Government Shutdown

10 things you need to know today: December 14, 2014

The Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy Alex Goodlett / Getty Images

The Week

The Senate averts another government shutdown, the U.N. reaches a climate deal, and more.

1. Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill
After several procedural delays, the Senate used a rare weekend session Saturday to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund most of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. The Senate had been poised Friday to punt a vote on the measure to Monday, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and a small group of conservative lawmakers upended the plan by trying to block funding for President Obama’s immigration order. That forced the Saturday session, where the bill passed in a bipartisan vote, 56 to 40. [The Washington Post]

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2. U.N. negotiators reach landmark climate deal
U.N. members on Sunday salvaged a historic climate change agreement that will for the first time require all nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Reached by delegates from 196 countries, the pact itself does not accomplish the U.N.’s goal of slashing emissions to sustainable levels, but rather requires every nation to create a plan in the next six months for doing so at home. Those plans will then form the bedrock of a longterm climate deal, to be signed next year in Paris. [The New York Times]

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3. Marcus Mariota wins Heisman Trophy
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy Saturday night with a near-record share of the vote. Mariota was widely expected to win in a landslide, and he claimed 90.92 percent of the possible points, trailing only Ohio State QB Troy Smith’s 91.63 percent in 2006. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon finished second, while Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper finished third. [ESPN]

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4. Thousands nationwide protest police killings
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Saturday to march against recent police killings of unarmed black civilians. More than 10,000 people participated in Washington, D.C.’s, “Justice For All” march, while thousands more demonstrated in New York City, Boston, Oakland, and other major cities. “This is a history-making moment,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after a New York police officer placed him in a banned chokehold. [CNN]

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5. Japan holds parliamentary vote amid recession
Japanese voters headed to the polls Sunday to cast ballots in parliamentary elections considered a referendum on the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Last month, Abe called for the immediate election following the unexpected news Japan had slipped into a recession despite his vaunted “Abenomics.” The next election wasn’t due until late 2016. [The Wall Street Journal]

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6. Texas man in North Korea criticizes U.S.
A Texas man who claims to have snuck illegally into North Korea last month went on state TV and assailed the U.S. as a “mafia enterprise.” Arturo Pierre Martinez, of El Paso, said he entered the country via China and was not being held against his will. “The illegal war carried out against the nation of Iraq serves as a perfect example of how the U.S. government acts much like a Mafia enterprise by criminally plundering entire nations,” he said in a video released Sunday by the Korean Central News Agency. [The Washington Post]

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7. Turkey detains journalists in raid
Turkey on Sunday arrested two dozen journalists it accused of trying to topple the state. Police raided one newspaper and a TV station to apprehend journalists it claimed hold ties to a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan’s critics condemned the move as a blatant crackdown on the freedom of the press. [BBC]

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8. Afghan president to overhaul security after Taliban attacks
Calling a wave of recent terror attacks “inhuman” and “not Islamic,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday said the nation had to ramp up its domestic security operations. “It is enough and it’s no longer acceptable,” he said. A spokesperson for Ghani said Afghanistan had a sufficient defense force, but that it wasn’t being deployed in the most effective manner to counter the Taliban. [Reuters]

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9. Sweden claims Russian jet nearly hit passenger plane
Sweden on Saturday claimed a Russian military jet flying with its radar-signaling transponders disabled came dangerously close to hitting a passenger plane. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday pushed back that the two planes were never less than 42 miles apart, and accused Sweden of overreacting. In March, a Russian jet flying with its transponders off came within 300 feet of a Scandinavian Airlines plane. [The Associated Press]

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10. Taylor Swift turns 25
Taylor Swift celebrated her 25th birthday on Saturday with a star-studded party in her adopted home of New York City. After performing at the city’s Jingle Ball, the pop star — whose hits include an homage to feeling like a 22-year-old — partied at her Manhattan home with Jay Z, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and other celebrities. [People]

10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2014

No sweat. 

No sweat. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Week

The House narrowly prevents a government shutdown, Birdman leads the Golden Globe nominations, and more

1. House approves spending deal, preventing a shutdown
The House narrowly approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Thursday, just hours before a midnight deadline. The Senate passed a two-day extension so it would have time to approve the package, which funds most of the government through the fiscal year, without the threat of a government shutdown. House Democrats nearly derailed the deal, even though it was backed by President Obama, over provisions tucked inside that roll back Wall Street regulations and ease campaign finance laws. [The Washington Post]

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2. Deadly storm strikes much of the West Coast
Two people died and 225,000 lost power when Northern California and other parts of the West Coast were hit Thursday by the strongest storm it had seen in a decade. A homeless man was killed in Oregon when a tree fell on his tent, and a boy in Portland died when a tree fell on the car he was traveling in. About 2.5 inches of rain fell on the San Francisco Bay Area, while areas to the north got more than a foot. The deluge was expected to ease a historic three-year drought. [San Jose Mercury News]

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3. CIA chief Brennan concedes some interrogation methods were “abhorrent”
CIA Director John Brennan acknowledged Thursday that some of the agency’s interrogators used “abhorrent” methods on suspected terrorists captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Brennan said the interrogation program provided intelligence that helped “thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” but that it was “unknowable” whether the harsh techniques described in the Senate torture report yielded critical information, as Bush administration leaders have claimed. [Reuters]

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4. Oil falls below the symbolic threshold of $60 per barrel
Oil prices continued their decline on Thursday, with the American benchmark crude oil price falling below $60 per barrel for the first time in more than five years. Oil prices have dropped by more than 40 percent since early June, contributing to a sharp decline in gasoline prices. The U.S. average gas price fell to $2.62 per gallon of regular-grade fuel on Thursday, roughly 64 cents lower than a year ago. OPEC decided last month not to cut production despite a global oil glut. [The New York Times]

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5. Congressional staffers walk out to protest grand jury decisions
Dozens of congressional staff members staged a walkout on Thursday to protest grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men. The protesters included members of the Congressional Black Associates. The participants prayed on the Capitol steps, and held up their hands, referencing the protests of the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson in August. [Reuters]

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6. Federal government says Native Americans can legalize pot on reservations
The Justice Department said Thursday that Native American tribes have the authority to allow marijuana sales and cultivation on their reservations, even in states where the drug is illegal. In theory, the decision could pave the way for legal pot sales in nearly every state, although many tribes have already come out against marijuana legalization on their lands. Any reservations allowing the drug would still have to follow federal rules tightly regulating the sales, including prohibiting sales to minors. [Los Angeles Times]

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7. Suicide bomber targets play performance in Afghanistan
A suicide bomber attacked a play condemning suicide bombers in Kabul on Thursday, killing a German and wounding 16 others. The play — Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion — was being performed in a cultural center in the Afghan capital. Interior Ministry chief Gen. Ayoub Salangi said the bomber appeared to be about 17 years old. A Taliban spokesman said the play was targeted because “spread propaganda about our jihad operations, especially on suicide attacks.” [The Washington Times]

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8. Most teens are sleep deprived, study says
More than 90 percent of American teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived, according to a report published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. Just 6 to 7 percent of girls and 8 to 9 percent of boys interviewed by the researchers between 2007 and 2013 got the recommended nine or more hours per night, and 95 percent of high school seniors got far less. The lack of sleep raises the teens’ risk of diabetes, hurts school performance, and raises the likelihood they will be in a car wreck. [NBC News]

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9. Model Beverly Johnson adds to allegations against Bill Cosby
Famed 70s-era model Beverly Johnson, the first black woman to appear on the cover of AmericanVogue, wrote an essay for Vanity Fair accusing comedian Bill Cosby of drugging her at his Manhattan home in the 1980s. Johnson was the latest in a series of women to make accusations against the comedian. Several other women have said Cosby sexually assaulted them — charges his lawyers deny — but Johnson said Cosby put her in a taxi after she realized she had been drugged and cursed him. [CNN]

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10. Birdman leads Golden Globe nominations
Birdman, Boyhood, and The Imitation Game each received multiple Golden Globe nominations in major categories on Thursday, making them favorites in the coming movie-award season. Birdman, a dramatic comedy about the comeback attempt of a washed-up actor played by Michael Keaton, got the most nominations with seven, including best comedy, best screenplay, best director, and best comedic actor (Keaton). Boyhood, a portrait of a child growing up, and The Imitation Game, about a World War II code breaker, got five nominations each. [The New York Times]

10 things you need to know today: December 10, 2014

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report's findings a "stain on the nation's history."

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report’s findings a “stain on the nation’s history.” | (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Week

A Senate report says CIA torture was ineffective, Congress reaches a spending deal to avert a shutdown, and more

1. Torture report slams the CIA
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a highly critical report on the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The five-year investigation found that agency medical personnel warned of “a series of near drowning by waterboarding.” The report also rejected claims that torturing detainees helped find Osama bin Laden. The CIA pushed back, saying that so-called enhanced interrogations were effective in foiling al Qaeda plots. [The Washington Post, ABC News]

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2. Congress strikes a $1.1 trillion spending deal to avoid a government shutdown
Republicans and Democrats in Congress reached an agreement Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would delay a fight over funding President Obama’s executive order on immigration and avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped to bring the deal to a vote on Thursday, when the federal government is due to run short of money. The bill gives most of the government money for the next fiscal year, but only funds the Homeland Security Department, which will carry out Obama’s immigration policies, into early next year. [The Associated Press]

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3. World Food Program raises money to resume aid to Syrian refugees
The United Nations’ World Food Program announced Tuesday that it has raised more than enough money through a social media campaign to resume a food voucher program for 1.7 million refugees from Syria’s civil war. WFP officials had said they needed $64 million to get the program back on track, and the 72-hour Dollar for Syrian Refugees campaign last week raised $80 million. The agency will now be able to give about $30 to average families for use in local shops. [United Nations]

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4. Gruber apologizes for “insulting” remarks on ObamaCare passage
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped shape the Affordable Care Act, apologized Tuesday for what he called his “glib, thoughtless, and sometimes downright insulting comments” about how supporters got the law passed. In a recently surfaced video, Gruber said supporters relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” to mask the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance as something other than a tax. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Gruber’s initial comments inadvertently revealed how Democrats pushed ObamaCare through Congress. [The Washington Times]

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5. California DAs accuse Uber of misleading customers
District attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles are suing ride-sharing service Uber for allegedly misleading customers and charging bogus fees. The DAs say Uber misleads customers about the quality of its background checks on drivers, and operates out of airports without proper authorization. Uber said it was cooperating with authorities and was “an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State.” Uber competitor Lyft settled a similar case, agreeing to pay $250,000 and be more open with passengers. [San Jose Mercury News]

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6. Korean Air Lines executive resigns after delaying flight over bag of nuts
A top Korean Air Lines official resigned Tuesday after facing intense criticism for delaying the departure of a flight from New York to South Korea because she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate. The official, Cho Hyun-ah, is the eldest daughter of the company’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho. The younger Cho served as the airline’s executive vice president of cabin service, and she had ordered a senior crew member off the plane, forcing it to return to the gate. [The Associated Press]

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7. Projected gas prices drop
The Energy Department on Tuesday lowered the projected average gasoline price by 35 cents to $2.60 per gallon, 23 percent below this year’s average. The decline would amount to a $100 billion savings for drivers in 2015 based on current levels of consumption. It comes as crude oil prices have fallen to $66 per barrel from $115 in June due to a glut in global supply. Next year’s predicted gas price would be the lowest yearly average since 2009. [USA Today]

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8. Freed hostage returns to France
The last French hostage held by Islamists, Serge Lazarevic, returned home Wednesday after being held for three years by al Qaeda’s North African branch. Lazarevic was released days after the release of two al Qaeda fighters from a prison in Mali. He thanked French President Francois Hollande “for having done everything to free me.” The deal revived debate over negotiating with hostage takers. Hollande said France did not pay ransoms or exchange prisoners, but that other countries have, “to help us.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

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9. Former Miss America and actress Mary Ann Mobley dies at 75
Mary Ann Mobley Collins, a former Miss America who appeared in movies with Elvis Presley, died Tuesday in Beverly Hills. She was 75. Collins won the Miss America crown in 1958, and moved on to acting a few years later. Her credits included TV shows, including General Hospital and Perry Mason. She appeared with Elvis in Girl Happy, and with Jerry Lewis in Three on a Couch, the job during which she met her late husband, Gary Collins, who died two years ago. [The Associated Press]

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10. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in Oslo to accept Nobel Peace Prize
Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by a Taliban gunman, and fellow education advocate Kailash Satyarthi are in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday. Malala, 17, will be the youngest person ever to receive the award. “We are not here just to accept our award, get this medal, and go back home,” the Pakistani teen said at a press conference before the ceremony. “We are here to tell children especially that you need to stand up, you need to speak up for your rights … It is you who can change the world.” [Agence France Presse]

10 things you need to know today: December 3, 2014

The man who would be Sec Def. 

The man who would be Sec Def. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Week

Obama picks Ash Carter as Defense secretary, Russia heads into a recession, and more

1. Obama to nominate former Pentagon official Ashton Carter to replace Hagel
President Barack Obama has picked Ashton Carter, a former high-ranking Pentagon official, to replace Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary, Obama administration officials said Tuesday. Hagel got the job over Carter in 2013, and later in the year Carter left due to a rift between the two. This time he was the last top prospect not to drop out of the running. A formal announcement is expected in days, after Carter is vetted. Carter is respected by Republican hawks, which is expected to help in confirmation hearings. [Politico, The New York Times]

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2. Russia enters recession as oil prices fall
Plummeting oil prices are pushing the Russian economy into a recession, officials in Moscow announced Tuesday. Russian leaders had been expecting their economy to grow in 2015 — but that was when they were assuming oil would remain at $100 a barrel. Revised estimates show that the country’s economy will contract by 0.8 percent if prices hover around $80 per barrel. With the ruble losing value and oil now around $71 per barrel, Moscow says under a more “pessimistic” scenario, with $60-per-barrel oil, its economy could drop by up to 4 percent. [CNN]

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3. Boehner argues against government shutdown over immigration
House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday urged fellow Republicans to avoid a government shutdown by approving a long-term government spending bill next week. Many conservatives want to use the bill to deny money the Homeland Security Department needs to carry out President Obama’s executive order shielding as many as 4.7 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Boehner reportedly argued for funding most federal programs through September, and revisiting Homeland Security’s budget in 2015, when the GOP will control the Senate. [Reuters]

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4. Police investigate Michael Brown’s stepfather for remarks during riot
St. Louis County police said Tuesday they were investigating Louis Head, the stepfather of Michael Brown, to see whether angry remarks he made incited rioting on the night a grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager in August. A video reportedly surfaced in which Head tells an angry mob, “burn this bitch down,” shortly before protesters began burning cars. Police said the inquiry was part of a broader investigation of the violence. [The New York Times]

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5. Detroit public buildings lose power
A power outage caused by a “major cable failure” cut off electricity to Detroit’s fire stations, schools, and other public buildings on Tuesday. Traffic signals and the city’s People Mover shut off downtown, and firefighters spent much of the day rescuing people from elevators stuck in public buildings. The outage affected more than 900 sites, with some going without lights all day after the grid shut down around 10:30 a.m. [Detroit Free Press]

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6. Netanyahu fires two ministers and calls for early elections
Israel’s coalition government collapsed on Tuesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his finance and justice ministers, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, saying they had “harshly attacked” him and his government. Netanyahu called for dissolving the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, andholding elections two years early so that he can get “a clear mandate to lead Israel.” The parties of Lapid and Livni had clashed with Netanyahu over a host of issues, most recently a proposed law declaring Israel a Jewish state. [BBC News]

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7. Hong Kong protest founders announce their “surrender”
Three founders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement announced that they would “surrender” to police on Wednesday. The trio — Occupy Central leader Benny Tai, and co-founders Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming — tearfully urged protesters to retreat from three major intersections they have been blocking since late September. While some protesters called the move a “betrayal,” teenage protest leader Joshua Wong, who began a hunger strike on Monday, praised Tai for his role starting the movement, and said the fight for free elections in the Chinese-run city would continue. [Agence France Presse]

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8. CDC considers call for stressing circumcision health benefits
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is proposing federal recommendations that would state that all males, including teenage boys, should be counseled on the health benefits of circumcision. Studies in Africa over the last 15 years indicate that circumcision lowers men’s risk of HIV infection from heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. The procedure also reduces the risk of herpes and human papillomavirus. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in 2012 that circumcision’s benefits outweigh its risks. [NPR]

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9. Woman sues Cosby, accusing him of sexual assault at the Playboy Mansion
A 55-year-old California woman, Judy Huth, filed a lawsuit against Bill Cosby on Tuesday, accusing the embattled comedian of sexually assaulting her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15. In the lawsuit, Huth says she and a friend met Cosby at a park, and that the assault occurred after Cosby gave her alcohol. The suit was the latest in a flurry of rape accusations against Cosby. Lawyers for Cosby, who has resisted commenting on the allegations, were not immediately available for comment. [Los Angeles Times]

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10. Rolling Stones sax player Bobby Keys dies
Bobby Keys, who played on-and-off with the Rolling Stones for decades, died on Tuesday at his Tennessee home after a long illness. He was 70. Keys played memorable sax solos on such Stones hits as Brown Sugar, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, and Sweet Virginia. He also contributed to John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night. “I have lost the largest pal in the world,” the Stones’ Keith Richards wrote in a statement, “and I can’t express the sense of sadness I feel, although Bobby would tell me to cheer up.” [The Associated Press]

Sunday Talk: The year of living dangerously

Daily Kos

On October 1, 2013, in a last-ditch effort to prevent millions of Americans from getting affordable health care coverage,House Republicans loyal to Sen. TedCruz forced a government shutdown for the first time since Bill Clinton hurt Newt Gingrich’s fee-fees in 1995.Or at least that’s what President Obamaand his fellow travelers would have you believe.

Unfortunately for them, the facts do not bear this out.

Really, those brave patriots in the shutdown caucus were fighting for our freedom; and, in the year since then, all of their dire predictions about Obamacare have proven accurate.

But you’d never know that—because themedia has been too busy carrying water for Obama to say so.

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: Senior White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA); Dr. Nancy Snyderman (NBC News); Others TBD.Face The Nation: Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIHDr. Anthony Fauci; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; House Majority LeaderKevin McCarthy (R-CA); Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Roundtable: Anthony Salvanto (CBS News), Jonathan Martin (New York Times), Nancy Cordes (CBS News) and John Dickerson (CBS News).

This Week: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden; Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; Roundtable:Van Jones (CNN), Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal), Mark Halperin (Bloomberg Politics) and John Heilemann (Bloomberg Politics).

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino; Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News), Julie Pace (Associated Press), George Will (Washington Post) and Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden; Dr. William Frohna ( MedStar Washington Hospital Center); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI);Roundtable: Former White House Chiefs of Staff Bill Daley, Andrew Card, Mack McLarty and Ken Duberstein.

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: an interview with FBI Director James Comey (preview); and, a report on the “smartest dog in the world” (preview).

10 things you need to know today: August 31, 2014

Michael Sam in a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins

Michael Sam in a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins Marc Serota / Getty Images

The Week

China rules out open elections for Hong Kong, the St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, and more.

1. China denies open elections for Hong Kong
China’s legislature on Sunday ruled out the possibility of holding open nominations to elect Hong Kong’s new leader, a shocking move that could precipitate a deepening divide between the city and the mainland. The restrictions, outlined by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, would allow for the first direct election in Hong Kong in two years. Yet prospective candidates would first need to be approved by Beijing, leaving China with a crucial role in determining who would and would not be allowed to lead. “It’s certain now that the central government will be effectively appointing Hong Kong’s chief executive,” Alan Leong, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said. [The New York Times, BBC]

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2. St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam
The St. Louis Rams on Saturday cut defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly-gay player drafted into the NFL. The seventh-round pick earned his way through previous cuts, but was left off the Rams’ final 53-man roster, which had to be finalized Saturday afternoon. In a series of tweets, Sam thanked the Rams for “giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level,” adding that his “journey continues.” [ESPN]

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3. Putin suggests statehood for eastern Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday sharpened his rhetoric over the situation in eastern Ukraine, saying for the first time that the region should perhaps become an independent nation. “We need to immediately begin substantive talks,” he said Sunday in an interview with Russian state television, “on questions of the political organization of society and statehood for southeastern Ukraine.” Putin’s remarks came days after the U.S. and NATO said there was indisputable evidence Russian troops and weaponry had crossed the Ukrainian border. [AFP,Reuters]

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4. Iraqi troops break two-month ISIS siege on Amerli
Backed by U.S. airstrikes and Shi’ite militias, Iraqi troops on Sunday entered the town of Amerli, which had for two months been besieged by ISIS fighters. Militants from the group had blockaded the city since June, preventing food and supplies from getting in, and raising fears of a possible slaughter. “Amerli has been liberated,” Mahdi Taqi, an Amerli politician, said. “There is so much joy and people are cheering in the streets.” [The Washington Post, Reuters]

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5. Ted Cruz downplays government shutdown talk
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) on Saturday threw cold water on the prospect of another government shutdown, saying the only person who wanted another such debacle was President Obama. Speaking at the Americans for Prosperity summit in Texas, Cruz said, “There is one person and one person only talking about shutting down the government, and that is the White House.” In a recent interview, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that if the GOP were to take the Senate in November, the party would stuff spending bills with riders rolling back Obama-era policies, thus forcing the president to choose between funding the government or risking a shutdown. [The Washington Post]

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6. EU threatens Russia with more sanctions
The European Union on Sunday gave Russia an ultimatum: Reverse course in Ukraine within a week, or face harsher sanctions. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said EU leaders had agreed on “further significant steps” to be taken if Russia does not comply, though he did not specify what those measures would be. Even if sanctions are announced within a week, they could still take more than a month to kick in. [The Guardian, BBC]

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7. John Kerry: ISIS a ‘cancer’ that must be stopped
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria poses a “unifying threat to a broad array of countries” that should unite a global coalition determined to stop it, Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in a Saturday op-ed for The New York Times. “With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” he added. [The New York Times]

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8. Iceland raises aviation alert after volcanic eruption
Iceland on Sunday upped its aviation alert to red, the highest warning level, following a small eruption in the Bardarbunga volcano system. Iceland’s meteorological agency said the eruption was “very calm.” Nevertheless, the threat that a larger eruption and ash cloud could pose to airplanes led to the heightened warning. [Associated Press]

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9. California passes plastic bag ban
California’s legislature closed out its two-year session on Friday by approving a ban on plastic grocery bags. If signed, the measure would be the first such statewide ban in the country. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who has not signaled support for or opposition to the bill, has until September 30 to sign it into law. [Reuters]

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10. Guardian Review publishes chapter cut from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Guardian on Saturday for the first time printed a “lost” chapter from the book. The passage was “deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children,” the paper wrote. For instance, the chapter alludes to a “Pounding and Cutting Room,” into which several wicked characters disappear. [The Guardian]

Jay Leno Calls Out Ted Cruz On Shutdown: ‘You Looked Like A Big Fan From Where I Was Standing’

Somebody needed to call this clown out.  Jay Leno helped expose Ted Cruz’ blatant hypocrisy…

The Huffington Post

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his first foray into late-night television on Friday, facing some prodding questions from Tonight Show host Jay Leno on the government shutdown.

About four minutes into the interview, Leno asked Cruz why the shutdown took place, posing the idea that if Obamacare had been allowed to go forward without shutting down the government, the early struggles with the law may have been seen in a different light.

“Listen, Jay, I’m one of the many people who was not a fan of shutting down the government,” Cruz said. “Throughout this whole thing, I said…”

“Well you looked like a big fan from where I was standing,” Leno interjected.

“I said throughout, ‘We shouldn’t shut down the government,'” Cruz said seconds later. “And the reason we had a government shutdown is President Obama and the Democrats said ‘we will not negotiate and we will not compromise.'”

Recent polls show that three weeks after the shutdown came to a close, Americans are still angry at both Congress and President Barack Obama. A HuffPost/YouGov survey unveiled Thursday showed only 7 percent believe most members of Congress deserve reelection, compared to 73 percent who said they don’t.

Obama has taken his own share of heat, as a Friday Pew Research survey showed the president’s approval rating has plummeted to 41 percent. That marks an 11-percent drop since January 2013.

BIG TROUBLE…

 

The Huffington Post

Democrats Have A Shot At Taking Back The House As Republican Popularity Continues To Drop: Poll

A new survey of 25 GOP-held districts shows dwindling favorability for Republican members of the House in the wake of the recent government shutdown.

The survey, conducted by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling and funded by MoveOn.org, is the third in a series of polls that indicate Democrats have a shot at taking back the House of Representatives in the 2014 election cycle.

The results of the latest survey show that incumbent Republicans in 15 of the 25 districts polled trail generic Democratic candidates. When combined with the results of the previous surveys, the polls show that generic Democratic candidates lead in 37 of 61 GOP-held districts.

When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped and one race became a tie.

Democrats in the House only need to see a net increase of 17 seats in order to take back the majority. This poll indicates that Democrats could see an increase of as many as 49 seats.

Public Policy Polling indicated several caveats to the results. The surveys were conducted during a high-profile budget crisis debate, a year before the elections will take place. And incumbent Republican candidates were compared to “generic Democrats,” who may not represent the actual candidates each district will see.

“Democrats must recruit strong candidates and run effective campaigns in individual districts if they are to capitalize on the vulnerability revealed by these surveys,” Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams said of the caveat, “and they must maintain a significant national advantage over Republicans.”

Recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and NBC/Wall Street Journal are consistent with the survey’s claim that the Republican party took a hit from the fiscal crisis. Pew found that more Americans blamed Republicans for the shutdown, and NBC/Wall Street Journal found that the Republican party was “badly damaged” by it.

6 long-term effects of the government shutdown

Got a flu shot? Good, but the CDC is now more than two weeks behind in tracking the viruses.

The Week

The pain has just begun

Now that the first government shutdown in 17 years is over and we’ve avoided defaulting on the debt (at least for a little while), life in America is returning to normal. Federal employees are going back to work. Museums and parks across the country are reopening. The panda cam at the National Zoo is up and running again.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be feeling the consequences of the shutdown and debt ceiling fiascoes (sic) in the weeks, or maybe even months, to come. Thanks to the political theater in Washington, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government has once again been called into question and an already shaky economic recovery has been handed a major setback. It’s going to take some time to dig out of this self-inflicted hole.

Let’s take a look at six lasting effects of the fiscal brinkmanship:

1. GDP growth will likely decline
We’ve all heard anecdotes about restaurants remaining empty and family vacations being canceled because of the shutdown, but shuttering the government has been a tremendous drag on economic growth. Economists at Moody’s Analytics estimate that the shutdown caused a drop of 0.5 percentage points in gross domestic product, while Standard & Poor’s believes it “shaved” at least 0.6 percentage points off GDP growth in the fourth quarter of this year.

That amounts to taking roughly $24 billion out of the economy. Slower growth will send a signal to companies that it’s not time to invest, which in turn could lead to fewer jobs being created. Fewer jobs mean a slowdown in spending, and the cycle continues.

2. The veteran disability claims backlog grew
Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, testified before Congress on Oct. 9 that the budget impasse was hampering his agency’s ability to rectify a massive backlog in disability claims. Hundreds of thousands of veterans — many of whom have been in limbo for more than a year — have been waiting for their claims to be approved and to start receiving disability checks. The VA had been making some progress before the shutdown. Between March and September, claims processors decreased the backlog to 418,000, from 611,000.

But the shutdown forced the furlough of 7,800 employees within the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the backlog grew again. The VA is still tabulating the damage that was done, but some estimates indicate as many as 2,000 cases may be affected.

3. CDC lost ground tracking the flu
It’s flu season, which means that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would normally be at work tracking viruses. This year, however, researchers lost almost three critical weeks to study whether the current crop of flu viruses will respond to anti-viral medication and whether the flu vaccine will be effective.

“It’s going to take us some time to assess where we are so we can salvage what we can,” said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds. It’s not clear how long it will take to get the research back up to speed, since 85 percent of flu trackers were sent home during the shutdown. “We’re trying to figure out what the priorities are,” said Reynolds. “The sooner in the flu season that we do these things, the better.”

4. Consumer confidence has plummeted
The shutdown undermined confidence in the economy, which slid in October to its lowest level in nine months. According to Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, consumer confidence fell on their index to 75.2 in October, from 77.5 in September. Another gauge, the Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index, dropped 22 points from September to October.

When people don’t feel good about the economy, they tend to spend less. A recent survey commissioned by Goldman Sachs found that a whopping 40 percent of Americans cut spending because of the shutdown. That’s a problem heading into the holiday season, which is when retailers bring in a healthy portion of their revenue. “The timing is terrible from that perspective because the retail sector has been having a rocky year,” said Joe Fuller, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. “People are anxious about what’s going on in Washington, and so they’re saying it’s a good time to be prudent and save money.”

5. Research was disrupted
There are scores of research projects funded by the federal government, most of which were put on hold during the shutdown. Clinical trials for cancer patients were delayed. Scientists are scrambling to save data sets that track constantly changing ecosystems. And the 16-day hiatus affected research of annual arctic sea ice, climate change, and planetary exploration, just to name a few.

Furthermore, the National Science Foundation will most likely have to delay reviewing and awarding grant proposals. “If people have funding, they can continue, yes,” Stephen Merrill, director of science, technology, and economic policy at the National Research Council, told The Washington Post. “But anybody caught between grants or dependent on a new grant, or even the extension of an existing grant, they’re all directly impacted.”

6. Interest rates may increase
There are several factors that explain why interest rates go up and down, but the latest round of debt ceiling negotiations have creditors a little jumpy. (JPMorgan Chase sold all of its short-term Treasury holdings last week.) Rating agencies in the U.S. and abroad have signaled they aren’t pleased with members of Congress openly advocating for default.

Before a compromise was reached, Fitch Ratings put the U.S. on notice that its credit rating may be downgraded. “That immediately ripples through to pricing,” said Fuller, noting that lenders will want to adjust their interest rates to cover the additional risk. “When anybody who owes somebody money makes a credible threat that they are not going to pay, a prudent lender says that borrower is riskier than I thought.”

Even though Washington finally agreed to raise the borrowing authority until Feb. 7, Dagong, one of China’s four biggest credit rating agencies, dropped the U.S.’s rating from A to A- because the same political theater may repeat itself in four months.

The torch has been passed to a new generation of Republicans

Sadly…

Born in the XXIst century, tempered by nothing, disciplined by a hard and bitter government shutdown, proud of their ancient confederate heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those privileges to which the white majority has always been committed, and to which they are committed today at home and around the world.

H/t:  Don Babets

 

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