10 things you need to know today: March 3, 2015

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The Week

1.Netanyahu says he means no disrespect to Obama with speech
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his Tuesday speech to Congress was not intended to be a show of disrespect to President Obama, but that he felt a “moral obligation” to speak out against Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu was invited by Republican leaders who control Congress, not by Obama, in what the White House has called a breach of diplomatic protocol. The president has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during the trip, because that could be seen as interference in Israel’s looming elections.

Source: Reuters

2.Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account at State Department
During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account, rather than a government one, The New York Timesreports. This may have violated the Federal Records Act, which requires preserving officials’ emails on department servers so Congress, journalists, and historians can find them, with some exceptions for sensitive material. Clinton’s advisers gave 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, and a spokesman said she is adhering to the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced Monday that she would not seek reelection in 2016, ending a congressional career that has spanned 10 years in the House and 30 years in the Senate. Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, rose to the powerful position of Senate Appropriations Committee chair before losing the position when Republicans took over control of the Senate this year.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

4.Judge rules Nebraska’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional
A federal judge on Monday struck down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment to the state’s constitution to outlaw gay marriage in 2000. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled in favor of several plaintiffs who challenged the ban, but he put his decision on hold pending the hearing of an appeal Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R) filed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has similar cases in Missouri, Arkansas, and South Dakota before it.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Georgia delays woman’s execution
Georgia halted the execution of the state’s only female death-row inmate on Monday, due to problems with the lethal combination of drugs with which she was to be injected. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was condemned to die for plotting with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband in 1997. She was scheduled to become the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945. The Georgia Supreme Court turned down her request for a stay, but prison officials delayed the execution because the drugs appeared cloudy.

Source: Reuters

6.Thieves steal $4 million in gold from truck in N.C.
Three men stole three barrels of gold valued at $4 million from a truck in North Carolina, authorities said Monday. The truck’s two security guards, who worked for the Miami firm Transvalue, said they pulled over on Interstate 95 due to mechanical trouble on the way from Miami to Massachusetts. The three armed men pulled up in a white van and made the guards lie down, then bound their hands behind their backs and left them in the woods. The robbers then took the gold and fled.

Source: NBC News

7.ISIS threatens Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey
Islamic State militants on Monday threatened to kill Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey because the microblogging service has blocked ISIS-linked accounts. A message posted online also threatened Twitter with “real war.” The threat was posted on Pastebin and attributed to ISIS, although its authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Twitter said it had contacted authorities and that its security team was investigating the threats.

Source: PC Magazine

8.Mommy blogger Lacey Spears convicted in her son’s death
Parenting blogger Lacey Spears was convicted Monday of second degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old son, Garnett. The child died in January 2014 after high levels of sodium in his system led to swelling of his brain. Prosecutors said Garnett poisoned her son by injecting salt through a feeding tube, calling it “torture” she did for attention as she blogged about his health problems. Defense attorneys said there was no evidence against Spears, 27. She faces 15 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in April.

Source: The Journal News

9. Clinton’s portrait included reference to Monica Lewinsky scandal, artist says
The artist who painted President Clinton’s portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., told Philly.com that the work includes a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The painter, Nelson Shanks, said he included a shadow in the image meant to have been cast by Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress. Shanks said it was “a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” cast by Clinton’s affair with his then-intern.

Source: Philly.com, U

10.Google confirms plan to start small wireless service
Google plans to offer a small-scale wireless service, but it is designed to show off technological innovations rather than compete with the nation’s leading carriers, Google Android executive Sundar Pichai said at an industry conference in Barcelona. The move could complicate Google’s relationship with the big carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Google counts on them to promote Android phones, but its efforts to improve connections by tapping WiFi networks could reduce data traffic — and income — for carriers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Morning Plum: Republicans won’t have any contingency plan if Court guts subsidies for millions

The Washington Post – Plum Line

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments this week in the lawsuit that could do severe damage to the Affordable Care Act, some Republican lawmakers are working hard to convey the impression that they have a contingency plan for the millions who will likely lose subsidies — and coverage — if the Court rules with the challengers. Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso have published a Washington Post op ed with an oh-so-reassuring title: “We have a plan for fixing health care.”

The good Senators, amusingly, cast their “plan” as something that will protect people from “the administration’s” actions and from Obamacare itself, not from the consequences of the legal challenge or a Court decision siding with it. The plan vows to “provide financial assistance” for a “transitional period” to those who lose subsidies, while Republicans create a “bridge away from Obamacare.” Of course, anyone who watched last week’s chaos in the House knows Congressional Republicans are unlikely to coalesce around any “transitional” relief for those who lose subsidies (that would require spending federal money to cover people) or any permanent long-term alternative. This chatter appears transparently designed to make it easier for conservative Justices to side with the challengers.

Yet even if this game works on the Justices in the short term, any eventual failure to come through with any  contingency plan could saddle Republicans with a political problem, perhaps even among GOP voters.

A poll taken by Independent Women’s Voice — a group that favors repealing Obamacare in the name of individual liberty — found that in the nearly three dozen states on the federal exchange, 75 percent of respondents think it’s very (54) or somewhat (21) important to restore subsidies to those who lose them. In the dozen main presidential swing states, 75 percent of respondents say the same.

And guess what: Large majorities of Republican voters agree. A spokesperson for the group tells me that in both those groups of states taken together, 62 percent of Republican respondents say its very (31) or somewhat (31) important to restore the subsidies. Only 31 percent of Republicans in those states think doing this is unimportant.

This raises the possibility that a lot of Republican voters would be harmed by an anti-ACA decision, too. As Politico puts it today: “The people who would be affected by a Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration live disproportionately in GOP-governed states, and an Urban Institute study found that many people fall into a demographic crucial to the GOP base — white, Southern and employed.”

Now, none of this means Republicans will be more likely to step forward with a solution. As Avik Roy (who hopes the Court rules against the ACA) acknowledges, Republicans are so divided that uniting on any response is unlikely:

Republicans are being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, you have dozens of House members from highly ideological districts, for whom a primary challenge is a far bigger political risk than a general election. Many members of this group think that continuing Obamacare’s subsidies, in any form, is problematic.

On the other hand, there is a large group of Republican senators in blue and purple states up for reelection in 2016. These include Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Rob Portman (Ohio). These senators are much more aligned with Hatch, Alexander, and Barrasso.

Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers, who could keep the subsidies flowing to their constituents by setting up state exchanges, are all over the place on what might come next, with some already ruling out such a fix. Indeed, in the end, it probably won’t matter that large majorities of Americans — or even large majorities of Republicans — support restoring the subsidies. On this, as on so many other things, GOP lawmakers will probably take their cues from the more conservative minority of Republicans, whatever the political or policy consequences.


* WHY JUSTICES SHOULD WEIGH CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-ACA RULING: Law professor Nicholas Bagley has a terrific piece explaining why the Supreme Court Justices should factor in the fact that siding with the challengers would take health care from millions: This eventuality shows the challengers are misreading the law.

It’s not irrelevant that a ruling in their favor would inflict such damage. To the contrary, that fact helps us correctly interpret the statute’s text. Indeed, it shows that the plaintiffs’ understanding of that text is wrong. As the Supreme Court has said time and again, no provision of a statute should be read in isolation. Laws must be read as a whole, with an eye to harmonizing their interdependent parts. That means the court is reluctant to read a stray passage here or there in a way that would destabilize an entire statutory scheme.

It’s also possible that the real-world implications of an anti-ACA ruling might have legal relevance because they bolster the states’ argument that siding with the challengers would impose unfair retroactive consequences on them without clear warning. Read the whole thing.

* LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE ACA IS ‘PROVABLE FICTION’:Steven Brill has a must-read in which he documents his close reporting on the creation of the Affordable Care Act, and why that led him to the conclusion that the idea that Congress intended to deny subsidies to those on the federal exchange is nothing but “fiction” and a “fairytale”:

Congressional intent is a fact-based inquiry, not a matter of opinion. Given the unambiguous mountain of facts arrayed for the defense (and well-presented in the briefs submitted by the defense side), it is hard enough to see how the lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side could actually believe in their case…if a majority of supposedly objective justices decide to ignore the facts and buy their argument, they will have engaged in a breathtaking act of political activism.

The Justices, however, could simply conclude that the disputed phrase is not ambiguous enough to warrant Chevron deference to the IRS’ interpretation of the law, despite all the evidence of Congressional intent, not to mention the law’s overall structure and purpose.

* DEMOCRATS ANGRY ABOUT NETANYAHU SPEECH: Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address Congress tomorrow, and the New York Times reports that anger and unease are widespread among Congressional Democrats. The latest tally on who will skip the speech:

So far, 30 Democrats — four senators and 26 representatives — have said they will not attend the speech. Nearly half are African-Americans, who say they feel deeply that Mr. Netanyahu is disrespecting the president by challenging his foreign policy. But a half-dozen of those Democrats planning to stay away are Jewish, and represent 21 percent of Congress’s Jewish members.

Given the historic skittishness among Democrats about appearing even slightly out of sync with what Israel wants, that actually represents something new.

* PARTISAN DIVIDE ON VIEWS OF NETANYAHU: A new NBC News poll finds that  66 percent of Democrats say GOP leaders shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu to speak without notifying the president first, while only 28 percent of Republicans say the same. And only 12 percent of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably, versus 49 percent of Republicans. It bears repeating that when it comes to Israel and diplomacy with Iran, Congressional Democrats are well to the right of their base.

* SCOTT WALKER FLIP-FLOPS ON IMMIGRATION: After previously supporting legalization for the 11 million, Scott Walker tried to get right with conservatives on Fox News Sunday:

“I don’t believe in amnesty…my view has changed. I’m flat out saying it…we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works. A legal immigration system that works.”

However, Walker also said that “there’s a way” to legalize the 11 million if border security is accomplished first. This puts Walker pretty much where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have come down on the issue.

* TOP CONSERVATIVE: BOEHNER’S JOB IS SAFE: GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, flatly tells CNN that there won’t be any conservative coup to oust Speaker John Boehner: “That’s not gonna happen.”

Duly noted. So what is stopping Boehner from passing long term funding of the Department of Homeland Security with the help of a lot of Democrats? We were repeatedly told during past showdowns that Boehner couldn’t avert crises with Dem help, because he’d lose his Speakership, and each of those ended in the same way.

Can Republicans lead? According to the headlines … nope

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pauses during remarks to reporters at a news conference following a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4KFJ3

Team Boehner: A case study in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory | REUTERS

In my opinion, many of the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t have been elected had it not been for their insidious redistricting plan but that’s another whole “can of worms” produced by the GOP.   Meanwhile…

Daily Kos

It was less than four months ago that a giddy John Boehner teamed up with his BFF Mitch McConnell to pen an op-ed in The Wall Street titled Now We Can Get Congress Going. So, in the wake of last week’s fiasco over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, how’s that whole governing thing by you and your Republican brethren going, Johnny? According to the headlines, not so well. Here’s a small sampling from across the land:

And coming up this week? More of the same because—thanks to House Republicans—funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out in five days. Stay tuned for more governingchaos7:45 AM PT: And in related news:

Analysis: Nancy Pelosi steps up as House GOP leaders stumble

10 things you need to know today: March 2, 2015

(Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

The Week

1.Netanyahu arrives ahead of controversial address to Congress
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to the United States on Sunday ahead of a Tuesday address to Congress on Iran. Netanyahu was invited by GOP leaders in Congress who share his opposition to the Obama administration’s attempt to negotiate a deal with Iran to curb its controversial nuclear program. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has called Netanyahu’s address “destructive,” but Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Netanyahu was “welcome” and that U.S.-Israel security ties remained close.

Source: Reuters

2.Shooting of homeless man by L.A. police caught on video
Dozens of people gathered Sunday night at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to protest the shooting death of a man in the city’s skid row area earlier in the day. The shooting was caught on camera by a witness, and posted to Facebook. Police said officers responding to a 911 call about a possible robbery approached the man, and he “began fighting and physically resisting.” There was a struggle over an officer’s weapon, police said, before two officers and a sergeant shot the man.

Source: Los Angeles Times

3.Boston braces for another winter record
Another snowstorm barreled toward Boston overnight on Sunday, adding to record snowfall in the month of February. The city has already weathered its second snowiest season every with 102 inches, just 5.6 inches below the record 1995-1996 season. The latest storm is expected to pile on as much as another six inches by early Monday, which would make this the city’s snowiest winter. This winter blast should be brief, though. Forecasters expect the storm to clear out of the Northeast by late morning.

Source: ABC News

4.DOJ report to detail alleged racial bias in Ferguson traffic stops
A nearly complete Justice Department report will accuse Ferguson, Missouri, police of discriminating against African Americans in traffic stops, according to law enforcement officials. The disproportionate ticketing and arrests of black drivers allegedly contributed to racial tensions that led up to last year’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white officer. The report is expected to be released as early as this week. Ferguson officials will either have to negotiate a settlement or face a civil rights lawsuit.

Source: The New York Times

5.Iraq launches offensive to retake Tikrit from ISIS
A large-scale military operation by Iraqi government forces to take back Tikrit from ISIS is underway, Iraqi state television reports. They are backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets, and militants are said to have been forced out of some areas outside of the city 80 miles north of Baghdad. Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, fell to ISIS last summer, and before the operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Sunni fighters that if they left ISIS, they would be pardoned.

Source: The Associated Press

6.Astronauts take third spacewalk to prepare for new crew capsules
Astronauts conducted their third spacewalk in a week on Sunday to install 400 feet of power and data cable, and two antennas at the International Space Station. The equipment is needed for docking ports to accommodate new crew capsules being built for NASA by Boeing and SpaceX. Two docking ports will be flown to the station later this year, and the capsules are expected to start flying up with astronauts on board in 2017. NASA has not had such a busy flurry of spacewalks since it retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Source: Fox News

7.Man identified as “Jihadi John” described as cold loner
Details continue to emerge about Mohammed Emwazi, the London-raised man identified as the masked killer shown in Islamic State videos of the beheadings of Western hostages in Syria. A former teacher said that before Emwazi, 26, became known as “Jihadi John” he was a “hard-working, aspirational” student who was once bullied by classmates. A former ISIS militant described Emwazi as a cold loner who kept to himself. “He didn’t talk much,” the man, Abu Ayman, said. “He wouldn’t join us in prayer.”

Source: BBC News

8.Bangladesh police arrest suspect in U.S. blogger’s murder
Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested a suspect in last week’s gruesome murder of Avijit Roy, an American atheist blogger who has been an outspoken critic of Islamist extremists. The suspect, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, is a Muslim blogger who has denounced atheism and threatened Roy on Facebook. In one post, a police spokesman said, Rahman wrote, “Avijit Roy lives in America, so it’s not possible to kill him right now. But he will be killed when he comes back.”

Source: The Associated Press

9. North Korea fires missiles ahead of U.S.-South Korea drills
North Korea fired two short-range Scud ballistic missiles into the sea to protest annual South Korea-U.S. military drills that start Monday. South Korea called the launches “foolhardy and provocative,” saying they violated United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korean missile programs. North Korea has called for the U.S. and South Korea to cancel the drills, calling them a rehearsal for a “nuclear war of invasion.” The allies say the drills are necessary for South Korea’s defense.

Source: The Korea Herald

10.White Sox legend Minnie Minoso dies at age 90
Former Chicago White Sox star Minnie Minoso — the city’s first black Major League Baseball player — died Sunday at age 90. Minoso had attended a friend’s birthday party and apparently fell ill. He was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his car at a gas station. Minoso, who was born in Cuba, hit a two-run homer in his first at bat when he joined the team in 1951 after two seasons in Cleveland. President Obama expressed his condolences to the family in a statement, saying Minoso “will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.'”

Source: ESPN

GOPer Slams ‘Phony Conservatives’ Who Tried To Defund DHS


TPM LiveWire

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is not happy with the Republicans who defied House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and refused to vote for a bill on Friday that did not address President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and would have funded the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) also lamented to National Journal that the House Republican conference could not agree on the bill, putting Boehner in a tough spot.

“This has got to have an affect on him, personally, just psychologically. To have to go to the mat on these issues. He ran for it, he knows what the job entails, but we certainly made it pretty difficult on him when we seem to fight so much among ourselves,” he said. “I hate it that our conference has so many issues, so many factions among itself, that we can’t get our team together and all be singing off the same sheet of music.

The Most Anti-Women Assertions At This Year’s Conservative Political Gathering

Carly Fiorina

Think Progress

As the Republican party struggles to rebrand itself to win back women voters, HP executive and rumored presidential candidate Carly Fiorina told attendees this week that the concept of a Republican “war on women” is “a lie.”

“Women are not single issue voters, and we’re not a special interest group,” she said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “No one would expect that all men agree or care about only one issue, but somehow Democrats think all women do or should.”

The “one issue” she referred to was reproductive rights, and even as she argued this was not an important topic for women voters, she called on Republicans to pass further restrictions on access to health care, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and a ban on taxpayer subsidies to help low-income women access abortion. She also called for banning abortions based on the sex of the fetus — a policy largely based on racial stereotypes that has been promoted by conservatives despite a lack of evidence that such abortions take place.

“Too many women are influenced by the rhetoric of the ‘War on Women’ and don’t know how to push back,” Fiorina said. “So I took on the war on women and tried to lay out the facts.”

But Fiorina’s facts often missed the mark. She told the audience that the Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception was no big deal, saying, “Women had plenty of access to birth control both before and after the decision.” Like many in her party, Fiorina focused on the legal right to purchase birth control, a right that means nothing if women workers can’t afford it without insurance.

Fiorina then claimed that “women are disengaged from the political process because they don’t like the vitriol. They feel marginalized by both parties.” Yet in recent years, women have turned out to vote at higher rates than men. And a poll last year found that women overwhelmingly believe Republicans are out of touch with their interests.

Turning to economic issues, Fiorina hit Democrats for framing their push to raise the minimum wage as a women’s issue — though at least two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Fiorina asserted — incorrectly — that 62 percent of minimum wage workers are still in high school, when the real number is closer to a third. “The real war on women is being waged by liberal policies in communities across America,” she argued.

Other CPAC speakers with presidential aspirations joined Fiorina in dismissing the need to raise the minimum wage. “No parents are sitting around a kitchen table saying if our child could get a higher minimum wage, my gosh, every one of our aspirations for them would be realized,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.

Both Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also used their stage time at CPAC to tout their records of cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, which has cut off access to cancer screenings, abortion care, prenatal care, and STD testing for thousands of women in those states.

Jokes with sexist overtones also surfaced repeatedly over the multi-day conference.

Conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham suggested Jeb Bush would win lots of female votes because he allowed his wife to drop tens of thousands of dollars on jewelry.

“Jeb could really explode the gender gap. Women could really turn out in droves for Jeb Bush,” she said. “What woman doesn’t like a man who gives her a blank check at Tiffany’s? Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — that would be a great theme song for Jeb Bush.”

Later on Saturday, Fox News host Sean Hannity — in a rambling joke about Democrats continuing to blame everything on George W. Bush — told the audience:

“I kinda have Fox X-ray vision, and I can see that some of you women, you don’t even know it yet, but you’re pregnant. It’s not your fault. It’s not his fault.”

The comment drew little laughter and audible discomfort from the audience.

Later, CPAC presented Phil Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty with their “First Amendment” award, and the bearded reality TV personality gave a long speech that included some unsolicited advice to 2016 hopefuls: “In case one of you gets to be president of the United States, make sure you carry your Bible and your woman,” he said. “I’m just saying, safety. Safety.”

For the 99 percent of attendees not running for President, he counseled: “You marry, you keep your sex right there. You won’t get sick from a sexually transmitted disease.”

Sunday Talk: Killing Santa

Sunday Kos

This week, your humble diarist was in country, and bore witness as the #LlamaDrama played out (on cable TV)—LIVE!

Hoping to win a Peabody Award (or even a Polk Award), I got back in my limousine, and ordered my driver to take the highway to the danger zone.

Unfortunately, thanks to Obamanet, we were soon caught up in the brutalonline debate over #TheDress.

Suffice it to say, I was lucky to make it home alive; my chauffeur was not so lucky.

Now, I didn’t watch my buddy die face down in the muck so that a guttersnipe like David Corn could smear a patriot like Bill O’Reilly—who has served honorably on the front linesof the War on Christmas.

In fact, I’d argue that Corn and his allies have been mounting the most despicable attackon a white Christian man since teh Joos (allegedly) killed Jesus.

They should consider themselves warned: You come at the falafel king, you best not miss.

Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA); Russian Political Activist Garry Kasparov; Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Former Sen. Joe Lieberman(I-CT); “Brain Surgeon” Dr. Ben Carson; Tony Messenger (St. Louis Post-Dispatch);Roundtable: Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Radio Host Hugh Hewitt and Maria Hinojosa (NPR).Face the Nation: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R); Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic); Margaret Brennan (CBS News);Roundtable: Mark Halperin (Bloomberg News), Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal), Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona and Republican Strategist Kevin Madden.

This Week: Secretary of State John Kerry; Roundtable: Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd, Radio Host Laura Ingraham, LZ Granderson (CNN) and Cokie Roberts (ABC News).

Fox News Sunday: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA); Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R); Roundtable: Jason Riley (Wall Street Journal), Former Rep. Jane Harman(D-CA), Kathleen Parker (Washington Post) and Charles Lane (Washington Post).

State of the Union: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R); Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Orren; Others TBD.

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: an interview with FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance Brad Kieserman, who claims he has seen evidence of fraud used in reports to deny Hurricane Sandy victims full insurance payments (preview); and, an interview with actor/writer/comedian Larry David (preview).

GOP Congressman Laughs At Woman’s Border Solution- ‘Blow ‘Em Up’ (VIDEO)

Addicting Info

Town hall meetings can be fun. Among all the boring policy talk, there’s always at least one local nutjob who shows up to give everyone something to laugh at. A recent meeting in a Georgia town was no different. GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk actually laughed at one of his constituents, who suggested bombing immigrants.

Image Credit: Rep. Barry Loudermilk- Screengrab via Raw Story

Image Credit: Rep. Barry Loudermilk- Screengrab via Raw Story


The woman’s outburst came after Rep. Loudermilk was discussing his travels to border states like Arizona and Texas. The congressman suggested that, due to the way a fence ended on a mountain in one such state, that the Obama Administration is being less than truthful regarding immigration statistics. Loudermilk said:

“You can watch the fence go up a mountain, and the fence ends up on this mountain. I asked a Border Patrol agent, ‘Why does the fence end there?’ He said, ‘Because that’s the easiest place to catch them. Because it’s all desert up there. When they come across that it takes them a full day just to cross that desert. That’s the easiest place to catch them.’”

At this, the unidentified constituent burst out:

“Why don’t we learn something from Afghanistan and put IUDs in the ground? Blow ‘em up. Quit being so nice.”

Now, of course, IUDs are a form of birth control, and have nothing to do with bombs. The fact that this woman said this in a public forum just illustrates the ignorance of the violent right. Even her own congressman, as well as other audience members, laughed at her. This woman likely was referring to IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. Either way, it’s a terrible suggestion, because these devices are deadly.

Rep. Loudermilk, of course, was only worried about the lives of Americans, and to hell with those dirty immigrants, right? When responding to the woman, he said:

“There’s a lot of Americans that work, and kids around the border, as well.”

So, in other words, if you dare to try to cross the border for a better life, you deserve to get blown up. The only issue with this barbaric suggestion from a clearly ignorant, rabidly hateful woman is that Americans might get hurt, too.

Watch video of the meeting below, courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

10 things you need to know today: February 26, 2015

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Week

1.GOP splits on Homeland Security funding as deadline nears
Republicans continued feuding over Homeland Security Department funding after the Senate advanced a “clean” bill to give the agency the money it needs through September, and prevent a shutdown when its current funding runs out Friday. The Senate removed a provision in the House version blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to hold two votes, one on DHS funding and another countering Obama on immigration, but House GOP leaders have refused to endorse it.

Source: The Washington Post

2.Three New York men accused of trying to aid ISIS
Federal authorities arrested three New York men Wednesday on charges that they plotted to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. One of them also allegedly spoke of attacking President Obama, and planting a bomb on Coney Island. One of the men, Akhror Saidakhmetov, was arrested at Kennedy Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey, Syria’s neighbor. Another man, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, was arrested in Brooklyn. He allegedly had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month. A third man, Abror Habibov, was arrested in Florida and accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov.

Source: The Associated Press

3.Rice calls Netanyahu’s U.S. visit “destructive” to relations
National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday strongly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress next week, saying that his trip was “destructive” to the relationship between Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner without President Obama’s approval to argue against the Obama administration’s effort to negotiate a deal to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Source: The New York Times

4.Palestinians blame Jewish nationalists for West Bank mosque fire
Someone set a mosque near Bethlehem on fire Wednesday. Palestinian leaders blamed Jewish nationalists, calling the arson “a sign of the mounting violent extremism within Israeli society.” The attackers spray-painted the walls of the mosque with a Star of David, and slogans, such as, “We want the redemption of Zion,” and “Revenge.” The blaze was discovered when worshippers showed up for morning prayers at 4:30 a.m.Nobody was injured, but interior walls, as well as furniture and carpet were damaged.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Apple told to pay Texas tech company $533 million for violating patents
Apple was ordered to pay Texas-based technology company Smartflash $533 million after a federal jury on Wednesday found that the iPhone and iPad maker’s iTunes software infringed on three Smartflash patents. Smartflash had asked for $852 million. Apple tried to have the court throw out the case, arguing that it had never used Smartflash’s technology and that the company’s patents were invalid because they involved innovations already patented by other companies. Apple says it will fight to overturn the decision.

Source: PC World

6.French authorities detain three Al-Jazeera journalists over drone flight
Three Al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in France on Wednesday and charged with flying drones in Paris. The network said the journalists were working on a report on mysterious reports of drone flights near sensitive sites in the city, which have triggered an investigation. The drone sightings have heightened tensions in a city that has been under an elevated alert status since last month’s terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

Source: Fox News

7.17 injured in massive pile-up on I-95 in Maine
Seventeen people were injured Wednesday in a 75-car pile-up on a snow-covered stretch of Interstate 95 in Maine . The crashes began at around7:30 a.m. At first, several cars, a school bus, and a tractor-trailer were involved. By the time it was over, at least 50 vehicles were so damaged they had to be towed away. State police called it the largest accident they had seen in more than 15 years. The highway’s two northbound lanes were closed for more than five hours.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Avalanches kill 124 in northeastern Afghanistan
Avalanches killed at least 124 people in northeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging through debris and snow with their bare hands trying to reach buried survivors. The avalanches buried homes in four provinces. The hardest hit was Panjshir province 60 miles northeast of Kabul, where 100 homes were buried. The province’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Aziz Ghirat, said he expected the death toll to rise when rescuers resumed work early Thursday after heavy snowstorms passed.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Washington, D.C., legalizes home pot smoking over GOP threat
Home use of marijuana became legal for people age 21 or older in Washington, D.C., at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the voter-approved legalization measure would take effect as planned despite threats from House Republicans to send her to prison for violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. “I have a lot of things to do in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said in the televised conference. “Me being in jail wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Source: The Washington Post

10.“Jihadi John” identified in news reports
News outlets including BBC News and The Washington Post have published reports identifying the masked, British-accented Islamic State killer shown in videos beheading Western hostages. The terrorist, known as “Jihadi John,” is allegedly a Kuwaiti-born British man named Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi, now in his mid-20s, grew up in West London and became radicalized after graduating from college with a computer programming degree. He traveled to Syria in 2012. “I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” a close friend said.

Source: BBC News, The Washington Post

10 Companies That Aren’t Waiting For Congress To Raise The Minimum Wage

The Huffington Post

It’s been six years since Congress raised the federal minimum wage, which stands at a paltry $7.25. Some companies aren’t waiting around any longer.

A week after Walmart said it would bump its roughly 500,000 lowest-paid employees up to $9 per hour in April, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other chains owned by TJX Companies announced a similar plan to hike wages for hourly workers.

The moves could mark a turning point for the entire economy as more major corporations feel pressure to lift workers’ wages.

Here’s a list of major companies that aren’t waiting around for Congress to give hourly workers a raise:

1. Walmart


Months after protests by workers who said their paltry wages forced them to seek government assistance, Walmart vowed to raise baseline pay to $9 per hour this April. The company promised to increase that wage to $10 per hour next year.

“Overall, these are strategic investments in our people to reignite the sense of ownership they have in our stores,” CEO Doug McMillon said on Feb. 19. “As a result, we firmly believe that our customers will benefit from a better store experience, which can drive higher sales and returns for our shareholders over time.”

As the world’s biggest retailer, the move could ripple throughout the economy, stimulating more consumer spending and pressuring other retailers to increase baseline pay.

2. T.J. Maxx

tj maxx

On Thursday, TJX Companies — which owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other department store chains — announced plans to hike its baseline wages to $9 per hour in June, and then to $10 per hour in 2015 for workers who’ve been at the companies for at least six months. The move came just six days after Walmart vowed to do the same.

“This pay initiative is an important part of our strategies to continue attracting and retaining the best talent in order to deliver a great shopping experience, remain competitive on wages in our U.S. markets, and stay focused on our value mission,” Carol Meyrowitz, TJX’s chief executive, said in a statement included with the company’s fourth-quarter earnings.

3. Starbucks


Last October, Starbucks promised to increase wages for its baristas and shift supervisors. The raises, tailored to the individual employees’ pay packages, were slated to go into effect last month. The company did not offer specifics on the size of the increases.

“The new rates will ensure we are paying a competition wage that better positions us to attract and keep the best partners,” said Troy Alstead, the coffee chain’s chief operating officer.

4. Ikea

ikea hacks

Ikea will peg its minimum wage in different stores to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which estimates the minimum living wage a worker needs to make depending on where he or she lives. IKEA said none of its wages will fall below $9 an hour. The new rates took effect Jan. 1, 2015.

5. Gap Inc.

california dark money

Last February, Gap Inc. announced that it would raise minimum hourly pay for workers across all of its brands to $9 in June, and to $10 an hour in June 2015.

“With more than 65,000 workers getting an increase in their hourly pay rate [by 2015], we are making a positive impact for our employees,” Gap spokeswoman Paula Conhain said in a statement. “And, it is good for business; it is helping us to attract and retain the best talent in retail, which is a real competitive advantage for us.”

Since the announcement, the company has seen a surge in job applications.

6. Costco


Costco’s starting pay is $11.50 an hour, and the average employee there earns $21 an hour, not including overtime. About 88 percent of Costco workers also benefit from company-sponsored health insurance, David Sherwood, Costco’s director of financial planning and investor relations, told HuffPost in 2013.

7. In-N-Out Burger


The West Coast burger chain starts its employees off at $10.50 an hour and provides workers paid vacations and 401(k) plans, according to its website.

“We strive to create a working environment that is upbeat, enthusiastic and customer-focused,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “A higher pay structure is helpful in making that happen.”

8. Shake Shack

shake shack

This East Coast eatery has a starting salary of $10 an hour in New York and $9.50 an hour elsewhere. The chain also offers health care benefits for full-time employees and a 401(k) matching program.

9. Ben & Jerry’s

ben cohen occupy

Need another reason to love the makers of Chunky Monkey and Half Baked? An entry-level Ben & Jerry’s worker makes $16.29 an hour, according to company spokesman Sean Greenwood — more than double the current federal minimum wage. “As we as a business prosper, those around us should prosper as well,” Greenwood said in an email.

Ben & Jerry’s even treat their cows better than other companies.

10. Whole Foods

whole foods

At Whole Foods, workers earn a minimum starting salary of $10 an hour. The averagehourly wage is $18.89, while the average annual salary is $39, 289. A company spokeswoman told HuffPost in an email that the chain’s wages have contributed to a low employee turnover rate of less than 10 percent.

Rebecca Hiscott contributed reporting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of this article was previously published last June.


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