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Democrats' lead fades in Colorado Senate race.

Democrats' lead fades in Colorado Senate race. Is state not so blue after all?

By Amanda Paulson

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall appears to be distancing himself from an unpopular president but may have miscalculated by focusing so much of his campaign on women and reproductive rights. 

One of the most watched elections in the country right now wasn't originally supposed to be competitive.

The outcome of the race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, could end up determining which party controls the Senate. Senator Udall's early leads in the polls have dwindled until, in the past month, nearly every poll has showed Representative Gardner holding a slim lead.

A year ago, most political observers assumed that Udall would have a relatively easy reelection in a state that has been trending blue for some years. But a combination of antipathy toward President Obama (and Washington incumbents generally), a challenger who is more moderate than some recent Republican candidates, and a seemingly one-note campaign by Udall – focusing on women and reproductive rights – has changed the dynamics.

"It’s close, and could break either way," says Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. "There’s clearly a feeling at the moment that Cory Gardner has the momentum."

So what happened in Colorado, a state that Mr. Ciruli and others were starting to see as "light blue," rather than purple? Part of Udall's challenge has been facing a Republican in a midterm election with a hugely unpopular Democratic president. Udall has done what he can to distance himself from Mr. Obama – so much that when the president came to Colorado this summer to raise money for Udall, Udall found a reason to stay in Washington – but it's been an uphill challenge.

Add to that the fact that the Colorado legislature, with both houses controlled by Democrats, enacted progressive legislation in the past few years that angered some Independent and conservative Coloradans.

"Local [factors] joined with national helped produce what you’re watching today," says Ciruli, referring to the conservative backlash. "Moderates and people in the middle have decided that’s the side they’re going to be on this time, that it's time to rein it in."

But observers also say that Udall hasn't helped matters by running a campaign that seems to be designed as a replay of the campaign that helped Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet eke out a win in 2010, despite lagging in the polls until the end. Back then Senator Bennet won, in large part, by focusing on women voters as well as reproductive rights. His opponent, Ken Buck, was a cultural conservative who believed abortion should be banned in all instances, and he made tone-deaf statements, once telling an audience they should vote for him "because I don't wear high heels."

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Eric Frein sightings: How 'wilderness ninja' has outfoxed 1,000 cops

Eric Frein sightings: How 'wilderness ninja' has outfoxed 1,000 cops

By Patrik Jonsson

Law enforcement officials are shifting the focus of the massive manhunt for Eric Frein following two sightings of the alleged sniper in northern Pennsylvania.

 Two fresh sightings of alleged sniper Eric Frein has resulted in more closed public schools in northern Pennsylvania and a shift in a massive manhunt to near where Mr. Frein went to high school – and where he was a member of the high school rifle team.

The pressing question of how a single man has outmaneuvered 1,000 trained law enforcement officers in the Pocono Mountains for over five weeks suggests that Frein has used a home-field advantage, long-term planning, and survival skills to resemble a “wilderness ninja,” a term some use to describe a rare breed of native scouts who can, in essence, morph into shadows.

But while true native scouts are bulwarks for good, Frein has “gone to the dark side,” says Shane Hobel, the founder of the Mountain Scout Survival School in New York’s Hudson Valley.

“This guy is on a totally different parallel [than a native scout] but it is a parallel,” says Mr. Hobel. “That makes him a dangerous individual, and the fact that he’s got sniper capability makes it even more dangerous.”

A self-taught survivalist and crack rifle shot, Frein is alleged to have killed one state trooper and wounded another in a brazen midnight ambush on a rural police barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa., on Sept. 12. 

Tom Brown, the legendary American tracker and founder of the Tracker School in Manahawkin, N.J., says that Frein likely planned the attack and escape for years. That’s corroborated, says Mr. Brown, by stories about Frein disappearing from work for weeks at a time, likely to prepare food caches and find hidden shelters. The fact that searchers have failed to spot Frein with heat-sensitive scanners suggests he may be hiding in caves.

After five weeks of searching, police have at times come titillatingly close to Frein, spotting him on several occasions and finding several camp spots, including one with a rifle, ammunition, and a diary that recount the shooting in cold-blooded terms.

Police insist they’re close to capturing Frein, believing that he is increasingly feeling stressed and cornered.

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The truth about evil

Hitler Youth

The truth about evil

John Gray

Our leaders talk a great deal about vanquishing evil. But their rhetoric reveals a failure to accept that cruelty is a basic human trait 

When Barack Obama vows to destroy Isis’s “brand of evil” and David Cameron declares that Isis is an “evil organisation” that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair’s judgment of Saddam Hussein: “But the man’s uniquely evil, isn’t he?” Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over 35 years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war. These dangers left the prime minster unmoved. What mattered was Saddam’s moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.

If Saddam was uniquely evil 12 years ago, we have it on the authority of our leaders that Isis is uniquely evil today. Until it swept into Iraq a few months ago, the jihadist group was just one of several that had benefited from the campaign being waged by western governments and their authoritarian allies in the Gulf in support of the Syrian opposition’s struggle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Since then Isis has been denounced continuously and with increasing intensity; but there has been no change in the ruthless ferocity of the group, which has always practised what a radical Islamist theorist writing under the name Abu Bakr Naji described in an internet handbook in 2006 as “the management of savagery”.

Ever since it was spun off from al-Qaida some 10 years ago, Isis has made clear its commitment to beheading apostates and unbelievers, enslaving women and wiping out communities that will not submit to its ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In its carefully crafted internet videos, it has advertised these crimes itself. There has never been any doubt that Isis practises methodical savagery as an integral part of its strategy of war. This did not prevent an abortive attempt on the part of the American and British governments in August of last year to give military support to the Syrian rebels – a move that could have left Isis the most powerful force in the country. Isis became the prime enemy of western governments only when it took advantage of the anarchy these same governments had created when they broke the state of Iraq with their grandiose scheme of regime change.

Against this background, it would be easy to conclude that talk of evil in international conflicts is no more than a cynical technique for shaping public perceptions. That would be a mistake. Blair’s secret – which is the key to much in contemporary politics – is not cynicism. A cynic is someone who knowingly acts against what he or she knows to be true. Too morally stunted to be capable of the mendacity of which he is often accused, Blair thinks and acts on the premise that whatever furthers the triumph of what he believes to be good must be true. Imagining that he can deliver the Middle East and the world from evil, he cannot help having a delusional view of the impact of his policies.

................................

No view of things could be more alien at the present time. Whatever their position on the political spectrum, almost all of those who govern us hold to some version of the melioristic liberalism that is the west’s default creed, which teaches that human civilisation is advancing – however falteringly – to a point at which the worst forms of human destructiveness can be left behind. According to this view, evil, if any such thing exists, is not an inbuilt human flaw, but a product of defective social institutions, which can over time be permanently improved.

Paradoxically, this belief in the evanescence of evil is what underlies the hysterical invocation of evil that has lately become so prominent. There are many bad and lamentable forces in the world today, but it is those that undermine the belief in human improvement that are demonised as “evil”. So what disturbs the west about Vladimir Putin, for example, is not so much the persecution of gay people over which he has presided, or the threat posed to Russia’s neighbours by his attempt to reassert its imperial power. It is the fact that he has no place in the liberal scheme of continuing human advance. As a result, the Russian leader can only be evil. When George W Bush looked into Putin’s eyes at a Moscow summit in May 2002, he reported, “I was able to get a sense of his soul”. When Joe Biden visited the Kremlin in 2011, he had a very different impression, telling Putin: “Mr Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.” According to Biden, Putin smiled and replied, “We understand each other.” The religious language is telling: nine years earlier, Putin had been a pragmatic leader with whom the west could work; now he was a soulless devil.

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Did Obama just hand GOP a weapon to use against endangered Democrats?

Did Obama just hand GOP a weapon to use against endangered Democrats?

By Peter Grier

Obama said that it didn't hurt his feelings that some Democrats in red or swing states didn't want to campaign with him, because 'these are all folks who vote with me' – a point that GOP rivals have been making all along.
Obama appeared yesterday on Al Sharpton’s radio show. His primary purpose was to try and increase turnout and political excitement among Mr. Sharpton’s audience, which is minority-oriented. Obama said he understood the position of Democrats in red or swing states who don’t want him to show up for personal campaigning. That doesn’t hurt his feelings, said the president, because he understands how the world works and figures those folks are strong supporters anyway.

“The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me,” said Obama. “They have supported my agenda in Congress.”

 
Super PAC fundraising soars for conservatives

U.S. currency is pictured. | Getty

Super PAC fundraising soars for conservatives

By KENNETH P. VOGEL

Despite being outraised by Democratic super PACs all year long, the top conservative groups played to a draw in September and are in a strong position to continue matching — and possibly surpassing — their rivals leading up to Election Day.

Conservative megadonors worried the Democrats’ surprising advantage in super PAC spending could cost the Republicans the Senate poured a flood of million-dollar checks into GOP-allied groups last month.

The three biggest-spending conservative super PACs — the Karl Rove-conceived American Crossroads, the Joe Ricketts-funded Ending Spending Action Fund and the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund — raised $30.3 million in September, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed over the past few days with the Federal Election Commission.

The top three Democrat-aligned super PACs — the Harry Reid-linked Senate Majority PAC, the Nancy Pelosi-backed House Majority PAC and the Tom Steyer-led NextGen Climate Action — raised $30.5 million last month.

Still, for the 2014 cycle, the top three liberal groups are trouncing the conservatives in super PAC fundraising, $134 million to $58 million, and the left has by far the most generous donor of disclosed cash in Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire. He has given $41.6 million to his group, including $15 million last month alone — accounting for all but $2 million of the fundraising for NextGen, which is motivated by environmental issues.

The fundraising disparity heading into Labor Day led to increasingly urgent pleas to donors from the Republicans like Rove who run the super PACs. They had worried that an unanswered deluge of liberal attack ads might allow the Democrats to retain control of the Senate despite electoral trends tilting against them — especially since the Democrats’ congressional party arms also have outraised their GOP counterparts. And the recent reports — as well as donor interviews — suggest that the alarmist message resonated.

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The GOP hates the ‘lamestream media’ even more than you think.

The GOP hates the ‘lamestream media’ even more than you think.

When it comes to the outlets that the most conservative Americans get their news from, it's Fox News and everybody else.

And by everybody else, we mean mostly a bunch of other conservative-leaning media.

A new study from the Pew Research Center lays bare the increasing reliance on partisan and/or ideological news sources on the right and left, and both sides have trended in that direction. But when you compare the left to the right, it's clear which side is more interested in consuming news from sources with which it agrees politically.

Pew asked people which news sources they got their news from in the previous week. Among the most conservative Americans -- what Pew calls "consistent conservatives" -- five of the top six answers leaned to the right.

More than eight in 10 "consistent conservatives" said they had consumed news from Fox in the previous week (84 percent). Another 50 percent cited local news, while between 29 and 45 percent cited conservative commentators or their associated Web sites -- the radio shows of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and Beck's news site, The Blaze.

On the left, MSNBC doesn't carry near the same weight as Fox with "consistent liberals." Just 38 percent say they had consumed news from the liberal-leaning cable news outlet. These Americans have more mainstream tastes, consuming news from NPR (53 percent), CNN (52 percent), local TV (39 percent), NBC News and PBS (37 percent apiece), the BBC (34 percent), ABC News and the New York Times (33 percent apiece).

The only other outlet approaching the kind of ideological, commentator-driven news of the Hannitys, the Becks and the Limbaughs on the left is the Daily Show, which 34 percent of "consistent liberals" cited as a news source they had tapped in in the past week. And while the Daily Show certainly has a liberal-leaning point of view, its express purpose is entertainment -- not news.

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When School Is Harder to Get Into Than the U.S.

When School Is Harder to Get Into Than the U.S.

By BENJAMIN MUELLER

Despite state and federal guidelines, Long Island districts are requiring documents that are often difficult for families to obtain, forcing immigrant children to stay at home.

Before dawn breaks and the morning light spills onto his bedroom floor, Carlos Garcia Lobo bounces out of bed, his eyes alight with anticipation, and asks his mother if he can go to school.

Each time, she replies to her 8-year-old son: Not yet.

Four months after fleeing Honduras with a 15-year-old cousin, Carlos has reached what his family said seemed like an impassable frontier. Like dozens of the roughly 2,500 unaccompanied immigrant children who have been released to relatives or other sponsors on Long Island so far this year, Carlos has been unable to register for school.

The impasse has baffled parents, who say their scant resources have proved no match for school district bureaucracies. Required by law to attend school, children are nevertheless stuck at home, despite unrelenting efforts by their parents and others to prove that they are eligible. Suffolk and Nassau Counties, on Long Island, rank third and fifth, respectively, in the United States, after counties centered on Houston and Los Angeles, in the number of unaccompanied minors they have absorbed so far this year; Miami-Dade County is fourth.

Many of the children are barred because their families cannot gather the documents that schools require to prove they are residents of the district or have guardianship — obstacles that contravene legal guidance on enrollment procedures the State Education Department issued in September. Concern over similar deterrents across the country prompted Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in May to chide districts for “raising barriers for undocumented children,” thereby violating a 1982 Supreme Court decision that guarantees their right to an education.

Driven from Honduras by gangs that brandished machetes and robbed his grandmother’s home, Carlos trekked to the border in June with his cousin and a guide, bumping along on buses “all day and night,” he recalled.

On July 10, Carlos joined his mother, Yeinni Lobo, who came to the United States when he was 11 months old. Since he arrived, Ms. Lobo says she has visited the local school office at least 10 times, toting a stack of immunization records. She provided her address, and the name of the fellow tenant who collects her rent, to show that she lived in the district, she said. But the school demanded a statement from the home’s absentee owner.

So as Carlos tries to decode the schoolwork his older cousins bring home, Ms. Lobo gets an education in red tape. She found her homeowner’s Bronx address on property records at a nearby courthouse. A letter she sent pleading for help soon dropped back through her mail slot, marked “Return to Sender.” Carlos’s official manila file folder is affixed with a neon green Post-it reading, “Waiting for owner’s affidavit.” Once, a school secretary suggested that Ms. Lobo fix the problem by moving to a different home. In the school parking lot, she says, she and other mothers cry over the lost weeks.

“They are not giving us a solution,” Ms. Lobo said. “I’m worried because he’s getting behind.”

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Bob Dole criticizes GOP: 'What are you for?'

Bob Dole criticizes GOP: 'What are you for?'

Bob Dole criticizes GOP: 'What are you for?'

By KELLY COHEN

Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole is criticizing Republicans for leaning too far to the Right.

t's a problem that compromise in Congress is hard to come by these days, according to former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

The two parties need to start working together for the good of the country, the former Kansas senator told PBS' Judy Woodruff on Monday.

“You know, get together,” Dole responded when asked his advice to both members of the Republican and Democratic parties.

“But we have sort of the far right in the Republican Party and the far left in the Democratic Party. So both parties are sort of split, which makes it harder for Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid to work things out,” he said.

 
Where There’s Trouble, You’ll Usually Find Joe Biden

Where There’s Trouble, You’ll Usually Find Joe Biden

Lloyd Green

His crisis-creating malapropisms and his son’s drug-related discharge from the Navy are just the beginning. This guy’s a train wreck.

According to the polls, Joe Biden doesn’t have a prayer in 2016. And according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” 

But two things are also certain: First, Biden is still Barack Obama’s go-to-guy when partisan loyalty is at a premium. Faced with rising concern and criticism over the outbreak of Ebola, Obama tapped Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, to be America’s Ebola czar. Second, Biden’s friends and family have not hesitated to profit from their ties to the Vice President. Biden’s brother, James, and his son, Hunter, have cashed in on the family name, whether it be in Iraq or Ukraine. Biden may have the mien of the crazy uncle in the basement, but he is also a real reminder of what is wrong with politics.

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Why House Republicans Alienate Hispanics: They Don’t Need Them

 

Why House Republicans Alienate Hispanics: They Don’t Need Them

Political analysts keep urging the Republican Party to do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and harshly criticizing President Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants.

There’s a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don’t need their votes, at least not this year.

Republicans would probably hold the House — and still have a real chance to retake the Senate — if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot.

Such a thing would never happen, of course, but the fact that the Republicans may not need a single Hispanic vote in 2014 says a good deal about American politics today.

The fact that the Republican House majority does not depend on Hispanic voters helps explain why immigration reform has not become law, even though national Republican strategists believe the party needs additional support among Hispanic voters to compete in presidential elections. It’s true that Republicans would stand little, if any, chance of winning the presidency in 2016 if they lost every Hispanic voter. If anything, the Republicans probably need to make gains among Hispanic voters to compete in states like Florida and Nevada.

But Congressional elections are different. Although the young, urban and racially diverse Democratic coalition has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, that coalition has not delivered House control to the Democrats. Gerrymandering isn’t the only cause, either. It’s the way the population is distributed.

Even a situation in which every Latino voter in America chose the Democratic candidate would mainly allow Democrats to fare better in the heavily Hispanic districts where the party already wins. This is already occurring, to a lesser degree. Over the last decade, Democratic gains among young and nonwhite voters have allowed Democrats to win a majority of the House vote without flipping enough districts to earn a majority of seats.

The Upshot analysis found that if not one of the eight million Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate, Republicans would lose about a dozen House seats, especially in Florida and California. The loss of those seats would make the Republican House majority more vulnerable if Democrats made gains elsewhere in future years. But given the Republicans’ current strength across rural areas and in conservative suburbs, the loss of every Hispanic every voter would not be enough to cost them the 17 seats that would flip House control.

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Tillis claims 'momentum' in N.C.

Thom Tillis is pictured. | AP Photo

Tillis claims 'momentum' in N.C.

A combination of factors have helped Tillis pick up momentum heading into the homestretch, Republicans say: Hagan’s admission that she missed an Armed Services Committee meeting dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant for a fundraiser earlier this year, dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s handling of domestic Ebola cases and several news stories about Hagan’s husband benefiting from the stimulus law Hagan supported in her first months in the Senate.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and allied outside groups are jumping in with additional ad buys in the final weeks to boost the Republican in a race that is poised to be the most expensive Senate contest ever. Although Democrats insist the tightening of the race is natural in a purple state like North Carolina and not a result of Tillis’ change in messaging, the shift is notable given Hagan’s resilience in polls throughout the summer.

The most recent surveys show the race tied or Hagan leading inside the margin of error. The most recent live-caller poll, from High Point University, showed both candidates at 40 percent, the first independent poll that didn’t have Hagan ahead since August. An automated survey from Public Policy Polling conducted late last week showed Hagan leading by three points, within the margin of error but statistically unchanged from her four-point lead in a PPP poll last month.

Just a few weeks ago, conservatives had feared Democrats — wielding a cash advantage and a focus on state issues that capitalize on the unpopularity of the state legislature — would prevail in defending Hagan’s seat. Now, Republicans are moving the conversation to federal issues and believe Tillis, the state House speaker, is peaking at the right time.

Amid shouts of “You’ve got my vote, speaker,” and “There’s my next U.S. senator,” at the North Carolina State Fair last week, Tillis was all confidence. “I think things are going really well,” he said, as he ate fried chicken, milked a cow and hung tobacco leaves for curing with fair-goers.

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John Kasich's Unforgivable Truth About Obamacare

John Kasich's Unforgivable Truth About Obamacare

Michael Tomasky

Ohio governor and smart money 2016 GOP hopeful just complimented Obamacare, and said a repeal isn't happening. Can the Republican base ever get over this moment of honesty?

When we Washington types sit around and handicap the GOP field for 2016, we tend to talk about the known quantities, the people prancing around before us on a daily basis thrusting their elbows in one another’s general direction, your Pauls and Cruzes and Perrys and so on. Then Bush and Christie are mentioned. Eventually, though, some clever person shyly pipes up: “You know, keep one eye on John Kasich.”

And everyone thinks, “Yes, that’s smart.” Because Kasich is the governor of the echt-purple state, Ohio. Because he’s popular, and he’s cruising to reelection. Because his association with some of the party’s batshittier positions is remote. Because governors are usually better candidates than senators anyway.

Always has made a lot of sense to me. But yesterday, the case for Kasich got harder by dint of the governor’s electorally unfathomable and instantly controversial remarks about Obamacare. Campaigning Monday, Kasich told the Associated Press that a repeal of the hated law is “not gonna happen.” And then he said this: “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”

A Republican governor with presidential aspirations acknowledging that Obamacare is improving people’s lives is akin to...well, for starters, a Democratic governor with presidential aspirations saying the Iraq War was a dandy idea. An astonishing statement. His press aides quickly scrambled to explain that Kasich still wants to repeal and replace the law and emphasized that they were seeking some kind of correction from the AP, allegedly on the grounds that the “it” in Kasich’s quote might have meant only the Medicaid expansion, not the entire Obamacare law.

But whatever the meaning of “it” is, stuffing this cat back in this bag probably can’t be done. The quote is out there now. Flesh and blood improvements in people’s lives! Via Barack Obama.

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Pistorius Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

Oscar Pistorius held the hands of family members after being sentenced to five years in prison.

Credit Pool photo by Herman Verwey

Pistorius Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

By ALAN COWELL

Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star found guilty of culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend, is expected to serve only 10 months before being put on house arrest.

With a judge seeking to strike a balance between mercy and retribution, Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The athlete’s defense team said the law under which he was punished calls for him to serve only one-sixth of the prison term — 10 months — before he can be placed on house arrest. He was also given a suspended three-year term on separate firearms charges.

But some South African legal experts said the conversion of prison time to house arrest was not automatic and required negotiations with the correctional authorities. After serving half the sentence, Mr. Pistorius can also apply for parole.

Ms. Steenkamp’s family said it was “satisfied” with the ruling, although the National Prosecuting Authority said it had not yet decided whether to appeal.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” June Steenkamp, the victim’s mother, told reporters outside the courtroom.

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Lewinsky: how I was cyberbullied

Lewinsky: how I was cyberbullied

Monica Lewinsky said her sense of self was destroyed by the publicity surrounding her affair with Bill Clinton.

White House intern during Clinton's first term says torment over affair reduced her to 'creature from the media lagoon'

Monica Lewinsky, the one-time White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton in the 1990s nearly brought down his presidency, has described herself as one of the first victims of cyberbullying and vowed to help others survive the “shame game” of public humiliation.

In a rare public appearance Lewinsky spoke at Forbes’ inaugural 30 Under 30 summit in Philadelphia, saying her depiction in the media – as a constant punchline for late-night comedians and fuel for internet gossip – destroyed her sense of self.

“That’s what happened to me in 1998 when public Monica, that Monica, that woman was born, the creature from the media lagoon. I lost my reputation. I was publicly identified as someone I didn’t recognise,” she said.

“And I lost my sense of self – lost it or had it stolen, because in a way it was a form of identity theft.”

 
Dallas celebrates ‘a joyous day’ in the battle against Ebola

Dallas celebrates ‘a joyous day’ in the battle against Ebola

By MATTHEW WATKINS AND SHERRY JACOBSON

Fifty-one people thought to be at risk have been cleared. But other hurdles remain, says Mayor Mike Rawlings.

After three weeks of Ebola fear and tumult, Dallas County took a step back toward normal Monday.

The emergency room where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was treated returned to regular operations. And 51 people considered at risk for the virus have been released from county monitoring after 21 days. That’s the longest it has taken someone to develop symptoms of the disease after being exposed to someone actively ill.

Still, North Texas is far from being in the clear. Two nurses who cared for Duncan are fighting the virus in out-of-state hospitals. And 116 people continue to be monitored to make sure they don’t come down with the disease.

“Today is a milestone day — a hurdle we needed to clear,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. But, he quickly added, “there are other hurdles we need to jump.”

The next big milestone is “the magic date” when health officials will be able to declare Dallas completely free of Ebola, Rawlings said. If no one else falls ill — which would trigger another round of contact tracing and another 21-day clock to watch for symptoms — that day will be Nov. 7.

Local leaders called Monday a joyous day. Gov. Rick Perry said the state welcomed “with guarded optimism” the news that dozens of people who had come into contact with Duncan had not developed Ebola.

“Continuous vigilance in confronting this threat and the cooperation of those affected is what brought us to this point,” Perry said, “and we look forward to the day when the remaining individuals can be removed from active monitoring.”

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Evangelicals road test 2016 strategy

Ralph Reed speaks. | AP Photo

Evangelicals road test 2016 strategy

By ANNA PALMER

The evangelical movement wants to be back on top of national politics, and to do it it’s borrowing from an unlikely playbook — Barack Obama’s.

Groups like Faith and Freedom Coalition and Susan B. Anthony’s List are beefing up their grass-roots efforts this year, turning to strategies more often embraced by President Obama than the Christian right, like using online data and micro-targeting to reach or visit hundreds of thousands of voters in key counties in states like Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — states that will determine whether Republicans gain a majority in the Senate.

The evangelical movement finds itself at a crossroads: Regain relevancy in 2014 after a tough year in 2012 or face an even tougher fight in the next presidential election, when, it fears, Hillary Clinton will be at the top of the ticket, galvanizing liberals all the way down the ballot.

“The 2014 midterms are a crucial test of evangelical influence and strength,” said Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I think most evangelical leaders understand we are in a period of pretty radical transition in this society.”

Leaders in the evangelical movement understand that public opinion on social issues has changed dramatically since 2000, when the movement helped buoy George W. Bush to the White House and again in 2004. Opposition to gay marriage, once a hot-button ballot initiative to drive voters to the polls, has faded drastically. Meanwhile, only one in 10 young adults identifies as evangelical. And greater acceptance of birth control, premarital sex and cohabitation before marriage has created a cultural distance with the church.

“There are these tectonic shifts that are occurring that are going to be important in 2016 and beyond,” said Dan Cox, research director at the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. “There is sort of a real demographic and cultural challenge.”

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How LBJ and Reagan Wrecked Our Idealism

By Scott Porch

In the mid-’60s polar opposites Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan promised America more than they could possibly deliver. The result was decades of cynicism about government.

Lyndon Johnson, who had been president for one year and was nearing the pinnacle of his popularity, crushed Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater by 16 million votes, at that time the largest margin ever in a presidential election. At a rally in Pittsburgh a week before the election, Johnson laid out an ambitious, transformative vision for the United States.

“So here is the Great Society,” Johnson said. “It’s the time—and it’s going to be soonwhen nobody in this country is poor.” Elimination of poverty. “It’s going to be the time… when we have a job for everyone who is willing to work.” Full employment. “It’s the time when every false distinction—of what your race is, or your creed is, or your sex, or how you spell your name, or where your folks came from, or how you pray—it’s going to be a time when none of that makes any difference.” The end of all discrimination.

Johnson promised all the education one could absorb. He promised social security with meaning and purpose and pleasure. He promised every slum would be cleaned up. Johnson didn’t just promise a chicken in every pot. He promised a utopian America where society’s biggest, most vexing, most entrenched problems would disappear. That chicken was going to be freakin’ amazing.

Later on the same day that Johnson delivered his Pittsburgh speech, a 53-year-old TV actor and one-time B-list film star named Ronald Reagan gave a closing argument for Goldwater, a paid endorsement entitled A Time for Choosing. The televised speech was an oogedy-boogedy list of horrors wrought by government—too much federal debt, the dollar just isn’t worth what it was in 1939, wasteful spending on welfare programs, etc.—and loaded up with statistics that Reagan read from index cards. Millions of people watched it live. Goldwater still got demolished in the election, sure, but A Time for Choosing raised Reagan’s profile considerably and made him a conservative star.

Two years later, Johnson would be a deeply unpopular president, and the Democrats would lose 47 seats (though not the majority) in the House of Representatives. Reagan would be elected governor of California and become a serious contender to challenge Johnson for the presidency in 1968 (though neither would wind up running in that election).

Jonathan Darman’s Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, a new history of the seismic leftward and then rightward shift in national politics during the three years after the Kennedy assassination, is a dual narrative of Johnson and Reagan during those years.

Darman argues that Johnson and Reagan preached competing visions of a utopian America—for Johnson a government-led social reformation, for Reagan an idyllic society guided by the invisible hand of free enterprise—and neither delivered, fostering a cynical view of the United States government that persists 50 years later.

“Each of the myths discredited government,” Darman writes. “Reagan’s did it overtly, maintaining that government was the source of America’s problems. Johnson’s did it by example, making promises for government that it could not possibly fulfill. As a result, a generation of Americans has come of age with little faith in government’s ability to do much of anything.”

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The conventional wisdom has long been that Johnson’s presidency was undone by a combination of Vietnam, civil unrest, and liberal overreach, and that Republicans like Reagan provided a smaller-government, more self-reliant, more optimistic alternative. Landslide makes clear that escalation in Vietnam was the major reason for Johnson’s flagging popularity and that the 1966 elections were a referendum on Johnson and the Democrats’ management of the Vietnam War much more so than a choice between Democrats’ and Republicans’ competing visions for the country. Reagan ran a storied campaign for governor of California in 1966, sure, but he benefitted enormously from a national wave of anti-Johnson sentiment.

“Reagan is a difficult biographical subject,” Darman acknowledged when I interviewed him recently. “Even the people closest to him talk about what a self-contained person he was, that he didn’t share a lot of what was going on inside him. So you have that combined with the perennial optimism of Reagan combined with the actor’s need to not show any effort. It’s hard to go back and find some of the human moments that you would with another subject because he doesn’t show them as easily.”

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In Raising Immigration, G.O.P. Risks Backlash After Election

In Raising Immigration, G.O.P. Risks Backlash After Election

New Hampshire has one of the smallest populations of illegal immigrants in the country. Only about 5 percent of its 1.3 million residents are foreign-born, and 3 percent are Hispanic.

But tune into the Senate race between Scott P. Brown, the Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic incumbent, and you might think the state shares a border with Mexico, not Canada.

When someone called a talk radio show to ask Mr. Brown about global warming the other day, Mr. Brown immediately started talking about border security. “Let me tell you what I believe is a clear and present danger right now,” he said, brushing aside the caller’s concerns about the environment. “I believe that our border is porous.”

Footage of agents patrolling the rocky, arid Southwestern landscape is featured in Mr. Brown’s ads — not quite the piney highlands of New Hampshire.

A political group led by prominent conservatives like John R. Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, attacked Ms. Shaheen last week with a video that juxtaposed two alarming images: a horde of people rushing a fence, presumably along the Mexican border, and a clip of Islamic militants right before they beheaded the journalist James Foley, a New Hampshire native. The ad was pulled after the Foley family complained.

Republicans have long relied on illegal immigration to rally the conservative base, even if the threat seemed more theoretical than tangible in most of the country. But in several of this year’s midterm Senate campaigns — including Arkansas and Kansas, as well as New Hampshire — Republicans’ stance on immigration is posing difficult questions about what the party wants to be in the longer term.

Some Republicans are questioning the cost of their focus on immigration. Campaigning on possible threats from undocumented immigrants — similar to claims that President Obama and the Democrats have left the country vulnerable to attacks from Islamic terrorists and the Ebola virus — may backfire after November. At that point, the party will have to start worrying about its appeal beyond the conservative voters it needs to turn out in midterm elections.

“You should never underestimate the ability of the Republicans to screw something up and blow an ideal opportunity,” said Ralph Reed, an influential conservative who has battled with hard-line Republicans to take a more charitable view on immigration.

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Kasich: Repeal ACA, but not all of it

Kasich: Repeal ACA, but not all of it

By SARAH WHEATON

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is pictured. | AP Photo

Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants to be very clear: He wants to repeal Obamacare.

Just not the part he likes.

A political firestorm broke out Monday when the The Associated Press quoted Kasich as saying that Obamacare repeal was “not gonna happen.” That view is almost unheard of — at least in public — among most Republicans, let alone those who might run for the White House in 2016.

Kasich said AP got it wrong, and he called POLITICO Monday night to correct the record. He said he was talking specifically about repeal of the expansion of Medicaid — which Ohio has implemented — and not of the Affordable Care Act more broadly.

“From Day One, and up until today and into tomorrow, I do not support Obamacare,” the Republican governor said on Monday evening. “I never have, and I believe it should be repealed.”

Except for the Medicaid expansion part — which wouldn’t exist without the law. Kasich thinks there ought to be a way to save it.

“I have favored expanding Medicaid, but I don’t really see expanding Medicaid as really connected to Obamacare,” he said.

If Republicans take the Senate, Kasich said, “you better believe they’re gonna repeal Obamacare and I agree with that.” But, he added, “there’s got to be an accommodation” for Medicaid expansion.

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She Tweeted Against the Mexican Cartels. They Tweeted Her Murder.

She Tweeted Against the Mexican Cartels. They Tweeted Her Murder.

No newspaper dares to publish the truth about the drug lords in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and those who break the silence on Twitter and Facebook are marked for death.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — She was a crusading Twitter journalist in a bastion of organized crime who chose a photograph of Catwoman as her online avatar and christened herself Felina. Like a comic-book avenger, her alter ego defied the forces of evil in her real-life Gotham of Reynosa, a border city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas located a short drive from McAllen, Texas. Tamaulipas is notorious as a state caught in the iron grip of organized crime. Extortion, kidnappings, shootouts, arson, bodies excavated from arid pits, all of this happens in Tamaulipas, practically on a daily basis, but hardly any of it gets reported because of a media blackout the cartels decreed four years ago that is as strictly enforced as martial law after a coup.

Two rival drug cartels in Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, have final say over what gets printed or broadcast in the local media. By necessity the people of the state increasingly have turned to social media to share information about organized crime and its infiltration of the government. They are referred to as citizen journalists and have received international attention for their innovative use of sites like Facebook and Twitter to defy the imposition of the blackout.

Felina was an administrator for Valor por Tamaulipas (which means Courage for Tamaulipas), the most popular citizen news hubs in the state, with over 100,000 followers on Twitter and over half a million on Facebook. A sampling of the site’s content varies from the sensational to the specific. There are photos of young teenagers holding military-grade firepower with captions or comments that identify them as members of organized crime. There are posters of missing persons and news alerts about violence that are timely and specific: “At 10am there were isolated gunshots heard coming from Unidad Obrera”; “Since 12:25a.m. Explosions and machine gun fire at Cañada/Fuentes, and pickup trucks passed at high speed on 20th Street”; “In Balcones sector 2 white Ford pickup with 3 armed Men on Everest Street and Seventh.” Soldiers at the Mexican army base in Reynosa also post news alerts to the site about violent confrontations between the army and the narcos.

Felina posted under the handle @Miut3 and was best known for her posts of danger alerts that pinpointed the location of violent incidents in real time. People sent her bits of information as a way for them to resist the hegemony of the cartels. She also wrote posts pleading with victims of crime not to remain silent, to file a police report even if it meant having to brave reprisals. She would post emergency telephone numbers as a way to try to help.

Understandably the narcos wanted to know the real identities of Felina and her compañeros at Valor por Tamaulipas. A year and a half ago a cartel had hundreds of leaflets distributed throughout Tamaulipas offering a reward of 600,000 pesos (about $48,000 at the time) for anyone who would divulge the names of the site’s administrators. At around the same time there were videos posted online of executions of individuals alleged to be contributors to the site. The founder shut it down and left the state, hoping that time away would diminish the danger. But when Valor por Tamaulipas went back online the situation only intensified: the number of followers to the site quadrupled and the threats resumed.

On October 8, Valor por Tamaulipas received the following tweet: “We’re coming very close to many of you watch out felina.” The sender’s account was a shell but the message had the feel of authenticity. It was one in a series of posts that arrived on the same day. Each had an exasperated tone, demanding to know why the supposed generosity of the narcos toward people of low income went unreported, and why the focus on the Gulf Cartel but nothing on the crimes of soldiers and police? The concluding message defamed the site’s administrators as liars and threatened war on each of them by name, or at least by handle: “This is for you bandolera, felina, valor and all the rest who make things up.”

The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas, whose identity remains unpublished, said the need for secrecy had become greater than ever before. But he said Felina could not be convinced to alter her behavior to account for the increased danger. In a post on the site the founder described her as someone “who moved heaven and earth” for anyone in need. Her activity as a citizen journalist had fed into a larger vision of building a supportive community in Tamaulipas. She raised money; she organized blood donations, and helped people find affordable housing and free medical care. She listened but did not heed warnings from her peers that by raising her public profile in the community she risked being discovered. The founder removed Felina as an administrator after one last argument about helping someone in need of orthopedic shoes.

Felina nevertheless continued to post a high volume of news alerts to the site at the hashtag #ReynosaFollow. Until early in the morning of Thursday, October 16, when this message from Felina @Miut3 was posted:

# reynosafollow FRIENDS AND FAMILY, MY REAL NAME IS MARÍA DEL ROSARIO FUENTES RUBIO. I AM A PHYSICIAN. TODAY MY LIFE HAS COME TO AN END.

The next message, sent moments later, is supposedly her warning friends and family not to make the same mistake she did, using social media to report on organized crime, because “there is no point.” The message after that is a warning to her followers and to three prominent citizen journalists that the cartels “are closer to us than you think.” The last message sent from Felina’s account is not written but rather consists of two photos: in the first, a middle-aged woman keeps her hands folded in front of her and looks directly at the camera; in the second the same woman is lying on a dirty floor with a coup de grace bullet wound in the face. The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas confirmed that the photos are of Felina. Twitter has since shut down her account.

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Dana Milbank: Obama, the pariah president

Obama, the pariah president

They were fired up and ready to go home.

Democrats left nothing to chance for President Obama’s first campaign rally of the 2014 election season Sunday evening. They arranged for him to speak in Prince George’s County, Md., which went 90 percent for Obama in 2012. They put him in the gymnasium of a middle school that shared a campus with Barack Obama Elementary School, which explains the “We Rock at Barack” sweatshirts in the crowd. Some 90 percent of those in the audience were African American — a demographic that still supports Obama to the tune of 84 percent, vs. 30 percent of white Americans.

The man Obama was stumping for — Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown — has a healthy lead over his Republican opponent in reliably Democratic Maryland and therefore had little worry about sharing a stage with Obama. Even so, they left the presidential seal off the lectern, and Obama remained hidden offstage while Brown addressed the crowd.

Yet for all those precautions, Obama’s rare campaign appearance did not go as planned — and not only because a man heckled him for his refusal to block more deportations. With about five minutes to go in his 25-minute speech, about the time Obama said, “I’m just telling you what you already know,” people began to trickle out. By the time he had finished, perhaps a few hundred had walked out on the president.

This exodus wasn’t intended as a protest. Long lines for shuttles taking attendees to remote parking sites induced participants to leave early so they could beat the rush. But the overall effect was akin to what happens when baseball fans begins filtering out in the seventh inning because the home team is down by five runs. And, in a way, that is what’s going on in these midterm elections.

Obama is President Pariah in these final weeks of the 2014 midterms. Vulnerable Democratic candidates don’t want to be seen with him. Three Democratic senators have run ads distancing themselves from him, and Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, has refused — absurdly — to say whether she voted for Obama. Obama’s support is 40 percent nationally and lower in the Republican states where many of this year’s competitive races are taking place.

 
It's Warren vs. Brown — in N.H.

It's Warren vs. Brown — in N.H.

By JAMES HOHMANN

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Waren is pictured. | AP Photo

Elizabeth Warren is taking on Scott Brown once again, this time in New Hampshire.

The Democrat is heading to the Granite State to campaign against the man she defeated in the Massachusetts Senate race two years ago. Warren will stump alongside Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, whom Brown hopes to oust in a bid to return to the chamber.

According to The Boston Globe, Warren wrote in a recent email to her and Shaheen’s supporters that, “never in a bazillion years did it cross my mind that Scott Brown would pack up and move to his vacation house in New Hampshire to run against our friend Jeanne… But that’s exactly what happened.”

 
Colorado Dems: We Caught James O'Keefe

Colorado Dems: We Caught James O'Keefe

By Andy Kroll

The conservative provocateur allegedly posed as a mustachioed "civics professor."

James O'Keefe, the conservative provocateur, has been on the prowl in Colorado, the setting of a close Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, as well as a nip-and-tuck governor's contest. Last week, O'Keefe and two of his collaborators tried to bait Democratic field staffers into approving voter fraud involving Colorado's universal vote-by-mail program, according to three Democratic staffers who interacted with O'Keefe or his colleagues.

Democratic staffers in Colorado recently came to believe they were the subject of an O'Keefe operation after campaign workers became suspicious about would-be volunteers who had asked about filling out and submitting mail-in ballots for others. Recently, the 30-year-old O'Keefe has targeted the Senate campaigns of Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by filming undercover videos of staffers or the candidate.

 
Joni Ernst Is the GOP's Breakout Star. The Democratic Machine Could Still Beat Her.

Joni Ernst Is the GOP's Breakout Star. The Democratic Machine Could Still Beat Her.

By Shane Goldmacher

Bruce Braley is a flawed candidate, but his team's superior ground game might push him over the top.

Marilynn Wadden, a retired elementary school teacher, was smiling as she settled into her seat at a Democratic field office here and began making calls for Senate candidate Bruce Braley. "We love this," Wadden says of the computer system that is doing the dialing for her. "It is just such a joy."

Two years ago, when Wadden was making calls as a volunteer for President Obama, she had to punch numbers into the phone herself, write down voters' answers on paper, and then hand off the sheets to a data-entry team. "Now, we're kind of doing the data as we go," she says as she types. "I bet people are twice as efficient on the phone."

That is a frightening thought for Iowa Republicans still smarting from two straight cycles of defeat that they blame on superior Democratic infrastructure. "The Obama machine, organization—whatever you'd like to call it—took us to school in 2008 and again in 2012," says David Oman, who cochaired Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign last cycle.

This year, Oman is finance chairman for Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican nominee for Senate, who is locked in one of the closest contests of the cycle—a race many believe could tip the Senate majority. And Oman is hoping the third time is the charm.

 
Senate Dems put off Ebola hearing

Senate Dems put off Ebola hearing

By Susan Ferrechio

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., announced Monday she has scheduled a hearing on Ebola for Thursday, Nov. 6, two days after the pivotal midterm elections.

Senate Democrats will wait until after the Nov. 4 election to take the Obama administration to task over the federal response to Ebola outbreak.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., announced Monday she has scheduled a hearing on Ebola for Thursday, Nov. 6, two days after the pivotal midterm elections.

Democrats have mostly refrained from criticizing the White House response to initial spread of Ebola in the United States, which has so far included two healthcare workers who cared for a Liberian who entered the country with the disease.

While some Democrats have called for a ban on travel and visas from nations afflicted with the virus, the Democratic Party leadership has instead pinned the blame on a lack of adequate funding for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

 
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