10 things you need to know today: March 3, 2015

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The Week

1.Netanyahu says he means no disrespect to Obama with speech
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his Tuesday speech to Congress was not intended to be a show of disrespect to President Obama, but that he felt a “moral obligation” to speak out against Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu was invited by Republican leaders who control Congress, not by Obama, in what the White House has called a breach of diplomatic protocol. The president has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during the trip, because that could be seen as interference in Israel’s looming elections.

Source: Reuters

2.Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account at State Department
During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account, rather than a government one, The New York Timesreports. This may have violated the Federal Records Act, which requires preserving officials’ emails on department servers so Congress, journalists, and historians can find them, with some exceptions for sensitive material. Clinton’s advisers gave 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, and a spokesman said she is adhering to the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced Monday that she would not seek reelection in 2016, ending a congressional career that has spanned 10 years in the House and 30 years in the Senate. Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, rose to the powerful position of Senate Appropriations Committee chair before losing the position when Republicans took over control of the Senate this year.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

4.Judge rules Nebraska’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional
A federal judge on Monday struck down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment to the state’s constitution to outlaw gay marriage in 2000. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled in favor of several plaintiffs who challenged the ban, but he put his decision on hold pending the hearing of an appeal Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R) filed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has similar cases in Missouri, Arkansas, and South Dakota before it.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Georgia delays woman’s execution
Georgia halted the execution of the state’s only female death-row inmate on Monday, due to problems with the lethal combination of drugs with which she was to be injected. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was condemned to die for plotting with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband in 1997. She was scheduled to become the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945. The Georgia Supreme Court turned down her request for a stay, but prison officials delayed the execution because the drugs appeared cloudy.

Source: Reuters

6.Thieves steal $4 million in gold from truck in N.C.
Three men stole three barrels of gold valued at $4 million from a truck in North Carolina, authorities said Monday. The truck’s two security guards, who worked for the Miami firm Transvalue, said they pulled over on Interstate 95 due to mechanical trouble on the way from Miami to Massachusetts. The three armed men pulled up in a white van and made the guards lie down, then bound their hands behind their backs and left them in the woods. The robbers then took the gold and fled.

Source: NBC News

7.ISIS threatens Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey
Islamic State militants on Monday threatened to kill Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey because the microblogging service has blocked ISIS-linked accounts. A message posted online also threatened Twitter with “real war.” The threat was posted on Pastebin and attributed to ISIS, although its authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Twitter said it had contacted authorities and that its security team was investigating the threats.

Source: PC Magazine

8.Mommy blogger Lacey Spears convicted in her son’s death
Parenting blogger Lacey Spears was convicted Monday of second degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old son, Garnett. The child died in January 2014 after high levels of sodium in his system led to swelling of his brain. Prosecutors said Garnett poisoned her son by injecting salt through a feeding tube, calling it “torture” she did for attention as she blogged about his health problems. Defense attorneys said there was no evidence against Spears, 27. She faces 15 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in April.

Source: The Journal News

9. Clinton’s portrait included reference to Monica Lewinsky scandal, artist says
The artist who painted President Clinton’s portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., told Philly.com that the work includes a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The painter, Nelson Shanks, said he included a shadow in the image meant to have been cast by Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress. Shanks said it was “a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” cast by Clinton’s affair with his then-intern.

Source: Philly.com, U

10.Google confirms plan to start small wireless service
Google plans to offer a small-scale wireless service, but it is designed to show off technological innovations rather than compete with the nation’s leading carriers, Google Android executive Sundar Pichai said at an industry conference in Barcelona. The move could complicate Google’s relationship with the big carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Google counts on them to promote Android phones, but its efforts to improve connections by tapping WiFi networks could reduce data traffic — and income — for carriers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

From POTUS to SCOTUS: Obama’s Big Move?

Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast

The president has always given off the sense that he doesn’t love the business of politics. So is Supreme Court justice a natural next step for him?

With the recent midterm results and his equally disastrous poll numbers, it’s hard to believe that President Obama hasn’t at least daydreamed about having another less demanding, less thankless job. And with two Supreme Court decisions on the horizon that could undo some of his most significant presidential legacies, it is even harder to believe he hasn’t daydreamed about one job in particular: being a Supreme Court Justice.

His clashes with Congress and increasing isolation seem to make it abundantly clear that President Barack Obama would rather play just about any game—including, or perhaps especially, golf—than politics. Yet he happens to have picked a line of work in which playing politics, or politicking as some call it, is just as much a part of the job requirements, as signing, or vetoing, a piece of legislation. So would President Barack Obama have been happier on the nation’s highest court than in the nation’s most recognizable house?

“I love the law, intellectually,” Obama said in a recent interview with The New Yorker, before saying “being a Justice is a little bit too monastic for me.” And yet that doesn’t change the fact that he might have ultimately had a greater impact on the issues he cares about as a member of the Supreme Court—and that being a justice might be a more natural fit with who he is as a person.

Every president hopes to have at least one signature accomplishment or issue his administration can be remembered for. President Obama was poised to have two: healthcare reform and significant advancement on LGBT rights, specifically same-sex marriage. But after a surprising vote from Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to give the Affordable Care Act a reprieve in 2012, the Court is now planning to review another key portion of the law, with a ruling scheduled to come down by June 2015. That ruling could leave millions of those currently benefiting from Obamacare without the necessary subsidies to stay insured, and set the groundwork for a larger dismantling of the law.

Last week, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on same sex marriage in four states, making it extremely likely the Supreme Court will soon decide that issue as well. From becoming the first sitting President to embrace same-sex marriage, to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, to using executive action to extend a host of federal benefits to same-sex couples, there are few issues that the Obama administration has been as heavily invested in terms of the President’s political capital than LGBT rights.

And yet, ultimately, the Supreme Court holds the power to upheld or undo what it has taken him years to accomplish.

It certainly cannot be an easy pill to swallow, working so hard to get to the White House only to find out that, despite what everyone tells all of us from the time we are children, the president actually isn’t the most powerful man in America. That title belongs to nine men and women who were not elected but whose word is, for lack of a better term, king.

But perhaps even more daunting for the President, and his supporters, is the fact that one of the greatest orators to ever occupy the White House seems to lack the personality for the job.

Let me be clear, as the president would say: Obama is telegenic and charming. (In one of the moments I chatted briefly with him he made a quip about my work that my mother still quotes to this day.) But it is clear he is not a man who is interested in having beers with people he is not genuinely interested in interacting with. He is the guy who hates small talk at large parties solely for the sake of networking, but would probably talk the ear off of a writer he admires at a small dinner party. That personality is not conducive to getting things done in Washington, at least not the Washington of today.

In his book The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies, Jonathan Alter devotes an entire chapter to the president’s lack of love for one of politics’ most cherished pastimes: schmoozing. “No doubt President Obama is definitely less comfortable schmoozing than President Clinton was,” Keith Boykin, a CNBC Contributor who worked in the Clinton White House and was a law school classmate of President Obama’s told me. But he also added, “From my recollection in the Clinton administration, the White House can be very isolating for any president, even those who are very sociable by nature.”

Despite Obama’s schmooze-aversion, Alter argues that the president’s own record indicates he might not fare quite so comfortably on the Supreme Court. Alter noted that during his days as a law professor at the University of Chicago, “Instead of settling in as a professor—and he could have easily won tenure—he chose to stay a part-time lecturer so he could run for elective office and be a politician. During that time, he didn’t write a single scholarly law review article, only political pieces or book reviews for local publications.”

He also said the President disliked being 1 of 100 in the Senate, and would go batty “being cooped up in the Supreme Court, which is a bad place for a restless guy like him.”

Although it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he could one day have a chance to find out how Obama would fair as a Justice. And there is a precedent: William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court eight years after failing to be re-elected to a second term as president.

“I think President Obama would make an excellent Supreme Court justice,” Boykin said. “It’s not too late. He’s still a relatively young man in judicial terms and could follow in the tradition of William Howard Taft. President Hillary Clinton could appoint him to the Supreme Court if she wanted to do so.”

But, of course, President Clinton confirming a Justice Obama might require electing a far different Congress than the one President Obama has struggled to work with.

White House Goes Into Bunker Mode

Today begins the last full week before the midterm elections…

Daily Beast

As the GOP prepares for landslide in November (The Daily Beast’s Election Oracle forecasts a 50/50 split in the Senate and a substantial Republican lead in the House), the Obama team seems powerless to stop it. Howard Kurtz on its fascinating belief that the bully pulpit has been downsized, forcing the leader of the free world to shout for attention.

Imagine if the Chilean mining disaster had happened here in the States. President Obama would have been hammered for 69 days for failing to rescue the men, right up to the moment the first one was pulled to safety.

That’s the sensibility inside the White House these days: If there’s a bad story out there, even one far removed from the presidential orbit, the Obama crowd will own it. Every administration feels besieged at times, pilloried by the press, misunderstood by the public. But conversations with White House officials suggest a team that feels almost snakebit during a midterm election that is likely to produce substantial losses.

“There’s an alternative story here that we’re trying to tell,” says Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director. “But there’s an element of spitting in the ocean.”

During the long election slog, “a narrative takes hold, and trying to beat those narratives can be challenging and frustrating,” he says. “Some of the news coverage is focused on more of the negatives and few of the positives. But I don’t think that’s surprising, given the environment.”

Obama certainly bears responsibility for a wide range of missteps and a perverse talent for turning winning (on the Hill) into losing (in the court of public opinion). But what’s fascinating is the belief that the bully pulpit has been permanently downsized, forcing the leader of the free world to shout for attention in a cacophonous world.

It sounds absurd: Obama can instantly command attention any time he wants. He can pop onto the Today show, plop himself on Jay Leno’s couch, get himself on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, chat up the kids on MTV, diagram basketball brackets on ESPN. This week he’ll drop by The Daily Show and match wits with Jon Stewart. Everything he says is news.   Continue reading…