Amanda Terkel

Jailtime For Pregnant Soldiers? The Army Has Made Getting Pregnant a Punishable Offense

Major General Anthony Cucolo, who is responsible for operations in northern Iraq, has issued a controversial new policy -- which went into effect on Nov. 4 -- that allows throwing women servicemembers on active duty in jail if they become pregnant:

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Lunatic Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio Issues New Order Forcing Inmates to Listen to Christmas Carols

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, run by the controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, released a “news brief” this week announcing that it will be forcing the system’s 8,000 inmates to listen to “Christmas music” during the holiday season, even though Arpaio has faced six lawsuits over the issue in the past two years. From the statement (written in Christmas-themed red and green fonts):

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Right-Wing American Family Association Misfires in the War on Christmas

It’s not even Thanksgiving, but the American Family Association (AFA) has already taken up arms in the War on Christmas. On Nov. 11, the right-wing organization announced that it was urging its followers to boycott Gap Inc. (Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) from now until Christmas Day because the company refuses to say the word “Christmas”:

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Rape Victim Confronts Vitter Over Vote for Impunity for Contractors

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones’ Halliburton/KBR co-workers gang-raped her while she was working in Baghdad. The company then detained her in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would be heard in private arbitration only.

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Right Wing Falsely Asserts Right Wing Boogeymen Bill Ayers And Jeremiah Wright Visited The White House

Early Friday evening, the White House voluntarily released nearly 500 visitor records of "individuals visiting the executive mansion between Inauguration Day and the end of July." The easily-searchable list includes some famous names like Michael Jordan, Michael Moore, William Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright. Of course, the mere suggestion of Ayers and Wright has sent the right wing into a tizzy.

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Joe Lieberman Plans to Campaign For Republicans in 2010

After joining with Republicans this week in a promise to filibuster health reform if a public option is included, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) tells ABC News that he plans on campaigning for some GOP candidates in the 2010 elections:

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House Health Reform Bill Outlaws Treating Domestic Violence As a Pre-Existing Condition

This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled the re-tooled Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962). The bill will cost $900 billion over 10 years, extending health coverage to 36 million Americans (6-7 million more than the Senate Finance Committee’s version). As Igor Volsky points out, it also “includes a national public option that reimburses physicians at negotiated rates and requires individuals to acquire coverage and large employers to provide it.”

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Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License in Louisiana

The AP reports that Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell has refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple because he believes that such marriages don't usually last very long:

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Sotomayor Comes Out Swinging on First Day in the Court

Yesterday was the Supreme Court’s opening day, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor took an active role in oral arguments. Sotomayor “displayed no reticence on the first day of her first term on the court; in the two cases on the docket, she asked as many questions and made as many comments as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.,” reported the Washington Post. “The only sign of her newness was that she at times forgot to turn on her microphone before posing a question.” McClatchy also observed that in just an hour, she actually asked “more questions than Justice Clarence Thomas has asked over the course of several years.” Thomas has gone three years straight without posing a question during oral arguments.

Michele Bachmann Dodges Question About Murdered Census Worker

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was in St. Louis, MO [this weekend] for the right-wing How to Take Back America Conference, which features panels such as "How to stop feminist and gay attacks on the military" and "How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists." The Washington Independent's Dave Weigel attended the conference and attempted to catch up with Bachmann to ask her about the murdered Census worker in Kentucky, but she evaded his question:

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DC Madam Customer David Vitter Is Outraged By the ACORN Prostitution Scandal

 Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is the self-proclaimed “most outspoken critic of ACORN.” Following the release of incriminating videos showing ACORN workers giving advice to undercover conservative activists inquiring about how to start a brothel and not get caught, Vitter and other Republicans called for investigations and audits of the organization. On Monday, he put out a press release bragging about all his anti-ACORN work over the years and commending the administration for condemning the group:

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Special Interests Got a Copy of the Baucus Plan Before the White House Did

In today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted that the Obama administration has not yet seen a copy of Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) newestdraft of health care legislation. “[W]e’ve seen what we’ve read in the paper, but I do not believe that we’ve seen paper on the plan,” said Gibbs. However, he added that he believes special interests on K Street have already received a copy:

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New Files Prove Pentagon Is Profiling Reporters

This week, Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon had hired a controversial contractor to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces. The Rendon Group determines whether reporters’ coverage “was ‘positive,’ ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’ compared to mission objectives.” The Pentagon’s decision was especially shocking in light of Rendon’s sordid past: The group personally set up the Iraqi National Congress and helped install Ahmad Chalabi as leader, whose main goal — “pressure the United States to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein” — Rendon helped facilitate.

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Ohio Police Dispatcher Passes Along Racist Image of Air Force One

The OhioDaily blog reports on a “rogue” dispatcher from the North Canton Police who recently sent out a racist e-mail from her work account. Dispatcher Anita Malachowski forwarded this message:

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Are Those Pretty Fireworks Toxic?

Scientists are increasingly worried that the beautiful fireworks millions of Americans will be watching this Independence Day contain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to the environment. A particular focus is perchlorate, which helps “create the combustion reaction needed for the explosion.” According to a 2009 article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, “the amount of perchlorate in nearby bodies of water could increase by anywhere from 24 to 1,068 times the amount present before the fireworks, and that it takes 20 to 80 days for the chemical levels to subside.” When ingested, perchlorate can hinder the thyroid’s production of growth hormones. In response, some chemists are looking for other solutions, including cleaner-burning fireworks that use nitrate-based oxidants.

God Tells Joe the Plumber Not to Run for Office

Last year at the height of his "fame," Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher — aka "Joe the Plumber" -- said that he was considering a run for public office. "I’d be up for it," he said. Excited fans even set up a "Draft Joe the Plumber" site. But in a new interview with WorldNetDaily, Wurzelbacher said that he now isn’t planning to run because God doesn’t want him to:

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Will the Right Succeed in Butchering the American Clean Energy and Security Act?

Since Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), conservatives have grown increasingly hysterical in their opposition to clean energy and green jobs. Rep. "Smokey" Joe Barton (R-TX) -- a prominent global warming denier and top recipient of dirty coal funding -- renamed the bill. "They like to call it ACES but I call it C.R.A.P. -- continue ruining America's prosperity," he snickered. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) declared that a cap-and-trade system like the one proposed by Waxman and Markey "promises to cap our incomes, our livelihoods, and our standard of living" and will therefore "hurt American agriculture." Though Republicans have long falsely claimed that a cap-and-trade program will cost every American family $3,000, a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found "that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion -- or about $175 per household." This amounts to 48 cents per day -- a little more than the cost of a postage stamp. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and former Secretary of State Richard Armitage have argued recently that climate change is also "the biggest long term threat" to America's national security. Unwilling to wait any longer for much-needed action, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Monday that she plans to bring ACES for a House vote on Friday. Center for American Progress (CAP) CEO John Podesta acknowledged that ACES is "imperfect in its means" but ultimately "deserves the support of progressives." Though the bill may not be everything environmentalists and progressives want, Podesta, alluding to the Rolling Stones's Mick Jagger, said, "They must try this time to pass it through the House so that we can ultimately get what we need: a clean energy law that creates jobs, reduces oil use, and cuts global warming pollution."

For months, congressional Republicans have claimed that addressing climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy would cost every American household thousands of dollars. As the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson argued in March, the claim "is a deliberate lie." "Conservatives that cite horrendous dollar figures are engaging in statistical demagoguery in an attempt to scare enough representatives to defeat the American Clean Energy and Security Act," wrote CAP Director of Climate Strategy Daniel J. Weiss. The latest CBO analysis should end this once and for all. Indeed, the CBO found that, for "households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020." As Weiss points out, the analysis did not even include other aspects of the bill, like energy efficiency promotion, that would further mitigate costs. In fact, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy "estimates that the efficiency provisions alone could save businesses and consumers $22 billion annually by 2020. The savings would be $170 per household in 2020 -- roughly equal to CBO's cost per household estimate for ACES in 2020," Weiss writes. 
1.7 MILLION NEW JOBS: The day before the CBO's new analysis was released, two complementary reports -- prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PERI), CAP, Green For All, and the Natural Resources Defense Council -- determined that addressing climate change would create millions of new jobs. The PERI/CAP report found that a $150 billion annual investment in clean energy over 10 years -- an investment supported by ACES and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- could create a net increase of 1.7 million American jobs. The second study found that "clean-energy investments create more job opportunities than spending on fossil fuels, across all levels of skill and education. The largest benefits will accrue to workers with relatively low educational credentials." Investing in clean, renewable energy creates up to four times as many jobs as an equivalent investment in oil and natural gas. Most of these green jobs will be created by retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and by building new clean-energy projects, like wind farms. "In other words, investing in clean energy means more work for machinists, truck drivers, builders, roofers, insulators, electricians, engineers, and dispatchers." Indeed, the addition of 1.7 million jobs this year would have translated into a full point drop in national unemployment, from 9.4 to 8.4 percent.

THE RIGHT WING RAMPS UP: As Congress inches closer to ushering in a clean energy economy that creates jobs, enhances national security and protects our planet, the far right is ramping up efforts to block the necessary legislation. The oil industry has spent $44.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2009 alone, and last year spent 73 percent more on lobbying than it did the year before. In fact, last week a Republican group circulated a document attacking ACES as an economic burden. The Powerpoint document turned out to be drawn almost verbatim from documents by the coal lobby and Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company. And conservatives are also using new web and TV ads to fearmonger. Yesterday, Newt Gingrich's group American Solutions for Winning the Future released a grainy, black-and-white ad comparing the national economy to the infamous wobbling Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The bridge collapses as the narrator warns about the effects of a "national energy tax." "We'll lose more jobs, pay more for gas and electricity -- pushing our economy to its breaking point," the narrator intones. An RNC ad declares that cap-and-trade legislation will make "power unaffordable for all of us." These are intellectually dishonest arguments. "The point is that we need to be clear about who are the realists and who are the fantasists here," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote. "The realists are actually the climate activists, who understand that if you give people in a market economy the right incentives they will make big changes in their energy use and environmental impact. The fantasists are the burn-baby-burn crowd who hate the idea of using government for good, and therefore insist that doing the right thing is economically impossible."

American Medical Association Tries to Walk Back Its Public-Plan Opposition

The New York Times reported today that the American Medical Association (AMA) is opposed to the creation of a public health insurance option, telling the Senate Finance Committee that it “threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.” Facing considerable attention (and criticism), AMA is now trying to spin its opposition:

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Judge Orders Bush to Testify

Late last week, Texas district court judge Martin Hoffman ordered that President Bush be deposed in a lawsuit against Southern Methodist University (SMU). In the case, two condominium owners near SMU are claiming that “the university bullied owners into selling without disclosing plans to build a presidential library at the site.” They want the former president to “give a statement about whether SMU officials told him about plans to build on the site before the university bought the land.” The plaintiffs have already received statements from Dallas businessman Ray Hunt and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, but neither of them could remember full details of the conversations. Hoffman ruled that Bush can be deposed because he has “clearly relevant and material information about the central issues of the case.” Bush’s lawyers are now preparing an appeal “that would trigger an immediate stay.”

Krugman Calls Out GOP Hypocrisy on Job Creation and Defense Cuts

In February, only three Republican senators broke party ranks to vote for the economic recovery package. Zero House Republicans voted for passage. Part of their opposition centered around the belief that an increase in government spending would do nothing to create jobs:

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Joe the Plumber Gets Protested in Pittsburgh

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber,� was recently tapped by the anti-labor group Americans for Prosperity to shill against the Employee Free Choice Act. Americans for Prosperity spokesperson Mary Ellen Burke said that Wurzelbacher was chosen because “he represents the American worker� and is a “role model.� At a rally yesterday near Pittsburgh, PA, Wurzelbacher received a chilly welcome from many residents � especially union members:

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GOP Whip Skips Obama to Attend Britney Spears Concert

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans have been critical of President Obama for doing anything that isn’t directly focusing on the economic crisis — such as going on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno or filling out his NCAA bracket. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) even called Obama’s decision to overturn the ban on embryonic stem cell research a “distraction.” However, Wonkette reports that instead of watching Obama’s prime-time press conference last night, Cantor decided to pursue his own distraction — the Britney Spears concert. A statement from Cantor’s office:

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Obama Sends a Direct Message to the Iranian People

Last night, President Obama sent “a special message to the people and government of Iran� on Nowruz, the beginning of the Persian New Year. Obama acknowledged the strain in the relationship between the two countries and said that he seeks “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect�:

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Michael Steele Spends Limited GOP Funds on Redecorating His Office

RNC chairman Michael Steele is still struggling to put together a staff. He made his first big hire just last Thursday, tapping a new chief of staff. Hiring, however, doesn’t appear to be Steele’s priority. In his infamous GQ interview published last week, Steele said that he was already “redoing” his “whole” office because the dark-wood Republican furniture was “too male.” Today, Roll Call has more on his redecorating plans:

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Iraq Takes Banking Advice from Citibank

The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman notes that at a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Adam Ereli boasted that the Iraqi banking sector is taking advice from Citibank:

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James Dobson Resigns as Focus on the Family Chairman

Today, James Dobson told Focus on the Family’s 950 employees that he was stepping down as chairman of the organization he founded more than three decades ago. The move is part of “a succession plan� to relinquish control over the group. Dobson will, however, “continue to host Focus on the Family’s flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues.� The group has been suffering from financial troubles after spending $600,000 to defeat marriage equality in California, recently laying off more than 200 staffers.

Mayor Who Sent Racist White House Watermelon E-mail Resigns

Los Alamitos, CA Mayor Dean Grose has announced that he will be stepping down from his position on March 2, after sending an “e-mail picture depicting the White House lawn planted with watermelons under the title ‘No Easter egg hunt this year.’� One recipient, local businesswoman and community volunteer Keyanus Price, who is also African-American, said that she was “horrified� when she received the e-mail on Sunday, and replied, “Not all black people like watermelon… you should know better than that.� Grose wrote back, “The way things are today, you gotta laugh every now and then. I wanna see the coloring contests.� Grose has since apologized, saying the picture was never meant to offend anyone “from the standpoint of the African-American race.�

Senate Confirms Progressive Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary

Today, the Senate voted 80-17 to confirm Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. The vote is a defeat for anti-worker conservatives, who have been stalling her nomination since Obama nominated her on Dec. 19. Responses from the AFL-CIO and SEIU.

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Much Ado About Conservative Lies and Taxation Without Representation in DC

Yesterday, the Senate began debate on S. 160, a bill to "provide the District of Columbia a voting seat and the State of Utah an additional seat in the House of Representatives." DCist reports that the chamber will likely hold the cloture vote tomorrow.

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NY Post Cartoonist Under Fire for Racist Cartoon

Today, the NY Post published a cartoon by Sean Delonas showing two police officers shooting a chimpanzee, in a reference to the recent incident in Connecticut where a pet chimp attacked a woman. In this cartoon, however, one of the policemen says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill":

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Offensive Saltsman Out of the Running for RNC Chairmanship

Congressional Quarterly reports that Chip Saltsman -- who became notorious for mailing out "Barack the Magic Negro" CDs as a Christmas present to friends -- will not be on the ballot for chairman of the Republican National Committee because he was "unable to cobble together the six supporters necessary for nomination. The deadline for Saltsman to come up with two nominators from each of three states was 5 p.m." The remaining five candidates are: current chairman Mike Duncan, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson and Michigan Chairman Saul Anuzis.

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