Occupy Wall Street protesters are planning to ramp up activities with the return of warm weather, now focusing on the 2012 elections. Yesterday, hundreds of protesters returned to Zuccotti Park in New York City for the six month anniversary of the beginning of the movement, leading to dozens of arrests when police broke up the demonstration.
“In the latest sign of the government’s gradual retreat from financial-crisis-related programs,” the Treasury Department is expected to announce today that taxpayers reaped a $25 billion profit on mortgage bonds purchased at the height of the meltdown. The bonds were part of the government’s assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and “the profit is the Treasury’s biggest for any program” from the 2008-2009 interventions.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians, is set to be charged for the recent massacre, and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. He is currently being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants the names of people who purchase political ads and the cost of those ads to be published online, but some broadcasters are fighting the move, saying it would be a burden for them. The information is currently maintained by local stations, but not easily accessible to the public.
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission formally filed ethics violation allegations against embattled Republican state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who reportedly put his hands on the neck of a colleague.
President Obama raised $45 million in February for his re-election effort and for the Democratic National Committee, up from $29.1 million in January.
Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rican primary on Sunday, helping to solidify his lead in the delegate count over Rick Santorum. Romney is expected to claim all 20 of the territory?s delegates. The Romney campaign is hoping the victory will provide momentum heading into Tuesday?s Illinois primary, where 69 delegates are at stake.
Gas prices have become a key talking point on the campaign trail, with all of the Republican presidential candidates hitting President Obama for rising costs. But studies show that while voters are concerned about the cost of fuel, the issue plays very little role in determining who voters will ultimately support.
And finally: Grand Forks Herald restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty’s glowing review of The Olive Garden may earn her a dinner with Michelle Obama if Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has his way. “Conrad took it upon himself to broker a lunch” between the first lady and the elderly food critic, whose review of the chain restaurant went viral and landed her spots on talk shows.
Publicly and privately, American intelligence officials express confidence in the spy agencies? assertions. Still, some acknowledge significant intelligence gaps in understanding the intentions of Iran?s leaders and whether they would approve the crucial steps toward engineering a bomb. [...]
American intelligence analysts still believe that the Iranians have not gotten the go-ahead from Ayatollah Khamenei to revive the program.
?That assessment,? said one American official, ?holds up really well.?
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported in January that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) concurs with this assessment, and the Times quoted an American official confirming that report:
?Their people ask very hard questions, but Mossad does not disagree with the U.S. on the weapons program,? said one former senior American intelligence official, who, like others for this article, would speak only on the condition of anonymity about classified information. ?There is not a lot of dispute between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.?
And the AP reports today that Israeli intelligence and defense officials have also confirmed this view:
Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran. The officials, who are privy to intelligence and to the discussion about the Iranian program, said this is the prevailing view in the intelligence community, but there are also questions about whether Tehran might be hiding specific bomb making operations.
Yet, Israelis also agree with U.S. intelligence and the IAEA that Iran is moving toward a nuclear weapons capability. The Israeli officials’ concern, the AP reports, “is about allowing the Iranian program to reach the point where there is enough enriched weapons grade material that a bomb could quickly be assembled, within a year.”
President Obama shares these concerns as well. In a recent speech, Obama ruled out a policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, warning that an Iranian bomb posed a threat to the U.S. and its allies, as well as the international non-proliferation regime. But at this point the Obama administration believes that a diplomatic end to the crisis is ?best and most permanent way? to end the standoff.
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green?s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we?re reading. What are you?
Records continue to fall during Chicago’s mid-March heat wave, as temperatures reached 80 degrees for the fifth straight day, and could continue the “extreme and unprecedented” streak through Wednesday. [Daily Herald]
Today, schools look to the sun as a viable energy resource to cut into increasing power costs. [Columbus Dispatch]
Record high temperatures were reported across upstate New York on Sunday. [AP]
Greece is seeking to export power generated by solar panels before 2015, Manager Magazin reported, citing Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou. [Bloomberg]
A winter storm and high winds struck parts of Arizona and New Mexico on Sunday, causing hazardous driving conditions, power outages and school cancellations. [Christian Science Monitor]
A Brazilian court on Saturday barred 17 executives from Chevron and Transocean from leaving Brazil, pending criminal charges related to a high-profile oil spill last November. [Reuters]
Authorities lifted an evacuation order for a Colorado town of 300 late Sunday night after firefighters contained most of a wildfire on the state’s northeastern plains.
President Barack Obama’s administration is expected to throw its weight behind U.S. solar panel producers on Tuesday in their battle against lower-priced imports from China that they say threaten the future of the industry in the United States. [Chicago Tribune]
Collapsing natural gas prices have yielded an unexpected boon for North Dakota’s shale oil bonanza, easing a shortage of fracking crews that had tempered the biggest U.S. oil boom in a generation. [Chicago Tribune]
Scores of United Kingdom environmental regulations are to be slashed under government plans to be announced later today, the Guardian has learned. [Business Green]
Elected officials and policymakers should not let public-opinion polls decide our nation’s future response to climate change. [Seattle Times]
New Jersey Democratic lawmakers announced last Thursday their revived attempt to pass a bill that would re-enter the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. [Daily Targum]
The developer of a small wind farm in western Massachusetts wants state regulators to rework last month?s Nstar merger settlement, saying its project is as ?worthy? as Cape Wind and would help Gov. Deval Patrick reach his lofty green-energy goals. [Boston Herald]
A bipartisan duo in Alabama will introduce legislation to repeal an antiquated 1992 sex education law, which requires teachers to teach children that homosexuality is illegal and stipulates that ?abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard.? State Rep. Patricia Todd (D) — the state’s first openly-gay legislator — is teaming up with Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin to eliminate the measure:
Teachers must emphasize ?that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense,? the law states. [...]
The entire 1992 sex education law, however, is reprinted in an appendix to the Course of Study. Malissa Valdes, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Education, said there?s no way of knowing whether schools are observing the letter of that law. ?We?re not in the classroom every day, so we don?t know how the Course of Study is implemented everywhere,? she said.
Todd had proposed a bill that would have repealed “the homosexuality-is-illegal wording from the law,” but the measure did not gain traction. She is hopeful that striking the entire 1992 statute, however, could attract the support of more Republicans who oppose state regulation and mandates in education curricula.
Interestingly, McClurkin is a long-time member of the social conservative Eagle Forum, which was “a key proponent of the sex education law when it was passed in 1992.”
Liberian law currently classifies “voluntary sodomy” as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and if President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — a Noble prize winner — has her way, the country will maintain its anti-gay policies, despite the global community’s call for the decriminalization of homosexuality.
During a joint interview with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sirleaf reiterated her support for the current restrictions and said, “We like ourselves just the way we are.” Blair — a long-time supporter of equality for gays and lesbians — winced uncomfortably at Sirleaf’s answers:
SIRLEAF: We’re not going to sign any such law [to decriminalize homosexuality] … I won’t sign any law that has to do with that area. None what so ever. We like ourselves just the way we are….We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we’d like to preserve.
Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on nations around the world to treat gay rights as human rights, while the United Nations and the UK have similarly urged African countries to repeal their antiquated anti-gay laws. But rather than toning down the rhetoric, lawmakers in Libera have introduced two bills that would “make a person guilty of a second-degree felony if he or she ‘seduces, encourages or promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities’” and “would make gay marriage a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.” Activists also report “at least six homophobic attacks in the capital, Monrovia” in the last six months.
Sirleaf predicted that the mesures won’t make it through the legislature.
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New York Times
EDITORIAL DESK September 14, 2002, Saturday
Never Forget What?
By FRANK RICH (NYT) 1538 words
Late Edition - Final, Section A, Page 15, Column 1
"....Candor is so little prized in Washington that you want to shake the hand of anyone who dares commit it. So cheers to Andrew Card, the president's chief of staff, for telling The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller the real reason that his boss withheld his full-frontal move on Saddam Hussein until September: 'From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.' Mr. Card has taken some heat for talking about a war in which many may die as if it were the rollout of a new S.U.V. But he wasn't lying, and history has already proved him right. This campaign has been so well timed and executed that the new product already owns the market. The unofficial motto of the 9/11 anniversary may have been 'Never forget,' but by 9/12, if not before, the war on Al Qaeda was already fading from memory as the world was invited to test-drive the war on Iraq...."
March 20, 2003
[....] and I left Warrensburg at 4:30 p.m. and made it to the J.C. Nichols fountain at 47th and Main in Kansas City by 5:30 p.m. The organizers had planned for some time to have a 6:00 p.m. protest on the Plaza if hostilities broke out. I had been ambivalent about attending given the ugly rhetoric which is now being directed at those who dissent by the purveyors of right wing talk radio, cable television, and "yellow journalism". We had to do something positive and affirming rather than sit at home watching the crap on television which passes for real journalism these days, so we were finally resolved to attend. As we drove up to the fountain we saw that people were already on the picket line and the TV trucks and cameras were in abundance. At its peak we had 400 to 500 people.
It was overcast, cold and windy - temperature in the 40s. We took our place on the line. We had decided earlier to only bring our pacifist signs. "Peace on Earth", "In the Name of God, Stop Killing, In the Name of God", and my graphic peace sign - it's getting tattered from so much use...
Somewhat subdued, we quietly spoke on the line. My favorite new sign: "War is so 20th century". The response from passing traffic was overwhelmingly positive - a lot of honking and peace signs. One well pickled Republican matron rolled down her car window and asked, "Don't you people know the war has already started?" This kind of cluelessness shouldn't surprise me anymore. There were occasional pro-war shouts and one "bird", though I was surprised that they were not as ugly and aggressive as they were last Sunday - I suppose they're sated because they are getting their crappy little war.
We stood next to a veteran (there were many there tonight). We were joined by an old friend and several colleagues. After a while the organizers called us to the fountain. Some folk singers sang a witty and satirical "12 days of war" song. We had brought candles (and plastic cups as wind shields), so we lit them and stood listening to the music. The singers had us all join in singing "Peace, Shalom, Salaam". There were several speakers. In the most peaceful moment of the day for me, as we stood there with our candles, we were barely aware that a photographer from the Kansas City Star took our pictures (when he finished he asked for our names and where we were from, writing the information down). After the announcements were finished, the host marched through the Plaza shopping district.
The marchers stayed on the sidewalk, chanting in a call and response "Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like" and "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" As we marched into the Plaza we passed the glassed in front of one of those upscale dining establishments. Lo and behold, two older women were standing watching us and flashed us peace signs! We looped back around and passed several clothing establishments. Some people shopping in the stores or watching us from the doorways flashed peace signs.
After we made it back to the fountain we walked to our car for the hour long drive home.
We haven't forgotten.
Read The Full Article:
"Wheee! My Daddy issues are about to be resolved!" (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Public Policy Polling (PDF). March 17-18. Illinois likely Republican primary voters. ±4.4%. No trend.
Romney: 45According to the survey, Mitt Romney's lead in Illinois is solid. Not only is he enjoying a double-digit lead over Rick Santorum and closing in on an outright majority, if Newt Gingrich were to drop out, Romney would still hold an 11-point lead. So there won't be much drama in Illinois tomorrow night, barring an act of God.
Romney also has a 2-point lead in rural areas. That's notable because Illinois allocates its delegates by congressional districts, with the winner of each district taking three delegates. If Santorum is unable to close that gap, he might get shut out completely, giving Romney a huge delegate pickup opportunity.
Of course, if Santorum is unable to beat Mitt Romney in the popular vote in places like Illinois, the delegate math won't make a difference to Santorum's chances of winning the nomination because unless he wins the popular vote over the second half, he will have no claim to the nomination. Nonetheless, the more delegates Romney picks up, the better his chances of securing the nomination through voting and the less likely it is that he'll be forced to do a deal with Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich in order to get over the top.
Although Rick Santorum is still campaigning in Illinois today, he'll hold his primary party tomorrow night in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, no doubt reflecting his pessimism about Illinois and aiming to focus attention on his home state's April 24 primary. Newt Gingrich isn't campaigning at all and Ron Paul also isn't on the trail.
Mitt Romney's struggle to attract small dollar donors has been well documented. Just 10 percent of his money has come from donations of less than $200 with the vast majority of his money has come from nearly maxed out contributions. Even though Newt Gingrich lags by a wide margin in overall funding, he's managed to gather more money from small donors, $8.8 million to Romney's $6.4 million. The fundraising gap is large enough thanks to wealthy donors that Romney should be fine for the remaining primaries, but it could spell trouble for the general election. Romney has a smaller base of donors to turn to for further contributions and the tepid rate of small checks is an indication that Romney has failed to trigger much excitement among regular voters.
Now that's being flipped by The Washington Post, which ran an article speculating that Obama is in trouble by relying too much on small figure donors:
But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more ? a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.
I don't think the Obama campaign has any reason to be alarmed. He has outraised Romney and the other GOP candidates by wide margins to date and Romney has been forced to waste more money on this prolonged nomination fight than most expected at the start of the year. Obama's campaign announced this morning that it raised $45 million in February alone. The clip of donations will only increase once the Republican nomination is settled and it becomes a clearly defined head-to-head race. The person writing a $50 check in February will probably be responsive to calls for a a few more small donations money between now and November, and those untapped contributors are the bulk of Obama's supporters.
Romney won't have that luxury. He'll get a slight boost after the convention in August; the cap on individual contributions applies separately for the primary campaign and the general election, allowing Romney to call up those $2,500 donors for a bit more money, though many have kicked in to his general election fund alongside the primary campaign donations. Unless Romney can start anew and inspire an enthusiasm that has so far eluded his campaign, he'll have trouble broadening his base of support and the problem will repeat itself, except this time Romney will be facing the Obama fundraising juggernaut instead of the hapless efforts of Santorum and Gingrich.
Public Policy Polling (PDF). March 17-18. Illinois likely Republican primary voters. ±4.4%.
Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?Of course, President Obama is a Christian, he was born in the United States, and evolution is quite real. If you believe otherwise, you're either ignorant or hateful or both. (Well, to be fair, your belief?or lack thereof?in evolution doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not you are hateful.)
Not sure: 37
Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?
Was born in U.S.: 36
Not born in U.S.: 36
Not sure: 28
Do you believe in evolution, or not?
Believe in evolution: 41
Do not: 43
Not sure: 16
It's been fashionable in some circles to suggest that when PPP asked these questions of Alabama and Mississippi Republican primary voters, it was trying to trick Republican voters into saying mean things. If that's what you believe, then you also believe that Republican primary voters are incapable of answering the questions that PPP asked, the wording of which is presented above.
If you think Republican primary voters are incapable of correctly answering those questions despite knowing the correct answer, then you must believe that the people answering the questions are so full of hatred that they are willing to lie about what they believe. The only other option is that you believe they are fools. (Unless you too would have answered the question incorrectly.) But whatever your explanation for these answers may be, they reveal something about the Republicans who answered them?not the pollster who posed them.