The Treasury Department has responded to critics of a recent trip to Cuba by Jay-Z and Beyonce, calling the U.S.-approved travel "educational."
"It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba," Treasury's Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs Alastair M. Fitzpayne wrote in a letter Tuesday to Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
The two members of Congress wrote a letter to the Treasury Department last week seeking information on "the type of license that Beyonce and Jay-Z received, for what purpose, and who approved such travel.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also weighed in earlier this week, issuing a statement calling on the Obama administration to explain and justify its approval of the trip.
Despite the United States' official approval of the trip, Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement critical of the travel -- and the Obama administration's approval of it. "If the tourist activities undertaken by Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba are classified as an educational exchange trip, then it is clear that the Obama Administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that US tourism will extend to it," she said. "That was a wedding anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program. As more human rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don't think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime."
Diaz-Balart also criticized the administration's decision, calling the Treasury's response vague. “Cuba remains an island prison for those still struggling for basic freedoms," he said in a statement. "I urge President Obama to side with the Cuban people and halt any further channeling of U.S. tourism dollars to the their jailers.”
Two people are in critical condition after a stabbing Tuesday at the Cy-Fair campus of Lone Star College, Harris County, Tex. Sheriff Adrian Garcia said at a press conference. Garcia said there are currently 14 victims related to the incident.
Garcia said that a 911 call received Tuesday morning was described as "male on the loose, stabbing people." He said the suspect was a white male wearing a black hat and a black-and-white shirt. Garcia said video evidence has allowed police to confirm "at least one and only one suspect." A white male has been taken into custody, Garcia said, adding that the suspect is approximately 21 years old and currently enrolled in the Lone Star College system. The Cy-Fair campus is located in Cypress, Tex.
Garcia said the exact type of weapon used is not known. He also said no guns have been found in the investigation so far.
Mother Jones' David Corn, who on Tuesday published a blockbuster report on the opposition research tactics of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign, said an audio recording of McConnell campaign aides discussing Ashley Judd's history of depression was not "the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation."
Corn's statement comes after the McConnell campaign asked the FBI to investigate how the tape was produced. In a statement to CNN, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said, "Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished will presumably be the subject of a criminal investigation. We've always said the Left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond."
Corn said Mother Jones is still waiting on McConnell to comment on the story, adding that multiple requests for comment went unanswered. Below is Corn's full statement:
"We are still waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell to comment on the substance of the story. Before posting this article, we contacted his Senate office and his campaign office—in particular, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton—and no one responded. As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that."
Fourteen people were stabbed Tuesday at a college in Texas, KPRC reported. The incident occurred at the Cy-Fair campus of Lone Star College, located in Cypress, Tex., according to the report.
One suspect is reportedly in custody. An alert posted on the college's website said one suspect remains at large. Below is the college's full statement:
Two armed suspects at LSC-CyFair. One suspect is at large. Stay away from the area. Seek shelter in a secure location until the incident is resolved. Be aware of your surroundings. If you have reason to believe that the suspect is in or near your location, notify LSC Police at 281.290.5911, if it is safe to do so. Updates on the situation will follow as new and confirmed information becomes available.
Below is the location of the college, via Google Maps:
Count Johnny Isakson as one Republican senator not on board with filibustering gun control legislation.
"There’s no, there's no ambivalence on the gun issue, I think everybody knows what the issues are," Isakson said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "We have not seen the final draft of the legislation that was produced, I understand, last night, but I think it deserves a vote up or down."
Host Norah O'Donnell said at the top of the segment that CBS contacted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the 13 other Republicans who have vowed to filibuster gun legislation, but they all declined to be interviewed.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Tuesday said he doesn't understand why gun owners fear the registration of their firearms.
"I don't get the fear of registration," Steele said on MSNBC. "I don't get the, the concern about trafficking. Are we saying that we want criminals to, you know, make … back-alley sales out of the trunks of their cars?"
Steele was part of a panel on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," during which former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said that responsible gun owners insure their guns, which means they're registered. "I mean, I don't understand," she said.
MSNBC host Chuck Todd agreed with Steele. "It feels like we're protecting the rights of the paranoid about government, rather than, sort of, the reasonable," he said.
As TPM has reported, the National Rifle Association has long warned that expanding background checks would lead to a national gun registry. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre said last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the only reason the government has to register guns is "to tax them and to take them." But so far no registry legislation has been proposed. And the Washington Post reported this week that federal law actually prohibits such a registry.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who finds himself back in the headlines since leaving the door open for another presidential bid, is scheduled to deliver a speech on foreign policy Tuesday evening at Johns Hopkins University.
According to a written release from Santorum's Patriot Voices PAC, his speech will focus on U.S. foreign policy as it relates to Iran and Syria.
Stoking more speculation that he might make another White House bid, Santorum spoke Monday at a fundraiser for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. Santorum also told the Des Moines Register that it would be "suicidal" for the Republican Party to embrace marriage equality. Santorum's remark comes at a time when the GOP is trying to moderate its stance on social issues.
The National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday attacked South Carolina congressional candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch's new ad, which promotes her independence and experience being a single mother.
In a written statement, NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prills said, “Elizabeth Colbert Busch is proving that she would fit right in with the politicians in Washington. She wants voters to think she is an independent but is filling her campaign coffers with thousands of dollars from unions and is aligning herself with the most liberal politicians in Washington. Colbert Busch will say and do anything to get elected no matter how dishonest it is.”
In the ad, released Tuesday, Colbert Busch said she won't "take any special interest pledges or follow any party line."
Colbert Busch faces former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in the state's special election to fill the House seat vacated by Tim Scott.