10 things you need to know today: March 25, 2015

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The Week

1.Black box found at Germanwings crash site
Search crews found the first of two black box recorders of an airliner run by Lufthansa’s low-fare subsidiary, Germanwings, on a mountainside in the French Alps where the plane crashed Tuesday. All 144 passengers and six crew members are believed to have been killed. Investigators do not yet have a theory on why the Airbus A320 jet crashed with no distress call en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, but expect information from the cockpit voice recorder within hours. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve saidterrorism was “not a privileged hypothesis.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

2.Obama agrees to slow troop drawdown in Afghanistan
President Obama on Tuesday agreed to keep about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of this year. The announcement came after Obama met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who requested the slower drawdown to help maintain stability as foreign forces leave. Obama said he would stick to plans for closing bases and consolidating U.S. troops in Kabul. “Afghanistan is still a dangerous place,” Obama said. “The way it’s going to become less dangerous is by Afghan security forces­ being capable of keeping law and order and security.”

Source: The Washington Post

3.Kraft and Heinz to merge and form food and beverage powerhouse
Kraft Foods Group Inc. and ketchup giant H.J. Heinz announced Wednesdaythey had agreed to merge, creating the third largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth largest in the world.  The new company, Kraft Heinz Co., will boast many of America’s most iconic brands, including Heinz, Kraft, Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida, and Philadelphia. Heinz is owned by 3G Capital, a Brazilian private-equity firm, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Source: Reuters

4.Israel denies spying on U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations
Israel on Tuesday forcefully denied that it spied on U.S. nuclear talks with Iran described in a Wall Street Journal report. “There is no such thing as Israel spying on the Americans,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said the allegations “are baseless and we reject them outright.” The Journal reported that Israel leaked information from its snooping to Congress in an attempt to undercut the developing nuclear deal.

Source: The New York Times

5.Ted Cruz shops for health care through ObamaCare while vowing to repeal it
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — who this week declared he was running for president and vowed to repeal ObamaCare if elected — said Tuesday that he was enrolling for family health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Cruz told The Des Moines Register that his wife, Heidi Cruz, had lost workplace coverage when she took a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs to work on his campaign, so they are looking at plans on the federal marketplace. “I believe we should follow the text of every law, even [a] law I disagree with,” he told CNN.

Source: The Associated Press, The Des Moines Register

6.Houthis close in on Aden, forcing Yemen’s president to flee
Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, reportedly fled his home in Aden on Wednesday as Shiite Houthi rebels closed in. Aden is the southern port city where the embattled leader established a temporary capital. Hours earlier, Houthi representatives said on the rebel TV station that they had taken over an air base — just 35 miles from Aden — where U.S. and European advisers helped government forces in their fight against the local al Qaeda affiliate.

Source: Haaretz

7.Middlebury police say student visited Durst’s store before disappearing in 1971
A Middlebury College student who disappeared in 1971 made a purchase — dried prunes — in millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst’s Vermont health food store on the day she went missing, local police said Tuesday. Investigators said they were searching for a connection between Durst and the woman, Lynne Schulze, who was 18. Police said they searched Dursts’s former property in the area last year but found nothing tying him to the case. Investigators do not know whether Durst was in the store that day.

Source: ABC News

8.Adam Lanza’s house demolished to erase reminder of Sandy Hook school massacre
Demolition crews in Newtown, Connecticut, tore down the house where 20-year-old Adam Lanza started a December 2012 killing spree that ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 20 children and six adults before fatally shooting himself. Investigators determined that Lanza shot his mother to death in the 3,100-square-foot colonial home before storming into the school. Town officials voted unanimously in January to demolish the home, which neighbors complained served as a constant reminder of the murders.

Source: New York Daily News

9. Italian high court takes up appeal of Amanda Knox conviction
Italy’s highest court on Wednesday began hearing the appeal of Amanda Knox’s conviction in the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the town of Perugia, where both were studying. Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito, were found guilty, then innocent, then guilty again in the polarizing trial. The court now can confirm the 28.5-year sentence for Knox and 25-year sentence for Sollecito, throw them out, or order a third appeal trial. An attorney said Knox, who is awaiting the ruling in her hometown of Seattle, is “very worried.”

Source: The Associated Press

10.Jon Hamm leaves rehab ahead of Mad Men final season premiere
Actor Jon Hamm has left a rehabilitation center where he underwent 30 days of treatment for alcohol addiction. Hamm’s release from Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, comes ahead of the final season premiere of Mad Men. Hamm, 44, struggled for years in Hollywood before he began appearing on the AMC show in 2007 as the alcoholic, womanizing advertising executive Don Draper. He won a 2008 Golden Globe for the role, and has been nominated for an Emmy seven times.

Source: The Washington Post

 

U.S. Ready to Back Iran With Airstrikes Against ISIS

Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

The Daily Beast

Iran and the U.S. say they’ve been fighting parallel wars in Iraq. But those two campaigns appear ready to become one, American officials tell The Daily Beast.

The U.S.-led coalition is preparing to expand its air strike campaign into the city of Tikrit where Iraqi forces, backed by Iranians, have stalled in their efforts to reclaim the hometown of Saddam Hussein from the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Two U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the United States is awaiting a formal request from the Iraqi government for the strikes. Once they receive that request, it could be only a matter of days before the attacks begin.

“The preparatory work is probably already done. The [U.S. military] has started to bring in more assets for a Tikrit air support campaign,” an adviser to the U.S. government tasked with monitoring and engaging with Iraqi officials told The Daily Beast. “Unless there is an impediment on the Iraqi side, and I don’t see it happening, the campaign could begin within days.”

In an interview with Reuters that was published Wednesday, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum said air strikes would begin soon.

“The Iraqi government along with residents of the area wanted an active contribution from the international coalition,” Massoum told Reuters.

An American air strike campaign in Tikrit would mark an important shift in the ISIS war. Iraqi officials did not engage their American counterparts before they launched the offensive on Tikrit March 1, with Iranian generals and tanks by their side. And the American military has long insisted that it wouldn’t coordinate too closely with the Iranians, even as both forces fight a common enemy in Iraq: ISIS.

The Tikrit campaign was launched with a patchwork force of 20,000 Shiite militiamen, 3,000 Iraqi troops, and a bevy of Iranian troops, tanks, weapons and missile strikes. And in the early days of the campaign, Gen. Qassem Suleiman, leader of the Iranian Quds force, was on the ground in Tikrit.

As forces quickly made their way to Tikrit in those opening moments, there were hopes that Iraq would get its biggest win against ISIS within days. Iraqi officials boasted that they were moving surprisingly fast onto the city, which is ISIS ‘s biggest stronghold in Iraq’s Saladin province. But in the last week, the campaign has stalled as Iraqi forces and militiamen confronted a city laden with explosives. In addition, a key bridge over the Tigris River leading to the city was destroyed, complicating Iraqi troop and militia movement into Tikrit.

As Iraqi troop and militia deaths rose, more Iraqi politicans suggested they needed U.S. help. On Saturday, after receiving an official request from the Iraqi government, the U.S. and the coalition began providing videos and other intelligence learned from surveillance flights to the Iraqi military, as the Wall Street Journal reported and Army Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed Wednesday.

So far, the U.S. had conducted 5,314 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since March 15, according to Pentagon statistics. U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the heaviest resistance to expanding the American involvement to air strikes will not be from the Obama administration—which has long shrugged off the idea of cooperating militarily with Iran—but from some Shiite militia leaders who have said they can reclaim the city without American help.

“The Shiite militia leaders have been saying we don’t need American air strikes so they have been pushing back on this idea. So there is going to be an internally debate within the Iraqi state,” the adviser said.

In his interview with Reuters, Massoum acknowledged that friction, but said: “The Iraqi government alone decides and no other force decides,” referring to the Shiite militias.

The possible expansion of the U.S air war into Tikrit was met with mixed feelings inside the Pentagon. While some feared the implications of coming to rescue of a failed Iranian-led effort, still others welcomed the opportunity to let both Iraq and Iran know that the war in ISIS cannot be won without U.S. help.

“If this leads to the Iranians forced to concede defeat, that would be a satisfactory outcome,” one defense official expanded to The Daily Beast.

Perhaps the only comparable campaign to a potential air campaign over Tikrit was the Iraqi offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Amerli. Iraqi forces, Kurdish forces —known as peshmerga — and Shiite militiamen broke ISIS grip over that city last fall, with the help of U.S. air strikes.

Of course, the U.S.-led coalition was helping the Tikrit campaign—albeit inadvertently—even before it started sharing intelligence. American air strikes outside of the campaign prevented ISIS from moving in reinforcements to Tikrit.  But coalition air attacks were noticeably absent from the Tikrit fighting itself. Instead, the strikes happened in the restive Sunni province of Anbar and the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the biggest city ISIS holds in that country.

Either way, the expected request for American air power suggests the end of hopes that a ground force alone could defeat ISIS in Tikrit. Ahead could be a very different phase of the ISIS war.

If Republicans Did Get Intel From Israeli Spies, They Could Be Charged Under Espionage Act

No attribution

Addicting Info

Congressional Republicans had to know they were playing a dangerous game. In their quest to undermine Obama and derail any chance for negotiations between the United States (and it’s allies) and Iran, the GOP had pushed the envelope right up to the edge of the table. It’s becoming clear that it may have finally toppled over.

In a bombshell report, The Wall Street Journal (paywall) quotes U.S. officials as alleging Israeli spies have been gathering sensitive intelligence on the Iran nuclear deals in the hopes that it can better help Israel derail the talks. That news in and of itself isn’t exactly shocking. As we mentioned earlier, governments spy on each other all the time. The United States spies on Israel. Israel spies on the United States. In fact, the reason we know about this latest bit of espionage is because American spies intercepted conversations between Israeli officials discussing it.

However, the buried lede of the story, and what is quite possibly a twist with massive implications, is what the Wall Street Journal alleges the Israeli government did with the intel.

The Journal, in its Tuesday edition, reported the “espionage” did not concern the White House “as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support” for a possible deal with Iran to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing of international sanctions.

Whoa.

Considering this is the first time we’re hearing about it, it seems likely that Republicans didn’t immediately turn over the leaks to the Defense Department. Instead, they kept the info and its sources private.

The allegations have been strongly denied by Republican lawmakers, including House Majority leader John Boehner. When asked about the Israeli intel, he claimed he was “baffled” by the allegations. And don’t expect him to budge from that position any time soon because the implications of admitting to the charges would not only be political suicide, but possibly criminal.

In a cruel irony, Republicans who were so adamant about sending Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning behind bars under the Espionage Act, may find themselves sitting next to her — for the exact same crime.

According to U.S. law, “espionage” is defined loosely as “The act of obtaining, delivering, transmitting, communicating, or receiving information about the national defense with an intent, or reason to believe, that the information may be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Further clarifying, the Espionage Act, as part of title 18 of the U.S. legal code, states that accepting any sensitive intel that is harmful to U.S. defense or interests is a federal crime, carrying sentences of up to life in prison or execution depending on the state. Even “less severe” sentences are staggering. Chelsea Manning, for example, received 35 years in prison for handing over classified documents to Wikileaks.

If it can be shown that Republicans used the information they received from the Israelis to harm high stakes negotiations with Iran, those actions might well be considered acts of sabotage. And in fact, that’s exactly what the Wall Street Journal’s sources suggest they were being used for. Republicans and Israel didn’t like Obama talking to Iran, so they went behind his back to make the deal a nonstarter, including quite possibly actively spying on U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

Those who were on the fence about whether or not the infamous “letter to Iran” was an act of treason — this is a much more concrete example.

For most people, the idea of espionage may make them recall the Cold War, when Russian and American spies maneuvered around each other in the hopes of finding weaknesses in the other’s defenses. A traitor would be a communist sympathizer, a radical working to undermine the U.S. government through leaks and intel. We live in a very different world these days. It’s becoming clear that the people working to undermine the government aren’t dissidents, they are the government. Whether it’s sending a letter to Iran asking that the country ignore the president or receiving highly sensitive information about nuclear negotiations in order to better derail them, America’s Republican Party has gone off the deep end. With a one track mind — destroy Obama above all else — they’ve forgotten to look up occasionally to see just how far afield they’ve gotten.

If it can be proven that Republican lawmakers were dealing in Israeli backchannels in violation of federal law, the country may witness something it has never seen before: the mass incarceration of politicians whose crimes look an awful lot like treason. History books might be forgiven for one day viewing it as a sort of failed silent coup.

10 things you need to know today: March 24, 2015

(AP Photo/dpa, Jan-Arwed Richter)

The Week

1.Israel spied on U.S.-Iran nuclear talks
Israel spied on negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on curbing Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, then shared what it learned with U.S. lawmakers to fuel opposition to any deal, The Wall Street Journal reported. The snooping was not out of the ordinary — U.S. intelligence agencies discovered it while spying on Israel — but a U.S. official said Israel went too far by sharing the information with U.S. lawmakers “to undermine U.S. diplomacy.” Israel denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today

2.German budget airliner crashes in France with 148 people on board
A Germanwings airliner crashed in southern France on Tuesday with 148 people on board. “The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors,” French President Francois Hollande said. The Airbus jet, operated by Lufthansa’s budget airline unit, was traveling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it went down in rugged terrain in the foothills of the French Alps, about 65 miles north of the French Riviera city of Nice.

Source: Reuters

3.Police find no evidence supporting Rolling Stone rape account
Charlottesville, Virginia, police said Monday that they had found no “substantive” evidence of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house described in a November article in Rolling Stone. A female student identified in the story as “Jackie” told the magazine that she had been assaulted in September 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. Phi Psi leaders said they enforce a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault. They said the “false accusations” had damaged their organization and they were considering their “legal options.”

Source: CNN, The Washington Post

4.Ted Cruz kicks off presidential campaign with “imagine” speech at Liberty University
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday announced his 2016 presidential bid with a speech at Liberty University in which he asked voters to “imagine” a more prosperous America free of ObamaCare and the IRS. “It is a time for truth,” he said. “It is a time for liberty. It is a time to reclaim the Constitution.” Cruz cast himself as the religious “courageous conservative” candidate, proclaiming that rights “don’t come from man, they come from God Almighty.” Though other prospective candidates have formed exploratory committees in preparation for 2016 bids, Cruz is the first major candidate to join the race.

Source: Politico

5.U.S. vows to fund Afghan security forces at peak levels into 2017
The Obama administration on Monday promised Afghanistan’s leaders enough money to keep Afghan security forces at 352,000 personnel until at least 2017. That peak level is considered crucial to helping Afghan forces provide stability as foreign soldiers leave the country. The announcement came as Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, heads into talks with President Obama. Ghani is expected to ask Obama at the White House Tuesday to leave 10,000 troops longer than planned. Obama is expected to agree.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

6.Utah governor signs law bringing back firing squads
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a law Monday that will allow firing squads to carry out executions if lethal injection drugs are not available. Herbert said the method is “a little bit gruesome,” but allows the state to have a Plan B when it comes to executions. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, who said firing squads are a more humane form of execution. Critics believe it is too brutal and puts Utah in a bad light.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Netanyahu apologizes for warning of Arab voter turnout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized Monday for his last-minute warning that Arab voters were “being bused to the polling stations in droves” ahead of last week’s parliamentary election. Netanyahu’s party was trailing ahead of the vote but won after he appealed to hardliners by saying there would be no Palestinian state as long as he remained in office. Netanyahu said his comments on Arab turnout had offended many Israelis. “This was never my intent,” he said. “I apologize for this.”

Source: Times of Israel, CBS News

8.Judge refuses to release Durst
A New Orleans judge called millionaire accused killer Robert Durst dangerous and a flight risk on Monday, and refused a request by defense lawyers for his release on bail. Durst, heir to a New York real estate fortune, is accused in the shooting death of family friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles 15 years ago, days before she was to talk to investigators about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife. Durst was arrested on March 14, hours before the airing of an HBO documentary episode in which he appeared to admit to killing Berman, his wife, and another person.

Source: Bloomberg

9. Former football star Darren Sharper sentenced for rapes
Former NFL star Darren Sharper pleaded no contest to sexual assault charges in Arizona and Los Angeles on Monday. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but his lawyer said he will serve about nine years behind bars. Sharper, 39, faced nine charges that he drugged and raped women in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Tempe, Arizona. He also is expected to plead guilty to the charges in Las Vegas and New Orleans, and serve sentences for all of the crimes concurrently.

Source: USA Today

10.Angelina Jolie reveals she had her ovaries removed to prevent cancer
Angelina Jolie said in an opinion article published Tuesday in The New York Times that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent cancer. The surgery last week came two years after the actress underwent a preventative double mastectomy. A blood test had found that Jolie, who lost her mother, grandmother, and an aunt to cancer, had a gene mutation giving her an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. “I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer.'” Jolie wrote.

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

President Obama arrives at Bob Hope Airport via helicopter from LAX, en route to ABC Studios for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The National Memo

Republicans have consistently said that a president cannot take responsibility for a strong economy — unless of course he’s a Republican.

A weak economy, however, is always a Democratic president’s fault. And if a Republican president presides over the worst financial crisis in a half-century after seven years in office, that is clearly the fault of poor people.

President Obama is in an awkward position when it comes to the economy. It’s only great if you compare it to the last 14 years. But with 50 percent of America now saying in the latest CNN poll that his presidency is a success, he figures that he’s now allowed to “take a well-earned victory lap” by answering the question Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked for four years: “Where are the jobs?”

“Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled — I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side,” the president said in Cleveland on Wednesday.

A sensible media would be debating which of Obama’s two great accomplishments — the stimulus or the Affordable Care Act — is a bigger success; which better proves that the government can successfully intervene to prevent suffering while reshaping our economy to be more sustainable; or about which Republicans were more wrong.

But conservatives won’t let that happen. They’ll focus on metrics that languished before Obama came into office — we’re very concerned about labor force participation all of a sudden! — and blast him for not solving all of the failures of conservative economics and foreign policies.

America should be used to Democratic presidents outperforming Republicans by now. While no administration is perfect, President Obama has staked strong claims for liberal values and policies that prove things Republicans have to pretend never happened.

  1. Proved trickle-down economics are wrong, again
    You don’t hear it mentioned often enough, but 2014 was the best year of job creation in this century. This is a key point, because it’s the first full year in which Obama’s economic policies really took hold. Most of the Bush tax breaks on the rich ended in 2013. And in 2014, new taxes on the wealthy and corporations kicked in to help 16 million Americans gain health insurance. The result was a job market like we haven’t seen since the’90s. As they did in 1993, Republicans claimed that asking the rich to pay a bit more would destroy the economy. So, of course, the opposite happened. It’s almost as if some tax hikes on the wealthy are good for the economy! But if Republicans admitted that, they’d have to give up their entire reason for existing, which is to comfort the most comfortable.
  2. Proved we can expand health insurance coverage and shrink the deficit.
    America’s long-term debt problems are largely built on conservatives’ unwillingness to do what every other advanced nation in the world does — insure everyone. As a result, we pay more and get worse results than almost every industrialized country in the world. Obamacare has shown that we can increase coverage dramatically while cutting more than $600 billion from long-term debt projections. Republicans have finally gotten honest in their new budget and admitted that their alternative to Obamacare is… nothing. They’ve got nothing because Obamacare was their alternative, and every prediction they’ve made about it has been wrong. Health spending isat a 50-year low, businesses aren’t dumping employees’ coverage, hospitals are performing better, and policy cancelations were likely lower than they were before the law. Meanwhile, Obama has been even more successful at shrinking the deficit as a percentage of GDP than even Bill Clinton.
  3. Proved that the government can kick-start a clean-energy revolution.
    When it comes to fighting climate change, President Obama has done more than anyone on Earth. Beyond the regulations he set in his first term, which are quickly reducing our dependency on dirty energy, the stimulus launched the clean-energy technological revolution this nation needed. Republicans started calling the stimulus “failed” before it even became law. And that kind of message discipline — plus half a billion dollars in ads that smeared the bill — scared Democrats from bragging about it. But now that we’ve experienced the first year of economic growth where carbon emissions didn’t increase in 40 years, maybe they should.
  4. Proved we can regulate Wall Street without killing the stock market.
    Good news! Bankers are complaining about being regulated too much. Despite this “over-regulation,” we’re seeing constant stock market records. Meanwhile, the memory of the costs of under-regulation — 8 million jobs and trillions in wealth — continues to fade. Democrats have become newly proud of the Dodd-Frank law now that they see how desperate Republicans are to gut it. The success in keeping the economic engine of the rich purring should not dissuade those on the left. Instead, they should continue to fight against the persistent dangers to our economy that come from ridiculous executive compensation schemesstock buybacks, and high-frequency trading.
  5. Proved that we should give diplomacy a chance.
    The Bush administration left America facing a newly nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran building nuclear centrifuges, and a wrecked Iraq, run by a propped-up sectarian strongman with no interest in reconciliation. Democrats were likely naive in assuming this Tower of Babel of foreign policy disasters could be kept from crumbling. The Obama administration’s effort to re-engage the world may seem foolhardy now — but what was the alternative? More confrontational Republican alternatives would have guaranteed nothing but more American lives lost. Syria is a disaster. Libya proved that regime change is never simple. Putin is emboldened or frantically flailing, depending on your point of view. But as a result of re-engagement with our allies and a Medvedev-led Russia, sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. We’re closer than ever to a nuclear deal that could prevent another, still more disastrous war. And even if it fails, at least we tried not to repeat the catastrophes of the past.

Despite these successes, Republicans have to see Obama as a floundering, economy-shrinking, deficit-creating failure, or risk questioning their failed worldview.

Essentially, they have to pretend he’s Bobby Jindal.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Wisconsin Voter ID Law

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AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

TPM LiveWire

The justices’ action means the state is free to impose the voter ID requirement in future elections, and is further evidence that the court put the law on hold last year only because the election was close at hand and absentee ballots already had been mailed with no notification of the need to present photo IDs.

The court did not comment on its order.

Wisconsin was one of four states in which a dispute over voting rules reached the Supreme Court last fall. The other states were North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Of the four states, only Wisconsin’s new rules were blocked.

Wisconsin’s photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional last year. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution.

The Supreme Court refused to disturb that ruling on Monday.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Ex-Congressman: MLK Would Have Wanted Us To Have Confederate Flag License Plates

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MSNBC

I just can’t…

TPM LiveWire

Appearing on “Live with Thomas Roberts,” Jones discussed a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the constitutionality of a Texas ban on the use of Confederate flag license plates was being argued.

Jones, who played the role of Cooter on “Dukes of Hazzard,” serves as the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that brought the case and which has argued the Texas ban violates the First Amendment.

Jones said the choice to use the license plate was a “personal decision” and he emphasized his belief that the Supreme Court would uphold a lower court’s ruling in favor of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Jones pointed out that “slavery was the national sin not the Southern sin” and noted that the Confederate flag “represents to us a very positive thing.”

The show’s host, Thomas Roberts, raised the argument that if the Confederate flag was a symbol of the national sin of slavery, people should unify in our condemnation of it.

“I think the more important unification would come to bury the past, to forgive each other and to do what Dr. King suggested,” Jones said. “His dream was that someday on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves, the sons of former slave owners would be able to dine together at the table of brotherhood. He did not put any asterisk on that. I was in the civil rights movement, that was not an issue.”

Roberts countered by asking Jones how it was possible to “bury the past” if you see a car “flaunting” this symbol of slavery.

“It was the flag of the soldiers not the government anyway,” Jones said. “The guys who were out there fighting and they were of all kinds. There were a lot of different races. There were Jewish confederates and Hispanic confederates and American Indian confederates. And there were black confederates. So it’s a complex issue. We’re talking about our ancestors. All of them — for us Southerners. And, and, Dr. King wanted to bring people together. To forgive all those things and to build a future together. And we’ve done that in the South.”

“These attacks are divisive,” Jones said. “The very thing that we were fighting against. We want to build bridges — with everybody. We love black folks. We want to sit down and eat with them, talk about these issues. But the confederacy is under attack and I think that’s unfair and it’s insulting.”

Jones also stressed that context must be considered and that when the Confederate flag is seen “on a license plates (sic), it is people honoring their ancestors.”

This 46 Seconds Of Stupid Explains Why Ted Cruz Can Never Be President (VIDEO)

I know I’ve come down hard on this cretin already but this just came across my desk and I had to share…

Addicting Info

The Republican [Senator] of Texas, Ted Cruz, has launched his 2016 Presidential campaign from a Creationist college that teaches American children the world is just 6,000 years old. If that isn’t reason enough to keep him out of the White House, this 46-second compilation of Cruz stupidity provides many more.

After announcing his 2016 plans on Twitter, Cruz formally launched his campaign at Liberty University, a college for Evangelical Christians in the state of Virginia that claims to be the largest Christian university in the world.

He told the assembled audience:

“God has blessed America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet.”

He then promised to abolish the IRS and repeal the Affordable Care Act which has provided healthcare for 20 million previously uninsured Americans.

Nearby, in the University’s “Creation Hall,” students were being taught the biblically literal idea that God created the world in seven days. This includes the teaching of Noah and the flood as an actual historical event, and that today’s species of animals are all descended from the pairs of animals saved on the Ark.

One display contains Noah’s Ark as a scale model next to a Boeing 747 and the US space shuttle, explaining in detail how all the animals had fitted in.

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Image via Skeptic Free Thought

One display states that there is a:

“strong possibility that horses, zebras and donkeys are all descended from an original pair of horses that were on Noah’s Ark”.

Another claims that evolutionary theory has already been destroyed by the discovery of the coelacanth “fossil-fish.”

According to the display, sharks did not evolve 400 million years ago (as evidenced by science), but were designed by God just 6,000 years ago. It reads:

“Sharks are not primitive remnants of pre-history, but are acutely fine-tuned organisms that defy Darwinian evolution.”

No evidence is presented to justify these new versions of history.

Does America really want a man who believes the Earth is just 6,000 years old to be sitting in the White House?

Sadly, a Gallup Poll last year revealed that a stunning 42% of Americans also believe Creationism over science. The choice of location was designed to appeal to those people – the christian conservative, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-science vote.

With this in mind, that remaining 58% of America, which is forward thinking, progressive, and rational needs to get out and vote in 2016.

Featured Image via The Daily Banter