax return for recreational pot in January, but by mid-February Colorado had 163 retail stores. Voters had approved a 15 percent excise tax on producers and a 10 percent special sales tax on consumers. Gov. John Hickenlooper predicted that total pot sales would reach $610 million next fiscal year, and that revenue from taxes and fees would reach $98 million—above earlier estimates of $70 million.
The Senate blocked Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill reforming how the military handles cases of sexual assault. By a vote of 55 to 45, the Senate failed to overcome a filibuster against Gillibrand’s proposal to move sexual-assault investigations out of the military’s chain of command and into the hands of independent prosecutors. Eleven Republicans backed Gillibrand's bill, including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Ten Democrats were opposed, including Carl Levin and Claire McCaskill. Afterward, McCaskill's bill to keep sexual assault prosecution overcame a filibuster and will be up for a final vote on Monday.
The Crimean Parliament voted earlier today to become part of Russia, and scheduled a popular vote for 10 days from now. Meanwhile, President Obama called such vote a violation of Ukraine's constitution and international law. The president, who spent an hour on the phone with President Putin, said he encouraged him to use diplomatic channels to solve this crisis. In a press conference, Obama stressed that the international community is unified in its opposition to actions by Russia in Crimea, pointing to sanctions announced today by the State Department.
President Obama introduced a $3.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2015 today. While the election-year plan promises tax cuts for an estimated 13.5 million Americans, it includes higher taxes on estates and the wealthy and would prevent certain groups of earners from lowering their taxes below an effective rate, aka the famous Warren Buffett Rule. The White House is also planning to overhaul the corporate tax code and remove loopholes, which it claims would increase corporate revenue by 35 percent in one year, to $449 billion.
Hours after Russia’s parliament granted President Putin's request for permission to use troops in Ukraine, the United Nations met for an emergency session and the U.N. Security Council announced it will hold a closed-door meeting. Putin’s request referred only to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than Crimea specifically, leaving open the possibility that Russia’s military could also move into other regions of Ukraine where people also oppose the new government in Kiev. In his statement to parliament, Putin said the move was necessary to protect ethnic Russians and a Russian military base in Crimea. On Friday, President Barack Obama warned Russia that “there will be costs” if Russia uses its military to intervene in Ukraine. A timeline of the events has been made available.