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Ebola gaffes fuel quarantine questions

A Frontier Airlines employee wears gloves as she directs passengers where to go. | AP Photo

Ebola gaffes fuel quarantine questions

By JOSH GERSTEIN

The startling news Wednesday that an Ebola-infected nurse flew from Cleveland to Dallas earlier this week unleashed a new round of fears about the virus’s spread in the U.S. and whether the government’s legal authority to contain the illness by limiting travel is up to the task.

For nearly a decade, officials have been warning that the country’s quarantine regulations are woefully outdated and badly need revising. The George W. Bush administration proposed “critical updates” to enhance the government’s authority to detain passengers, but never pushed the changes through before the effort was abandoned under the Obama administration.

Left in place were federal quarantine rules in some cases more than 100 years old, a situation that has some worried that the government lacks the proper legal power to restrict the travel of infected passengers and take all necessary measures to limit the spread of Ebola.

Obama administration officials have been reluctant to spell out exactly what quarantine authority they have and whether it is sufficient to contain the deadly disease.

 
Republican Gains and Confusion in Senate Races

Republican Gains and Confusion in Senate Races

By John Cassidy

With less than three weeks to go until Election Day, the Republicans are still favored to take control of the Senate. But since Cassidy’s Count last week, a number of key races have shifted, and in some quarters confusion reigns.

Here’s what Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, had to say on Wednesday morning: “With so many variables and competitive races, plus potential and competitive runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, the outcome of the midterm elections is anyone’s guess.” 

That’s not quite accurate. On balance, the opinion surveys still point to a Republican victory. The statistical forecasting models, which aggregate the most recent polls from competitive races, all show that the odds of the G.O.P. gaining control are greater than fifty per cent. But there is quite a bit of variability in the details of the various forecasts. The Washington Post Election Lab model reckons that the probability of a G.O.P. takeover is ninety-four per cent, which is, obviously, a very high figure. The Times Upshot model puts the probability at seventy-four per cent. The Princeton Election Consortium model, which is run by Sam Wang (who has written for newyorker.com), has a figure of seventy per cent. According to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model, the probability is 60.4 per cent.

 
The Fading 'Fundamental Right' to Abortion

The Fading 'Fundamental Right' to Abortion

By Garrett Epps

Why did a controversial Texas abortion law survive long enough to make it to the Supreme Court?

Under the standard set by Roe v. Wade, there would be no question that a controversial Texas abortion law was invalid. What happened?

So far this term, the Supreme Court drama is offstage. Publicly, the justices doze through a seminar on whether mall-kiosk tooth whitening is unlicensed dentistry. Behind the scenes, however, they have issued cryptic orders that have all but settled same-sex marriage, placed some voter-ID laws on hold, and (as of Tuesday) blocked enforcement of a Texas statute that was about to force closure of 13 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics.

A district judge had blocked the Texas statute, but the Fifth Circuit—probably the most conservative appeals court in the country—reversed. Now the Supreme Court has “stayed” the appeals court’s order, meaning the clinics can remain open. It seems likely that stay will be in effect until the justices decide whether to hear an appeal from the Fifth Circuit’s order. But as we have learned with the same-sex-marriages cases this fall, a Supreme Court stay does not mean the Court will definitely hear the appeal. And even if it does, a new case in front of this Court might not clear things up much.

Forty-one years after the Supreme Court held that women have the right to choose between childbirth and abortion, little remains of what was once a “fundamental right.” How did we get here?

To understand the current case, readers have to grasp the constitutional concept of “levels of scrutiny.” It’s not as bad as it sounds. My former constitutional-law professor, Walter Dellinger, summarized it this way: “If government wants to do something to you, it has to give a reason. If it wants to do something really bad, it has to give a really good reason.”

 
Ted Cruz Quits Screwing With the GOP

Ted Cruz Quits Screwing With the GOP

The Texas firebrand made a name for himself by going after more moderate Republicans. Now he’s stumping for candidates he used to attack—just in time for 2016.

Ted Cruz blazed onto the national scene as the skunk at the GOP’s picnic in 2013, launching a historic filibuster, pushing for a government shutdown, and raising millions of dollars for outside conservative groups that attacked his fellow Republican senators. 

But with the 2016 presidential season on the horizon, the Texas firebrand has subtly changed his tune over the last six months. Instead of agitating against his fellow Republicans, as he did over Obamacare funding in the tumultuous leadup to the 2013 government shutdown, he is now reserving his fire exclusively for Democrats.

“Ted Cruz, Team Player” is a twist few saw coming from the freshman who has made too many enemies to count in Washington. But even Cruz’s most vocal GOP detractors can’t argue with the $250,000 pledge he made to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in September, making Cruz one of the largest individual donors to Republican senators and candidates this cycle.

On top of the NRSC pledge, Cruz has given thousands to five incumbent GOP senators, including $7,500 to Sen. John Cornyn, an establishment senator frequently derided by the Tea Party. And he’s given significantly more cash to GOP hopefuls like Ben Sasse in Nebraska, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Steve Daines in Montana, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Cory Gardner in Colorado, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
 
John Grisham: sentences too harsh for viewing child abuse images

John Grisham says people who look at child abuse images 'probably had too much to drink'.

John Grisham: sentences too harsh for viewing child abuse images

The Guardian

Crime author criticises US justice system, saying ‘jails are full of 60-year-old white men who never harmed anybody’

The author John Grisham has said people who look at child abuse images “probably had too much to drink” and should be given lighter prison sentences.

Grisham, 59, made the comments during an interview in which he criticised the US justice system and the high number of serving convicts.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who have never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham said too many people were being jailed for crimes such as minor drugs offences and white-collar crime. He said judges had “gone crazy” in the past 30 years.

He said a friend from law school had been jailed for three years for viewing child abuse images in Canada. He said the site was labelled “16-year-old wannabe hookers”, and his friend’s drinking had been out of control at the time.

He added: “I have no sympathy for real paedophiles. God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting.”

Asked about the fact that viewing such content fuelled abuse of youngsters to create the images, Grisham insisted that sentences should be lower for people who only downloaded it.

 
Martha Chokeley: Is the worst candidate in Massachusetts about to lose again?

Martha Chokeley: Is the worst candidate in Massachusetts about to lose again?

She’s a Democrat who managed to blow a huge statewide lead to a Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts in epic fashion. And now she’s blown it again. Or at least that will be the epitaph on Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s political career come November if Charlie Baker edges her in the governor’s race.

Most Americans know Coakley as the woman who nearly tanked Obamacare by losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat (and the Democratic supermajority with it) to no-name Scott Brown in a January 2010 special election. Now, she’s in a tight race against the moderate Republican Baker, with her legacy hanging in the balance, and she’s calling in the big guns. This week, Bill Clinton is stumping for her in the blue-collar city of Worcester—a sign that national Democrats are genuinely worried that she’ll choke. Come Nov. 5, she’ll either go down as the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts or a political failure, living proof that the Curse of the Bambino never left Boston, it just migrated from Fenway Park to the AG’s office on Beacon Hill. Whether or not that’s fair, it’s politics.

 
Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart Trade Verbal Blows Over ‘White Privilege’

[BN-FA819_bill_A_20141016073023.jpg]

Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart Trade Verbal Blows Over ‘White Privilege’

By Sarene Leeds

Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly dropped by "The Daily Show" last night to promote his new book but wound up in a heated debate with host Jon Stewart over "white privilege."

After a 10-second mention of “Killing Patton” (“We’re just going to call the series ‘Killing Trees’ – they sell like crazy”) Stewart cut to the chase, asking O’Reilly to simply admit that “there is such a thing as white privilege,” which was greeted by thunderous applause by the audience.

O’Reilly, who claimed to be prepared for Stewart’s line of questioning, didn’t seem to have much of a defense beyond “Maybe you haven’t figured out that there is no more slavery, no more Jim Crow” – in essence, ignoring the past 50 years of American history and eliciting groans from Stewart’s audience.

The “O’Reilly Factor” host stuck his foot in his mouth even further when he inadvertently corroborated Stewart’s “systemic subjugation” argument by agreeing that during his modest Levittown, New York, childhood, African-Americans would not have been welcome in the Long Island hamlet. “That, my friend, is what we call in the business, ‘white privilege,’” observed Stewart.

 
Nasty Crist-Scott ‘fan’ debate deepens feud.

Charlie Crist and Rick Scott are shown. | AP Photo

Nasty Crist-Scott ‘fan’ debate deepens feud.

By JAMES HOHMANN

Wednesday night’s Florida gubernatorial debate almost didn’t happen. But once Republican Gov. Rick Scott joined party-switching predecessor Charlie Crist on the stage, it was clear how much they detest each other.

After a bizarre, seven-minute standoff over whether Crist could keep a fan under his podium — and Scott’s brief refusal to debate until it was removed — the pair clashed for the remainder of an hour over everything from the economy, education, stand-your-ground laws, gay marriage and Medicaid.

In a race that almost every poll shows is a dead heat with both men more disliked than liked, the bigger debate in Davie was about who was the better governor.

Crist — who governed the state from 2007-2011 as a Republican — accused Scott of slashing education, causing utility rates to spike and caring more about the rich than the middle class. He also said he perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history during his pre-political career as a hospital executive.

Scott said Crist trashed the economy as governor, losing 832,000 jobs and watching the unemployment rate increase from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent during his term in office.

Publisher's Note: This is the race to watch: big state, deeply divided over immigration and essential to 2016.

 
New Push to Check Spread of Ebola

New Push to Check Spread of Ebola

By Jack Nicas, Ana Campoy and Betsy McKay

Concerns grew about containing the spread of Ebola in the U.S. after officials disclosed that the second infected Texas nurse flew from Dallas to Cleveland and back days before reporting her symptoms.

Amber Joy Vinson, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who provided extensive medical care to a Liberian man with Ebola who died, shouldn’t have been allowed to travel on a commercial flight, said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden. “She should not have been on that plane,” he told reporters.

President Barack Obama, speaking after meeting for more than 90 minutes with his senior advisers involved in the Ebola response, promised a review of every step of the government’s actions since the first case appeared in the U.S. He said officials will more aggressively monitor incidents where the virus could potentially spread and apply “lessons learned” from apparent breakdowns in the government’s response to any future cases. He said the danger of a serious outbreak in the U.S. is low.

Ms. Vinson was among a group of 76 health-care workers being monitored for signs of infection after nurse Nina Pham was diagnosed with Ebola this past weekend.

Ms. Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1142 from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Cleveland on Friday, before it was known that Ms. Pham was sick and her co-workers had been put under surveillance by health authorities.

Ms. Vinson then flew back to Dallas on Frontier flight 1143 on Monday, landing at 8:16 p.m. local time, the CDC said. She reported possible Ebola symptoms Tuesday and was isolated, the agency said.

A CDC spokesman said that Ms. Vinson had contacted the CDC before her return flight to Dallas, and “we did not tell her she could not fly.” The agency says symptoms of Ebola include a fever of more than 101.5; Ms. Vinson reported to the CDC her temperature was 99.5.

The development raised questions about how aggressively health officials have moved to contain the disease. Hospital workers who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan were initially told to self-monitor for any signs of infection, instead of being checked daily by health officials like the 48 people the Liberian man came into contact with before he was hospitalized.

 
For Republicans, saying no to Obama may be enough

For Republicans, saying no to Obama may be enough on Election Day

That antipathy toward the unpopular president more than any single issue is what is propelling Republicans to likely gains in November. A CBS News poll found that 31 percent of registered voters see the election as a way to raise objection to Obama, while only 18 percent see it as a way to affirm Obama. That’s nearly as bad as it was for George W. Bush in 2006 before major Democratic gains.

Republicans are so confident of anti-Obama sentiments that they aren’t making an effort to present an alternative agenda, the way they did with 1994’s “Contract With America” or 2010’s “Pledge to America.” The Republican National Committee drafted only vaguely worded “principles” (“Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored”).

 
Poll: Obama hits lowest approval

Barack Obama is pictured. | Getty

Poll: Obama hits lowest approval

By JONATHAN TOPAZ

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is at the lowest level of his presidency, a new poll says.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday, 40 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the lowest score the poll has recorded since he took office. His rating is down 1 point from September.

The survey comes less than a month out from the November midterm elections. A large number of Democratic congressional and gubernatorial candidates on the campaign trail have been distancing themselves from the White House.

Among independent voters, Obama’s approval rating stands at 33 percent.

 
The Fugitive in the Pennsylvania Woods

The Fugitive in the Pennsylvania Woods

By Benjamin Wallace-Wells

During a nighttime shift change at a Pennsylvania state police barracks in the Poconos last month, a 31-year-old man named Eric Frein, operating a rifle and firing from a distance, shot two state troopers and killed one of them. Then he ran. It has been more than two months since the shooting, and police have long confined their search for the shooter to a small section of woods near where he grew up, about five square miles in size. As many as 1,000 law-enforcement officers at a time have been after Frein, and there have been several instances where they have caught sight of him, but no cop has seemed to come particularly close to apprehending him. A state police lieutenant colonel named George Blevins told a press conference that Frein seemed to be almost taunting the cops chasing him, appearing in places where they could see but not reach him. "It's almost like this is a game to him," Blevins said.

What kind of game, exactly, has been a little harder to pin down. Perhaps it has something to do with ideology, though Frein left nothing like a manifesto. Cops, combing through his background, described Frein as a survivalist and suggested he harbored grudges against the police and perhaps society: "He has made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also to commit acts of mass murder." Friends and acquaintances who have spoken to the press have not remembered anything quite that severe, though they have mentioned a libertarian-inflected tendency to criticize the government. Perhaps, too, his motives had something to do with guns. Frein, the son of an army major, seems to have worked only sporadically through his adult life (a stint at a grocery store, seasonal work teaching archery and riflery for the Boy Scouts) and to have spent much of his time practicing marksmanship ("He doesn't miss," his military father told police, ominously) and in war reenactment — he specialized in reenactments of Serbian army maneuvers and battles. The Serbian army, in real life, helped to carry out a genocide, but Frein's re-enactor friends said his enthusiasm for the Serbian group had mostly to do with the ragtag look of their fatigues. "This is more reminiscent of the first Rambo movie," one of them said.

Because Frein was quickly described as a survivalist and because he has eluded police for so long, many reports have compared this search to that for Eric Rudolph, who in the 1990s detonated homemade bombs at two abortion clinics, an Atlanta lesbian bar, and the Olympic Park before disappearing into the Appalachian wilderness, where he evaded searches for five years. Rudolph's politics, and the sheer length of his escape, made him a backwoods folk hero — billboards were taken out cheering him on, and there were T-shirts bearing the slogan "Run, Rudolph, Run."

"Many of the people who live in the mountainous search area regard the fugitive as far less menacing than the federal and state agents sent to hunt him down," the great student of Southern culture, Tony Horwitz, wrote in The New Yorker. Horwitz quoted a woman becoming "misty-eyed" when she thought about Rudolph on Christmas Day, and a pastor who described the North Carolina woods as clannish territory said of Rudolph, "He's one of the clan."

The great social alarm that was raised by the long Rudolph flight had to do with the culture that supported and shrouded him. The real revelations of the Horwitz piece and others like it were that in some parts of rural America there were pastors, surgeons, recycling-plant workers — otherwise law-abiding social stalwarts — who could convince themselves that Rudolph's campaign of murders and terror served to advance political causes they believed in: against abortion, against the spread of gay rights, for a radically limited government.

The Frein manhunt may be less culturally significant than the pursuit of Rudolph, but as a pure fugitive matter, it is perhaps even stranger and more fascinating. We assume that more of the earth is covered, observable, than we did a decade and a half ago. Surveillance is more complete. Early on, there had been some hope that surveillance cameras that individual hunters operated throughout the wilderness to try to track the passing deer might help to pinpoint Frein, but they don't seem to have made a difference. That Frein has not yet been caught is scary. It is also simply astonishing that even just two hours from New York there are unmonitored places in which a determined person can, for a remarkably long time, simply slip away.

 
Is Israel losing its historic support?

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's PM, believes the UN mechanism is 'vital' to preventing Hamas rebuild its military infrastructure.

Is Israel losing its historic support?

As Sweden and UK vote to recognise Palestinian statehood, we ask: is the mood changing among Israel's allies?

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has visited Gaza to witness the scale of destruction from the 51-day war earlier this year. The international community has pledged $5bn dollars of aid for reconstruction, but it comes amid a changing mood among Israel's traditional allies. Sweden announced it would officially recognise Palestinian statehood, and the British parliament also voted for official recognition. Even the United States, Israel's closest ally, has shown its frustration in recent months.

 
Panetta goes all in for Hillary Clinton

Panetta goes all in for Hillary Clinton

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday he would “absolutely” support Hillary Clinton if she ran for president, adding, “What the hell else do you want?” when listing his former cabinet colleague’s attributes for the White House.

“She is somebody that I’ve seen who’s dedicated to this country. She’s smart, she’s experienced, and she’s tough. What the hell else do you want?” Panetta said, when asked why Clinton should be president.

When asked whether he would support a 2016 bid by Clinton, Panetta — who also served as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff — said, “Sure. Absolutely.”

“I think that there should be somebody who runs for the presidency who’s got great experience and great dedication to this country, and if it happens to be named Clinton, that’s OK with me,” he said.

 
Global Oil Glut Sends Prices Plunging

Global Oil Glut Sends Prices Plunging

Oil prices posted their biggest one-day drop in nearly two years amid a glut of crude. WSJ’s Liam Denning and Michael Casey discuss.

 
Pot tied to fewer brain injury deaths: study

Could sparking up save you from brain trauma?

Pot tied to fewer brain injury deaths: study

Anne Harding, Reuters

People who use marijuana may be more likely to survive a serious head injury than people who don't, a new study suggests.

At one hospital, the death rate after traumatic brain injury was lower among people who tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) than among people who tested negative for it, researchers found.

"This data fits with previous data showing that (THC) may be neuroprotective," Dr. David Plurad, one of the study's authors, said in a phone interview.

Experiments in animals have found that THC may protect the brain after injury, Plurad and his colleagues write in The American Surgeon. Little is known about the specific effects of THC on brain injury in humans, however.

 
Obama, Not Bush, Is the Master of Unilateral War

Obama, Not Bush, Is the Master of Unilateral War

The president must force Congress to vote on his military powers.

By Jack Goldsmith and Matthew Waxman

Late in the summer of 2013, President Barack Obama pulled back from his announced plans to use unilateral military force against Syria and stated that he would instead seek Congress’s approval. “I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress,” and “America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together,” he said. “This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president … while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.”

Congress never authorized Obama to use force in Syria, and Russian President Vladimir Putin gave him an out by brokering a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. But Obama’s statement on the need for congressional consent, and the noted contrast with his predecessor, are nonetheless clarifying in their irony.

Obama’s predecessor asserted very broad presidential prerogatives in other military contexts, and his Justice Department wrote expansive legal justifications for unilateral war. But in the context of initiating war, Bush acted in a manner respectful of separation of powers. He did not “sideline the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.” To the contrary, he sought and received legislative authorization before using force. Both of Bush’s major warsagainst the 9/11 perpetrators (and their protectors), and against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraqwere clearly and formally approved in advance by Congress in, respectively, its September 2001 and October 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs).

And it is Obama, not Bush, who has proven the master of unilateral war. Because of his lofty rhetoric about principle, because he sometimes appears to be a reluctant commander-in-chief, and perhaps because his claims of legal authority have been advanced and defended by lawyers who did not bring to office a reputation for hardline executive supremacy, the war powers precedents Obama has established have not been appreciated. Yet for those same reasons they will be especially credible, and thus especially tempting, to future administrations. These precedents will constitute a remarkable legacy of expanded presidential power to use military force.

 
The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

By

From 2004 to 2011, American and Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and at times were wounded by, chemical weapons that were hidden or abandoned years earlier.

The soldiers at the blast crater sensed something was wrong.

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”

Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

James F. Burns with his dog Koda, at his home in Yakima, Wash. After his team found the chemical shell in 2004, “They put a gag order on all of us – the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” he said of higher-ups. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified Top Secret.” 

 
James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret.

james risen photo 2014

James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret.

Trevor Timm

The reporter who exposed the NSA before Snowden will go behind bars to protect his source. But he will not let Obama’s Bushian addiction to power take us back to endless war without a fight.

For a man who could be forced into jail by the US government, possibly within “a few weeks”, after becoming the only journalist to be subpoenaed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, James Risen sure is busy.

In the past year alone, the New York Times investigative reporter who originally blew the lid on NSA wiretapping has interviewed with Edward Snowden, reported on multiple NSA revelations with Laura Poitras, and uncovered the incredible story of a Blackwater executive who threatened to kill a US state department employee who was investigating corruption – along with the government cover-up that followed. All while keeping mum as The Most Transparent Administration in American HistoryTM attempted to back him into a legal corner for doing his job as a reporter: protecting his sources.

“Maybe the Obama administration, at some point, is going to begin to back off, you would hope,” Risen told me on Monday afternoon. Until then, he’s speaking out upon the release of a new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, that takes us from the rise of the second Bush administration’s “homeland security-industrial complex” to an Obama administration that, in 2014, is more secret than ever, facing down yet another war in Iraq that could last years.

It’s the recurring theme of Risen’s book: secrecy corrupts, and absolute secrecy is destructive to democracy. And as the blockbuster, 9,000-word story by CJ Chivers published in today’s Times shows in such chilling detail, some things never change.

“Isis is a symptom of the disfunction we created in Iraq,” Risen told me. “Isis is a serious group that we should be concerned about, but it’s not something – at least from the intelligence so far – that is any imminent threat to the US”. Risen was referring to the many tame reports from American intelligence agencies that belie the drumbeat to war frantically erupting from Capitol Hill and cable news.

“After 13 years,” Risen said, “we still see that exaggerated fear-mongering. … It can be kind of depressing to see exaggerations on television or in the media about how dangerous things are. And the politicians are stoking this, going on TV and saying ‘We’re all going to die.’”

 
Michael Tomasky: The Amazingly Two-Faced Mitch McConnell

The Amazingly Two-Faced Mitch McConnell

The Kentucky Republican who will likely be our next Senate majority leader has an astounding ability to lie, dissemble, and misrepresent himself to voters.

Alison Lundergan Grimes has been getting a lot of grief lately, not least from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which pulled the plug on her campaign yesterday. Her team quickly sent out a press release noting that she has $4.4 million in cash on hand, which the release said was “more than any Democrat in a competitive U.S. Senate race.” So she probably has enough to see her through to the end, but obviously, the DSCC move isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

Even so, I’d like to pay her a compliment: I can’t conceive of how she managed to sit there next to Mitch McConnell at that debate Monday night and hear him say some of the things he said without her head exploding. That took admirable self-control.

I’m not sure which suffix to add to “shame” to better describe McConnell’s performance: Was it –less, or was it –ful? Remember Mitt Romney during the first debate of 2012, how he routinely said “my position is X” (invariably a more centrist posture) when for the preceding umpteen months his position had been the much more right-wing Not X? Well, McConnell made Romney look like an ironman of forthright constancy. So this is how, with a 30-year Senate record that you’d think you might be able to boast about, you win reelection: By completely misrepresenting who you’ve been for the last six years, and by saying “Obama” every 45 seconds.

Misrepresentations were numerous, but let’s just zero in on student loans. Grimes raised the issue and noted the rising costs of the loans, which Congress hasn’t addressed. McConnell responded that the Senate had taken care of the issue in a bipartisan fashion. But it didn’t. The Elizabeth Warren-sponsored bill failed in the Senate by four votes, getting only 56 yeas but needing 60 to end debate and make it to the floor. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, but McConnell wasn’t one of them. And McConnell said publicly at the time that he was against Warren’s plan because it was “designed to fail” since it would raise taxes on rich people.

 
Washington: Isis strategy is on track

Washington: Isis strategy is on track

kobani bombing

Dan Roberts in Washington and Constanze Letsch in Istanbul 

Isis advances on Baghdad and Kobani despite 21 air strikes in two days while Turkey bombs Kurdish targets in south-east

The US-led campaign to combat Islamic State (Isis) fighters in Syria and Iraq is facing a growing crisis of confidence as setbacks on the battlefield coincide with efforts to improve allied coordination and calls for President Barack Obama to escalate the military attacks.

White House officials insist their twin strategy of air strikes and support for local ground forces is still working despite advances by Isis outside Baghdad and in the Syrian town of Kobani, but concede they will consider calls for additional bombing if requested by the Pentagon.

In the last two days alone, the US has conducted 21 separate air strikes on Isis forces in and around Kobani and recently deployed Apache attack helicopters to repel advances on Baghdad airport.

Yet the latest damage assessment released by the Pentagon on Tuesday focused primarily on damage to Isis “staging locations” and buildings rather than claiming much success against fighters on the ground who are dispersed in urban areas and much harder to target using current tactics.

“I am confident the president would want to reserve that option dependent on the advice he gets from his military planners,” the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters when asked whether Obama was willing to escalate the air campaign against Isis.

 
ISIS Has a Bigger Coalition Than We Do

top-box

ISIS Has a Bigger Coalition Than We Do

In the ’30s, Spain attracted the world’s romantic idealists. Now the ‘caliphate’ is drawing psychopathic losers from countless countries—and they’ll risk all to feel like winners.

As President Obama met Tuesday with the defense ministers of 21 nations to strategize against ISIS, the terror state in the making extended its murder spree with jihadis from that many countries and more.

The same way that the fight for the Spanish Republic in the 1930s drew romantic idealists from all over the world, the jihad for an Islamic caliphate is attracting psychopathic losers from seemingly everywhere.

These vile volunteers from at least 25 nations include not just the British-accented monster who has been videoed beheading Western hostages, but a fighter who sounds distinctly Trinidadian.

That fighter’s name is Shane Crawford, and he is one of at least four Trinidadian jihadis fighting with ISIS. He is the central figure in a video that is on one level more disturbing than the ones showing the beheadings.

In this other video, 29-year-old Crawford is not committing an atrocity such as might be expected of ISIS. He is instead frolicking with his pals in the Euphrates River as if they were not a crowd of murderers but simply a bunch of frat bros.

“It’s not that bad,” exclaims Crawford, aka Asadullah. “When you come out, you not feeling cold again!”

 
Poll shows Democrats hit 30-year low, Republicans more motivated to vote

Poll shows Democrats hit 30-year low, Republicans more motivated to vote

Dan Balz and Scott Clement

Less than a month from the midterms, the political landscape continues to tilt in favor of the GOP.

Heading into the final weeks of the midterm campaign, the political landscape continues to tilt in favor of the Republican Party, with President Obama’s overall approval rating at the lowest level of his presidency and GOP voters signaling greater likelihood than Democrats that they will cast ballots, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Americans look to November and beyond with dissatisfaction about the state of the country and the political leadership in Washington. Two in three say the country is seriously off-track, and more than 6 in 10 say that neither the president nor the Republican contingent in Congress has a clear plan for governing.

Public impressions of the two political parties are similarly gloomy. Favorable ratings for the Democratic Party (39 percent) are at a 30-year low, and for the first time a majority (51 percent) gives the Democrats an unfavorable rating. The Republicans are even lower, with a 33 percent favorable rating. That is little changed since last year’s government shutdown, although the party’s unfavorable rating has improved.

Most worrisome for Democrats is that their candidates will be weighed down by unhappiness with the president. Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 40 percent, the lowest recorded in a Post-ABC News poll during his six years in office, though only a point lower than last month. Among independents, his rating is 33 percent.

 
Report: Biden calls tea party 'crazy'

Report: Biden calls tea party 'crazy'

By KENDALL BREITMAN

Joe Biden is pictured. | Getty

Vice President Joe Biden described himself as “the only white boy on the east side of Wilmington” and called the tea party “crazy” in a private meeting with black clergy members, according to a report.

A source tells CNN that at a closed-door meeting in South Carolina with 100 black clergy members on Tuesday, he directed harsh criticism toward the Republican Party.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said, according to CNN. “This is a different breed of cat, man. I am not making a moral judgment, but I will tell you that they have no judgment.”

He continued, “If [Republicans] win again, we are going to get no consensus on anything for the next two, four, six years. but if we beat some of these folks, it’s going to give some spine to the Republicans who know better. If we win, will turn things around. There will be a consensus.”

 
Hospital exec: Second worker with Ebola an 'unprecedented crisis'

Dallas Fire-Rescue hazardous materials teams distribute fliers early Wednesday at an apartment complex at Village Bend Drive and Skillman St., where a second health care worker who tested positive for Ebola resides.

Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer

Hospital exec: Second worker with Ebola an 'unprecedented crisis'

By Claire Cardona

 

 


Dr. Daniel Varga, Texas Health Resources' chief clinical officer, declined to comment Wednesday on allegations by a nurse’s union that Presbyterian was unprepared for the first Ebola patient, putting workers at greater risk.

A second health care worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus, according to preliminary lab results released early Wednesday.

The health care worker, like nurse Nina Pham, took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who became the nation’s first person diagnosed with the deadly virus. The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed the positive results.

“Like Nina Pham, this is a heroic person – a person who has dedicated her life to helping others,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins at a press conference Wednesday morning.

City and county officials did not confirm whether the health care worker was also a nurse. The health care worker, who has not been publicly identified, was put into isolation within 90 minutes of reporting she had a fever. They declined to give an exact time frame for when the new patient tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test at a state lab in Austin.

In addition to Pham and the second health care worker, there are 75 other hospital workers being monitored for symptoms of Ebola. Officials said they expect to see more cases.

“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings at an early morning press conference.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is equipped to care for three Ebola patients in isolation, said Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer and senior vice president of the hospital’s parent company, Texas Health Resources.

He called the second Ebola infection of a hospital worker “an unprecedented crisis.”

 
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