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Police: Cardinals RB Dwyer head-butted wife

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Police: Cardinals RB Dwyer head-butted wife
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was released from jail early Thursday after his arrest on aggravated assault charges in connection with two altercations at his home in July involving a woman and an 18-month-old child, the latest in a string of such cases involving NFL players.

Mexico boosts Los Cabos security after looting
LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) — Federal police on Thursday vowed to crack down on lawlessness and restore order in the hurricane-stricken resort area of Los Cabos after looting emptied store shelves and unnerved residents who worried their homes could be next.


Student poet: Obama reading my poems is “crazy”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Student poet: Obama reading my poems is “crazy”
Madeleine LeCesne, one of five National Student Poets named in 2014, participated in a poetry reading Thursday at the White House.

James Clapper says he misspoke, didn’t lie about NSA surveillance
The Director of National Intelligence defends what he called a “mistake” in his remarks about data collection


Conservative Media Cooks Up Outlandish Claim That Obama Admin. Is Racially Profiling Gun Owners

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Conservative Media Cooks Up Outlandish Claim That Obama Admin. Is Racially Profiling Gun Owners

Right-wing outlets are claiming that the Obama administration is using the standard form for federal gun background checks to engage in “racial profiling” and to find out “who has guns” because the form asks about race and ethnicity. But the form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.

People who buy firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Form 4473, which is processed by the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity.

In a September 16 article, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote that a 2012 revision of Form 4473 meant that “[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling.” According to Riddell, the change was made by the ATF “[w]ith little fanfare.”

But the previous version of Form 4473, issued in August 2008, also asked about race and ethnicity in question 10:

The change in the 2012 revision is that race and ethnicity were separated into questions 10.a. and 10.b.:

The Times story has been touted by Fox Nation, conspiracy website WND, Newsmax, and The Week.


I’m Living Large, but It’s an Illusion

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

I’m Living Large, but It’s an Illusion
Steve Chapman, RealClearPolitics
A few months ago I made a trip to attend my daughter Isabelle’s commencement at an institution of higher learning. Having no apparel to signify my investment in this particular school, I entered the bookstore and found a shirt emblazoned with its name. Too impatient to try the shirt on, I eyeballed the medium and the large and decided the medium would fit. When I got it home, of course, I found it didn’t. It was a bit short and a bit snug. I should have gone with the large. So it’s official: Appearances notwithstanding, I’m a big man. _This claim will elicit disbelieving chortles from my…

‘No’ leads in Scottish referendum

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

‘No’ leads in Scottish referendum
The campaign to keep Scotland in the UK takes the most votes so far in the independence referendum, with fewer than 10 councils set to declare.

MP Hancock resigns from Lib Dems
Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, who had faced allegations he sexually assaulted a constituent, resigns from the party.

At-a-glance: Referendum night
An at-a-glance guide to the Scottish independence referendum results night.


World Briefing: Mali: Bomb Kills 5 U.N. Peacekeepers

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

World Briefing: Mali: Bomb Kills 5 U.N. Peacekeepers
A roadside bomb in northern Mali killed five United Nations peacekeepers and wounded several others, a United Nations spokesman said.






U.S. Faces Tough Struggle on Ground to Oust ISIS
The next phase of the American strategy against the Islamic State has been described as “extraordinarily complex,” and involves training and coordinating airstrikes with Iraqi forces.






High Turnout in Tight Vote as the Result Is Awaited
The ballot count has been careful and slow, with early word suggesting that the movement for Scotland to remain part of Britain was ahead.






Security Council Unanimously Passes Ebola Resolution
The resolution declared the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa a threat to international peace and security.






Ebola Presents Challenge, and an Opportunity, for U.N. Leader
For Ban Ki-moon, in his seventh year leading the United Nations, Ebola represents a crucial test — but also an opportunity to lead the global response in fighting the outbreak.







Punditry and Predictions: Scotland’s No Vote: A Loss for Pollsters and a Win for Betting Markets

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Punditry and Predictions: Scotland’s No Vote: A Loss for Pollsters and a Win for Betting Markets
Prediction markets give much more reliable forecasts than pollsters, as do surveys of what voters expect will happen.






Florida Man Fatally Shoots Daughter and 6 Grandchildren
After exchanging words with a deputy who had arrived at the shooting scene, the man, Don Charles Spirit, killed himself.







Millions Of Women Don’t Have To Pay A Dollar When They Pick Up Their Birth Control

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Millions Of Women Don’t Have To Pay A Dollar When They Pick Up Their Birth Control

Under Obamacare, the number of women who aren’t charged for the pill has jumped by 450 percent.

The post Millions Of Women Don’t Have To Pay A Dollar When They Pick Up Their Birth Control appeared first on ThinkProgress.

birth control

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Under the health care reform law’s contraceptive provision, an increasing number of privately insured women aren’t being charged a co-pay for the birth control service of their choice, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers say their data reflects the fact that Obamacare is effectively expanding access to affordable contraception.

Guttmacher researchers have been tracking the impact of Obamacare’s expanded birth control coverage for the past two years. Their new results are based on responses from nearly 2,000 women between the ages of 18 and 39 who participated at each interval of the longitudinal study. They found a substantial increase in the proportion of women benefiting from no-cost contraception between the fall of 2012, right before the health law began taking effect, and the spring of 2014.

For instance, the number of women who don’t have to pay an additional co-pay for the pill has risen from 15 percent to 67 percent — an increase of nearly 450 percent:

birth control co pay

CREDIT: Guttmacher Institute

Similar increases were evident for women choosing other contraceptive options, like the shot and the ring. The final number of IUD users is based on combined data for spring 2013, fall 2013, and spring 2014 because only a small number of the women surveyed use that method.

“That these benefits continue to accrue so quickly is remarkable, and shows that the contraceptive coverage guarantee is meeting a real demand,” Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at Guttmacher and the lead author of the new study, said in a statement. “Its impact will only continue to grow as its protections are phased in.”

As more insurance plans lose their “grandfathered” status and adopt Obamacare’s new coverage requirements, even more women will become eligible for no-cost birth control.

However, there’s a chance that some people may not be able to access these benefits depending on where they work. Religious employers continue to push back against this particular provision — and, thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, some for-profit companies are now allowed to drop coverage for the birth control methods they object to. That’s opened the door for more lawsuits against Obamacare, and it’s unclear how they will end up impacting women’s access to coverage.

This has created an environment in which some women remain confused about whether their insurance plans should be offering them birth control without a co-pay. Several advocates have stepped up to help. Planned Parenthood set up a hotline that allows people to seek assistance if they’re confused about how the Hobby Lobby decision affects them. The National Women’s Law Center offers step-by-step instructions for women to ask their insurance providers whether their plan includes this Obamacare benefit. And more recently, after an apparent computer glitch started triggering pharmacies to incorrectly charge women co-pays for their birth control, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) sent a letter to CVS demanding a fix so that women don’t end up getting stuck with a bill they shouldn’t be paying.

While conservative opponents to the law often claim that Obamacare gives women “free birth control,” that’s not entirely accurate. The women benefiting from this provision are accessing birth control through their employer-sponsored health insurance plans, which is a benefit directly tied to their job. Women do pay for the benefits included in those policies, both by working for their employer and by paying a monthly premium. Meanwhile, the low-income women who don’t have jobs that include insurance benefits are still struggling to get the contraception they need.

The post Millions Of Women Don’t Have To Pay A Dollar When They Pick Up Their Birth Control appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Meet The State Department Team Trying To Troll ISIS Into Oblivion

The people at the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications are fighting ISIS on Twitter, Facebook, and the dark places of the internet.

The post Meet The State Department Team Trying To Troll ISIS Into Oblivion appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Al Hayat Media, the English language media arm of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), has become known for high quality videos that put U.S. pundits and lawmakers on edge. A new video was just published on Tuesday, a slick movie trailer called “Flames of War” that seems to mock the U.S.’ hesitance to put ground combat troops into play in Iraq.

ISIS has Al Hayat Media. The United States has the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC).

Based inside the State Department, a team of around 50 people man the Center, working on its own set of videos, images for sharing on Facebook, tweets, anything to blunt the spread of extremist communcations on social media. The concept behind the Center was first born in 2010 out of a desire to, rather than just ignoring the messaging that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups published, actually counter their message with one of our own.

In 2011, the president signed Executive Order 13584, establishing the Center and its mission. Since then, the body has become best known for its “Think Again, Turn Away” campaign, which seeks to convince potential jihadis that enlisting in the ranks of ISIS or al-Qaeda is a terrible choice. As Mother Jones put it in an article on the shop earlier this year, the goal is to actively troll would-be terrorists and their recruiters.

From the start, the U.S. was “way behind the curve,” one senior State Department official told ThinkProgress, compared to how widespread al-Qaeda’s message was on the Internet by the time the CSCC was founded. The level of sophistication at play in ISIS’ media packages has drawn negative comparisons with what the CSCC has managed to put out. In the case of ISIS, the official continued, the focus has been on the quality and quantity of the messaging that the militant group has produced. “It’s the Cadillac of terrorist propaganda. The Rolls Royce,” the official said, but what makes ISIS’ videos effective isn’t the medium, but rather the message.

That message, in the State Department’s view, can be broken down into three components: tapping into a deep-seated sense of grievance and persecution among Muslims, particularly as the civil war in Syria continues; an assurance that ISIS actually has the ability to right the wrongs others have imposed on the community, recruiting young men and women to join the movement and dirty their hands; and harnessing the religious aspect of their cause, promoting the rise of the caliphate and a sense of inevitability.

That’s where the CSCC comes in. “The US government has to contest these kinds of [jihadist] messages, because what was happening prior to this was nothing,” Will McCants, a former State Department official who dealt with strategic messaging and is now at the Brookings Institute, told Mother Jones. “Recruiters would recruit with impunity. When I started, the thinking was, ‘We don’t dignify this stuff with a response.’ Well, that makes sense if you’re President Obama or secretary of state. That’ll just drive traffic to it. But at least this way, we’re offering some American perspective and shooting down some of the more egregious examples. It’s targeted at blunting the recruitment pitches online.”



Not everything has been a success, the official noted, and some attempts have been outright flops. Humor in particular has been difficult to convey, he said. He also pointed to the English-version of a video his shop produced called “Caravan of Martyrs,” which at present only has 16,000 views on YouTube — a less than impressive number given the effort put into making the video.

Those sorts of numbers are a headache for the shop, which collects and promotes metrics on the number of likes, shares, and tweets items receive to show that their work is being viewed, but are notoriously unreliable in terms of measuring just what impact the work actually has. For example, the graphic video the State Department released in an attempt to show the persecution of its fellow Muslims that ISIS indulges stands out as a stark example of the difficulty those measurements can cause. Per YouTube, that video has been watched more than 700,000 times. But the State Department estimates that of those, only maybe 1 percent was the video’s target audience, with the vast majority likely journalists writing about the video. “These aren’t meant for a mass audience, but instead a very niche audience,” the official said.

The CSCC also takes offense when critics focus on the Center’s English output and ignore its Arabic output. It wasn’t until late last year that the program began to move into producing English-language content, with its focus on first Arabic, then Punjabi, Urdu, and Somali. Until August 1st, the English-language desk only had one person producing all of the content. There are now two people working on the project’s English component.

The State Department's Arabic-language take on

The State Department’s Arabic-language take on “First they came for…”

CREDIT: State Department

One example of the Arabic language outreach that State highlighted for ThinkProgress was a banner created to be shared on Facebook, with their spin on Pastor Martin Niemöller’s classic poem “First they came…” Rather than the socialists and Jews, the banner reads that the unnamed menace first came for the Shiites and Christians. The banner reached “This reached at least 232,320 people, which was a new record at the time for CSCC, with most of the readers being Iraqis,” the State Department said in an email. And the Arabic language-version of the “Caravan of Martyrs” video has closer to 43,000 views, the official said, demonstrating the perils of using things like clicks and views as metrics of success without looking to the whole of the Center’s output.

As ISIS ramps up, though, the CSCC’s critics are getting more vocal. Rita Katz, founder of SITE, a website devoted to tracking jihadi communications online, on Tuesday wrote an op-ed on TIME’s website calling the “Think Again, Turn Away” program “embarrassing” and hitting out at it for engaging with low-level jihadis and supporters. “Thirteen years into the war on terror, it is distressing to see certain ways the U.S. government is combating domestic radicalization by groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State,” Katz wrote. “The account regularly (engages) in petty disputes with fighters and supporters of groups like IS (also known as ISIS), Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab, and (argues) over who has killed more people while exchanging sarcastic quips.”



When shown the Katz article, the State Department official was dismissive, labeling it as being in line with others who would prefer to ignore the online world where ISIS supporters thrive. “You see an evil, you see a poison, you have to counter it,” he said, adding that the content being produced wasn’t for the jihadis, but for those listening in. “There’s a mindset of ‘we’re not going to deign answer them’,” he said, but “you have to answer the adversary.”

But the main problem the CSCC’s Digital Outreach Team’s efforts face, and the focus of many of the critiques of the program, is that trying to measure a negative — such as “How many people didn’t sign up with terrorist groups thanks to our efforts?” — is nearly impossible. Also, a study on U.S. digital outreach conducted in 2012 found that efforts up until that point had little demonstrable impact of the conversations taking place. “Four percent of posts expressed positive views of the outreach, and 4.8 percent expressed positive views of American foreign policy,” Mother Jones noted.

Instead, the State Department is relying foremost, like the best trolls on the Internet, on just how much they get under their adversaries skin to determine if their messaging is effective. One instance that pleased the CSCC was an effort last year to silence the State Department’s accounts. A mirror image of their account called @Al_Bttaar was created in 2013 to counter the U.S.’ counter-messaging.

“The day after @Al_Bttaar’s inaugural tweets, the group organized its first Twitter ‘raid,’ an effort to take down the State Department’s account,” Foreign Policy reported at the time. “The method was pretty simple: Just click the “report” button multiple times until a Twitter administrator removes the account.” The effort failed and the original account is no longer active. But the aggressive style of the group lives on in a bevy of other accounts like “@al_bttaar88″ and “@al_bttaar99.”

That resurrection, even as Twitter and other social media platforms selectively target ISIS’ accounts, shows that there will be no shortage of targets for the Center’s outreach efforts. It remains uncertain whether these long-term efforts to end the threat that ideologies like those of ISIS and al-Qaeda pose will be successful or just screams into the dark void that is the Internet.

The post Meet The State Department Team Trying To Troll ISIS Into Oblivion appeared first on ThinkProgress.


What the US Could Learn From Scotland’s Anti-Austerity Independence Vote

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

What the US Could Learn From Scotland’s Anti-Austerity Independence Vote
From: John Nichols

Thursday’s independence referendum in Scotland offers a lesson on how to run a high-stakes, high-turnout election.

What to Do While You Wait for Darren Wilson to Be Acquitted
From: Mychal Denzel Smith

Forty days after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, America’s “justice system” continues to fail.

‘If I Were A Scotchman I Too Should Be Conceited’: Henry James and Others on Scotland
From: Back Issues

A century and a half of writing on the always-possibly-imminent break-up of the United Kingdom.


Gore: Climate Skepticism Will Haunt Republicans

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Gore: Climate Skepticism Will Haunt Republicans
Ben Geman, Natl Jrnl
Al Gore says Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 are in a bind on climate change.Asked if it would hurt the GOP nominee to be a climate skeptic or advocate against taking action on global warming, Gore replied: “Oh, yes. Definitely.”

Obama’s Year of Action Becomes Year of Fear
James Oliphant, Natl Jrnl
President Obama’s “Year of Action” has turned into a Year of Fear. The country seems mired in dread. And that could have mortal consequences for midterm Democrats.New polls out this week betray a rattled public, one that is jittery about war, security, and the economy—and one that is increasingly looking to the GOP, not the party in power. Even as the White House has sought to reassure Americans that the campaign in Iraq will be limited, that the president isn’t going to act alone on immigration in the near future, and that the economy is doing better, the damage appears to be done.

Obama Is Defying the Constitution on War
George Will, Washington Post
The United States last declared war many wars ago, on June 5, 1942, when, to clarify legal ambiguities during a world conflagration, it declared war on Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Today’s issue is not whether to declare war but only whether the president should even seek congressional authorization for the protracted use of force against the Islamic State.

The GOP Peaked Too Soon
Brent Budowsky, The Hill
The danger to a political party when pundits almost unanimously predict a nation-shaking victory for that party is that, quietly and thoughtfully, voters concerned about the future of their families and country ask themselves: Will we be better off if this party wins complete control of Congress?