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Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) — An attorney for Bill Cosby on Thursday criticized freelance journalist Stacy Brown on a Friday article in the New York Post in which Cosby’s comments “continue to be misconstrued in a way that can only call into question the fair-mindedness of certain commentators.”

In that article, Brown quoted Cosby as saying, “I only expect our black media to uphold the standards of excellent journalism…and when you do that, you go in with a neutral mind.” Cosby’s attorney, John P. Schmitt, said that Cosby “did not ask for special treatment from the African-American media.”

Instead, Schmitt says, “he asked that they adhere to journalistic standards and approach the story in a neutral manner — without a predisposition on either side of the story.” That expectation applies to all media, he noted.

Schmitt also noted the “mean-spirited and reckless rhetoric” spouted by MSNBC commentator and Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson’s comments called Cosby’s request for neutrality the comedian’s “rape [of the] entire black community.”

Cosby has been accused by several women in recent weeks of sexual abuse. Earlier this month, a woman named Judy Huth sued Cosby, alleging he molested her in the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15 years old.

Last month, Cosby denied the allegations made against him through his attorney.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Turns out President Obama capped off Wednesday, a day that marked the dawn of a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, with…what else: a cigar.

And, according to the gift giver, it was a Cuban.

When a guest at one of two White House Hanukkah receptions handed one to Obama, he gave it a sniff.

“I had the unique distinction of gifting the president of the United States with one of Cuba’s finest cigars, a Montecristo Series at the White House…after a ceremony in which a Menorah was lit,” John Berzner, who offered the cigar to the president on Wednesday, told ABC News.

Berzner said when he was preparing to leave his Colorado home Tuesday for the annual White House Hanukkah Party, he selected one cigar from the box to bring with him.

Little did he know, of course, that Wednesday would be a landmark day in U.S.-Cuba relations with the freeing of American Alan Gross after five years of imprisonment in the country and the softening of long-hardened diplomatic relations with Cuba.

On Wednesday, the president announced an increase in the amount of Cuban goods authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba can bring back to the States, including tobacco. However, those revised regulations have not yet gone into effect. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

When Berzner handed the cigar to the president, he said: “Mr. President, a Cuban cigar for you!”

“Oh, nice!” Obama replied as he lifted the cigar up from the crowd.

“The finest,” Berzner said as Obama raised the cigar to his nose to sniff.

The president approved, telling Berzner, “Pretty good!”

Nigel Savage, who was also a guest at the event and shot the video, added, “The president definitely looked like he appreciated a good Cuban cigar.”

There’s no telling what the president ultimately did with the gift.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Five congressmen on Thursday wrote a letter to 18 universities urging them to disallow the use of university debit cards by students for indoor tanning.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the 18 universities allow the use of student debit cards for tanning services, an agreement that the reps. say “constitute an endorsement and even encourage indoor tanning,” which they note “has been designated a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.”

The letter was sent to Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Southern New Hampshire University, the universities of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Texas at Austin, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vermont, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky University, Clemson University and Georgia Southern University.

“We believe your university should not be offering incentives to students to engage in activities that put their health at risk,” the congressmen wrote.

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iStockphoto(OAKLAND, Calif.) — The Oakland Athletics acquired left-handed reliever Eury De La Rosa from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday for cash considerations.

In 25 games last season with the D-Backs, De La Rosa went 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA. He also struck 32 batters in 36 2/3 innings of work.

De La Rosa opened the 2014 season at Triple-A Reno, where in 36 relief appearances he had a 2.52 ERA while holding opponents to a .224 batting average.

To make room for De La Rosa on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated right-handed pitcher Fernando Rodriguez for assignment.

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Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — The Kansas City Royals agreed to a two-year contract with free agent right-handed pitcher Kris Medlen, the club announced on Thursday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 29-year-old Medlen missed the entire 2014 campaign, recovering from Tommy John surgery, after suffering an elbow injury during spring training. He also missed most of the 2011 season recovering from the same procedure.

Medlen was originally selected by the Braves out of Santa Ana College in the 10th round of the 2006 MLB draft. In five seasons with Atlanta, he posted a record of 34-20 with a 2.95 ERA. He has struck out 434 batters in 512 2/3 innings of work.

The contract contains a mutual option for the 2017 season.

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sunstock/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday that his office has sent cease-and-desist letters to retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kmart, urging them to stop selling toy guns that break New York state law by lacking distinguishing designs from the real thing.

“When toy guns are mistaken for real guns,” Schneiderman said, “there can be tragic consequences.” The law prohibits the sale of toy guns in realistic colors — such as black, blue, silver or aluminum — unless it has a non-removable, one-inch-wide orange stripe running down the sides and front end of the barrel.

“New York State law is clear,” Schneiderman added, “retailers cannot put children and law enforcement at risk by selling toy guns that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.”

Schneiderman’s office also sent cease-and-desist letters to ToyArsenal.com and Sears.

At least four people have been killed and one child seriously injured since 1997 due to law enforcement officers mistaking toy guns for real guns.

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Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — WikiLeaks has released a CIA document from 2009 analyzing the positive and negative effects of strikes against high-value targets.

The U.S. military has used high-value targeting of insurgent leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA also uses drone strikes to target high-value al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

The 18-page secret document is dated July 7, 2009, and is entitled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.”

WikiLeaks posted the report on its website Thursday. A press release accompanying the release said the report was compiled by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues and “weighs the pros and cons of killing ‘insurgent’ leaders in assassination plots.”

A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on WikiLeaks’ posting of the report and its contents.

“High-value targets” is the term used to describe senior leaders in insurgent organizations. They can be targeted in airstrikes or operations where they are captured for their intelligence value.

The report is a historical analysis that found both positive and negative effects from high-value targeting. One key finding from the review “suggests that HVT operations can play a useful role when they are part of a broader counterinsurgency strategy.” More to the point, the report said the targeting is most effective when a country decides on a strategic outcome before beginning the HVT track and also integrates it into other military and civilian counterinsurgency operations.

However, the targeting can also have significant negative impacts. It could lead to more local support for the insurgency and it could also lead to other radical groups filling the power vacuum created when insurgent leaders are killed.

The report includes brief reviews of successful and unsuccessful HVT efforts in other countries and how it fit into their counterinsurgency strategies — for example, descriptions of the British fight against the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Colombian government against FARC rebels.

In addition to using open-source reporting to recount the experiences to tackle insurgencies, the CIA also interviewed U.S. officials running HVT programs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan the report said that high-value targeting had a limited effect against the Taliban because of the logistical inability to integrate it into a broader counterinsurgency campaign by the U.S. military and Afghan government. Moreover, the Taliban had “good succession planning and bench strength, especially at the middle levels,” said the report.

A few months after the report was written President Obama would approve a troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan that would see U.S. troop levels rise to 100,000.

In Iraq, the report says that early targeting against leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq “did little to slow AQI’s momentum.” But that began to change in 2007 as the HVT operations were complemented by “broader Coalition and Iraqi Sunni actions against AQI” that cut the terror group off from its support base and have contributed to its decline since that time.

Years later, that group would push into Syria, where it would re-emerge as ISIS, which has taken over territory in both Syria and Iraq.

Clandestine reports also indicated that “the Iraqi Government has chosen not to target Muqtada al-Sadr and many of his top aides because of political sensitivities.” The CIA report said “capture or refraining from lethal operations may be warranted if the government’s goal is to integrate an insurgent group into the political process.”

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Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House earlier this year is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.

The Secret Service’s “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel’s final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.

After speaking with 50 officials from the Secret Service and as many as 70 others from other federal agencies, state agencies, and the White House, the panel’s report makes these “important” recommendations:


A better fence can provide agents with “crucial” time needed to identify a threat and determine how to respond appropriately, the report concludes. “Every additional second of response time” counts, and those seconds would help agents “decide, in a split-second, whether to use lethal force on a person who may not actually pose a viable threat to the president or the White House.” The report says that “for sure, the fence must be taller.” In addition, horizontal bars on the fence that can be used like a ladder “should be eliminated,” and the top of the fence could be curved outward “to make scaling it much more difficult for most,” the report recommends. “Importantly, designers of the new fence must balance security concerns with the long and storied tradition of the White House being the ‘People’s House,’” the report says. The acting head of the Secret Service, Joe Clancy, said recently that changes to the fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, are already under serious consideration.

“The Panel found an organization starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence and demands accountability. From agents to officers to supervisors, we heard a common desire: More resources would help, but what we really need is leadership.” Consequently, the report concludes that “the right person” to become the next Secret Service director “should come from outside the Service.” The report says any benefits from appointing someone with “Service experience” are “outweighed” by the need for “dynamic leadership” that can “move the Service forward into a new era,” “drive change in the organization,” and “make difficult choices.” “Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require,” the report concludes.


“[N]o one has really looked at how much the mission, done right, actually costs.” So, the report says, a new director should “start with a zero-based budget,” determine what “is needed” to accomplish the Service’s mission, and then ask the White House and Congress for “this sum.” In the meantime, “to ensure adequate training and personnel for the White House,” the administration and Congress should find a way to let the Secret Service hire 85 more special agents and 200 more Uniformed Division officers, the report says.


“The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” with those protecting the White House working “an unsustainable number of hours,” the report says. So the service needs to “increase significantly in size” by hiring more agents and uniformed officers, the report concludes. In addition, the service needs to recruit “more of the best and most innovative scientists and engineers dreaming up ways to defeat the next threat,” according to the report. All that means the Secret Service needs “an administrative department that can demonstrate with rigorous precision why additional resources are necessary and knows how to budget for it,” the report says.


“The agency’s zero-failure mission requires that its high standards be met,” so agents and officers themselves “must see that the organization itself believes in its standards and enforces them in a consistent, evenhanded manner,” according to the report. “It’s not just about morale or fairness, but about creating a “culture of performance that the Secret Service needs to meet its zero-failure mission,” the report states.

After the recommendations were released, Secretary Johnson called them “astute, thorough, and fair,” saying, “Fundamental change is needed at the Secret Service.” And the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said it’s “imperative that the Secret Service begin to review and implement the recommendations…as soon as possible.”

The four panelists – former top Justice Department officials Thomas Perelli and Mark Filip, and former White House officials Joseph Hagin and Danielle Gray – were directed to take a broad look at how to revamp an agency scarred by recent scandals. Two of the panelists served under the Obama administration, the other two served under the Bush administration.

A separate internal DHS probe, led by Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, detailed the multiple failings and missed opportunities that led to the Sept. 19 incursion allegedly carried out by 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez. The results of that probe were released last month.

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images(DALLAS) — After a few theaters tried to replace The Interview with another movie highlighting North Korea, Team America has also been pulled from theaters.

Paramount Pictures, the studios behind Team America, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, but the theaters said the company yanked the film only hours after the independent theaters said they would show the 2004 movie in place of the James Franco and Seth Rogen satire.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, the TEAM AMERICA 12/27 screening has been cancelled. We apologize & will provide refunds today,” the Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas-Fort Worth tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Two other theaters — Capitol Theater in Cleveland and Plaza Atlanta — did the same, saying Paramount canceled the showings.

Please note: Our Late Shift screening of Team America: World Police has been canceled by Paramount Pictures. pic.twitter.com/TlPVzIeICW

— Capitol Theatre (@CapitolW65th) December 18, 2014

Team America is the second movie pulled from theaters in two days after cyberhackers threatened theaters that planned to show Sony’s The Interview.

Alamo Drafthouse Wednesday was the first to post the planned replacement movie, written by the creators of South Park.

On its Facebook page, the theater wrote, “For the record, our plan was to still show The Interview … unfortunately these decisions aren’t always ours to make. But in light of these recent events, we only have one thing to say: ‘AMERICA F*** YEAH!’ … Join us for a special showing of the TEAM AMERICA QUOTE-ALONG” with subtitles for the film’s songs on Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.

“This show is FREE, because you can’t spell ‘FREEDOM’ without ‘FREE,'” the theater added.

Now, that planned has been shelved.

For those who have never seen the decade-old movie, Team America’s plot involves Kim Jong-il, the late father of current North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un. It’s another satire much like The Interview, but more violent as American forces battle terrorists led by the World Police. But it’s filmed using puppets.

“We’re just trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation,” James Wallace, creative manager and programmer for the Texas theater, told The Hollywood Reporter about the plan to swap out the films.

The Alamo Drafthouse did not return ABC News’ request for comment.

As for The Interview, Sony pulled the plug on the release date of Dec. 25 after major movie chains like AMC and Regal all chose not to show the movie because of hacker threats.

“In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony said in a statement. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

The company added that it stands by the filmmakers and “their right to free expression.”

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KCEN/Facebook(WACO, Texas) — Police in Texas don’t have a suspect or a motive in the shooting of a TV meteorologist in the station’s parking lot on Wednesday.

The suspect fled on foot as the weatherman was able to drive a short distance in his bullet-ridden car to get help.

“We are actively looking for [the suspect],” Trooper D.L. Wilson told ABC News Thursday. “We had troopers out overnight, but we didn’t get any calls of suspicious people. We can’t rule out that he’s not in the area, but more than likely, he’s left the area.”

Because there is no specific search area, police are “kind of scaling back,” he added.

Police are interviewing the victim, KCEN-TV’s Patrick Crawford, and trying to get enough information for a forensic sketch of the suspect.

The man shot Crawford at least twice on Wednesday as he was getting into his car outside the Bruceville-Eddy, Texas, TV station, and left 11 bullet holes in his vehicle, Wilson said.

“Mr. Crawford is advising he has never seen this man before,” the trooper said.

The suspect has been described as a white male, 30 to 35 years old, with a medium build and a receding hairline.

“We’ll do our best, follow any leads, and hopefully we can track this gentleman down,” Wilson said.

Crawford’s wife Heather Brinkmann, who is also a meteorologist at the station, posted an update on her Facebook page Wednesday night to say her husband is in stable condition.

KCEN-TV reported that police were at the station Thursday, checking IDs of everyone driving in the parking lot.

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