North Carolina

10 things you need to know today: February 14, 2015

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

 The Week

1.President Obama denounces killings of North Carolina Muslim students
President Barack Obama condemned the murders of three Muslim students earlier this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said in a statement on Friday. “We are all one American family.” Obama’s remarks on the killings come as federal investigators begin inquiries into whether or not the murders were a hate crime. Craig Stephen Hicks, who has been charged with the killings, had reportedly engaged in many parking space disputes with other residents of the Chapel Hill apartment complex where he and the students lived. But prominent Muslim groups have disputed that characterization of events, saying the murders were a hate crime and should be investigated as such.

Source: The New York Times

2.Argentine president charged for alleged cover-up of 1994 bombing
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina was charged on Friday with allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita brought the charges, resuming the investigation that had been headed by Alberto Nisman, who died on Jan. 18 under suspicious circumstances and who had drafted a warrant for Kirchner’s arrest just four days before his death.

Source: BloombergBusiness

3.Fighting in Ukraine intensifies ahead of agreed-upon cease-fire
Fighting around rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine intensified on Friday, despite a cease-fire plan that is intended to end hostilities over the weekend. Both sides blamed the other for at least five civilian deaths in separate shelling attacks near Luhansk and Donetsk. The cease-fire is scheduled to begin on Sunday, at which point heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from the frontline in eastern Ukraine. The deals were signed early on Thursday after about 15 hours of talks involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande.

Source: Reuters

4.Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announces resignation
One month after being sworn in for a fourth term, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) officially announced his resignation on Friday amid an ethics scandal. Kitzhaber and his private-consultant fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, are under criminal investigation amid suspicion Hayes used their relationship for the benefit of her business. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will succeed Kitzhaber, whose resignation is effective Wednesday.

Source: The Oregonian

5.Arkansas legislature passes bill blocking anti-discrimination laws against LGBT people
On Friday, the Arkansas legislature voted in favor of a bill preventing cities and counties from passing laws which would criminalize LGBT discrimination in housing, job, and business situations. The Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of the bill, which will be sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). Proponents of the bill said it would “create consistent policies” for employment laws across the state, but detractors called it a “proactive act of discrimination.”

Source: BuzzFeed News

6.South Sudan calls off elections as cabinet members try to extend presidential term
South Sudan’s June elections have reportedly been called off, and the country’s cabinet is now planning to request that parliament approve an extension of President Salva Kiir. An extension of the presidency would also extend the terms of parliament members; government spokesman Michael Makuei said he is confident the proposal would pass. The cabinet says an extension is necessary in the world’s newest nation because of ongoing fighting between supporters of Kiir, and his former vice president Riek Machar.

Source: Reuters

7.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf puts moratorium on state death penalty
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) put a moratorium on the state death penalty on Friday. The moratorium will be in effect until the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment publishes its report on the state’s death penalty policy. The moratorium “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes,” Wolf said, but rather is “based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings.” Pennsylvania has 186 inmates on death row, and the moratorium will delay the execution of Terrance Williams, who was convicted of a 1984 murder and had been scheduled to receive the death penalty on March 4.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

8.Ray Rice apologizes for domestic violence incident, thanks Baltimore
In a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Friday, Ray Rice apologized for his “horrible mistake,” adding that “there is no excuse for domestic violence.” Rice thanked the city of Baltimore and the Ravens, saying he’ll “always be proud” to have been a member of the team. Sources told the paper that Rice, who found his $35 million contract with the Ravens terminated after a graphic video surfaced in 2014 showing him punching his then-fiancee Janay in an elevator, will move back to his home state of New York and try to reboot his football career.

Source: The Baltimore Sun

9. Northeast braces for another frigid, snowy winter storm
A fourth winter storm in as many weeks is expected to hit the Northeaston Saturday and into Sunday. Twenty-six states are under winter weather warnings; the system could bring some of the coldest air in the past 20 years, along with near-hurricane-force winds. Bill Simpson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said people should expect a “monster storm.”

Source: NBC News

10.Fifty Shades of Grey on track to make more than $75 million in opening weekend
Based on current estimations, the big-screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey is on track for a whopping $75 million to $85 million dollar opening weekend, smashing the record previously set by Valentine’s Day in 2010. The film is on track to gross another $75 million internationally.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2015

Johannes Simon

The Week

1.Russia, Ukraine to meet this week for peace talks in Minsk
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany plan to meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “They expect that their efforts during the Minsk meeting will lead to the swift and unconditional cessation of fire by both sides,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said in a statement. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists has intensified since the failure last year of a delicate cease fire. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande traveled to Russia to discuss a last-ditch peace plan.

Source: BBC

2.Brian Williams to take leave from NBC News
NBC News anchor Brian Williams said Saturday he would take a temporary leave from the network amid an internal investigation into his account of a 2003 helicopter mission in Iraq. “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” he said in a statement. Williams is under investigation for allegedly embellishing a story about an attack on a helicopter convoy he was part of at the outset of the Iraq war.

Source: USA Today

3.North Korea test-fires short-range missiles
North Korea on Sunday fired five short-range missiles into the sea, according to the South Korean government. Fired near the coastal town of Wonsan, the missiles traveled about 125 miles before crashing into the water. The second such test this year, the launch dims the hopes of the two nations resuming peace talks that stalled last year.

Source: The New York Times

4.Legendary college hoops coach Dean Smith dead at 83
Dean Smith, the longtime University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, died on Saturday at the age of 83. “We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to help make the world a better place to live in,” current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement. Smith coached North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, leading the team to national titles in 1982 and 1993. He retired with 879 victories, the most in college basketball history at the time.

Source: ESPN

5.Israeli PM vows to block Iranian nuclear deal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would do everything possible to scuttle “bad and dangerous” nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. “We will do everything to thwart a bad and dangerous deal that will cast a dark cloud on the future of the state of Israel and its security,” he said in a weekly cabinet meeting. The remarks come amid a backlash over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which some Democrats and the White House believe could undermine the ongoing nuclear talks.

Source: CBS

6.Maryland court to hear appeal in ‘Serial’ murder case
In a case popularized by the podcast Serial, Adnan Syed will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed its decision on Friday, and Syed’s lawyers can now move forward with the appeals process, which can include the presentation of new evidence. A former classmate who did not testify at the original trial, Asia McClain, says she can provide an alibi for Syed in the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee.

Source: The Washington Post

7.New England braces for more snow
A slow-moving winter storm could dump as much as two feet of snow on parts of New England over the next two days. The region is already reeling from two massive storms that left behind record snow totals. In Boston, 49 inches of snow fell over a 14-day period, smashing the previous two-week record of 40.2 inches.

Source: The Boston Globe

8.Iran’s top cleric endorses developing nuclear agreement
Iran’s religious leader on Sunday offered his support for a potential nuclear deal with the U.S. in which both sides give ground. “I would go along with any agreement that could be made,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement, adding that “negotiations mean reaching a common point.” The two sides have until late March to establish the basic framework of a nuclear agreement.

Source: Reuters

9. Teen arrested in connection with weekend mall shooting
Police on Sunday arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a weekend shooting at a mall outside Pittsburgh that injured three people, two of them critically. Police said the suspect, Tarod Thornhill, is believed to have been targeting one person when he opened fire Saturday night in the Monroeville Mall. Thornhill is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment.

Source: NBC

10.The Grammy Awards ceremony is tonight
The 57th annual Grammy Awards will be held Sunday night in Los Angeles. Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams, all of whom are up for Album of the Year, lead the pack with six nominations each.

Source: Billboard

For Next AG, Obama Picks a Quiet Fighter With a Heavy Punch

Joshua Lott | Reuters

More on President Obama’s Attorney General nominee…

The Daily Beast

Daughter of a librarian, sister to a SEAL. Why colleagues say America can’t ask for better than Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to succeed Eric Holder.

The woman tapped to become the new attorney general is the younger sister of a Navy SEAL from those days before fame and book deals, when America’s foremost warriors were known only as anonymous “quiet professionals.”

Loretta Lynch has taken much the same quietly professional approach as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Her father can attest to that, having seen her in action in a Brooklyn courtroom. He speaks of her much as he might of his elder son, the SEAL.

“Low-key, soft voice, but hard-punching attorney,” says Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a fourth-generation Baptist minister from North Carolina. “She was never a show person but boy she did hit hard.”

Her mother, Lorine Lynch, started life as a farmhand. Loretta Lynch recalled aloud at the swearing-in ceremony for her first stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999 that she once asked her mother why she had labored in the fields.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” her mother had told her.

The mother had left the fields to become a librarian and her love of literature passed on to her three children. Neighbors in Durham would marvel at the stacks of books little Loretta and her brothers would carry from the public library just down the street.

“Your books are taller than you are!” the father remembers people exclaiming.

Loretta’s uncommon brightness led to an early encounter with what some took to be racism when she took a standardized test at her largely white public school.

“She scored so high they said, ‘This is wrong, you have to retake it,’” the father recalls. “She retook it and scored higher the second time.”

When Loretta was not yet in high school, the family took a trip to Boston and her parents pointed across the Charles River to Harvard University. The father recalls, “She said, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’”

Another encounter with apparent racism came when she finished at the very top of her class at Durham high school. The authorities suddenly decided there had to be three valedictorians, which resulted in one of them being white. She did indeed go to Harvard, where she majored in English and delighted in reading Chaucer in Old English. She proceeded on to Harvard Law School.

From there, she joined a big Wall Street law firm and earned a six-figure salary. Her father figured that she was set, even if she more than once arrived to conduct a disposition only for the opposing lawyers to assume she must be the court stenographer.

Then she announced she was taking a 75 percent pay cut to become an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. She thereby declared herself less interested in making money than in making a difference.

The father came up from North Carolina to see her prosecute a Chinese gang. He returned when she took on the Abner Louima case, which was as momentous in 1999 as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson is now. Louima was a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by a cop with a wood stick in a precinct bathroom. Four other cops were also arrested in connection with the incident

“Don’t let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up,” Lynch told the jury during her closing argument that day in 1999.

The courtroom was completely silent when she was done.

“You could hear a pin drop,” the father recalls. “It was remarkable.”

He adds, “I wouldn’t want her prosecuting me.”

Soon afterward, President Clinton appointed her the U.S. attorney for the district, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. She was replaced by President Bush in mid-2001 and she returned to private practice.

In 2010, President Obama then brought her back for a second stint. She continually impressed her staff with her ability to quickly grasp the essentials of a case as her office wrangled multibillion-dollar settlements from various errant banks while prosecuting a wide range of terrorists, gangsters, and cybercriminals.

In recent weeks, she has overseen cases involving a dual Kazakh-Israeli citizen charged with money laundering, a man arrested for sexually abusing three girls at an Army base, an attorney convicted of a $5 million fraud, mobsters nabbed for a decade-old murder, a banker who faked his own death, a union delegate sentenced for extorting Christmastime tribute, a doctor collared for illegal distribution of Oxycodone, a scamster who engineered an Alaskan gold-mine investment scheme, another scamster charged with facilitating a $6 million food-stamp fraud, five 7-Eleven franchisees who victimized immigrant employees, a fugitive who got in a shootout with U.S. Marshals, a pharmacist charged with smuggling counterfeit medicines via a Costa Rican Internet distributor, a drug dealer convicted of two contract murders, six corporate executives indicted for orchestrating a $500 million offshore fraud, a man convicted of using stolen Social Security numbers to file thousands of false tax returns, and a civil dispute over a dinosaur fossil

She has also pressed ahead with the prosecution of Rep. Michael Grimm, who was reelected this week despite being under indictment for lying under oath and allegedly cooking the books of a now-shuttered health-food restaurant. Grimm is a Republican and he charged during the campaign that the prosecution was politically motivated. That suggestion turns absurd when you consider the long list of corrupt Democrat politicians Lynch has sent to prison.

And nobody can rightly say that she seeks headlines in the way of too many other prosecutors. Her single and singular goal in every case is to pursue justice as determined by the law.

“I think we should want an attorney general who doesn’t seek the limelight, but seeks justice,” says Ken Thompson, who prosecuted the Louima case with her and has gone on to become the Brooklyn district attorney.

Thompson knows her life story and goes on to say, “What she represents is the American dream.”

He believes she would serve as an inspiration and a role model to young people who are beginning their own struggle toward that dream. He described her as a super-smart, fiercely focused, unshakably honest, and supremely fair-minded champion who would make an outstanding attorney general.

“We can’t as a country ask for more than Loretta Lynch,” Thompson says.

According to numerous reports, the departing attorney general, Eric Holder, agreed. He had already named her the head of his advisory council. And he was said to be urging Obama to appoint her as his successor.

On Friday, her 82-year-old father was down in North Carolina, remembering that his daughter sneezed in his face when he was carrying her home from the hospital after she was born. She had since been only a delight.

“Highly inquisitive, highly playful, always cheerful,” he recalls. “She would play with anything. She would make a toy out of anything.”

The father had known tragedy with the death of his son, the former SEAL, when he was just 51. The father now seemed about to know triumph with the nomination of the family’s other quiet professional, 55-year-old Loretta Lynch, as the new attorney general.

In this age of selfies, the president had chosen someone who never seeks the spotlight and lets her work speak for itself. The father said Friday night that he would wait until he actually sees it happen at the official ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Saturday.

“I would be proud, but my late mother said, ‘Don’t count your eggs, son, until they hatch,” he said. “When I see Mr. Obama and my daughter standing beside him, I’ll say something is about to happen.”

H/t: DB

Daily Kos Recommended – 10-28-2014

 

Daily Kos Recommended

Kochonomics Returns

I’m one of those idealists that believe every dog will eventually have it’s day.  That includes the omnipotent Koch brothers…

The Progress Report

How The Koch Brothers Have Rigged The System In Wisconsin And North Carolina To Benefit Them

The Koch brothers are hard at work to limit government as much as possible, resulting in a system that benefits their businesses no matter the potential harm to everyone else — a strategy we have dubbed “Kochonomics.” The Koch network’s immense efforts to buy national elections have been widely documented. Here at CAP Action, we have also exposedthe Kochs’ growing plans to shrink local governments by undermining public education, opposing mass transit, and blocking small tax increases to benefit public safety, schoolchildren, and seniors.

Our latest investigation of the Kochs uncovers their influence in two self-described model states, Wisconsin and North Carolina. In both states, the Koch network has funded state leaders who have put in place policies that benefit the wealthy few, including the Koch brothers, regardless of the effect on anyone else. We walk through how Kochonomics has worked in Wisconsin and North Carolina below, and be sure to check out the full report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund as well.

State: Wisconsin

Koch Foot Soldier: Gov. Scott Walker
Koch Business Interests in the State: Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in America owned by the Koch brothers, has six wholly owned subsidiaries with at least 17 locations in Wisconsin.
The Price of Influence: Gov. Scott Walker has been one of the top recipients of Koch donations in state politics, receiving $43,000 from the Koch network during his 2010 gubernatorial race. On top of that, Koch-backed advocacy group Americans For Prosperity has strongly supported Walker, spending at least $12.5 million to promote Walker’s conservative policies and electoral campaigns.
Policies Passed Which Benefit The Koch Brothers: The Koch network aggressively pushed for tax cuts that heavily favor millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations, which Gov. Walker pushed through and became law. One of the resulting benefits to the Kochs is that they could see their income tax rate on the manufacturing activities of Koch Industries subsidiaries in Wisconsin drop from 7.65 percent to as low as 0.15 percent.
How These Policies Could Hurt the Middle Class: Under Gov. Walker’s leadership and policies over the last four years, Wisconsin’s working and low-income families have had to pay $170 million more in additional taxes.

State: North Carolina

Koch Foot Soldier: North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis
Koch Business Interests in the State: Koch Industries has two wholly owned subsidiaries in the state of North Carolina with at least eight locations.
The Price of Influence: North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis received $11,000 in donations from Koch Industries from 2010 to 2012, making him second-highest recipient of Koch Industries campaign contributions in the Tar Heel state. In his run for U.S. Senate, Tillis has benefited from almost $12 million in spending from the Koch network.
Policies Passed Which Benefit The Koch Brothers: Americans for Prosperity advocated for—and state lawmakers passed—tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent by an average of more than $10,000 annually. Moreover, state lawmakers eliminated local business taxes, further reducing the taxes of Koch subsidiaries in North Carolina.
How These Policies Could Hurt the Middle Class: The tax policies pushed by the Koch network and passed by lawmakers would force working families earning between $52,000 and $84,000 per year to pay an average of $74 more in taxes.

BOTTOM LINE: While the Koch brothers may claim that their radical ideology helps everyone, the impact of the policies they promoted in Wisconsin and North Carolina are clear. These policies, which were made into law with the help of powerful elected officials collecting Koch contributions, benefit the wealthy—including the Koch’s business interests in the two states—but in most cases hurt working families.

Matthews on The GOP’s Attempts To Suppress The Vote in North Carolina

This issue is personal for me…

My mother’s grandfather…my great grandfather taught at one of the HBCU‘s in North Carolina and later became the Dean.  In fact there’s even a stadium and library  at Winston-Salem State University that bears his name.

Four generations of my family on my mother’s side have called Winston-Salem their home.   After the equal opportunity and civil rights strides that state has made over the last five decades it’s very disheartening to see a band of ignorant miscreants in the state’s government tear it all down in a few malicious strokes of the pen…

Chris Matthews…

10 things you need to know today: July 4, 2014

Wet but not broken. 

Wet but not broken. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Week

Hurricane Arthur hits North Carolina, the Supreme Court delivers a second straight blow to ObamaCare, and more

1. Hurricane Arthur weakens after rattling North Carolina
Hurricane Arthur knocked out power to thousands of homes on the North Carolina coast on Thursday as it hit the state’s Outer Banks. The storm — the first of the 2014 Atlantic season — gained strength to become a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour as it began pelting eastern North Carolina with high winds and heavy rain. Arthur delivered the area just a glancing blow, however, before weakening and continuing north over the Atlantic. [CNN]

………………………………………………………………………………

2. Second birth-control ruling delivers another setback to ObamaCare
The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily exempted Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois, from some ObamaCare contraception coverage requirements. Like Hobby Lobby, which won a similar case for private companies this week, the school objected to some coverage, such as morning-after pills, which it likened to abortion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the conservative majority had gone back on its word, because the Hobby Lobby decision endorsed making objecting non-profits sign a form transferring free contraception coverage to others. [The New York Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

3. Stocks surge to record highs after unexpectedly strong jobs report
The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to close above 17,000 for the first time on Thursday following a stronger than expected jobs report. The Labor Department reported that the economy added 288,000 jobs in June, far more than the 212,000 forecast. The hiring increase helped bring the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent — the lowest since September 2008. The news also lifted the S&P 500 stock index to a record high, and the Nasdaq to its highest since 2000. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

4. Dad charged with killing his toddler by leaving him in a hot car
A Georgia judge ruled Thursday that Justin Ross Harris, 33, would stand trial — without bond — on charges that he killed his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by leaving him in a hot car for seven hours while he was at work. Investigators said Harris, who had done internet searches on heatstroke deaths, exchanged sexually explicit texts with six women, including a 17-year-old, on the day his son died. Prosecutors said he dreamed of a “child-free life.” Harris says he simply forgot to drop off the boy at child care. [People]

………………………………………………………………………………

5. SunTrust’s mortgage arm agrees to pay $320 million to resolve allegations
SunTrust Mortgage Inc. has agreed to pay up to $320 million to settle allegations that it misled customers trying to use government program to avoid foreclosure, the bank and federal prosecutors said Thursday. Customers who suffered financial harm will get up to $274 million of the money. Investigators said the firm — the mortgage arm of SunTrust Banks — failed to process applications for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, and gave customers flawed information about the program. [The Associated Press]

………………………………………………………………………………

6. Overpass collapses in deadly accident near Brazilian World Cup stadium
An unfinished highway overpass collapsed in one of Brazil’s World Cup host cities, Belo Horizonte, on Thursday, killing at least one person and stoking local criticism of the rushed preparations for the global soccer championship. “Because of the World Cup they sped everything up to finish faster. That’s why this tragedy has happened,” said Leandro Brito, 23, a bank worker. The bridge — two miles from Mineirao Stadium — crushed a car and part of a passenger bus that were passing underneath. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

7. Colorado sues county clerk for issuing same-sex marriage licenses
Colorado’s Republican attorney general, John Suthers, on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall for issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The legal spat came after a federal appeals court ruling last week overturned an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The ruling was put on hold, so Suthers says the gay marriage ban remains in effect. Hall said Suthers is trying to force her to violate same-sex couples’ rights. [The Christian Science Monitor]

………………………………………………………………………………

8. Maliki rival steps aside in a bid to unite Iraqi Shiites
Former Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a key rival of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said late Thursday that he would bow out and not seek another term to make it easier for Shiite parties to settle on a replacement for Maliki. Shiite politicians have been deadlocked on the leadership question despite pressure from the U.S., Iran, and the United Nations to unite the nation against a Sunni extremist insurgency by forming a new government sharing more power with the other main ethnic blocs, Sunnis and Kurds. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

9. Former editor Coulson goes to prison in U.K. hacking case
Andy Coulson, once editor of Britain’s best-selling newspaper, went to prison on Friday after being sentenced to 18 months for conspiring to hack the phones of celebrities, royals, politicians, and crime victims. Judge John Saunders said Coulson, 46, “has to take the major share of the blame” for the eavesdropping done by reporters while he was editor of Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World between 2003 and 2007. “He encouraged it when he should have stopped it,” the judge said. [The Associated Press]

………………………………………………………………………………

10. A Western drought and East Coast hurricane alter July 4 plans
The weather is dictating how some communities across the country celebrate July 4 on Friday, with drought-stricken parts of the West cautioning against the use of fireworks and cities on the East Coast rescheduling events — including a traditional Boston Pops performance — due to Hurricane Arthur. In Washington, D.C., composer John Williams is debuting a new arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the National Mall to mark the national anthem’s 200th anniversary. [The Washington Post]

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

A pat down at LAX in February. 

A pat down at LAX in February. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Week

Homeland Security tightens screening for U.S.-bound flights, the season’s first hurricane heads toward the Carolinas, and more

1. Security tightened for U.S.-bound flights over bomb fears
The Homeland Security Department said Wednesday that it was increasing security screening at overseas airports with non-stop flights to the U.S. due to reports that terrorists had developed a new way to smuggle explosives onto planes. Intelligence agencies have not uncovered a specific plot, but they recently learned that a bomb maker working for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen had developed a technique for evading metal detectors and body scanners. [Los Angeles Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

2. Evacuation ordered for part of North Carolina coast as Arthur gains strength
Tropical Storm Arthur reached hurricane strength early Thursday, with winds of 75 mph as it churned north toward the Carolinas. Arthur, the first named storm of the 2014 Atlantic season, was 190 miles south-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 4:50 a.m. on Thursday. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of the North Carolina coast. Local authorities have ordered a mandatory evacuation on the Outer Banks’ Hatteras Island and a voluntary evacuation on Ocracoke Island. [NBC NewsFox News]

………………………………………………………………………………

3. Colorado woman, 19, charged with trying to help ISIS suspect in Syria
A Colorado teen, Shannon Maureen Conley, was arrested in April for allegedly plotting to help al Qaeda terrorists overseas, according to court documents that were unsealed Wednesday. Conley, 19, was arrested while boarding a flight to Turkey. Authorities believe she was trying to reach Syria to find a Tunisian man she met online. Conley hoped to marry the man, who said he was fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She had asked her parents for their blessing. They refused, and notified the FBI. [New York Daily News]

………………………………………………………………………………

4. Colorado asks for a moratorium on gay marriage lawsuits
The Colorado attorney general’s office asked a federal court Wednesday for an injunction to suspend same-sex marriage lawsuits in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on whether gay-marriage bans are constitutional. A federal appeals court in Denver ruled last week that Utah could not stop same-sex couples from getting married, but stayed the ruling pending review by the Supreme Court. Since then six Denver couples have sued to overturn a Colorado constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. [Reuters]

………………………………………………………………………………

5. Sarkozy criticizes French prosecutors over his detention in corruption case
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy slammed anticorruption investigators on Wednesday after he was hauled in for questioning about possible attempts to tamper with an investigation into the financing of his 2007 election campaign. Prosecutors say Sarkozy, through a lawyer, tried to get information from a judge about an inquiry into whether he received up to $68 million in illegal contributions from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Sarkozy called his detention politically motivated and “grotesque.” [The New York Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

6. Fire threatens California wine country homes
A wildfire has damaged two homes and forced the evacuation of 200 others in Napa County in Northern California. Authorities said however that the blaze, which grew to cover six square miles on Wednesday, posed no threat to Napa Valley wineries, as it was heading away from them. More than 1,000 firefighters are working to contain the fire, although forecasters expect Thursday to bring more of the hot, dry conditions that helped the fire expand a day earlier. [The Associated Press]

………………………………………………………………………………

7. Tensions rise in Israel after killings of teenagers
Palestinian protesters and Israeli police clashed on Wednesday following the abduction and murder of an Arab teenager, Mohammad Abu Khieder in apparent retaliation for the killings of three kidnapped Israeli teens. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for restraint as the case was investigated. Palestinians blamed Jewish settlers for the Palestinian teen’s death. Israel’s air force launched air strikes on Gaza early Thursday in response to mortar fire by suspected Palestinian militants. [The Washington PostBBC News]

………………………………………………………………………………

8. Target asks people not to bring guns into its stores
Target announced Wednesday that it “respectfully” requests that customers not bring guns into its stores. “This is a request and not a prohibition,” said Molly Snyder of Target’s public relations department. The decision came after a month of pressure from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Target didn’t say what it would do if someone didn’t comply. Fourteen states let people with permits openly carry guns. Thirty allow open carry without permits. [Los Angeles Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

9. Japan eases sanctions against North Korea
Japan is lifting some economic sanctions against North Korea because Pyongyang has promised to resume investigations into the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday. North Korea acknowledged in 2002 that it snatched 13 Japanese citizens to teach its spies about Japanese language and culture. The sanctions being lifted include a ban preventing North Korean officials from entering Japan. South Korea said the change shouldn’t damage efforts to pressure Pyonyang over its nuclear and missile programs. [The Asahi ShimbunVoice of America]

………………………………………………………………………………

10. Consumer Reports fuels the fast food wars
Consumer Reports released its annual fast-food survey, and industry leaders McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell got panned in taste tests by more than 30,000 Consumer Reports subscribers. The chains each scored the worst for their signature fare — McDonald’s had the worst burger ranking; KFC scored worst for chicken; and Taco Bell scored the worst rating for burritos. Habit Burger Grill, In-n-Out, and Five Guys Burgers scored highest for burgers with ratings of 8.1, 8.0 and 7.9 respectively. McDonald’s scored 5.8. [The Washington Post]

Republicans Must Turn Over Emails On North Carolina Voting Law, Federal Judge Rules

 

The Huffington Post

State Republicans hand over key e-mails

Any race-related emails that North Carolina Republicans may have sent in connection with the voter restrictions they passed last summer could soon be public, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, simply demonstrating a discriminatory impact could be enough to overturn a discriminatory law. Now, in order to have North Carolina’s voting law struck down, civil rights groups and the Justice Department have to demonstrate that state lawmakers deliberately engaged in racial discrimination against voters.

The sweeping law requires voters to show certain forms of photo identification, eliminates same-day registration and reduces early voting — all measures which voting rights advocates say are intended to make it harder for Democratic-leaning minorities to vote.

The emails sent by legislators are crucial to proving racial motivations played some role in the legislation.

North Carolina wanted to keep legislator emails secret. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ruled Thursday that the state couldn’t withhold all the emails. She did, however, say that North Carolina might be able to argue that emails only between legislators and their staffers could be kept private.

Of course, if legislators have nothing to hide about the motivations for passing the restrictive laws, they can individually waive their legislative immunity, as Peake noted.

Voting rights advocates welcomed the judge’s decision.

“North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy. The people deserve better.”

In previous voting rights cases, legislator emails have demonstrated racial motivations. A legislator in South Carolina replied “Amen” when a constituent compared black voters to a “swarm of bees going after a watermelon,” while in Texas, a Republican member of Congress acknowledged wanting to move a country club from a heavily Hispanic district into his own, in order to increase the number of white voters.

5 important political stories to watch in 2014

Would Boehner lead another shutdown? | Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Week – Taegan Goodard

1. Will Republicans win back control of the Senate?Most political forecasters give Democrats a minuscule chance of taking back the House of Representatives, so most attention will be on the six seats Republicans need to have the majority in the upper chamber.

The seven most vulnerable seats all belong to Democrats right now: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

2. Will Congress pass immigration reform? A bill has passed the Senate but House leaders refuse to bring it up. Considering the inability of this Congress to pass almost anything, it’s hard to give much hope to immigration reform — particularly in an election year.

However, two things could force the issue. First, national Republicans know they must improve the party’s standing with Hispanic voters and immigration reform is a key issue for this increasingly important voting bloc. Second, Speaker John Boehner has given signs he may move pieces of the Senate bill independently.

3. Will there be another fiscal showdown? Despite a bipartisan budget deal earlier this month, another major battle could be coming in the New Year over the debt ceiling. The federal government is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority by the end of February.

Though many Republicans want to use the event as leverage over the Obama administration to cut spending or tie it to legislation the White House opposes, the politics are brutal for the GOP. The self-inflicted wounds of the government shutdown on the Republican party are still raw and could act to prevent a major battle.

4. Will ObamaCare be a big issue for the midterm elections? Republicans will do everything in their power to tie the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act to Democrats like they did in the 2010 midterms. It helped them retake control of the House.

But the White House is throwing every resource at their disposal to get the law implemented and move beyond the problems that crippled the health care exchange website. If millions of people are getting health insurance they otherwise could not afford by summer, it could end up being a non-issue or even a positive for Democrats.

5. Who knows? Politics is amazingly unpredictable except one thing is almost certain: There is usually a big political story we cannot predict.