How A New Mental Health Reform Bill Could Break The Party Divide

by ALEX ZIELINSKI – It’s been nearly three years since the Senate held a hearing on mental health care. The last meeting, sparked by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 27 dead in Newton, Connecticut, called for an urgent, bipartisan solution to the country’s gaps in access to mental health care. But neither gun control policy or mental health legislation has advanced since. Now, nearly 1,000 mass shootings later, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has reconvened to push actual legislation into the spotlight. And this time, the bill featured touts a powerful promise: Bipartisan support. Mental health care policy has historically been paired with gun control laws in Congress, making it a consistently complicated and drawn-out battle. Usually, GOP policymakers stick to their guns (literally) by pinning the spread of gun violence on the lack of comprehensive mental health care, and urging efforts focused...

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Cowboy Bob, Black Magic, And The Courtroom Of Death

by ERICA HELLERSTEIN – “Macy’s persistent misconduct… has without doubt harmed the reputation of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and left the unenviable legacy of an indelibly tarnished legal career.” – U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, 2002 Wearing a crisp white shirt, Robert “Cowboy Bob” Macy sits in a plush beige chair in front of the camera. His face is wrinkled; his hair gray and thin. A tan leather saddle rests on the table behind him, and a western-themed wind chime clinks in the breeze. “Do you believe in God?” David Aubre, a French filmmaker, asks the former Oklahoma County District Attorney. “Very much,” Macy drawls. “Do you think there’s a chance that God is against the death penalty?” Macy blinks. The camera focuses on his face, and he remains quiet save for a few shallow breaths. More than ten seconds pass. Finally, he concludes, “I don’t know how to answer...

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Where Republicans are United, Divided on the Economy

by BRUCE DRAKE – Republicans differ sharply from Democrats in their views on the state of the economy, the tax system, government aid to the poor and other issues. But Republicans also have divisions within their own ranks. Here is a profile of Republicans’ views of the economy and economic policy, based on our surveys: Recovery As a whole, Republicans are more bearish about the national economy than Democrats. Just 16% of Republicans rated the economy as excellent or good in our May survey, compared with 36% of Democrats. And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy isn’t recovering. One-in-three Republicans (33%) said the economy wasn’t recovering at all, compared with 7% of Democrats. In a January survey, more Republicans (63%) than Democrats (47%) said they were falling behind financially. When asked in July, Americans rated the parties about equally when it came to which would better handle...

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Congressman: ‘No Way’ Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Happen, Even After Obama

by EMILY ATKIN – It’s been widely reported that newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t bring immigration reform legislation to the House floor while President Obama remains in office. What’s been mentioned less is what will happen when Obama is gone. According to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ryan promised the House’s ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus in a closed-door meeting that he won’t bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor even after a new president is elected — that is, unless he can ensure that the majority of House Republicans will vote for it. And Jordan pointed out that it’s very unlikely that the majority of Republicans will ever support anything comprehensive. “We got assurances on the immigration issue and this comprehensive Gang-of-Eight-type of plan that that’s not going to happen,” Jordan told radio host Laura Ingraham on Friday. “And frankly, in the next Congress, there’s no way something...

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Clinton Unveils Criminal Justice Platform Amid Protest By Black Lives Matter Activists

by BEENISH AHMED – Hilary Clinton unveiled her platform on criminal justice reform at a rally on Friday that was briefly interrupted by demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement. The Democratic presidential front-runner called for an end to racial profiling in law enforcement and said that she would prevent the federal government from asking job applicants about their criminal history. “Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind,” Clinton said. “Racial profiling is wrong, demanding, doesn’t keep us safe or help solve crimes. It’s time to put that practice behind us.” Clinton spoke at a packed gym at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black institution. She was interrupted by demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to their cries of “Black lives matter,” Clinton said, “Yes, yes they do.” Speaking over the group, she attempted to continue...

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No Survivors From Russian Plane Crash in Egypt

At least 224 people killed after airliner crashed in mountainous part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula All 224 passengers and crew on board a Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula have died, Egyptian medical and security sources said. Search and rescue team members are still gathering the remains of victims after the crash on Saturday, the sources said. The plane was heading to St Petersburg, likely carrying tourists returning from holidays in Egypt’s popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort. The Russian embassy confirmed there were no survivors. A statement Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said the wreckage of the Russian passenger jet was found in the Hassana area, south of the city of el-Arish. It said the plane – a Metrojet Airbus A321 – took off from Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists, and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after take-off. Day of mourning Among...

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Is Denmark’s Democratic Socialism a Realistic Model for the U.S.?

by JOSH HOXIE – If you ask Bernie Sanders about his version of socialism, you’ll probably hear a lot about the small Scandinavian country perhaps best known for inventing Legos. Anderson Cooper experienced this firsthand when he asked about the Vermont senator’s embrace of democratic socialism during the first Democratic presidential debate. That prompted the full Sanders rap on the wonders of Denmark, including the Nordic country’s strong safety net and egalitarian ethic. As a longtime fan of all things Danish, from their bike lanes to their Viking hats, I’m excited to see this northern nation enter the spotlight here at home. While studying abroad in Denmark as a college student, I compared its universal health care system to our own — and found Denmark’s far superior. This was in 2009, a time when this was anything but an academic exercise. Back home, Congress and the Obama administration were brushing...

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Ted Nugent on SC Teen: ‘Act Like an Animal and You Will End up Being Treated Like an Animal’

by Jen Hayden – According to the NRA’s most famous board member, the South Carolina teen who refused to give up her phone and was subsequently violently arrested, she’s nothing more than an animal. In a column for conspiracy heavy WND, Nugent spewed his hateful and racist views: As the liberal denial freaks recoil in feigned horror at such “unnecessary” violent disruption by the good officer Fields, I am proud to stand with the many millions of Americans who know damn well she had it coming, and clearly long overdue at that. The introverted kid who classmates say rarely talked “had it coming.” Never mind he knows nothing of this child, he went on: By all accounts, the brat, like so many undisciplined brats before her, simply refused to obey the rules, refused to obey the teacher, refused to obey the principal and refused to obey officer Fields.By all these consistent...

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‘A Tale of Two Retirements’: New Report Blasts Rigged Rules That Favor Corporate Execs

by Andrea Germanos – Imagine a retirement account worth over $49.3 million. For 100 Fortune 500 CEOs, it’s no dream—it’s their average retirement nest egg, according to a report, A Tale of Two Retirements, released Wednesday by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Underscoring the nation’s inequality, the CEOs’ retirement assets together total $4.9 billion, the same amount as that held by 50 million families—41 percent of American families—combined. “The CEO-worker retirement divide has turned our country’s already extreme income divide into an even wider economic chasm,” said Sarah Anderson, IPS Global Economy Project director. Take Honeywell CEO David Cote, who, the report notes, has promoted cuts to Social Security and is a founding member of the pro-austerity group Fix the Debt.  He stands to get a monthly retirement check of over $948,000, while General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt stands to take in $463,000...

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These 4 Republican Senators Are Forming A Group To Tackle Climate Change

by KATIE VALENTINE – The environment just got a boost from an unlikely source: Senate Republicans. Four senators — Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — formed a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group this week that, according to Ayotte’s office, will “focus on ways we can protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation.” The group will meet semi-regularly to discuss environmental issues and talk about potential legislative ways to address them. “The Energy and Environment Working Group will be a way for us to bring people together and start an ongoing conversation about these topics — like how we can best protect our environment and climate, pursue common sense and market-based reforms to grow our economy, and promote cleaner energy production,” Ayotte said in a statement. The news of the group’s formation comes...

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Thank You, Donald Trump?

by David Michael Green – Call me a jerk if you want to (you won’t be the first), but I kinda like it when bad things happen to bad people.  I especially appreciate it when greedy plutocrats who run over the weakest of us to in order to make themselves even richer and more powerful get handed their lunch. Sadly, mine is a largely unrequited desire, and an altogether lonely avocation.  It just doesn’t happen so very often that the world’s most deserving get their just reward.  There might be justice in the cosmos, but I regret to say that I’ve not had the pleasure of encountering a whole lot of it in this lifetime. Lately, though, I’ve been getting bruises on my butt from falling off my chair so often, as the crimes of more than a decade ago are miraculously now getting some attention.  That’s not the same as...

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The Paradox of Paul Ryan: Why the Tea Party’s Right to be Wary

by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship – Only in a world where Cosmopolitan magazine can declare the Kardashians “America’s First Family” and the multi-billionaire loose cannon Donald Trump is perceived by millions as the potential steward of our nuclear arsenal could about-to-be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan be savaged as insufficiently right-wing. This is after all a man who made his bones in Congress and the Republican Party as an Ayn Rand-spouting, body building budget-buster slashing away at the body politic like a mad vivisectionist, as well as an anti-choice, pro-gun zealot who never met a government program he liked (except the military, whose swollen budget he would increase until we are all left naked living in a national security state). But the former vice presidential candidate is widely cited among many of his colleagues as a likable enough chap who is polite to his elders in the hierarchy of Congress,...

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Preempting Democracy: What’s Not Being Voted on This November is Sinister

by Simon Davis-Cohen – From minimum wage increases to anti-fracking measures, the right of local citizens to vote on key issues is now in the crosshairs State preemption has reached an infamous status. People are outraged by state legislatures’ claim of unilateral authority to prohibit local governments from raising the minimum wage, curbing fossil fuel extraction or otherwise increasing state protections for workers, the environment and even tenants. It’s an accelerating issue; state preemption bills are broadening. For example, in Michigan and elsewhere the preemption of local minimum wage hikes is being expanded to include all law making that regulates employer-employee relations. And now, in the past few months, local citizens’ very right to vote on the issues has been caught in the crosshairs. Those whom are spearheading this wave of state preemption—often linked to the equally infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—are escalating their tactics. August and September 2015 court...

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Slamming War on Drugs, Sanders says Let States Make Pot Legal

by Andrea Germanos – ‘We need major changes in our criminal justice system—including changes in drug laws,’ the Vermont senator said Bernie Sanders on Wednesday evening slammed U.S. drug policy and called for the lifting of the federal prohibition on marijuana. The presidential hopeful made the remarks at a town hall meeting at George Mason University. “In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system—including changes in drug laws,” the U.S. Senator from Vermont said. He said that in 2014, there were 620,000 marijuana possession arrests. “That is one arrest every minute,” he said. Sanders also cited an ACLU report that showed that there were over 8 million marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, almost 9 in 10 of which were for...

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‘Gasoline on the Fire’: Obama Orders Ground Troops To Syria

by Jon Queally – Expanded military footprint will include Special Ops forces inside Syria and expanded ground operations in Iraq In a move that critics says fulfills long-held warnings of “mission creep” and amount to throwing “gasoline on a fire,” the Obama administration on Friday announced that U.S. ground troops will now be deployed inside Syria. In strategic leaks to various media outlets, the Pentagon made clear the president’s plan to send approximately 50 Special Operations soldiers inside the war-torn country. Reports also note that expanded ground operations will also be taking place in neighboring Iraq. Unnamed U.S. officials reportedly “stressed” to Reuters that the new boots-on-the-ground in Syria were “not meant to engage in front-line combat but rather to advise and assist moderate rebels.” One official told Reuters the key role of the troops would be “logistical” and designed, the news agency reported, to “ensure that weapons and other supplies are delivered...

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Meet The People Being Prosecuted For Voter Fraud In Kansas

by KIRA LERNER – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a notorious voter suppression architect, is the only election official in the country with prosecutorial power. He secured that authority earlier this year, the latest step in his crusade to go after what he views as rampant voter fraud throughout his state. Earlier this month, he filed his first criminal charges. The targets: three people he says committed voter fraud in the 2010 election. Research shows that new voting restrictions enacted by states across the country prevents voters — particularly minorities and younger citizens — from casting ballots. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is a non-issue and most alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. But Kobach would disagree. To him, the three people he’s decided to prosecute have committed a “serious crime.” One is convicted of a felony, meaning...

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Amid Flood of Dark Money, Groups Make Simple Request of FEC: ‘Do Your Job’

by Deirdre Fulton – Existing regulations are “woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment” Decrying the unprecedented flow of so-called “dark money” into the U.S. political process, a coalition of civic and religious organizations, environmentalists, and academics on Tuesday submitted comments to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), calling on the agency to—put simply—do its job. “Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, each election cycle has seen dramatic changes in the campaign finance environment,” the groups declared in comments (pdf) that press the FEC to address critical regulatory shortfalls. “Yet, the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission have not kept pace.” In fact, they continued, “Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections via both electioneering communications and independent expenditures is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.” While Citizens United undoubtedly “opened a floodgate of outside spending,”...

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Catholic Theologians Ask New York Times To Stop Letting Ross Douthat Write About Theology

by JACK JENKINS – On October 17, New York Times opinion writer and prominent Catholic conservative Ross Douthat penned a scathing critique of Pope Francis entitled “The Plot To Change Catholicism.” In it, he blasted the pope for supposedly endorsing the idea that divorced and remarried Catholics should receive communion without an annulment, and slammed the famously egalitarian pontiff for his “ostentatious humility.” The piece is one of several Douthat has written about Pope Francis and Catholicism in recent months, most of which are deeply critical of the Church’s left wing and Francis’ relatively progressive take on various theological issues. This week, however, American Catholics are fighting back. On Monday, a group of Catholic theologians published an open letter directly challenging Douthat, who reportedly has little if any formal training in theology or Church history. The signers took particular umbrage with his most recent article, but also appeared to decry...

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Ben Carson Says He’s Not A Homophobe. Ben Carson Disagrees

by ZACK FORD – Though Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate focused mostly on the economy, one question did bring up social issues. CNBC anchors asked Ben Carson about serving on the board of a company as LGBT-friendly as Costco given his anti-LGBT views, and he used it as an opportunity to claim he’s not at all homophobic. “Obviously you don’t understand my views on homosexuality,” he claimed. “I believe our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman. There is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.” Rather than address the fact that opposing same-sex marriage is basically the opposite of believing the Constitution protects same-sex couples, Carson went on the defensive. “They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you...

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Snowden an ‘International Human Rights Defender,’ EU Resolution Calls for His Protection

by Andrea Germanos – Resolution passed by European Parliament Thursday calls on member states to prevent whistleblower’s extradition, rendition The European Parliament passed a resolution Thursday urging its nations to afford NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden protection. Passed by a 285 to 281 vote, the resolution calls on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.” Snowden, who’s been residing in Russia since 2013, responded to the resolution on Twitter by calling it a “game-changer”: Edward Snowden ✔@Snowden Hearing reports EU just voted 285-281, overcoming huge pressure, to cancel all charges against me and prevent extradition. Game-changer. 10:16 AM – 29 Oct 2015 Follow Edward Snowden ✔@Snowden This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is...

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We Don’t Need to Wait for Chilcot, Blair Lied to Us About Iraq. Here’s the Evidence

by Peter Oborne – With the help of the BBC and Dr David Morrison, I carried out my own inquiry. The facts are devastating for Blair, for Parliament and for all of us Two weeks ago I found myself in conversation with Dr Hans Blix, head of the United Nations weapons inspection team ahead of the Iraq invasion in 2003. Dr Blix told me that Tony Blair’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were simply not an accurate reflection of the intelligence provided to the British government. “The big difference in the British dossier,” Dr Blix told me, “was that they simply asserted that these items are there. But when Mr Blair asserts that there were weapons, well that’s an assertion and it was not supported by evidence. Both the UK and the US replaced question marks by exclamation marks. I certainly think it was a misrepresentation.” He was talking about...

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New Study Finds That 2/3 of People on Anti-Depressants are Not Clinically Depressed

by John Vibes – According to a new study, doctors are dishing out anti-depressant drugs to pretty much anyone, and most of the patients don’t even meet the official criteria for clinical depression, which is likely a fabricated disorder to begin with. The study, which can be found in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, says that 69% of people who were prescribed anti-depressants did not actually exhibit the signs that doctors are supposed to look for when treating clinical depression. According to the study: Using data from the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study Wave 1 (1981) through Wave 4 (2004–2005) (N = 1,071), we assessed lifetime prevalence of common mood and anxiety disorders according to DSM-III and DSM-III-R criteria, based on 4 interviews, among participants who reported current antidepressant use. Furthermore, we examined factors associated with current antidepressant use. Thirteen percent of participants at Wave 4 reported currently using antidepressant...

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Iran Will Attend The Next Round Of Syrian Peace Talks. Here’s Why That’s A Big Deal

by JUSTIN SALHANI – Iran will be in Vienna this week to talk about a solution to the crisis in Syria. An Iranian government spokesman confirmed that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will attend the multilateral talks that see them at the same table as regional opponents. “We have reviewed the invitation, and it was decided that the foreign minister would attend the talks,” Marzieh Afkham, a spokeswoman for the Iranian foreign ministry, told the BBC. The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 and has since resulted in the death of over 200,000 people. Millions have been displaced, both internally and abroad. Inside the country, a regional – and at times global – proxy war quickly developed. Iran’s attendance at the peace talks is significant because of their influential involvement in the crisis on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. To date, the Iranians have sent around 2,000 fighters and members...

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Virginia Under the Gun

by Chelsea Parsons, Tim Daly, Eugenio Weigend Vargas – In some respects, gun violence in Virginia is typical of that in much of the nation. For example, Virginia ranked 28th of the 50 states for the overall rate of gun deaths from 2004 to 2013—right in the middle of the states. On the other hand, Virginia has been the scene of some of the most horrific, high-profile acts of gun violence in recent memory: the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the on-air execution of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward in August 2015. In fact, in the eight and a half years since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, approximately 7,173 Virginians have died by gunfire. These appalling incidents; Virginia’s proximity to the nation’s capital; and the fact that the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is headquartered in Virginia have made the commonwealth a national bellwether for the debate over gun laws. In recent years, the gun issue has...

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Paul Ryan Elected Speaker of the House

by Joan McCarter – The remarkable debacle kicked off last month when John Boehner announced he was leaving Congress and the speakership has finally been resolved. Rep. Paul Ryan won the Republican conference’s nomination to be Speaker of the House on Wednesday, but only got 200 of the necessary 218 votes needed to win the full floor vote. That united front of opposition from the Freedom Caucus types melted Thursday morning, when their chosen candidate Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) urged his supporters to support Ryan. Reps. David Brat (VA), Curt Clawson (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), Walter Jones (NC), Tom Massie (KY), Bill Posey (FL), Randy Weber (TX) and Ted Yoho (FL) voted Webster anyway, and in the final vote, Ryan easily got the votes he needed, 236. How he got to the point of securing those votes is the subject of a Politico article this morning. When North...

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The CNBC Republican Debate: Bring In the Clowns

by Robert Borosage – The CNBC Republican presidential debate last night opened with a startling bolt of straight talk: “We are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich, ignoring the inane moderator request that the candidates begin the debate by naming their biggest weakness. “I’ve watched to see people say that we should dismantle Medicare and Medicaid and leave the senior citizens out – out in the – in the cold. I’ve heard them talk about deporting 10 or 11 – people here from this country out of this country, splitting families. I’ve heard about tax schemes that don’t add up, that put our kids in – in a deeper hole than they are today.” Donald Trump sniffed dismissively: “ was such a nice guy. And he said, oh, I’m never going to attack. But then his poll numbers tanked…...

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Handwritten Draft Of King James Bible Discovered: Reveals No ‘Divine Powers’

by ANTIPHON FREEMAN – The earliest known version of The King James Bible, perhaps one of the most influential and widely read books in history, has been discovered mislabeled inside an archive at the University of Cambridge. The find is being called one of the most significant revelations in decades. It shows that writing is a process of revising, cutting, and then more rewriting. The Bible is no different in this regard, even though some conservative Christians claim it is the divine word of God himself. Perhaps God, then, is a revisionist. This find certainly seems to suggest that. The notebook containing the draft was found by American scholar, Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who announced his research in an article in The Times Literary Supplement. The New York Times didn’t take long to pick up the story. They ran an...

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John Boehner’s Parting Gift to Paul Ryan: A Two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling Deal

by Joan McCarter – John Boehner gets to leave the U.S. House of Representatives having accomplished something besides turning the institution over to a bunch of crazy ideologues: He’s bucking those same ideologues with a budget deal that will make the next speaker’s job easier—for a couple of years, anyway. The deal struck between Boehner, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, and the White House will set funding levels for the government into 2017 as well as raise the debt ceiling until March 2017. That means the new speaker, almost assuredly Paul Ryan, won’t have to work around the nihilists during an election year. Here are the basics of the deal: It breaks the sequester that’s been in place since the Budget Control Act of 2011 and raises funding levels overall $80 billion above the caps that sequestration currently allows. That increase is split 50-50...

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Police Prosecutions Have Increased, but Convictions Have Not

by Scott Shackford – Meanwhile, shootings by police show no sign of slowing I don’t know that I would necessarily call it “good news” that we’re seeing more police officers facing actual charges and trials for fatal shootings. Given, though, that there’s been a notable increase in the number of people killed by police in recent years, a doubling in the frequency by which officers face trial in 2015 is at least a sign that officials have started treating public outrage seriously. Now for the downers. The increase is from an average of five officers prosecuted a year to 12 so far in 2015. And none of the officers has been convicted yet. Reuters, reporting on the increase this year, notes that typically only one out of five officers charged has been found guilty over the past decade. Also, these numbers don’t include the six Baltimore officers who face charges over the...

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Is Bernie Sanders Dangerous to Socialism?

by Emma Caterine, Truthout | Op-Ed – “… the mistakes that are made by a truly revolutionary workers’ movement are, historically speaking, immeasurably more fruitful and more valuable than the infallibility of the best possible ‘Central Committee.'” – Rosa Luxemburg, democratic socialist, Rosa Luxemburg Reader (p. 265, p. 444). On October 18, 2015, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders decided that Iowa City would be where he declared what “democratic socialism” means to him. A bit shy of a 13-point program, Sanders did cite some helpful examples of what he considers socialist institutions: Social Security, Medicare and the police. Interestingly, the last time I heard these institutions in the United States referred to as socialist was when they were being attacked by libertarians like Ron Paul and Ross Perot. Apparently the populist independent-turned-Democrat from Vermont and the unrepentant capitalists share the viewpoint that government institutions are inherently socialist. I could laugh...

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The Shooting of Zachary Hammond: Is This What Self-Defense Looks Like?

by Jacob Sullum – No matter what prosecutors say, killing a teenager during a penny-ante pot bust cannot be justified As Ed Krayewski noted yesterday, a local prosecutor has decided not to charge the Seneca, South Carolina, police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond during a penny-ante drug sting on July 27. Police planned to arrest Hammond’s date, 23-year-old Toni Morton, whom an undercover cop had lured to a Hardee’s parking lot by pretending to be a pot buyer. Morton was sitting in the front passenger seat of Hammond’s car as Lt. Mark Tiller approached the driver’s side with his gun drawn. Tiller claimed he was forced to shoot because Hammond was trying to run him over. But that is not what the dashcam video of the encounter—which police did not release until yesterday, three months after the shooting—seems to show. As Tiller approaches the car, Hammond backs up...

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More Money, More Problems

by Michele L. Jawando and Billy Corriher – Fleeting Victories for Diversity on the Bench As America winds down its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the country continues to reflect on the progress made toward racial and political equality. One cannot help but recognize the crucial role the judiciary played and continues to play in achieving this progress, whether it was the U.S. Supreme Court declaring “separate is not equal,” as it did in Brown v. Board of Education, or the more recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. While the role of the federal judiciary and the decisions it metes out are often examined, far less focus and study is directed to the role of state courts and their impact and influence on ordinary citizens. Even less is known about who sits on these courts and their backgrounds, both...

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Justice Kennedy Suggests That Kim Davis Should Resign

by IAN MILLHISER – Justice Anthony Kennedy, a member of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc who nevertheless has authored several important gay rights opinions, suggested during an event at Harvard Law School last week that public officials who do not wish to follow the Court’s marriage equality decision should resign. Kennedy’s remarks came in response to a question from a student who described himself as someone who thinks “that rational norms guide the exercise of sexual autonomy.” The student asked whether public officials who disagree with the Court’s decisions on marriage equality or abortion have “authority to act according to her own judgment” of whether the Court’s legal reasoning was sound. The justice did acknowledge the “difficult moral questions” presented when a public official is asked to “enforce a law that they believe is morally corrupt.” He also steered away from explicitly stating that officials such as Kim Davis, who...

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Ford Motor Just Called Out Trump For Being The Liar He Is, And It’s Magnificent (TWEETS)

by SARAH – When it comes to people who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and those who are egomaniacs, they tend to think that the world revolves around them. They see anything bad as another person’s fault, and anything good, they take full credit. For instance, if Donald Trump starts to slip in the polls, it’s obviously the dumb voters in that state who don’t realize he’s the cat’s pajamas. Or say if Fox News says something bad about him – well, then, they’re just stupid and have no clue what they’re talking about. So, in turn, he takes his ball and goes home saying he never wants to see them again. However, just like when people give a whining child what they want, they come back, and come back with a vengeance as if their shit doesn’t stink. Recently, Trump seems to think he can take credit for a number...

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Texas: Neutering Democracy

by David Morris – In Texas, liberty trumps democracy.  The Texas Supreme Court itself says so.  In a recent decision, three of the five Justice majority bluntly declared. “(O)ur federal and state charters are not, contrary to popular belief, about ‘democracy’.”  They are about “liberty’s primacy.” The Justices concluded the Texas Constitution gives primacy to liberty because of the sequence of wording “That the great, general and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established,” is how the Constitution begins.  The word “liberty” comes first. Relying on the sequence of words to establish primacy could have gotten the Justices into trouble when it comes to the federal Constitution, a situation they adroitly finessed by quoting only part of the Preamble. “The federal Constitution, in the first sentence of the Preamble, declares its mission to ‘secure the Blessings of Liberty,”” opined the Justices.  But before securing liberty the...

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These GOP Candidates Were Born Into Privilege But Want You To Think Otherwise

by ALICE OLLSTEIN – Both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and hotel mogul Donald Trump have boasted about their business acumen, while others highlight the influence of their hard-working immigrant parents, or how they exhibit personal frugality in their shopping habits. Thanks to our current campaign finance laws, it takes a staggering amount of money to mount a credible bid for the White House. Those with a head start in life — from elite private education to a circle of well-to-do friends — have a distinct advantage. Yet because U.S. voters love a good rags-to-riches tale, even those candidates born into lives of wealth, power, and privilege have portrayed themselves in their campaign trail stories as scrappy underdogs who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. To hear these candidates tell it, they are modern-day Abraham Lincolns. The real story is more complicated. Trump’s Daddy-O “My whole life really has been a...

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The Drama Behind The Next Republican Debate

by EMILY ATKIN – There seems to be just a little less excitement than usual surrounding Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate. It is, after all, the third of twelve debates scheduled this season, and the candidates are the same as last time, minus Scott Walker. The New York Times even hinted at the routineness of it all, its most recent debate-related headline focusing on the “familiar risks” the candidates face. But there is some drama surrounding this upcoming event. And it has to do with the debate’s location — the University of Colorado Boulder, or CU-Boulder. Since September, there’s been a twinge of animosity among some students who claim they were misled about what housing a presidential debate on campus would be like. They thought they would be getting a unique education in American politics, but instead, some say they’re only getting a lesson in marketing. “The college framed ...

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FOX’s Sean Hannity Cites Hoax Website, Donald Trump Cites Hannity (VIDEO)

by RANDA MORRIS – As usual, the fact-checkers at Punditfact are working overtime trying to keep up with the lies being circulated by right-wing bubble heads. On October 26 at a New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, Donald Trump told those attending that President Obama is planning to bring 250,000 Syrian refugees to the United States. The Town Hall was broadcast live on NBC New Hampshire. Since the Obama administration has never said anything even close to this, Punditfact went to work trying to figure out where the claim came from. It turns out that on at least two separate occasions FOX News host Sean Hannity repeated claims made on a hoax website, called realnewsrightnow.com. On October 19, Hannity made claim while interviewing presidential candidate Jeb Bush. “You see the backlash emerging now in Europe over the refugee problem for Syria and Iraq,” Hannity said during the broadcast. “The president said he’s going...

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Concealed Carry Permit Holders Are Killing People, But Not In Self Defense

by RANDA MORRIS – Since 2007, at least 763 people have been killed by someone with a concealed carry permit. Those deaths are the result of 579 separate shootings, all initiated by someone who was given the legal right to carry a concealed weapon in our communities– our schools, churches, shopping centers, movie theaters and everywhere else. The NRA desperately wants us to believe that giving ammosexual assholes the right to carry guns into our public spaces is going to make us so much safer. They keep telling us that “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” And yet, out of the 579 shootings carried out by concealed carry permit holders since 2007, just 21 were in self-defense. That equates to about four percent of all shootings in which the shooter was licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Even more telling, more...

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Jeb Bush and the End of the Road

by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed – I spent a fair budget of Monday going back and forth to my computer, checking the wire reports on a hunch for official word that Jeb Bush was dropping out of the 2016 presidential race. As of this writing, that announcement has not arrived, but I feel it in my bones: It’s coming. Mr. Inevitable, you see, is getting creamed. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are eating his lunch. His poll numbers are so close to nothing as to make no practical difference. Matt Lauer tagged him on this during a recent appearance on “The Today Show”: “You are losing in the polls to the host of Celebrity Apprentice.” Early on in the campaign, he tapped his father’s campaign finance network, and they gave … but now, they’ve given to the limit, and he’s not collecting new donors. The base of...

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Final Major Budget Deal Of The Obama-Boehner Era Forces GOP To Release Social Security Hostages

by ALAN PYKE – The budget deal struck between Republican congressional leaders and the White House on Monday night would negate a previous GOP ploy to stage a crisis in Social Security funding next year. The deal will prevent a benefits cut by transferring funds from the main Social Security trust to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust, which would otherwise run short of funding next year and be forced to cut payments to beneficiaries by 20 percent. Congress has used that rudimentary policy solution to the shifting tides of financing between the two Social Security trust funds for decades, but Republicans had moved to block such a transfer back in January in hopes of creating a high-pressure legislative crisis around the disability program. At the time, Democrats and groups that oppose Social Security cuts objected loudly. The move amounted to taking disability benefits hostage, they said, to create...

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NFL’s Domestic Violence Policies Under Scrutiny Again Because Of Johnny Manziel

by LINDSAY GIBBS – Over the weekend, the final weekend of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the NFL aired the first new anti-domestic violence PSA of the 2015 season. The ad, part of the “No More” brand, featured Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay talking about his mother’s death at the hands of a domestic abuser when he was eight years old. “It’s time for us to get off of the sidelines,” Gay says. At the same time, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel — who is under investigation for a domestic violence incident earlier this month that led to multiple 911 calls from witnesses, questioning by police, and an abrasion on his girlfriend’s arm — was taking the field in St. Louis in relief of an injured Josh McCown. Depending on how McCown’s right shoulder fares this week, Manziel — or Johnny Football, as you might know him — might start against...

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Carson: Women Who Have Abortions Are Like Slave Owners

by RYAN KORONOWSKI – On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, GOP presidential contender — and recent Iowa frontrunner — Ben Carson compared women who decided to have abortions to slave owners who “thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave.” The discussion came after host Chuck Todd asked if life began at conception, to which Carson answered “I believe it does.” Todd asked whose right should be superseded — the mother or the child. “In the ideal situation, the mother should not believe that the baby is her enemy, and should not be looking to terminate her baby,” Carson said. “Things are set up in such a way that the person in the world who has the greatest interest in protecting her baby is the mother.” Carson said “purveyors of a vision” have been allowed to “make mothers believe that baby is her enemy and...

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Why This Republican Senator Just Came Out In Support Of Obama’s Climate Rule

by NATASHA GEILING – As soon as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan hit the Federal Register, the rule was met with a flurry of lawsuits from fossil fuel-producing states, utility groups and the coal industry. Republicans in Congress have pledged to block the rule, and could try to kill the rule through the Congressional Review Act this week. But in a chorus of Republican opposition, the Obama administration won a new ally over the weekend, when Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) became the first Republican senator to openly voice support for the Clean Power Plan. “It’s so important that we protect New Hampshire’s beautiful environment for our economy and for our future,” Ayotte said in a statement on Sunday, following an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio in which she endorsed the plan. “After carefully reviewing this plan and talking with members of our business community, environmental groups, and other stakeholders, I...

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Donald Trump Still Doesn’t Know What His Own Church Believes

by JACK JENKINS – On Saturday, firebrand businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took a swipe at the faith of Ben Carson, a rising star in the race for the GOP nomination. Speaking at a campaign rally in Florida, Trump dismissed the religious affiliation of the neurosurgeon-cum-politician, a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Christian who is beloved by evangelicals and is currently besting Trump among Iowa voters. But in an attempt to score a few political points, Trump may have exposed ignorance of his own church’s teachings. “I’m Presbyterian,” Trump said at the rally, repeating the line several times, according to the Washington Post. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.” Trump refused to apologize for his remarks on Sunday, saying, “I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about [Carson’s...

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Speaker Of The House Front-Runner Appoints Corporate Lobbyist As Chief-Of-Staff

by JOSH ISRAEL – Current Speaker of the House front-runner Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has reportedly decided to appoint a current federal lobbyist to be his chief of staff, likely the most powerful staff position in the U.S. House of Representatives. A ThinkProgress review of lobbying disclosure records reveals that his choice, former Senate chief of staff J. David Hoppe, has represented an array of controversial entities, as recently as last month. Stephen Spaulding, senior policy counsel at Common Cause, told ThinkProgress that while the appointment would be not terribly surprising, it is “exhibit A for how broken the system is.” Eight years after Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act — with the support of Ryan — to attempt to reign in the excessive influence of special interest lobbyists and the revolving door between government officials and the industries they regulate. But while the reforms included a cooling-off...

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Tea Party Tanks: Latest Poll Shows New Low for Faux Grassroots Movement

by Jon Queally – Five years after helping sweep Republicans back into office, voters appear to be shedding their support for the movement once described as a “weird and disorderly mob” created to do the bidding of the corporate elite National public support for the far-right Tea Party movement has plunged to historic lows, according to new polling released by Gallup on Monday. The survey shows that only 17 percent of Americans now actively support the Tea Party, while a majority (54 percent) neither oppose or support the faction which has aimed to drag the Republican Party further to the right in recent years. As Democrats and self-identified liberals continue to represent the largest set of outright opponents, the largest drop in support for the Tea Party comes from so-called “conservative Republicans,” of which only 42 percent are now supportive, compared to 63 percent who described themselves as backers in 2010....

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Growing Chorus Of Conservatives Accusing Black Lives Matter Of Advocating Murder Of Police

by NATASHA GEILING – During an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday, former New Jersey governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie told host John Dickerson that President Obama has encouraged “lawlessness” with his support of civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter. After noting that murder rates have gone up in cities like Chicago and New York, Christie said that “the problem is this — there is lawlessness in this country.” “The president encourages this lawlessness,” Christie added. “He encourages it.” When asked how Obama encourages this lawlessness, Christie pointed to the president’s support of Black Lives Matter — an activist movement that has been peacefully protesting the death of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. “He does not support the police, doesn’t back up the police, he justifies Black Lives Matter,” Christie said. Dickerson then asked if Black Lives Matter should...

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Obama’s 2008 Campaign Manager Picks His Candidate With Certainty: ‘Go Win This Thing’

by SARAH – When it comes to someone who knows how to run a winning campaign, David Plouffe is that person. As the architect to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, he took a freshman Senator with ambition and tremendous goals and helped him get the highest office in the land — President of the United States. And thank goodness President Obama was elected. He brought the nation back from the brink of utter destruction and chaos, recovering us from one of the worst national recessions the U.S. had ever seen. His goals were clear — get people back to work, protect the workers, restore international relationships, get healthcare to everyone, and make the nation a fairer and more equal society for all. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a lot further to go, and Plouffe believes the person for the job to continue that effort moving forward...

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We’re About To Get A Big Clue On How The Supreme Court Views Birth Control

by IAN MILLHISER – More than a year of drama and uncertainty over whether the Supreme Court will erect new limits to women’s access to birth control is about to enter its final chapter. When that chapter begins, the Court will send a signal that could telegraph how they will ultimately decide how much power bosses have to limit their employee’s access to birth control. Though the Court is all but certain to hear at least one case involving religious objectors who wish to hinder their employee’s access to contraception, the name of the specific case that the Court chooses to hear could reveal a great deal about how the justices view this issue. The justices are scheduled to consider whether to take up a birth control case at their October 30 conference, although they will likely delay announcing which case they will take for at least another week. The...

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