The Washington Post

10 things you need to know today: July 6, 2014

Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis

Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis Michael Steele / Getty Images

The Week

The NSA ensnares far more bystanders than targets, Israel arrests six in connection with Palestinian boy’s death, and more.

1. Report: NSA sweeps snare bystanders far more than intended targets
Surveillance carried out by the National Security Agency led to the collection of significantly more information on “incidental” innocents than on the NSA’s intended targets, according to The Washington Post. Citing files provided by Edward Snowden that detailed collections between 2009 and 2012, the Post found that only about 10 percent of accounts culled in that time period belonged to targets; the rest belonged to people accidentally caught in the agency’s wide search nets. Further, many of the files — a large portion of which belonged to Americans — had a “startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality,” according to the Post. [The Washington PostThe Guardian]

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2. Israel arrests six in Palestinian teen’s death
Israeli police have arrested six suspects in connection with the abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager whose death set off days of violent protests. Police have not identified the suspects, though the newspaper Ha’aretz said law enforcement described the suspects’ motive as “nationalistic.” Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted Wednesday outside his home in East Jerusalem in what Palestinians claimed was revenge for the abduction and murder last month of three Israeli teens. Israel killed five Palestinians and rounded up hundreds more in the search for the missing teens, further inflaming tensions between the two sides. [Associated PressHa'aretz]

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3. Argentina, Netherlands advance to World Cup semis
Argentina topped Belgium 1-0 and the Netherlands outlasted Costa Rica in penalty kicks on Saturday as both teams advanced to the World Cup semifinals. Costa Rica was on paper one of the weaker teams in the entire tournament, but they made a surprising run to the final eight and nearly knocked off the powerhouse Dutch team before succumbing in the shootout. Germany and Brazil already advanced to the semis with wins on Friday. [Fox Sports]

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4. Purported ISIS leader makes first public appearance in new video
A video posted online Saturday claimed to show the leader of the Sunni extremist group ISIS delivering a sermon in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The video, which was purportedly shot Friday, is said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, though so little is known about al-Baghdadi that officials could not immediately confirm it was him on the tape. The video was released through websites and promoted on social media accounts linked to the insurgent group, and the Iraqi government is analyzing it to determine its authenticity. [Associated PressCNN]

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5. Petra Kvitova wins Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova routed Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday to win her second Wimbledon title. Kvitova was so dominant it took her less than an hour to finish off the match. On the men’s side, top-seeded Novak Djokovic will take on seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer Sunday in the title match. [ESPNThe Washington Post]

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6. California swimmer attacked by great white shark
A swimmer was bitten by a great white shark Saturday in Manhattan Beach, California, after swimming too close to the hooked killer. A fisherman had snared the seven-foot shark off a pier and was trying to reel it in when the victim, one of several distance swimmers training in the waters, swam by. The 40-year-old man suffered what a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman called a “moderate” wound to the torso. [CNN]

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7. Nigerian troops kill 53 insurgents
The Nigerian army said Saturday it had killed 53 fighters from the militant group Boko Haram. The army said the insurgents were killed after they attacked a military base in the town of Damboa. Five soldiers and one officer were also killed in the clash. [ReutersBloomberg]

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8. Afghanistan nixes proposed Facebook ban
The Afghan government won’t ban Facebook after all as it sorts out the winner of last month’s contested presidential election. Supporters of the two candidates had exchanged inflammatory threats online, prompting the government to ask Facebook for help scrubbing the comments and to consider a blanket ban. “There are people on Facebook who spread hatred and cause damage to national unity,” Fayeq Wahedi, a government spokesman said, “but after talks the council decided not to ban Facebook.” [The Guardian The Telegraph]

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9. Spain’s Running of the Bulls begins today
Spain’s iconic bull running festival kicks off Sunday in Pamplona. Thousands of revelers packed the main city square to mark the start of the nine-day festival, whose main event involves, as the name suggests, thousands of thrill-seekers dashing madly through the city streets ahead of rampaging bulls. [Associated Press]

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10. Kanye West booed during mid-show rant in London
Rapper and self-described “God” Kanye West was booed during his set at London’s Wireless music festival this weekend. West interrupted his show to assail the media for trying to “dishumanize” him. But as he continued on his five minute tirade, audience members began to heckle him and chant “off, off, off.” [The Independent]

10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2014

The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims.

The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

The Week

The Obama administration addresses illegal immigration, an Egyptian court sentences more than 180 to death, and more

1. Obama administration announces new measures to counteract illegal immigration
The United States will not tolerate a surge of women and children crossing the Mexico border into Texas, administration officials said on Friday as they announced new measures to stymie the recent immigrant influx. Many of those crossing the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the White House said it will invest $9.6 million to help those countries repatriate their citizens. The administration is also sending additional immigration judges and attorneys to Texas, in order to expedite asylum claims. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the border so far this year. [The Washington Post]

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2. Egypt court sentences more than 180 to death in mass trial
In what is considered the largest mass trial in recent Egyptian history, a court handed down more than 180 death sentences today, stemming from an August attack on a police station that killed one officer and one civilian. Those sentenced to death include the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. However, the international community has condemned the mass death sentences, saying Egypt’s government is becoming increasingly politicized. One man sentenced, Mustafa Youssef, “was born blind,” noted his lawyer. “How would he kill, burn and loot?” [The Associated Press]

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3. Ukraine begins unilateral ceasefire as Russia redeploys troops to border
Following weeks of fighting, new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instigated a week-long, unilateral ceasefire on Friday, although he was quick to note that while forces would not take offensive action against pro-Russian militants, they would still defend themselves against any attacks. During the week, separatists have a chance to turn in weapons, although the Donetsk People’s Republic gave no sign of relenting as the ceasefire began. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that Russia had sent tanks and heavy artillery back across the border on Friday, although Moscow claimed it was merely bolstering troops on its side of a border steeped in fighting. [The Washington Post]

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4. U.N.: Number of displaced people reaches more than 50 million
For the first time since World War II, more than 50 million people are living under forced displacement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At least 51.2 million people, roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Spain, are currently seeking refuge or asylum, and at least half of that number are children. And with renewed violence in Iraq, the U.N, says the number may increase this year. “We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars,” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit.” [NPR]

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5. Iran, six powers remain in stalemate after nuclear settlement talks
Saying Iran will not reach an agreement until six big powers “abandon excessive demands,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left this week’s nuclear talks in a stalemate. The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany met with representatives from Tehran in an attempt to broker a deal to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for more regulations on the country’s nuclear work. The major powers are aiming for a July 20 deadline, in the midst of renewed fears of Middle East wars. [Reuters]

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6. Report: Pentagon, VA not assessing success rate of PTSD treatments
A report released on Friday by the Institute of Medicine says neither the Department of Veterans Affairs nor the Pentagon is tracking the success of PTSD treatments offered to troops. The VA spent more than $3 billion on PTSD care in 2012, but it failed to study whether the treatments actually helped soldiers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s treatments “appear to be local, ad hoc, incremental, crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach to obtaining desired outcomes,” the IOM reports. While five percent of all troops report cases of PTSD, the number is much higher for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Time]

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7. Presbyterian Church will allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages
Changing its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Thursday to allow ministers in states that have legalized same-sex marriages discretion to perform the nuptials. Actually changing the language in the church’s Book of Order to reflect the amendment requires a year-long ratification process, and conservative members of the General Assembly may still push against that measure. “There were some of us with tears of joy, and some of us with tears of grief,” Rev. Susan De George, a lesbian minister of the Hudson River Presbytery, in New York, said of the vote. [The New York Times]

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8. Scientists discover new species of Neanderthal in Spain
Researchers published a description in the journal Science on Thursday of a new, Neanderthal-esque prehistoric human species. The remains, found in a cave in northern Spain, do not dramatically alter the current theory of human evolution. They do, however, suggest that there were several isolated, unique human species existing at the same time in different parts of the world, which may have eventually fought for the same land. [The Washington Post]

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9. Disney taps Rian Johnson to write, direct Star Wars: Episode VIII
With production just barely underway on Star Wars: Episode VIIDisney and Lucasfilm have already selected director Rian Johnson to helm the next film in the series. Best known for Looper, a sci-fi action film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Johnson also directed several episodes of Breaking Bad and was on the shortlist for the Star Trek reboot. [Variety]

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10. Peanut the mutt wins ‘World’s Ugliest Dog’ title
As far as titles go, “World’s Ugliest Dog” sounds like one most canines would rather not win, but that’s too bad for 2-year-old mutt Peanut. Peanut’s owner, Holly Chandler, entered the dog in the 25th annual competition in California to bring attention to the traumas of pet abuse, and she said she will use the $1,500 prize to pay for other injured animals’ veterinary expenses. While Peanut is healthy now, he was seriously burned as a puppy, resulting in the unsightly, hairless patches all over his body that earned him Friday’s victory. [The Associated Press]

The Obama-Beyoncé Affair Rumors, And Why The Stupidest Fake News Story Of The Week Still Matters

You guys! They touched!

You guys! They touched! | CREDIT: AP IMAGES/WIN MCNAMEE

Think Progress‘ ALYSSA ROSENBERG sets the record straight…

Think Progress

This morning, the French newspaper Le Figaro made some waves ahead of the upcoming state dinner to mark French President François Hollande’s visit to the U.S. by publishing a story in which the photographer Pascal Rostain alleged that the Washington Post was preparing to publish a story suggesting that President Obama and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter were having an affair, and that President Obama and his wife Michelle were preparing to divorce. The story has since been rolled back: the Post has vigorously denied having such a piece in development, and Rostain seems to have acknowledged that the rumor he spread was some sort of attempt at humor.

I’m loath to give stories like this attention, or to give attention to people who try to elude responsibility for eluding stupid sentiments or innuendo by declaring that they were “just joking,” as if humor is a genre that has no standards whatsoever. But the substance of this particular rumor strikes me as interesting and important. The idea that Obama must be having an affair with Knowles-Carter comes from a significant and damaging idea: that men and women can’t be friends.

I’m not really sure what evidence was supposed to exist to support the idea that the Obamas’ marriage was cooling, that President Obama was infatuated with Knowles-Carter, or that she in any way reciprocated his supposed affection. Was it that the couples have done some socializing, and that Knowles-Carter has performed as part of both of Obama’s inaugurations? That Obama and Knowles-Carter’s heads have been captured in the same news wire shots, because we all know how candid photos magically capture the deepest secrets of our souls, rather than simply recording our random facial expressions? That Knowles-Carter is to our present moment what Prince was to the 1980s, and we are all inexorably succumbing to her sexual thrall?

Mostly, I think the rumor comes from the idea that heterosexual men and women are on some genetic level incapable of being friends.  Never mind that Knowles-Carter’s latest album  is a raunchy celebration marital love and sex that brings in her husband on a guest verse to attest to how much fun they have together. Never mind that the Obamas seem perfectly happy together, and to enjoy the time they spend in each other’s company. It just seems impossible for some people to believe that President Obama could admire Knowles-Carter for her formidable talent while feeling no particular need to elbow her husband, Jay-Z, out of the picture. And according to this vision of gender relations, Knowles-Carter, presented with the leader of the free world, wouldn’t be able to resist getting her claws into him, no matter what her relationship to her husband has meant to her in the past.

It’s awful to think that relationships between men and women don’t involve any free will, or ability to grasp complexity, but instead are subject to biological and sexual determination. On a personal level, this sort of suspicion can curtail promising friendships between men and women, and risks poisoning marital and romantic relationships by making straight couples horribly anxious about each other’s opposite-gender friends. If all heterosexual women and all heterosexual men are constantly out to seduce each other, it’s hard to imagine double dating, or long-time couples building sustainable friendships with other couples.

And in mass media, it renders relationships between men and women awfully predictable, though in recent years, we’ve seen some valuable pushback in this area. One of the things that makes FX’s The Bridge stand out, despite other first season missteps, is the fact that it’s managed to build two friendships and partnerships between men and women. Though even that show’s lacked the confidence to do so without putting up obvious barriers to romances between the couples, rather than simply trusting them to sell the value their friendships and professional collaborations. Reporters Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) aren’t a possible romantic pairing because she’s a lesbian, and Detectives Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz seem unlikely to get together because of her presence somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Parks and Recreation has acted with more confidence in this space. It never made sense that overeager Parks Department employee Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her libertarian boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) would have romantic sparks because their views of the world are too fundamentally different (as distinct from the kind of manufactured clashes that so often drive pop cultural couples together). But their canny observations of each other’s strengths and weaknesses have made Leslie and Ron formidable allies to each other,particularly when they’re helping each other succeed in their romantic relationships. Ron, rather than a member of Leslie’s family, ends up giving her away at her wedding to Ben Watt. And Leslie is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect Ron from his ex-wives when he’s trying to begin a romance with a woman who might finally be a match for him.Parks and Recreation and Leslie and Ron’s relationship would both be poorer if the show had given in to men-and-women-can’t-be-friends determinism.

So let’s root for Barack and Michelle Obama and Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to stay friends. I suppose it’ll move magazine covers to suggest that both couples say in trouble. But it’s a lot more fun to imagine a world where the first couples of politics and popular music get to hang out, where Barack and Michelle get to give Jay-Z and Beyoncé parenting tips, where Malia and Sasha baby-sit Blue Ivy while all the adults hang out, where Barack asks Bey what he should do for Michelle on Valentine’s Day, and Jay-Z talks Michelle through what she might do when the Obamas leave the White House.

Those Media Hysterics Who Said Obama’s Presidency Was Dead Were Wrong. Again.

New Republic

It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.

All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies.

Still, it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with. What, you say, was there any question of that? Well, yes, there was – less than a month ago. On November 14, the New York Times raised the “K” word in a front-page headline:

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

A day later, Dana Milbank gave an even blunter declaration of doom in the Washington Post:

There may well be enough time to salvage Obamacare.

But on the broader question of whether Obama can rebuild an effective presidency after this debacle, it’s starting to look as if it may be game over.

And Ron Fournier, the same week, explained in National Journal that things were so grim for Obama because his presidency had reached a kind of metaphysical breaking point:

Americans told President Obama in 2012, “If you like your popularity, you can keep it.”

We lied.

Well, at least we didn’t tell him the whole truth. What we meant to say was thatObama could keep the support of a majority of Americans unless he broke our trust. Throughout his first term, even as his job-approval rating cycled up and down, one thing remained constant: Polls showed that most Americans trustedObama.

As they say in Washington, that is no longer operable.

Granted, finding overwrought punditry in Washington is about as difficult as hunting for game at one of Dick Cheney’s favorite preserves. Making grand declarations based on the vibrations of the moment is part of the pundit’s job description, and every political writer with any gumption is going to find himself or herself out on the wrong limb every once in a while. That said, this has been an especially inglorious stretch for Beltway hyperventilators. First came the government shutdown and the ensuing declamations about the crack-up of the Republican Party. Then, with whiplash force, came the obituaries for the Obama presidency. The Washington press corps has been reduced to the state of the tennis-watching kittens in this video, with the generic congressional ballot surveys playing the part of the ball flitting back and forth.

What explains for this even-worse-than-usual excitability? Much of it has to do with the age-old who’s-up-who’s down, permanent-campaign tendencies of the political media, exacerbated by a profusion of polling, daily tipsheets and Twitter. Overlaid on this is our obsession with the presidency, which leads us both to inflate the aura of the office and to view periods of tribulation as some sort of existential collapse. Add in the tendencies of even more serious reporters to get into a chew-toy mode with tales of scandal or policy dysfunction, as happened with the healthcare.gov debacle – the media has been so busy hyping every last aspect of the rollout’s woes that it did indeed start to seem inconceivable that things might get better soon.

But things did get better, as one should have been able to anticipate, given the resources and pressure that were belatedly brought to bear on the challenge. The fiasco took a real toll on the law and on the liberal project, for which Barack Obama bears real responsibility. But the end of a presidency? Take a deep breath, folks.

The sad thing about this spectacle isn’t even the predictable display of presentism. It’s the evident ignorance of the constitution and the basics of American politics. For the next three years, Obama will occupy the presidency, a position that comes with remarkable legal powers, especially now that he’s been partly liberated from the filibuster’s constraints. Washington columnists—the folks who presumably get paid to disseminate this kind of wisdom to the rubes beyond the Beltway—ought to know this better than anyone else, yet even as they fixate so much on the office’s aura, they are awfully quick to declare an administration defunct. News happens, and in the Oval Office, or the House majority, you always the ability to influence it, even when you don’t deserve it. Kind of like certain well-known writers I could name.

Health insurance plans owe $1.1 billion in rebates

The Washington Post

Millions of consumers and businesses will receive $1.1 billion in rebates this summer from health insurance plans that failed to meet a requirement of the new health-care law, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

That Affordable Care Act rule requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premiums on health-care claims and quality improvement initiatives. The other 20 percent is left for administrative costs and profits.

Health insurance plans that don’t hit that threshold will send a rebate to consumers to cover the difference.

There could, however, be one big hitch. If the Supreme Court overturns the health-care law — a decision that could come as early as Thursday morning — experts say those checks are unlikely to hit Americans’ mailboxes.

“If [the Supreme Court] says the law is unconstitutional, insurers couldn’t be forced to pay rebates based on unconstitutional laws,” said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

In a new report, the Obama administration found that 12.8 million Americans will receive rebates this year, with an average value of $151 per household.

Continue reading here…

Cantor: No Hurricane Emergency Funding W/O Spending Cuts – Democratic Underground

Think Progress

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene this weekend, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) today stood by his call that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere. The Washington Post reported this morning that FEMA will need more money than it currently has to deal with the storm’s aftermath and is already diverting funds from other recent disasters to deal with the hurricane, but Cantor’s comments suggest Republicans won’t authorize more funds without a fight.

Cantor took the position following the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri and elsewhere in the spring and summer, and after last week’s earthquake, the epicenter for which was in his district, but the hurricane’s level of destruction is far beyond that of those disasters. Still, Cantor told Fox News that while “we’re going to find the money,” “we’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to do so.”

Cantor referred a bill the Republican-controlled House passed that approves $1 billion in disaster relief, which was financed by a $1.5 billion cut from loan program to encourage the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. But the need in the wake of the hurricane will likelygreatly surpass $1 billion, and that spending package was supposed to be used for tornado recovery efforts, for which several hundred million dollars has already been outlayed.

Related articles

Report: Bachmann Aides Shove ABC’s Brian Ross

This is only July 2011.  At this rate how in the world will Bachmann’s campaign survive  to November 2012?

Think Progress 

Michele Bachmann’s relationship with the press has always been tense at best, but it spilled over into open conflict on Tuesday as aides to the Congresswoman allegedly shoved ABC reporter Brian Ross.

Ross was chasing after Bachmann after an event to ask about a Daily Caller story on her migraine condition. According to TIME’s Swampland blog, things went downhill from there:

“That’s when things got interesting. Ross dashed after Bachmann, repeatedly asking whether she had ever missed a House vote due to a migraine. She ignored him. Ross pursued her into a parking area behind the stage. Her aides grew alarmed. When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force. In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one. Ross was finally able to break away and lob his question at Bachmann one more time, but she ignored him again.Afterward, I asked Ross-a hard-nosed pro who nevertheless seemed slightly shaken-whether he’d ever been treated so roughly. “A few times,” he told me. “Mostly by mafia people.”

TPM reached out to Bachmann’s camp for comment and will post their response.

Update: ABC Vice President Jeffery Schneider condemned Bachmann’s behavior in an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. He added that ABC has footage of the incident and will likely post it on their website soon.

“He was certainly shoved around and pushed,” Schneider said. “It’s unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job.”

Second Update: The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake posted a response from Bachmann’s campaign on Twitter: “We didn’t have time for any questions and we made it clear … he disregarded repeated requests to stay back.”

 

Quoted: Piper Palin speaks out

The Washington Post

“Thanks for ruining our vacation.”

 — Piper Palin, 10, to a Time photographer, part of the media scrum following Sarah Palin’s is-it-an-exploratory-campaign-or-what PAC-financed bus touralong the East Coast.

 They grow up so fast! Read earlier: Reliable Source 2008 People of the Year: Piper Palin and Sasha Obama, 12/24/08

 

America Blog

Someone needs to explain to the Palin kids that they come in a distant second to mommy’s ego (even when they’re hours away from being born).

 

Haunting New Giffords Photo

The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet

49 Charges in Giffords Case

Staffers of wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords released a never-before-seen photo on Giffords’ Facebook page today depicting her just moments before being shot in the head. The photo shows Giffords doing what “she loves to do; talk to her constituents,” her staff said. In the picture, the Representative—who has lately shown rapid signs of a rapid recovery, including walking and talking, but still has a long way to go, doctors say—is talking to Jim and Doris Tucker outside the Tucson Safeway where she was attacked. On the same day, her alleged shooter Jared Loughner was indicted on 49 new counts by a federal grand jury.

 
 
Gaddafi’s Most Brutal Attack Yet

Is Libya locked in a bloody stalemate? Leader Muammar Gaddafi launched one of his most brutal attacks yet on Friday, attempting to maintain his grip on Tripoli and surrounding areas in what some rebels called a “bloodbath.” Meanwhile, the country’s Internet was completely shut down yesterday, new reports show. In the U.S., President Obama is receiving three briefings per day on the situation, the White House said, and is “appalled” at what he hears.   At least 37 people died on Friday night’s fighting alone and rebels say the number is closer to 50.

Read it at The Washington Post 

Wisconsin Democrat Tackled While Trying To Enter Capitol

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker upped the ante in his state’s tense union standoff on Friday night, issuing layoff warning notices to 13 unions. The notices “may be able to be rescinded,” Walker said, if the state’s Senate Democrats, who fled Wisconsin in protest, return. Meanwhile, a Democratic Assembly member was tackled by Capitol police Thursday night when he tried to enter the building, which had been closed to the public after weeks of protests. The Assembly member, Nick Milroy, called the situation at the Capitol an “armed-palace environment,” and said the guard knocked him to the ground before he was able to produce his identification card. Police closed the building Thursday night after a judge banned protesters from staying past business hours. 

  

 

Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point

The trial run of Open for Questions in the Whi...

Image via Wikipedia

The Washington Post

Federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year, driving up vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. The departures are increasing workloads dramatically and delaying trials in some of the nation’s federal courts.

The crisis is most acute along the southwestern border, where immigration and drug cases have overwhelmed court officials. Arizona recently declared a judicial emergency, extending the deadline to put defendants on trial. The three judges in Tucson, the site of last month’s shooting rampage, are handling about 1,200 criminal cases apiece.

“It’s a dire situation,” said Roslyn O. Silver, the state’s chief judge.

In central Illinois, three of the four judgeships remain vacant after two of President Obama’s nominees did not get a vote on the Senate floor.

Chief Judge Michael McCuskey said he is commuting 90 miles between Urbana and Springfield and relying on two 81-year-old “senior” judges to fill the gap. “I had a heart attack six years ago, and my cardiologist told me recently, ‘You need to reduce your stress,’ ” he said. “I told him only the U.S. Senate can reduce my stress.”

Since Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the president’s nominees. Experts blame Republican delaying tactics, slow White House nominations and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system. Six judges have retired in the past six weeks alone.

Senate Republicans and the White House are vowing to work together to set aside the divisions that have slowed confirmations, and the Senate on Monday approved Obama nominees for judgeships in Arkansas, Oregon and Texas. Eight more nominees are expected to receive votes in the coming weeks.   More…    See Graphic here…