Florida Sought To Disenfranchise College Students In 2012 Election, Lawmaker Admits

One can argue that admitting the game of voter disenfranchisement a  few months late is better than no admission at all…

Think Progress

Election Day in Florida became a nightmare due to several changes to election law, resulting in marathon lines and more provisional ballots. Now that the election is over, Florida Republicans are beginning to admit the mess was intended to suppress votes.

State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-FL) and GOP chair of Alachua County, Stafford Jones, cooked up one of Florida’s many new laws specifically to keep college students from voting in the 2012 election. The vote-suppressing measures were inspired by the 2010 victory of Gainesville’s first openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe, which Republicans claim was stolen by Florida college students.

Baxley’s law prevented people from voting if they did not change their address a month before Election Day. Many of the people affected were college students or young people who were moving for a new job. Jones explained this vote suppression was intentional and accused liberals of bringing in students to swing the election:

Baxley said Jones told him that voters from Tampa and other cities shifted their voter registrations to Gainesville for a day to vote in the city’s 2010 mayoral election in which Craig Lowe became the city’s first openly gay mayor by a 42-vote margin.

“It wasn’t right for people to move in and steal an election like that,” Baxley said.

Jones said he wanted the county transfer provision to keep college students from voting.

“The liberals do a good job of bringing in college kids to vote on local issues,” Jones said. “The kids vote on raising our taxes, but don’t have to live here to pay the consequences.”

Jones said he has no proof to support his claim, only recollections of liberal blog posts that people were moving to vote.

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida, one of the most diverse universities in the nation. College students tend to hold more liberal views, and favored President Obama by 30 percent this year. Disenfranchisement of students is a tried and true Republican tactic. During the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in June, election officials ruled that some student IDs were not eligible for voting and passed a law that made it harder for Wisconsin students to claim residency in the state.

Beyond hijinks at the local level, the Florida GOP admitted soon after the election that the goal of these new laws was always to keep Democratic voters away from the polls. Their efforts at voter suppression succeeded; the number of provisional ballots jumped an average of 25 percent in each county from last year.

Richard Engel and NBC News team freed from captors in Syria

This is the best news!


NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and members of his network production team were freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday, five days after they were taken prisoner, NBC News said early Tuesday.

“After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” the network said in a statement. The captors were unidentified.

Engel, 39, along with other employees the network did not identify, disappeared shortly after crossing into northwest Syria from Turkey on Thursday. The network had not been able to contact them until learning that they had been freed on Monday.

The network said there was no claim of responsibility, no contact with the captors and no request for ransom during the time the crew was missing.

After entering Syria, Engel and his team were abducted, tossed into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin. During their captivity, they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, the network said.

Early Monday evening local time, the prisoners were being moved to a new location in a vehicle when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued.  Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said.

The NBC News crew was unharmed in the incident. They remained in Syria until Tuesday morning when they made their way to the border and re-entered Turkey, the network said. They were to be evaluated and debriefed, but had communicated that everyone was in good health.

NBC News said it “expressed its gratitude to those who worked to gather information and secure the release of our colleagues.”

Engel is widely regarded as one of America’s leading foreign correspondents for his coverage of wars, revolutions and political transitions around the world over the last 15 years. Most recently, he was recognized for his outstanding reporting on the 2011 revolution in Egypt, the conflict in Libya and unrest throughout the Arab world.

One of the only Western journalists to cover the entire war in Iraq , Engel was named chief foreign correspondent of NBC News in April 2008. He joined the network in May 2003.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011, when demonstrators took to the streets to show support for the so-called Arab Spring uprisings sweeping across the Middle East and north Africa and to demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad of the ruling Ba’ath Party. The following month, Assad deployed the Syrian army to quell the uprising, ordering troops to open fire on demonstrators. But despite the harsh crackdown, Assad’s troops and militias loyal to the government were unable to quell what soon became an armed uprising.

In the intervening months, the security situation in the country has continued to deteriorate amid increasingly fierce fighting between Syrian troops and a loose confederation of outgunned but increasingly emboldened rebel forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated in November that more than 40,000 people had died in the fighting.

NRA goes on lockdown


The National Rifle Association is on lock-down in the wake of the massacre that left 20 children dead at a Connecticut elementary school Friday.

It’s shuttered its Facebook page. It’s silent on Twitter. It’s released no public statements on its website. It isn’t responding to media inquiries. And it hasn’t launched an aggressive push on Capitol Hill to shore up support among its allies.

The go-dark strategy is unusual for an elite interest group so deeply entwined in a national controversy — even for the NRA, which released condolence statements soon after past shootings, including this summer after a gunman killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

It’s also not the normal course of business for the NRA in Washington, where the powerful lobby has spent years building an arsenal of pro-gun lawmakers, an extensive grassroots network and a political money arm that has made gun-control legislation nearly untouchable.

But crisis communicators said the decision isn’t surprising considering the unique circumstances.

“I’m sure the NRA considers itself in a lose-lose situation regarding communications,” said Jonathan Bernstein, a crisis-management expert. “When there is that level of anti-gun outrage, there is literally nothing a pro-gun organization can say in the near term.”

Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist and president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, agreed.

“I’m sure what they would want to say is, ‘We’re so sorry; this is horrible,’ but if they said that, it would be viewed as it’s cynical for them to be saying such a thing,” Feldman said.

The NRA did not respond to an email and a phone call requesting comment.

How long they can stay silent is unclear. Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, has put the gun issue back on the national political stage.

The group also hasn’t been aggressive with allies on Capitol Hill, even as pro-NRA members like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have said there might need to be more gun control to prevent future shootings. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also said Monday that it is time to have a debate on the country’s gun laws. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, also came out publicly, apologizing for not speaking out on gun violence over the past six years. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has pledged to reintroduce the federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004.

Continue reading p.2 here…

Richard Engel is Missing in Syria; NBC News Enforces News Blackout

In my opinion, NBC News’ Richard Engel is the quintessential “foreign correspondent”.


NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has gone missing in Syria,according to Turkish news reports. The reports also say that Aziz Akyavaş, a Turkish journalist working with Engel, is unaccounted for. NBC News has been successfully keeping Engel’s status subject to a news blackout—one to which Gawker agreed until now—for at least the past 24 hours.

Turkish newspaper Hurriyet is reporting that Engel and Akyavaş were last known to be in Syria and haven’t been in contact with NBC News since Thursday morning. The news has been reported widely in the Turkish press over the past 24 hours, including by Turkish news channel NTV, which presents itself as an international partner of MSNBC. It’s also been widely distributed on Twitter.

But NBC News has been asking every reporter who inquires about the report to participate in a news blackout. It has also taken to Twitter and asked people who repeated the Turkish reports there to take them down. You can see here a screengrab of the Twitter account @NBCComm asking a Twitter user who had mentioned the reports to urgently call a cell phone number (that account has since been taken down).

NBC News declined to comment for the record about Engel’s whereabouts, but asked Gawker not to report what it characterized as “rumors” about Engel’s current status.

The Turkish reports have been referenced on Twitter by Slate’s David Weigel, Michelle Malkin, former MSNBC anchor David Shuster, and hundreds of others.

Continue reading here…