Monday, February 22, 2016

Good morning everyone! Happy Monday to you!

Joining today's show are Nicolle Wallace, Steve Rattner, Mark Halperin, Jonathan Capehart, Richard Haass, Nicholas Confessore, Jon Meacham, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Hallie Jackson, Tom Bevan, Kasie Hunt, Jon Ralston, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Sara Eisen, Jacob Soboroff and in Taji, Japan, the last boat has arrived to the harbor. Happy blue cove day! 2016-22- 2 10:06am ‪#‎dolphinproject‬ ‪#‎tweet4dolphins‬.

'Turn off the lights!': Donald Trump leads unusual chant after 'protester' turns off lights at rally. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump had an unusual moment during his Sunday-afternoon rally in Atlanta.
Donald Trump
As he spoke, the lights suddenly went out and left the stage in darkness. But it didn't faze the reality-television star.

Without missing a beat, Trump used the opportunity to take a shot at reporters covering the event.

"They didn't pay the electric bill," Trump said. "Oh, I like that much better. That's so much better. Those lights were brutal. Are they coming from the dishonest press?"

Trump repeatedly told the crowd that he enjoyed the low lighting. When the lights came back on, the real-estate magnate began waving his arms. He led the crowd in a chant to turn the lights back off.

"No! Get those lights off! Off! They're too bright, turn them off!" Trump told the event's staff. "Ready? Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!"

After the stage crew yielded to Trump's call for dimmer lighting, he said the moment demonstrated how he would negotiate for the US as president.

"And because the lights didn't work, I won't pay the rent, so we get better lighting, and we don't pay the rent, right?" Trump said to cheers. "That's the way we have to negotiate for our country."

He later said a protester had turned off the lights.

"They just told me it was the protester that turned the lights off," Trump told his supporters.

The most awkward moments from Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign. Jeb Bush bowed out of the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Saturday night, putting to an end one of America’s most prominent political dynasties and, frankly, one of the saddest campaigns in recent memory. Below, a look back at seven of the most awkward moments from Jeb’s bid for the White House.

Jeb!
Perhaps we should’ve seen it coming. In what appeared to be an ill-fated attempt to distance himself from the baggage that comes with the family name, the former Florida governor’s official campaign logo effectively replaced “Bush” with an exclamation point. It was quickly, and widely, mocked.
Jeb Bush's campaign logo looks like the noise a Batman punch would make.
I went ahead and translated Jeb's logo into Spanish for him. Seems like a huge oversight.
The Trump low-five
Debates weren’t really Jeb’s thing. During the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in September, Bush was asked what his Secret Service code name would be as president. “Eveready,” Bush replied. “It’s very high energy, Donald.” It was a good line that elicited some laughs, even from Donald Trump.

Had Bush left it there, things would’ve been fine. Instead, when Trump extended his hand in what appeared to be the low-five position, Bush went in for an all-too-aggressive slap.

Jeb Kush
At the same debate, Bush admitted to having smoked pot. “Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana, and I admit it,” he said. “I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.”

The awkward admission drew more laughter from the audience, led to an apology tweet and sparked the “Jeb Kush” meme online.
JEB KUSH
Sorry Mom

Supergirl
During a question-and-answer session at a campaign event in October, Bush was asked who his favorite superhero is.

“I don’t know,“ Bush replied. “I’m kind of old-school. I like the old-school guys, like Batman. A little dark these days.”

Again, things would’ve been fine, but for some reason Bush kept talking.
“I saw that there’s a new ‘Supergirl’ on TV,“ he said. "I saw that while I was working out this morning, there was an ad. She looked kinda … she looked pretty hot. I don’t know which channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that.”

When asked for a response, Melissa Benoist, the actress and recipient of Bush’s unsolicited compliment, couldn’t contain her laughter.

“I heard about it, but I don’t know what I think about it,” Benoist said on "CBS This Morning.” “I’m glad he’s excited to watch the show.”

Baby Hitler
A month later, Bush established himself as the leading pro-time-travel-in-order-to-kill-an-evil-dictator candidate in the 2016 presidential race, saying he would gladly travel back in time in order to kill baby Adolf Hitler, given the opportunity.

“Hell yeah I would!” Bush told the Huffington Post. “You gotta step up, man.”

Jeb Bush is ready to answer any question thrown his way ahead of the fourth GOP debate--even one about killing baby Hitler. CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers has more on the GOP candidate's passionate answer.

The chest bump
Last week, former President George W. Bush hit the campaign trail in a last-second bid to boost his little brother’s chances in South Carolina, appearing in a campaign ad that touted Jeb’s record as Florida governor — and his chest-bumping ability.

‘Please clap’
No moment summed up Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign better than this one.

At a town hall event in New Hampshire earlier this month, the former Florida governor and Republican presidential hopeful asked attendees to “please clap” after his call for the next commander in chief “to be a lot quieter” was met with silence.

“I won’t trash-talk,” Bush said at the event in Hanover, N.H., a day after finishing a distant sixth in the Iowa caucuses. “I will not be a divider in chief or an agitator in chief. I won’t be out there blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up. I think the next president needs to be a lot quieter, but send a signal that we’re prepared to act in the national security interests of this country — to get back in the business of creating a more peaceful world.”

After failing to elicit applause, an exasperated Bush pleaded with the crowd.

“Please clap,” he said.

Nevada's GOP Caucus: Less About Voters, More About Who Remains In Race. It's the GOP's turn now in Nevada and while the focus for the Democratic caucus was on the Latino electorate, the Republican caucus brings a front runner who has angered many Latinos, two competitors who are Hispanic and a much-whittled field.

Donald Trump handily won South Carolina, while Marco Rubio edged out Ted Cruz on Saturday.

Rubio headed to Nevada with visits to northern and western Nevada, while Cruz's itinerary included several stops around the state in Las Vegas Monday and on Tuesday, the day of the GOP caucus.

Missing from the field will be Jeb Bush, a GOP candidate who had significant backing from Republican Hispanic leaders and who some thought could make inroads with the community for the party.

Bush suspended his campaign after finishing with a distant 8 percent of the vote in South Carolina. Trump had 33 percent to Rubio's 23 percent and Cruz's 22 percent, NBC News reported.

"I firmly believe the American people must entrust this office to someone who understands that whoever holds it is the servant, not the master. Someone who will commit to that service with honor and decency," Bush said in his speech ending his campaign.

John Kasich and Ben Carson, who finished South Carolina in single digits, remained in the race Sunday.

For Alfonso Aguilar, a spokesman for a group of GOP Hispanics who publicly condemned Trump and Cruz over their views and policy proposals on immigration, that leaves one option: Marco Rubio.

"South Carolina has provided clarity. We have to rally around Marco Rubio and endorse Marco Rubio," said Aguilar. "Marco Rubio is a good conservative and he also has appealed to independents and Latino voters because he is instructive on immigration. If he is the nominee, he can beat Hillary Clinton."

Aguilar, who worked in the George W. Bush administration, was a Jeb Bush backer but had not formally endorsed. He said he was doing so now because of Trump and Cruz.

"If this was any other primary I wouldn't get involved. In the past, when we talked about this, Hispanic conservatives wouldn't get involved," Aguilar said. "We felt we had to get involved (this time). "There's too much at stake. If Trump is the candidate, Hillary wins."

He said it is important for others in the GOP to get behind a single candidate. He said he thought Bush would back Rubio too.

There has been little GOP candidate activity here in the past couple of weeks, when Democratic activity was ratcheting up around its caucus. But there was some work going on to draw Republican Latino voters to Tuesday's caucus.

The Nevada Republican Party held a Hispanic Republican caucus training Feb. 16 in North Las Vegas, an incorporated city on the edge of Las Vegas. Its population is 39 percent Hispanic.

Jesús Marquez, a Republican political analyst in Las Vegas, said the event was the first one focused only on Hispanics and was part of the Republican National Committee's effort to raise Latino involvement in the party.

He said about 40,000 Republicans overall, not just Hispanics, were expected to participate in the caucus.

"There's a lot of need in the community for this type of information and training," said Marquez, who also has held a caucus training at his home.

About a dozen or so people attended the training, some also bringing family.

Anthony Osnaya, 36, attended because Tuesday's caucus would be his first. A construction worker from Mexico, he has been in the country 20 years.

He said he'd be voting for Trump because of "the way he is. Not the way he speaks. What he represents. Leader, a strong guy. A winner."

Osnaya, who came with his family, said he was not offended by Trump's speech when he made his presidential announcement, saying Mexico was sending Mexicans who are rapists, criminals and people bringing drugs.

"All cultures have bad and good apples," he said. "He was speaking his mind. I try to teach my girls, you are not going to welcome a guy who doesn't deserve to be there. He was talking about the bad people. He wasn't talking about the workers, the people who get up at 4 or 5 in the morning like myself and go to construction."

Nevada Latinos voted 76 percent for then-candidate Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008, according to Pew Research Center. They were about 5 percent of the caucus attendees, according to entrance polls at the time.

Albert Mota, 36, also was going to be attending his first caucus. Born in Guadalajara, he arrived in the U.S. without legal permission in 1980.

He became a citizen after getting amnesty through the immigration law signed by Ronald Reagan. The law, the Immigration Control Act of 1986, legalized people who had been in the country since before Jan. 1, 1982.

"That's why I support a lot of the Republicans," he said. "We need to let people know Republicans are not evil people like people think."

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have moved on to hit Super Tuesday states holding their primaries March 1.

Where do Jeb Bush (and Ben Carson) votes go? Phillip Bump writes The only way that Donald Trump will not win the GOP nomination, it seems, is if the voters who support Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and John Kasich rally around Kasich or Rubio moving forward.

This isn't foolproof: Adding up Rubio, Bush and Kasich in national polling, for example, totals 30 percent, to Trump's 34 percent. But in South Carolina it would have dropped Trump to second place, which is about as good as the Republican establishment could hope for.

With Jeb Bush now out of the race and Ben Carson out of the race in the eyes of literally every person paying attention to the presidential race, save Ben Carson (if he's even paying attention), it's worth wondering where their supporters might go. The thinking is that all those Bush supporters will go to a Rubio or Kasich, for example, but is that true?


It's hard to say. The problem is that supporters of Bush and Carson are so few that polling on where they'll go next is necessarily a tiny sample size. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, only 20 people said they planned to back Bush and only 13 signed up for Carson. That's the problem, right? They have little support, so they have to drop out.

Here's where those 33 people would go. This is not representative! But it reinforces that the idea that all of the vote will go to opponents of Trump is flawed.
We noted earlier this week that Trump was leading among somewhat conservative and moderate Republicans -- the people that were supposed to be backing the Bush/Rubio/Kasich types.
In South Carolina, Trump won a plurality of moderates, too -- and it's not clear that the 9 percent of that vote backing Bush will all fall in line behind Rubio or Kasich. According to that Suffolk/USA Today poll, 15 percent of Bush backers went to Trump! That's only three people, mind you, but it is not zero.

As we noted earlier this week, a race that narrows to just Trump vs. Rubio or just Trump vs. Ted Cruz is a race that Trump probably loses. But that requires Kasich and Carson and Rubio or Cruz getting out. March 15 is the Ohio primary and the Florida primary, which both Kasich and Rubio will want to hang around for -- making it even less likely that Trump will suddenly start trailing a consolidated centrist candidate.


Making it even more likely that he'll be the nominee.

Candidates Set Sights on Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton wins in Nevada, Donald Trump takes South Carolina, Marco Rubio comes in second to Trump and all political minds are trying to figure out what it all means.

"We have a five-man race, and I think that it's going to be, you know, not easy," Trump said.

All the leaders hit up the Sunday morning talk shows except Clinton.

"I have a big advantage, but it's a long way from being won," Trump said.

Despite Trump's South Carolina win, mainstream Rebpublicans are credited with Rubio's rise to second place after finishing fifth in New Hampshire.

"About 70 percent of Republicans around the country have said, 'we want someone other than Donald Trump to be our nominee,'" Rubio said.

The two winners Saturday won by large margins. Democrat Bernie Sanders blamed that on voter turn out in the Nevada caucuses.

"We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout," Sanders said.

But one group feeling the burn more than most is young people. So Clinton is working hard before Super Tuesday to court younger voters, like Wellsley College's Ellie Dougherty and her friends who came to Newton, Massachusetts, Sunday to get out the vote for Hillary.

"While gender is not a sole criteria on which I'm basing my vote, I will say that it's extremely important to me to have a woman in the highest political position," Dougherty said.
It's anyones guess as Super Tuesday inches closer.

Republican primary fight bursts onto national stage. With Super Tuesday's 11 states coming up next week, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz look for a way to get past Donald Trump.

After coursing through the first three intimate contests, the Republican presidential race is now accelerating to full throttle, becoming a truly national election that appears to favor celebrity front-runner Donald Trump against a bitterly divided field of opponents.

In a clear admission of Trump’s dominant standing following decisive back-to-back primary victories, his top two rivals – Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – are not even pretending they can best the billionaire mogul on March 1, or “Super Tuesday,” when 11 states hold primaries or caucuses.

Marco Rubio is racking up endorsements in the wake of Jeb Bush quitting the race, but he still must deal with John Kasich in a fight for the party’s establishment base. The Associated Press

Cruz hopes to win his home state of Texas, but otherwise he and Rubio, as well as John Kasich and Ben Carson, are charting strategies to accrue convention delegates by surgically targeting slivers of the states.

The Super Tuesday contests award delegates proportionally and cover wide swaths of the country, from Massachusetts to Virginia to Alabama to Colorado. Together with the Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio winner-take-all primaries March 15, they could prove determinative in the nomination battle.

Cruz is eyeing so-called Bible Belt states with disproportionately high numbers of white evangelical voters as well as caucus states where he thinks he can out-organize others. Rubio is hoping to run up his score with suburban and upwardly-mobile, mainstream voters in metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis and Nashville.

There were signs of fresh momentum for Rubio on Sunday, as he addressed large crowds in Tennessee and Arkansas before touching down here in Las Vegas to campaign for Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses. With former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s exit from the presidential race Saturday night, Rubio is looking to quickly absorb much of the former Florida governor’s network of major donors and establishment figures, such as Sen. Dean Heller, Nev., who endorsed Rubio on Sunday.

“I will bring this party together faster than anyone else,” Rubio vowed at a crowded outdoor rally in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, arguing the shrinking field would play to his advantage.

But the Cruz and Rubio playbooks are borne out of limitation and underscore how difficult it will be for all of the non-Trump candidates to navigate the wake of Trump’s wins Saturday in South Carolina and 11 days earlier in New Hampshire.

Both freshman senators enter the next phase with doubts hovering over them: Is Cruz’s base of evangelicals and self-described Constitutional conservatives too narrow? Is Rubio’s demonstrated appeal across a range of demographics too shallow? And which states can either of them win?

Then there is Trump. Whether there is a ceiling to his support – and whether it would be too low for him to win a majority of Republican voters once only two candidates are left standing – remains a subject of intense debate.

That theory may not be tested as long as the Republican field remains fractured. Kasich, the Ohio governor, is vowing to soldier on into next month and sees the Michigan primary March 8 as a possible win. By doing so, he effectively deprives Rubio of the opportunity to swiftly become the establishment’s consensus alternative to Trump.

“Trump will win everything until it’s a two-person race – and he’s going to win it by a lot,” said Russ Schriefer, a veteran of past Republican presidential campaigns. “There’s a real risk that we could wake up on March 2 and Trump would have won the most number of states and have received the most number of delegates.”

That is exactly what Trump intends to do.

“It gets so big, so fast,” Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said. “Our strategy is to compete everywhere. We’ll take absolutely nothing for granted.”

The race’s rhythms are amplifying, which party operatives said favors a media sensation like Trump, who can drive national headlines and will be able to hold splashy rallies in multiple states a day as he criss-crosses the country on his personal jet.

“You can’t pour coffee in a coffee shop anymore,” Republican consultant Bruce Haynes said. “You’re talking about 11 states, 30 to 40 media markets that require a significant amount of money to have any sort of presence. Walk and talk is over. It’s fly and bye.”

Having 11 contests on the same day will test the organizing abilities of the leading campaigns, including Trump’s. Until now, his team has been able to focus on one state at a time, with Lewandowski decamping to the respective state for a week to orchestrate a late ground game. But that will not be so easy anymore.

The Republican campaign moved on Sunday to Nevada, though Tuesday’s caucuses here are but a blip compared to Super Tuesday, when 595 delegates are up for grabs, awarded proportionally and in most cases by congressional district. To secure the nomination, a candidate needs 1,237 delegates.

Kasich, for instance, is unlikely to win any March 1 state outright. But he hopes to come away with delegates by targeting more moderate voters in Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia with what his strategist, John Weaver, described as “the Kasich brand of being uplifting and inclusive.”

The Cruz and Rubio campaigns and their allied super PACs do not expect to have enough money to replicate in the Super Tuesday states the saturation level of advertising and field organizing that propelled their candidacies in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The pro-Rubio super PAC, Conservative Solutions PAC, announced “a multi-state, multi-million dollar advertising effort” beginning Tuesday, but officials refused to detail how much and in which TV markets.

Rubio’s campaign advisers similarly refused to discuss their Super Tuesday strategy because they did not want to reveal it to rival campaigns.

Kellyanne Conway, president of Keep the Promise I, one of the leading pro-Cruz super PACs, said her group plans to advertise in Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, with Alabama and Oklahoma also in the mix. The super PAC will air positive ads about Cruz, and its negative ads will focus more on Rubio than on Trump, Conway said. That includes new spots.

“We’ve got a series on Rubio that I would call ‘chronic absenteeism’ – looking at how he’s missed votes on Planned Parenthood funding, funding for the military, about how he got himself on a 9/11 committee and didn’t attend,” Conway said.

Cruz is prioritizing caucus states with arcane rules, like Nevada – and, on March 1, Colorado and Minnesota – because he thinks his devoted network of hard-line activists and Christian conservatives will turn out in droves.

“We have our supporters identified in March 1 states and need to communicate with them,” Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said. “Neighbor-to-neighbor is our governing philosophy. So as it goes national, that still remains our philosophy.”

Arkansas has emerged as a key battleground. Rubio campaigned Sunday in Little Rock, and Cruz is targeting the state as well. Sarah Huckabee, who managed the presidential campaign of her father, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, poured cold water on the suggestion that Cruz has the state wired.

“I live in Arkansas and I haven’t seen this mass grass-roots effort for him,” said Huckabee, who is neutral in the race. “I’m not saying he’s not more organized than others – he is – but what he has on the ground here is nothing like he had in Iowa.”

Cruz wants to rally his supporters in his home state of Texas, where two public polls in January showed him leading Trump. If he tops 50 percent, he would get all 155 delegates.

But Trump is not ceding the state. Lewandowski said Trump plans to play in traditionally Democratic congressional districts in and around San Antonio and Houston.

“I think we’re going to win Texas” Lewandowski said. “I’m going to try.”

Rubio draws 3,500 to TN rally.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio drew a crowd of about 3,500 Sunday at a Franklin, Tenn., rally, reports The Tennessean. He pitched himself as the only GOP contender who can bring together all factions of the party and win in November.

The roughly 40-minute speech came hours after Rubio placed second in the South Carolina GOP primary. The campaign proclaimed the rally Rubio’s largest so far.

But Rubio acknowledged big crowds won’t necessarily translate to big vote totals for his campaign in Tennessee.

“The question is, how many of those people can we get to be on our side, and that’s my job, to go out there every day and convince people that we’re the right choice for our party,” Rubio told reporters before the event.

“If I’m nominated, I will unite the Republican party, we will grow it, and we will win.”

Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz battled to emerge as the true anti-Trump on Sunday as the billionaire businessman took an ever-so-brief break from his trademark braggadocio to say his drive for the GOP nomination isn’t unstoppable — yet.

Fresh off a commanding victory in South Carolina, Donald Trump declined to say the nomination was his to lose. But he quickly went on to declare, “I’m really on my way.” Soon enough, in a television interview, he was toting up electoral math all the way through Election Day and concluding, “I’m going to win.”

The candidates’ diverging flight plans demonstrated how the campaign spreads out and speeds up now. Nevada’s GOP caucuses are Tuesday, and then a dozen states vote in the March 1 Super Tuesday bonanza.

Trump was in Georgia exulting over his latest victory, Cruz headed for Nevada, and Rubio embarked on a Tennessee-Arkansas-Nevada trifecta.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton savored her weekend win in the Nevada caucuses as Bernie Sanders acknowledged that while his insurgent campaign has made strides, “at the end of the day … you need delegates.” He looked past Tuesday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina to list Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Oklahoma as places where he has a “good shot” to do well.

Rubio and Cruz used the Sunday morning news shows to spin rosy-road-forward scenarios after complete but unofficial returns in South Carolina put Trump way up top, with Rubio squeaking past Cruz for second. But with roughly 70 percent of Republicans in national polls declining to back Trump, Cruz and Rubio tried to cast themselves as the one candidate around whom what Rubio calls the “alternative-to-Donald-Trump vote” can coalesce.

Rubio also took an aggressive run at Trump, faulting him for a lack of specifics on policy.

“If you’re running for president of the United States, you can’t just tell people you’re going to make America great again,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

At a later rally in Franklin, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb, Rubio took note of the smaller GOP field after Jeb Bush’s departure from the race, and celebrated his biggest crowd of the campaign, estimated at more than 3,000 people. Rubio avoided criticizing his GOP rivals, instead highlighting his efforts to help middle-class families.

Cruz, for his part, stressed his conservative bona fides and said he was the lone “strong conservative in this race who can win. We see conservatives continuing to unite behind our campaign,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

With Bush gone from the race, Rubio was hoping to pick off past donors to the Bush campaign and looking to benefit as well from a cessation in the millions of dollars in negative ads run by the Bush campaign and its allies.

Rubio also suggested it was only a matter of time before John Kasich and Ben Carson folded as well. He hinted it would be better to get that winnowing over with, saying, “the sooner we can coalesce, the better we’re going to be as a party in general.”

Not so fast, Kasich countered. “We’re getting big crowds everywhere we go,” the Ohio governor insisted, listing Vermont, Massachusetts and Virginia as places he can shine.

Cruz tried to brush right past his apparent third-place finish in South Carolina and instead hark back to his victory over Trump in leadoff Iowa.

“It is now apparent that the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump and that has beaten Donald Trump is our campaign,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Texas senator said his path to victory calls for a strong showing on Super Tuesday, and that Texas was “clearly the crown jewel” of that day.

Rubio, a Florida senator, said he was looking for a big delegate take in the five-state round of voting on March 15, which includes his home state. He noted that round offers victors a “winner-take-all” share of delegates rather a proportional share.

Trump suddenly had nice things to say about Bush, the candidate he had hammered so relentlessly when they were rivals. He said of the former Florida governor: “I like him. He’s a good person. He’s a good man.”

Asked about his competition with Rubio, Trump told “Fox News Sunday” that “I start off liking everybody. Then, all of a sudden, they become mortal enemies.”

At a rowdy Atlanta rally, Trump crowed over his big South Carolina win, saying “we’re just doing one after another.” Spitting out the superlatives, he called his sweep of all 50 delegates there “amazing,” ”beautiful,” ”conclusive” and “very, very decisive.”

Clinton was happy with her Nevada win but acknowledged she has work to do in persuading voters that she has their best interests at heart.

“I think there’s an underlying question that maybe is really in the back of people’s minds and that is, you know, is she in it for us or is she in it for herself?” Clinton said on CNN. “I think that is a question that people are trying to sort through.”

Working to increase his support among black voters, Sanders stopped at a Baptist church luncheon following services in West Columbia, South Carolina, and talked up the country’s economic recovery under President Barack Obama.

In other news from around the world, Asia markets advance, with Shanghai gaining 2.4%.
Markets in Asia finished mostly higher, with major indexes in China, Japan and Australia leading gains, extending last week's advance. But analysts weren't confident of the rally's longer term sustainability.

"Markets remain unsure of themselves. While the brief rally in risk assets early last week helped soothe sentiment a little, there remains much uncertainty about what will follow," analysts at Citigroup said in a note Monday. "Many investors are fearful about the erosion of G3 central banks' omnipotence amid signs that the global economy has lost momentum."

Chinese markets lead the pack, with the main Shanghai composite advancing 67.71 points, or 2.37 percent, to 2,927.73, while the smaller Shenzhen composite gained 37.66 points, or 2 percent, to 1,888.18. 

The Japanese benchmark index, the Nikkei 225, closed up 143.88 points, or 0.90 percent, at 16,111.05. The Japanese yen remained strong against the dollar, with the pair hovering around the 112-handle.The dollar-yen was at 112.86 by 2:49 p.m. HK/SIN time. That's down from levels over 120 at the beginning of the month, shortly after the Bank of Japan announced its shift to a negative interest rate policy.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi wavered between gains and losses to close flat at 1,916.36. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up by 0.96 percent by 3.37 p.m. HK/SIN time.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 closed up 48.42 points, or 0.98 percent, at 5,001.22, with most sectors up in the green; the heavily weighted financial sector gained 0.92 percent.

The gains follow a volatile start to the year.

"Market volatility eased last week amid improved risk sentiment," ANZ bank said in a note early Monday. "The principal drivers of the better mood were a rebound in oil (partly due to the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia) and positive U.S. data," the bank said. Reports emerged late last week, citing Russia's energy minister, on a possible output freeze deal by March 1.

"In addition, uncertainty over the renminbi was reduced somewhat after PBOC Governor Zhou indicated that there was no foundation to the view the renminbi was overvalued," the bank said.

Oil prices, which remain at multi-year lows, posted gains during Asian hours, with U.S. crude up 1.72 percent at $30.15 a barrel as of 3.33 p.m. HK/SIN time, after settling down 3.67 percent on Friday during U.S. hours. Global benchmark Brent crude was up 1.36 percent at $33.46 a barrel after dropping 3.85 percent during U.S. hours on Friday.

Energy plays in the region finished the session mixed, with shares of Woodside Petroleum declining 1.35 percent and Inpex losing 4.81 percent. But Japan's Fuji Oil and Australia's Oil Search bucked the trend to close up 0.98 and 1.68 percent, respectively.

Chinese mainland oil stocks were mostly up, with shares of China Oilfield gaining 2.23 percent.

Leading oil producers, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela, held talks in Doha last week where they said they were ready to freeze production at January levels if other producers did the same. While Iran welcomed the deal, the Persian state stopped short of saying it would itself freeze production at January levels and its deputy oil minister said on Saturday it would increase production soon.

"The euphoria from a potential oil production freeze amongst OPEC members and Russia quickly dissipated as Iran and Iraq remained non-committal on such deal," said Chang Wei Liang from Mizuho Bank in a note Monday.

Symbol
Name
Price
Change
%Change
NIKKEINikkei 225 Index16111.05
143.880.90%
HSIHang Seng Index19464.09
178.590.93%
ASX 200S&P/ASX 2005001.22
48.430.98%
SHANGHAIShanghai Composite Index2927.73
67.712.37%
KOSPIKOSPI Index1916.36
0.120.01%
CNBC 100CNBC 100 ASIA IDX5849.29
25.800.44%
Earnings season continued in Australia, with Bluescope Steel reporting its fiscal first-half numbers.
The Australian steelmaker reported net profit of A$200.1 million ($142.8 million) for the six months to December 31, up from A$92.7 million in the year-earlier period. Its shares added 1.64 percent. 

Logistics firm Brambles reported net profit for the six months to December 31 rose 2 percent on-year to $290.9 million and it increased its full year guidance. The company's interim dividend was set at A$0.145 ($0.10) a share. Brambles shares closed up 8.50 percent.

One of Singapore's biggest lenders, DBS Group, reported net profit for the three months ended December 31 rose 20 percent on-year to 1 billion Singapore dollars ($711 million), beating expectations from a Reuters poll for S$978 million. But the bank's charges for non-performing loans rose 17 percent on-year. DBS shares erased gains of as much as 1.61 percent and traded down 0.51 percent.

HSBC announced a 1 percent rise in its pretax profit for 2015 to $18.8 billion. It missed the Reuters expectations for $21.8 billion. For the last three months of 2015, the lender recorded a net loss of $1.3 billion, compared with a net profit of $511 million a year earlier.

The Hong Kong-listed shares of HSBC retraced gains of as much as 1.49 percent to trade down 2.29 percent.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that China removed the head of its securities regulator, Xiao Gang, and replaced him with Liu Shiyu, the chairman of Agricultural Bank of China and a former deputy governor at the People's Bank of China (PBOC).

Xiao Gang's departure from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was announced on the official Xinhua news agency.The CSRC and Xiao faced criticism from China's leadership for his handling of the stock market crash last year, according to reports. Earlier this year, the regulatory body was dealt another blow when its touted "circuit breaker" mechanism, meant to help stabilize markets, had only a four-day run before being deactivated. It shut trading in China twice in four days during its short-lived run.

Chinese financial stocks gained, with brokerages Citic Securities, Huatai Securities and Founder Securities seeing gains between 2.84 and 3.25 percent, while major banks closed up over 1 percent each. Shares of Agricultural Bank of China added 1.69 percent.

Wall Street closed mixed Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 21.44 points, or 0.13 percent, at 16,391.99, while the S&P 500 finished flat at 1,917.78 and the Nasdaq composite finished up 16.89 points, or 0.38 percent, at 4,504.43.

Later this week, finance ministers and central bank governors of G20 nations will gather in Shanghai for a two-day meeting to discuss ways to bolster global economic growth. 

Ray Attrill, global co-head of FX strategy at the Fixed income, Currencies and Commodities division of National Australia Bank, said in a note that the gathering is likely to underwhelm.

"While we might hope for some assurances from central bankers that they are not engaging in a race to the bottom on negative interest rates and that the Fed is not going to risk further upsetting febrile markets by pushing ahead with 'gradual' policy tightening anytime soon, risk is high that central bankers return to home shores and proceed on their (domestically driven) policy ways," he wrote.

Already, countries such as Denmark, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland have introduced negative interest rates, alongside the eurozone, which has sparked concerns that central bankers are fast running out of options to boost their economies. 

Attrill added, "The prospect of any meaningful commitment to fresh fiscal support by G20 nations to shore up global growth looks similarly slim, albeit the noises about 'helicopter money' being the next policy shoe to drop - Milton Friedman's concept of fiscal handouts funded via the printing presses - are becoming a little louder."

Kalamazoo Uber driver picked up fares between killings, source says. The man accused of killing six people and injuring two more in a Saturday evening shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was an Uber driver who picked up and dropped off passengers between shootings, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

The source, who is not authorized to speak to media, said investigators believe Jason Brian Dalton was even looking for fares after the final shooting of a nearly seven-hour killing rampage.

CNN affiliate WWMT spoke to a man who says he was a passenger of Dalton's just before the shootings started.

"We got about a mile from my house, and he got a telephone call. After that call, he started driving erratically, running stop signs," Matt Mellen told the affiliate. "We were kind of driving through medians, driving through the lawn speeding along and then finally, once he came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away."

Mellen said he called the police: "He was surprisingly calm, I was freaking out."

The ride-sharing company confirmed to CNN that Dalton, 45, was an Uber driver and said he had passed a background check.

"We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo," Uber's chief security officer Joe Sullivan said to CNN in a statement. "We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can."

Rampage lasted nearly 7 hours
Michigan State Police said the first shooting was reported at 5:42 p.m., after a woman was shot multiple times in an apartment complex parking lot. Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said the woman -- who was with her three children -- is in serious condition but expected to survive.

Then, more than four hours later, a father and son were shot and killed at a car dealership. Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the pair were there looking at a vehicle. Authorities identified the victims as Tyler Smith, 17, and Richard Smith, 53.

Minutes later, at around 10:24, Michigan State Police say Dalton pulled his Chevy HHR into a Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot and opened fire on a Chevrolet Cruze and an Oldsmobile minivan, killing Mary Lou Nye, 62; Mary Jo Nye, 60; Dorothy Brown, 74; and Barbara Hawthorne, 68.

A fifth victim, a 14-year-old girl riding in the Chevrolet's front passenger seat, was initially thought to have been killed as well, but is now listed in critical condition, according to the state police. "Call it a miracle," said Getting. "But she's alive now."

He said all five were together in a group.

After another two hours or so, at approximately 12:40 a.m., police took Dalton, 45, into custody, ending a nearly seven-hour nightmare.

Police seized a semiautomatic handgun from Dalton, whom Getting described as "even-tempered" at the time of his arrest.

"There is just no question more people would have died if (police) didn't find him when they did," Getting said.

The prosecutor later told CNN: "These were very deliberate killings. This wasn't hurried in any way, shape or form."

"They're on video. We've watched the video with law enforcement. They were intentional, deliberate and -- I don't want to say casually done -- coldly done is what I want to say," said Getting.

Motive unknown
The cruel randomness of the rampage seemed to rattle officials in the western Michigan city.

"This is your worst nightmare," Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas told CNN affiliate WOOD-TV. "When you have somebody just driving around randomly killing people."

"We just can't figure out the motive," said Hadley, the public safety chief. "There's nothing that gives us any indication as to why he would do this or what would have triggered this. The victims did not know him; he did not know the victims."

Dalton, who has been interviewed by investigators, had no prior criminal record, Hadley said, and was not known to authorities.

"For all intents and purposes, he was your average Joe. This was random," said Hadley.

Getting appeared to struggle at times for the right words, if there were any, at Sunday's news conference.

"There is this sense of loss, anger (and) fear," he said. "On top of that, how do you tell the families of these victims that they were not targeted for any other reason than they were a target?"

Getting said he was confident that Dalton acted alone and that there is no connection to terrorism. Formal charges will be brought Monday, he said, when Dalton is expected to be arraigned.

"I would expect six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, six counts of felony firearm, and then we'll see from there."

'Typical American family'
For the past 10 years, Sally and Gary Pardo have lived across the street from Dalton's single-family home on Douglas Street in Kalamazoo.

Sally Pardo told CNN that Dalton is married with two children and that they seemed to be a "typical American family."

"This seems so out of sorts for him," said husband Gary Pardo, who described Dalton as "quiet" and "nice."

He did tell CNN, however, "I know he liked guns."

Getting, the prosecutor, said he didn't know whether Dalton had a license for the handgun that was seized at the time of his arrest.

Hadley, the public safety chief, said authorities have seized other weapons from Dalton's residence as well. It was not immediately known whether those weapons were used in the commission of crimes. CNN's Vivian Kuo, Ryan Young, Brad Parks, Joe Sutton, Ed Danko, Melanie Whitley, Rashard Rose and Josh Berlinger contributed to this report.
FBI Director James Comey on Apple. Read the complete text of his letter asking Apple to do what he says is the right thing.
FBI Director James Comey
FBI Director James Comey says his agency's demand that Apple break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters is "about the victims and justice." Here is his letter's complete text:

The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice.  Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined.  We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law.  That's what this is.  The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI.

 The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve.  We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly.  That's it.  We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land.  I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that.  Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists.  Maybe it doesn't.  But we can't look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don't follow this lead.

Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other.  Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure - privacy and safety.  That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living.  It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living.  It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before.  We shouldn't drift to a place - or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices - because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.

So I hope folks will remember what terrorists did to innocent Americans at a San Bernardino office gathering and why the FBI simply must do all we can under the law to investigate that.  And in that sober spirit, I also hope all Americans will participate in the long conversation we must have about how to both embrace the technology we love and get the safety we need.

Jim Comey

Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

In a USA Today article and interview with ex NSA Chief, Michael Hayden, he backs Apple on iPhone ‘back doors’Retired four-star general Michael Hayden, who as director of the NSA installed and still defends the controversial surveillance program to collect telephone metadata on millions of Americans, says he opposes proposals to force Apple and other tech companies to install "back doors" in digital devices to help law enforcement.

In an emerging court battle over access to information on the iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino attackers, Hayden says "the burden of proof is on Apple" to show that limited cooperation with investigators would open the door to broader privacy invasions. Apple is being asked not to decrypt information on the smartphone but rather to override the operating system so investigators could try an endless series of passwords to unlock it.

"In this specific case, I'm trending toward the government, but I've got to tell you in general I oppose the government's effort, personified by FBI Director Jim Comey," Hayden told Capital Download in an interview about his memoir, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror. "Jim would like a back door available to American law enforcement in all devices globally. And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security, even though it might make Jim's job a bit easier in some specific circumstances."

In a statement released late Sunday, Comey said the San Bernardino litigation "isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI."

Hayden, 70, brings unparalleled credentials to the roiling debate. The retired Air Force general is the only person ever to head both the super-secret National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. In his 448-page memoir, published Tuesday by Penguin Press, he recalls being at the NSA on Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He led the CIA during firestorms over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects, and while targeted killings by drones grew.

The title of the book — on the jacket, even the words bleed to the edge — refers to his conclusion that intelligence officials should play so close to the line that they get chalk dust on their cleats. "It's unapologetic," he says of his account of the decision-making behind drone attacks, the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques, the intelligence failures in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and the culture of America's espionage agencies.

All that makes his conclusion that privacy concerns should trump security demands on this issue — putting him on the side of libertarian Sen. Rand Paul and fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden — especially powerful.

A federal District Court judge in California last week ordered Apple to bypass security barriers on the iPhone5c that had been used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people at an office holiday party in December. In a defiant public letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company wouldn't comply. Apple argues the tool inevitably would be used not just in one isolated case but repeatedly.

The showdown has reinvigorated proposals for Congress to pass a law that would require tech companies including Apple, Facebook and Google to provide a "back door" in digital devices so law-enforcement officials could access encrypted information during investigations. The debate has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Apple products unless the company cooperates with the San Bernardino investigators.

"Look, I used to run the NSA, OK?" Hayden told USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series. "Back doors are good. Please, please, Lord, put back doors in, because I and a whole bunch of other talented security services around the world — even though that back door was not intended for me — that back door will make it easier for me to do what I want to do, which is to penetrate. ...

"But when you step back and look at the whole question of American security and safety writ large, we are a safer, more secure nation without back doors," he says. With them, "a lot of other people would take advantage of it."

Hayden was interviewed in the living room of his home in the northern Virginia suburbs, not far from the CIA, decorated with furniture, artwork and mementos from his foreign postings and long career: Carved chests from Korea, religious icons from Bulgaria, a small oil painting of an outdoor scene presented as a gift by the Romanian intelligence service.

A trim man with a crisp military bearing, Hayden is watching with some concern the debate over national security in the 2016 campaign. Democratic president Bill Clinton appointed him to head the NSA; Republican president George W. Bush appointed him to head the CIA. (Hayden was an adviser to and supporter of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who suspended his candidacy Saturday.)

"It takes a complex process and tries to capture it in something about the length of a bumper sticker," he says. "Some candidates say we should use waterboarding and a lot more because they deserve it," a reference to Trump. "Well, we never used any technique against anyone because they deserved it. ... The things we did were forward-looking, to learn things to protect America.

"The same thing with regard to carpet-bombing," a tactic endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. "Carpet-bombing is inherently immoral and unworthy of a nation like ourselves."

And he calls Trump's proposal to ban temporarily all Muslims from entering the United States "absolutely not helpful, incredibly harmful" in a battle against terrorism in which the biggest threat comes from self-radicalized individuals living in the United States.

"It goes to the character of us as a nation," he says. "We are a welcoming society. We assimilate immigrants far better than our European friends. And it shows up, it shows up in the fact that most of these horrific events don't happen here. They happen there. Why would you put at risk a war-winning advantage — i.e. you are a welcoming society? Why would you put that at risk by that kind of pronouncement? That actually is incredibly harmful to American safety — just saying that that would be your policy."

Hayden also is caustic when asked about potential security breaches from the decision by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to exclusively use of a private email server when she was secretary of State.

"Once you've set it up this way, nobody has to be stupid, lazy, unintelligent — it's gone bad," he says. "You've going to end up with information on this private server that just shouldn't be there, let alone all the questions about preserving government records." Those concerns aren't allayed even if no classified material was sent or received at her private address, he says.

"How much energy would I expend if I were still director of the National Security Agency and someone told me I could get access to the unclassified email server of [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov? I'd move heaven and Earth to do that. And here you've got these private, intimate conversations by a senior official of the U.S. government sitting out there in what I would call an unprotected environment."

The disclosure that Clinton had used the private server was a surprise last year to reporters and others. Does he assume that foreign intelligence agencies long had known about it and targeted it?

"I would lose all respect for a whole bunch of foreign intelligence agencies if they weren't sitting back, paging through the emails," he replied.

Hayden has had a reputation as a plain-spoken man, and he's no longer constrained by the senior offices he held in the Air Force, the NSA and the CIA. Among his comments in his interview with Capital Download:
  • On whether Americans are safer than they were on 9/11: "That danger level has gone down steadily ... (but) here's the sad story. I think since 2012, that line has been going back up. ... It's the growth of ISIS. It's Jihad 2.0 coming at us — a very tough, violent enemy living in a safe haven the size of a good-sized American state, not in the middle of nowhere like Afghanistan, but in the middle of the Middle East."
  • On the biggest threat ahead for the United States: "For the things that can go bump in the night tonight and really affect us, I put terrorism and cyber attack. ... Go out three, four, five years in the future, here I begin to worry about states I call ambitious, brittle and nuclear: Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, even the Russians." Ten years in the future, the challenge is China, he said. "If we don't get our relationship with the emerging People's Republic of China right, that is something that could lead to global catastrophe."
  • On the possibility of a plea bargain for fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden: "I pity the American president who thinks he can be lenient on Mr. Snowden and believe that would be cost-free amongst the people on which he will continue to rely on for the safety of the nation."
  • On a lesson learned from leaks that exposed the NSA's metadata collection of Americans' phone records: "When it comes out that way, the natural American instinct is to take that story and run to the darkest corner of the room. If we had been more open about what we had been doing, it would have counteracted that a bit. For want of a better word, it would have immunized our society against what I viewed as an overreaction to the revelation."
  • On today's challenge for intelligence agencies: "To be good, American espionage has to be powerful and it has to be secretive inside a political culture that more and more distrusts two things: power and secrecy."
  • On balancing security and liberty: "What we're trying to do here is what free people and this free people have done since the inception of the republic, which is to balance two things, both of which are virtues: our security and our privacy. There are no permanent answers to that. We debate them continuously based on the totality of circumstances in which we find ourselves. The point I make to our countrymen: This is not a struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. This is a good people, trying to find the right balance."
  • On why the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush, whom he had endorsed, struggled: "Because a significant portion of the American electorate in both parties are right now more interested in what I would call a primal scream. We're actually getting a very robust primal scream out of a candidate in each party right now. ... I understand the primal scream. People are frustrated. But you can't govern with a primal scream."

IS blasts kill more than 150 as US, Russia press Syria truce. A string of suicide bombings near a Shiite shrine outside Syria's capital and in Homs claimed by jihadists killed more than 150 people, as Washington and Moscow worked to secure a ceasefire.

The Islamic State group said it was behind the carnage.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said a provisional deal had been reached on the terms of a truce in Syria's brutal five-year conflict, only for the bloodshed to intensify on the ground.

Syrians gather at the site of a series of attacks near the area of the Sayyida Zeinab shrine south of Damascus on February 21, 2016
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Syrians gather at the site of a series of attacks near the area of the Sayyida Zeinab shrine south of Damascus on February 21, 2016 ©Youssef Karwashan (AFP)

Near Damascus, a car bombing followed by two consecutive suicide attacks ripped through the area of the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab and killed 96 people according to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syria's official news agency SANA, quoting a police source, said 178 people, including children, were among the wounded.

An AFP reporter said the blasts struck about 400 metres (yards) from the revered Shiite shrine containing the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed.

A January attack in the same area -- also claimed by IS -- killed 70 people.

The Observatory also reported that two car bombs killed at least 59 people and wounded dozens in the pro-regime district of Al-Zahraa in the central city of Homs.

IS said online that two suicide bombers struck in Sayyida Zeinab and two others drove explosive-packed cars into crowds in Homs.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura "strongly condemns" the attacks, his spokesperson said in a statement.

State television footage from Homs showed emergency workers carrying a charred body on a stretcher past devastated shops and mangled cars and minibuses.

Al-Zahraa -- whose residents are mostly from the same Alawite sect of Shia Islam as Syria's ruling clan -- has been regularly targeted.

- 'Provisional' ceasefire deal -

World powers, which have been pushing for a halt in Syria's nearly five-year war, had hoped to see a truce take effect on Friday but have struggled to agree on the terms.

On Sunday, Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at least three times to try to nail down a truce.

"We have reached a provisional agreement, in principle, on the terms of the cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days," Kerry said in Amman after one round of talks.

The Russian foreign ministry later said Lavrov and Kerry held two more telephone conversations and finalised the ceasefire terms to be submitted to their respective presidents.

World powers proposed the truce just over a week ago as part of a plan that also included expanded humanitarian access, in a bid to pave the way for peace talks to resume.

The talks, which collapsed earlier this month in Geneva, had been scheduled to resume on February 25, but the UN's Syria envoy has already acknowledged that date is no longer realistic.

Key opposition umbrella group the High Negotiations Committee said at the weekend it would agree a temporary truce only if regime backers halted fire.

HNC chief Riad Hijab said any ceasefire must be reached "with international mediation and with guarantees obliging Russia, Iran and their sectarian militias and mercenaries to stop fighting".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, told Spain's El Pais newspaper he was "ready" for a ceasefire, but that it should not be exploited by "terrorists".

- Turkey defends shelling Kurds -

Moscow is a key architect of the proposed ceasefire, but has shown little sign so far that it plans to rein in the air campaign it began in September in support of Assad's government.

Regime forces backed by Russian strikes were advancing on Sunday east of Aleppo city against IS, consolidating their control over a stretch of highway from the city to the Kweyris military base.

The Observatory said at least 50 IS fighters had been killed in clashes and Russian strikes since Saturday morning.

Tensions have been rising between Moscow and opposition-backer Ankara, alarmed by both the regime's Russian-backed advances and a major operation by Kurdish-led forces in Aleppo province.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and their Arab partners have seized key territory from rebel forces in Aleppo province, prompting Turkey to shell their positions.

Ankara considers the YPG to be an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.

It fears the Kurdish advances are intended to link areas in north and northeast Syria to create a contiguous semi-autonomous Kurdish zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his country's fight against the YPG as "legitimate defence" after international calls for Ankara to halt its military action in Syria.
Map locating the Sayyida Zeinab Shiite shrine just south of Damascus, the target of deadly bomb attacks
Syrians gather at the site of a series of attacks in the area of the Sayyida Zeinab shrine south of Syria's capital Damascus on February 21, 2016
Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb attack in the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on February 21, 2016
Members of the government forces install a retractable military bridge to cross a trench on the eastern outskirts of Syria's northern city of Aleppo on Febru...
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on February 21, 2016 shows a wounded Syrian reacting at a hospital in the Syrian ca...
UK's Cameron tries to sell EU deal after London mayor backs Brexit. Prime Minister David Cameron will try to sell his case for Britain remaining in the European Union to parliament on Monday, facing hostility from his own lawmakers and an exit campaign energized by the backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Johnson, one of Britain's most popular politicians, announced on Sunday he supported leaving the bloc, dealing a blow to Cameron who struck a deal to reform Britain's relations with the EU last week.

The mayor's announcement, widely regarded as increasing the chance of a British EU exit, saw sterling on course for its biggest one-day loss against the dollar in 11 months while British bond prices also fell.

"I'm delighted that he's come out for leaving the European Union," former finance minister and chairman of the Vote Leave campaign Nigel Lawson told BBC radio. "He is a superb campaigner so he's a great asset."

While Cameron's most senior Cabinet colleagues have stuck with him, five others have said they would campaign for a British exit, highlighting the deep divide in Cameron's Conservative Party over Europe, dating back to the days of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

DE FACTO LEADER
However, Johnson's intervention is seen as significant, giving the "out" campaign a de facto figure head. Betting odds of a British exit rose to a 33 percent chance from about 29 percent after his announcement, according to bookmakers.

Johnson, 51, a political showman whose eccentric persona masks a fierce ambition to succeed Cameron, said on Sunday he did not want to go against Cameron but believed the EU project was in danger of getting out of democratic control.

On Monday, Johnson declined to elaborate further, saying he was focusing on his last budget as London mayor, a post he has held since 2008.

"There will be plenty of time to talk about Europe and the great future that Britain can have outside the European Union in the next few weeks," Johnson, who is also a Conservative member of parliament, told reporters.

Sterling was on course for its biggest one day loss in 11 months, falling to $1.4175 GBP=D4 after the start of European trade, down 1.5 percent on the day. The pound also fell against the euro on concern that Britain would quit the bloc it joined in 1973.

The cost of hedging against sharp weakness in the sterling exchange rate shot up to its highest in more than four years.

The six-month implied volatility in sterling/dollar GBPVOL= -- a gauge of how sharp investors believe currency moves will be -- rose to 12.2 percent, its highest since late 2011, according to Reuters charts. The contract captures the date of the referendum, scheduled for June 23.

Cameron is due to make a statement to lawmakers about his EU negotiations later on Monday when the scale of divisions in the Conservative Party over the EU should become clear.

What role Johnson will play in the leave campaign is not known as he said he would not take part in debates against members of his own party.

That has led some commentators to question whether his stance is a calculated gamble designed to attract widespread euroskeptic support among Conservatives in a future leadership bid to succeed Cameron, who has said he will step down before the next election in 2020.

"CAREER ENDING MOVE"
Johnson's supporters dismissed such suggestions, describing the decision to oppose the prime minister as a matter of principle.

"To say that this is a careerist sort of move would be a total travesty," his father Stanley, a former Conservative member of the European Parliament, told BBC radio. "I can't think of any more career ending move than to do what he did yesterday."

A British exit from the EU would rock the Union -- already shaken by differences over migration and the future of the euro zone -- by ripping away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial center.

Pro-Europeans, including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major, have warned that an exit could also trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom by prompting another Scottish independence vote.

A poll published before Johnson's move showed the "in" campaign with a lead of 15 percentage points. However, polls have fluctuated widely and surveys suggest about a fifth of voters are undecided.

A third of voters said Johnson would be important in helping them decide which way to vote, an Ipsos MORI poll showed.

Cameron's backing for EU membership has the support much of London's financial district, major companies, much of the Labour Party, major trade unions, international allies and Scottish nationalists. Opposed are several bickering "out" campaign groups.

"The big battalions of the argument are unquestionably ranged against people like me: We are portrayed as crazy cranks and all the rest of it," Johnson said in announcing his position. "I don't mind, I happen to think that I'm right." Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, editing by Elizabeth Piper.
Thrilling Daytona 500 finish a major win for Hamlin, NASCAR. 
When he was in second grade, Denny Hamlin wrote a letter to himself wishing for a Daytona 500 victory.

His childlike cursive stated he wanted to win the race in 1998. Hamlin had to wait considerably longer, just not as long as team owner Joe Gibbs.

With a Hail Mary move Sunday, Hamlin ended Gibbs' 23-year drought at the Daytona 500. It gave Hamlin his first Daytona 500 victory in 10 tries, and Toyota its first in "The Great American Race."

"You couldn't have written a better ending," Hamlin said. "It's the pinnacle of my career, for sure."

Hamlin's mother, Mary Lou, tweeted a photo of the letter after Sunday's race:

Hamlin also tweeted a photolater Sunday of the childhood essay that he wrote in 1987, with the caption, "It's real now."

Hamlin pulled out of line with a lap to go and chased down teammate Matt Kenseth. He staved off Kenseth's block, and wedged between Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.

Hamlin stayed in the gas for a door-to-door dash to the checkered flag that ended in a photo finish with Truex. He beat Truex by 0.010 seconds, the closest finish since NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in 1993.

"I don't know where that came from, I don't know what happened, I can't even figure out what I did," Hamlin said. "It all just came together. But this wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for Toyotas sticking together all race long."

Gibbs, who in November celebrated with Kyle Busch the team's first Sprint Cup title in a decade, won the race for the first time since Dale Jarrett in 1993.

Gibbs had made it clear that he had no use for the victories his drivers collected in the exhibition races leading into Sunday's season-opener -- Hamlin and Busch each won one race in the buildup to the opener. But the three-time Super Bowl-winning coach was focused only on the 500 and his four drivers brainstormed on the best way to get a win.

"The thrill in football, you can't get any more excited than that, winning a Super Bowl. It's the same thrill over here," Gibbs said. "Most people never get to have a dream in life. I've had two from an occupational standpoint. I'm probably one of the most blessed guys in the world."

Hamlin, Kenseth, Busch and Carl Edwards stuck close together for most of the race, and they got assistance from Truex, who became a de facto JGR teammate this year when Furniture Row Racing moved to Toyota.

Kenseth led Truex until the final lap, when Hamlin finally jumped out of line. Starting a second line on the outside, Hamlin got a push from Kevin Harvick that allowed him to catch Kenseth. Kenseth tried to throw a block but Hamlin wedged into the middle between Kenseth and Truex, and Kenseth had to save his car from wrecking.

"The last thing I wanted to do was wreck off Turn 4 with my Toyota teammates and none of us win," Hamlin said. "We had talked about a plan overnight to just work together, work together and I've never seen it executed so flawlessly.

"I said with two to go that we have to get the team victory no matter what it takes and I essentially was trying to go up there and block (Harvick) to keep him from getting to those guys."

But the push from Harvick was so strong, Hamlin was able to race for the win.

Truex wasn't sure what he could have done differently.

"It hurts a little bit," Truex said. "I think the only thing I should have done different was been a little more aggressive coming to the line, holding Denny up the racetrack. That last split second when he pulled off my door, that was it. It gave him that couple inches to beat me to the line.

"It's hard to make those decisions. Live and learn. I think if I get in that position again, I'll do it a little bit differently."

Toyotas swept the podium as Truex was second, and Busch third. Edwards was fifth as Toyota took four of the top five spots. It comes three months after Busch gave Toyota its first championship.

"This was our 10th try at the Daytona 500," said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, who called the win the biggest in Toyota history -- trumping even the 2003 Indianapolis 500 victory.

"When we came into the sport, we struggled. We were not ready. We didn't know. And so it's taken time for us to collectively build an organization of winning races and competing for championships."

Kenseth faded to 14th.

"They don't get much more crushing than that," Kenseth said. "If I can't win, I want my teammate to win. There's a million things you could do differently, but I did what I thought I should do at the time to try to win. We finished terrible, but that was the move I thought I had to make to try to preserve the win."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., seeking his third Daytona 500 victory, came up empty as he tried to force his way through the field late in the race.

Earnhardt was using the high line to inch closer to the front, and when he tried to get a side draft from another car, he spun through the fourth turn. His Chevrolet hit an interior wall and then ricocheted into the grass, where Earnhardt found himself stuck.

"Caught me by surprise there," Earnhardt said. "We were making some ground on the leaders a little bit so that was looking pretty good because the outside line really hadn't been doing anything all day. Just busted my butt there. Driver mistake." The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

And, in the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, CA (Par 71 7,322 Yards) which I have been to many times, here are those results minus the discussion about passing kidney stones which was gross to hear:
Leaderboard
POSCTRYPLAYERTO PARR1R2R3R4TOTEARNINGSFEDEX PTS
1Bubba Watson-1566686768269$1,224,000500
T2Adam Scott-1468686767270$598,400245
T2Jason Kokrak-1468647068270$598,400245
4Dustin Johnson-1368666869271$326,400135
T5Marc Leishman-1268676869272$258,400105
T5K.J. Choi-1269676769272$258,400105
7Chez Reavie-1166676971273$227,80090
T8Matt Kuchar-1069696967274$204,00082
T8Sung-hoon Kang-1070696669274$204,00082
10Ryan Moore-969686969275$183,60075
T11Martin Laird-868706969276$144,16061
T11J.B. Holmes-871666970276$144,16061
T11Steve Stricker-871686770276$144,16061
T11Troy Merritt-868667072276$144,16061
T11Hideki Matsuyama-869676872276$144,16061
T16Ben Martin-773686769277$105,40053
T16Adam Hadwin-770707166277$105,40053
T16Justin Leonard-767697071277$105,40053
T16Justin Rose-769686971277$105,40053
T20Seung-yul Noh-670716869278$73,66748
T20William McGirt-670697168278$73,66748
T20Jamie Lovemark-669707069278$73,66748
T20Luke List-666707567278$73,66748
T20Tyrone van Aswegen-668726771278$73,66748
T20Rory McIlroy-667696775278$73,66748
T26Gary Woodland-571696970279$44,38540
T26Nick Taylor-570687269279$44,38540
T26Aaron Baddeley-571687070279$44,38540
T26Ricky Barnes-567707171279$44,38540
T26Harold Varner, III-574686671279$44,38540
T26Carlos Ortiz-572687168279$44,38540
T26Kyle Reifers-568687172279$44,38540
T26Ernie Els-574677068279$44,38540
T26Stuart Appleby-570697367279$44,38540
T26Jon Curran-571676972279$44,38540
T26Kevin Chappell-568696676279$44,38540
T37Spencer Levin-473696870280$32,64033
T37Camilo Villegas-463747073280$32,64033
T39David Toms-370726772281$27,20029
T39Harris English-368707073281$27,20029
T39Scott Brown-371696873281$27,20029
T39Anirban Lahiri-372676973281$27,20029
T39Brendan Steele-370676876281$27,20029
T39Paul Casey-373697168281$27,20029
T45Stewart Cink-270716873282$19,05923
T45Charl Schwartzel-268687373282$19,05923
T45Fabian Gomez-272696972282$19,05923
T45Luke Donald-268727171282$19,05923
T45Vijay Singh-270697271282$19,05923
T45Padraig Harrington-271706675282$19,05923
T45Retief Goosen-268727369282$19,05923
T52Francesco Molinari-169717073283$16,18418
T52Patton Kizzire-170697569283$16,18418
T54Jamie DonaldsonE69726974284$15,50415
T54Justin ThomasE70726676284$15,50415
T54Derek FathauerE71707073284$15,50415
T54Billy HorschelE68727272284$15,50415
T54Mark HubbardE75677171284$15,50415
T59Ben Crane+167747074285$14,89210
T59Will MacKenzie+169737073285$14,89210
T59Chris Stroud+169717372285$14,89210
T59Carl Pettersson+171717172285$14,89210
T63Andrew Loupe+270726876286$14,4167
T63Charley Hoffman+271697373286$14,4167
T63Cameron Smith+272707173286$14,4167
T66J.J. Henry+369717077287$14,0764
T66Chad Collins+373686977287$14,0764
T68Cameron Tringale+472667080288$13,6681
T68Andy Sullivan+471717175288$13,6680
T68Morgan Hoffmann+470727175288$13,6681
T68Jason Dufner+470717374288$13,6681
T72Brian Harman+570727077289$13,2600
T72Mark Wilson+571717374289$13,2600
T72Charlie Danielson+567727377289$00
75Charles Howell III+667757375290$13,0560
76Rhein Gibson+772707277291$12,9200
-Danny LeeCUT7271--143$00
-Hunter MahanCUT7271--143$00
-Robert StrebCUT7271--143$00
-Freddie JacobsonCUT7172--143$00
-Daniel SummerhaysCUT7271--143$00
-Thomas AikenCUT7172--143$00
-Bryce MolderCUT7271--143$00
-Chad CampbellCUT7271--143$00
-Lucas GloverCUT7370--143$00
-Brendon ToddCUT7469--143$00
-Keegan BradleyCUT7271--143$00
-Bill HaasCUT7271--143$00
-Jimmy WalkerCUT7271--143$00
-Peter MalnatiCUT6974--143$00
-Matt JonesCUT7469--143$00
-Jarrod LyleCUT7470--144$00
-Shawn StefaniCUT6777--144$00
-Si Woo KimCUT7074--144$00
-Andres GonzalesCUT7371--144$00
-Scott StallingsCUT7371--144$00
-Graham DeLaetCUT7569--144$00
-Meen Whee KimCUT7272--144$00
-Matt EveryCUT7471--145$00
-Chris KirkCUT7372--145$00
-John SendenCUT7174--145$00
-Scott LangleyCUT7273--145$00
-Matt DobynsCUT7471--145$00
-Johnson WagnerCUT7273--145$00
-Brett StegmaierCUT7273--145$00
-Daniel BergerCUT7372--145$00
-Hudson SwaffordCUT7273--145$00
-Will WilcoxCUT7571--146$00
-David HearnCUT7472--146$00
-Blayne BarberCUT7472--146$00
-Sergio GarciaCUT7472--146$00
-Fred CouplesCUT7472--146$00
-Patrick RodgersCUT7769--146$00
-Steve WheatcroftCUT7472--146$00
-Charlie BeljanCUT7571--146$00
-Bernd WiesbergerCUT7175--146$00
-Dawie Van Der WaltCUT7175--146$00
-Ken DukeCUT7769--146$00
-John MerrickCUT7473--147$00
-Pat PerezCUT7671--147$00
-Jordan SpiethCUT7968--147$00
-Greg OwenCUT7572--147$00
-Roberto CastroCUT7374--147$00
-James HahnCUT7176--147$00
-Vaughn TaylorCUT7374--147$00
-Smylie KaufmanCUT7276--148$00
-Brendon de JongeCUT7177--148$00
-Kevin NaCUT7276--148$00
-Tony FinauCUT7276--148$00
-Hiroshi IwataCUT7276--148$00
-Angel CabreraCUT6880--148$00
-Brian SmockCUT7672--148$00
-Scott PinckneyCUT7772--149$00
-Bronson BurgoonCUT7574--149$00
-Zac BlairCUT7871--149$00
-Erik ComptonCUT7575--150$00
-Tyler AldridgeCUT7278--150$00
-John HuhCUT7972--151$00
-Steven BowditchCUT8072--152$00
-J.J. SpaunCUT7775--152$00
-Michael KimCUT7676--152$00
-Robert AllenbyCUT7777--154$00
-Jeff OvertonWD726876-216$00
-Jason GoreWD7660--136$00

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