Mark Udall

Aurora Theater Shooting Victims Outraged Over Attack Ad

udall afp

CREDIT: SCREENSHOT OF AFP AD

Think Progress

Koch-backed group Americans For Prosperity’s attempt to attack Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) backfired Wednesday, after it was revealed that the group used a photograph of the senator with President Obama in the aftermath of the Aurora movie theater shooting in July 2012.

The ad was part of AFP’s multi-million dollar onslaught of anti-Obamacare ads against Democrats in competitive races. Using footage of the candidate standing next to or shaking hands with the president is a common tactic. But this particular photo was taken while Obama, Udall, and Gov. John Hickenlooper (whom AFP cropped out) were visiting victims and their families at the Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

AFP retracted the ad after families of four shooting victims condemned the group for “exploiting our tragedy for political gain.”

“The use of an image taken from the President’s visit to Colorado to meet with us after our children were killed in the Aurora Theater shooting is an utter disgrace,” the families wrote in a statement. “And to insinuate the somber expressions were for anything other than their compassionate response to our heartbreak is beyond unconscionable. Americans for Prosperity is exploiting our tragedy for political gain and this ad should be pulled from the air immediately. We hope Colorado television stations will exercise sound judgment and not air this ad until AFP removes the image.”

“They took a picture showing great compassion for the parents and people of that shooting and made it twisted,” Sandy Phillips, the mother of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, told theDenver Post.

AFP Colorado tweeted, “AFP regrets erroneously using the image; and we sincerely apologize to Aurora families.” The group reportedly spent $280,000 to run the ad for three weeks.

Udall’s campaign called on his opponent, Tea Party favorite Rep. Cory Gardner, to denounce the ad. “As someone who attended an Aurora memorial alongside Senator Udall, Gardner surely has the decency to publicly condemn the Koch brothers for this cynical ad,” campaign manager Adam Dunstone said in his statement. “Congressman Cory Gardner should do the right thing by demanding his friends and allies stop using the Aurora tragedy for political gain.” Gardner called the ad “insensitive and wrong” but asserted that “our campaigns have nothing to do with the creation of outside advertisements.”

10 things you need to know today: July 2, 2013

An Egyptian opposition protester chants during a demonstration at the Egyptian Presidential Palace on June 30 in Cairo.

The Week

1. MORSI REJECTS ARMY ULTIMATUM TO MEET PROTESTERS’ DEMANDS
Egypt remained on edge Tuesday after President Mohammed Morsi rejected an ultimatum from the army giving the Islamist leader 48 hours to make peace with millions of protesters demanding that he step down. Morsi said he would come up with his own reconciliation plan. Egyptian newspapers touted the military’s Wednesday deadline as a turning point, with the opposition daily El Watan declaring, “Last 48 hours of Muslim Brotherhood rule.” [Reuters]
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2. SNOWDEN ASKS MORE COUNTRIES FOR ASYLUM
Fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden dropped a request for asylum in Russia after he was told he would have to stop “inflicting damage” on the U.S. with further leaks, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. Snowden, who is hiding out at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, is awaiting decisions from some 20 other countries he has asked to take him in, after his first choice, Ecuador, distanced itself from him. [Agence France Presse]
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3. OBAMA AND BUSH MEET FOR A CEREMONY HONORING TANZANIA BOMBING VICTIMS
President Obama and George W. Bush met briefly in Tanzania early Tuesday to lay a wreath at a memorial for the 11 people killed in the 1998 al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam. Obama and Bush have had a chilly relationship, but the president has praised his predecessor, who devoted billions of dollars to fighting AIDS in Africa, during his week-long tour of the continent. Bush is in Tanzania with his wife, Laura, who is holding a summit for African first ladies. [TIME]
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4. ARIZONA TOWN MOURNS 19 FIREFIGHTERS KILLED BY WILDFIRE
More than 1,000 people gathered Monday evening in the Arizona mountain town of Prescott to mourn 19 elite local firefighters killed by a massive, erratic wildfire. The 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots were clearing brush to deprive the fire of fuel when 40 to 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts caused the blaze to change direction, trapping everyone except a member who was moving the crew’s truck. It was the nation’s deadliest day for firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001. [ABC News]
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5. SAN FRANCISCO RAIL STRIKE ENTERS SECOND DAY
Commuters in San Francisco were left scrambling for ways to get to work on Monday after hundreds of transit workers went on strike demanding higher wages, bringing the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail network to a halt. The system’s hundreds of thousands of riders faced the same drill on Tuesday as the strike entered its second day. [Associated Press]
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6. STAFFORD LOAN RATES DOUBLE
Interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on Monday, after Congress allowed a measure that lowered them in 2007 expire. Lawmakers could, in theory, eliminate the hike retroactively when Congress returns from recess, although Republicans and Democrats have been unable to reach a compromise on the issue. The change could cost the average borrower $2,600 over 10 years. [Patriot-NewsNew York Daily News]
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7. SENATOR’S BROTHER REPORTED MISSING IN ROCKY MOUNTAINS
The brother of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has been reported missing after he failed to return as expected from a solo backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains. Randy Udall, 61, left June 20 on what was supposed to be a six-day hike in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Family members reported Udall, an experienced hiker, missing, and rescue crews and helicopters have been unable to find him in searches of mountain passes, said Stephen Smith, a spokesman for the area’s sheriff’s office. [CNN]
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8. CHINA TELLS PEOPLE TO CARE FOR THEIR ELDERLY PARENTS… OR ELSE
A new rule that took effect in China on Monday requires people to visit or call their elderly parents “frequently” or face fines — even jail time. Respect for the elderly is still deeply ingrained in China, but traditional family networks have been weakened as young people leave rural hometowns to seek work in booming cities. Chinese lawmakers strengthened a law spelling out the right of aging parents to their children’s support after a flurry of neglect reports. [Christian Science Monitor]
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9. RUSSIAN ROCKET CRASHES SHORTLY AFTER LAUNCH
A Russian rocket carrying three satellites crashed in Kazakhstan early Tuesday shortly after launch. The Proton-M booster shut down the engine 17 seconds into the flight, then slammed into the ground more than a mile from the launch pad, which was blanketed with burning, toxic fuel. Russian space officials blamed the failure — and a similar one last year — on manufacturing and engineering mistakes. [Associated Press]
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10. SERENA WILLIAMS BECOMES THE LATEST STAR UPSET AT WIMBLEDON
Defending champion Serena Williams, a strong favorite to win her sixth Wimbledon title, on Monday became the latest in a string of top-seeded players to be knocked out of the storied British tennis tournament. Williams, who was unbeaten in her last 34 matches, lost in the fourth round to Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, a 23rd seed. Other superstars, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova, lost in the first and second rounds. [Bleacher Report]

What You Should Know About The Government’s Massive Domestic Surveillance Program

This comprehensive look at the program should clear up some things…

Think Progress

The Guardian newspaper revealed on Wednesday night that the National Security Administration (NSA) is collecting information about the telephone records of millions of Americans through a warrant obtained in a secret court under authority granted in the Patriot Act. This is the first public confirmation that widespread surveillance of Americans, initiated under President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, has continued under the Obama administration. The program captures phone numbers and other information, but not the content of the conversations.

Warrantless surveillance began shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The Bush administration began a secret surveillance program in 2001, asking AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to turn over communications records to the National Security Agency (NSA). The agency’s goal was “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, the USA Today reported in 2006.

Program fell under court supervision in 2007. Following public uproar, the administration placed the program under the surveillance of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In 2008, Congress expanded the Act to allow both foreign and domestic surveillance “as long as the intent is to gather foreign intelligence.” The measure also provided “retroactive immunityto the telecom companies that assisted the Bush administration.”

Congress extended the law through 2017. In December of 2012, Congress voted to reauthorize The FISA Amendments Act until 2017. The Act “allows federal agencies to eavesdrop on communications and review email” with a warrant from the secret FISA court. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a critic of the program, offered an amendment during floor debate that would have required the NSA disclose an estimate of how often information on Americans was collected and require authorities to obtain a warrant if they wish to search for private information in the NSA databases. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Wyden, along with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), wrote, “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wyden and Udall also noted that the administration promised August 2009 to establish “a regular process for reviewing, redacting and releasing significant opinions” of the court, though “not a single redacted opinion has been released.”

What the Verizon order says. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered Verizon — which has 121 million customers — to turn over metadata “on an ongoing daily basis” for a three-month period between April 25, 2013 and July 19, 2013. The order does not require the government to turn over the content of the calls, but it must share information about the numbers dialed, received and length of call.

What civil libertarians say. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the administration’s order, noting that “From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be any more alarming.” “It’s a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents,” Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said in a statement. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also criticized the order. “This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public,” he said. “Significant FISA court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified. Can the FBI or the NSA really claim that they need data scooped up on tens of millions of Americans?”

What the Patriot Act says. The order falls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to make broad demands on telephone carriers for information about calls. Under the law, the government isn’t required to show probable cause, but rather, “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the tangible things sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation . . . to obtain foreign intelligence information. . . or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” An expert told the Washington Post that the order “appears to be a routine renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006.” The order is apparently “reissued routinely every 90 days and that it is not related to any particular investigation by the FBI or any other agency.”

How the government is responding. The White House responded to the Guardian story by insisting that the data is a “critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.” “It allows counter terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” an official said. Officials say they will investigate the source of the leak to the Guardian.

UPDATE

During a press conference, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that the order the Guardian obtained is “the exact three-month renewal” of program underway for the past seven years. “It’s called protecting America,” she said. Asked if other phone companies are giving similar data to NSA, the senators said, “We can’t answer that.”

Poll: Americans like bipartisan State of the Union seating

It looks like Democratic Senator Mark Udall’s(Colo.) suggestion has taken hold…

Politico

Americans are sold on the idea of bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address, a new poll finds.

Of those surveyed, 72 percent say that Democrats and Republicans should sit together during the president’s annual address Jan. 25, rather than in the traditional partisan arrangement, according to the new poll from CNN/Opinion Research Corporation released Friday.

Another 22 percent said they would prefer the partisan seating, according to the survey, which included 1,014 adults between Jan. 14 to 16.

Members of Congress have called for decorum and civility since President Barack Obama’s speech in Tucson commemorating the dead and wounded in the shooting earlier this month. The bipartisan seating has cropped up as one way for members to demonstrate their commitment to the new mood on Capitol Hill.

The idea is catching on. Since Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) circulated a letter last week calling for bipartisan seating arrangements, his office reports 59 members of congress have signed on to the effort.

The initiative is undoubtedly more popular in the Senate, where 33 members have officially signed on to sit with members of the opposing party.

Today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced that she will sit with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). Gillibrand, who represents one of the most liberal states in the country, and Thune, a potential candidate for president, are also known for being two of the most telegenic senators in the chamber.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, also announced Friday that he will sit with his home state colleague, newly elected Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, during the president’s address.