Annie-Rose Strasser

Why You Should Care that CVS Will Stop Selling Cigarettes - Even If You Don't Smoke

CVS/Pharmacy announced on Wednesday that its stores will discontinue cigarette sales by October 1 of this year. CVS Caremark, the parent company of the pharmacy chain, predicts that the move could lose the company $2 billion in revenue for 2014, but won’t affect its earnings forecast.

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Obama Calls Out Fox News: ‘You and Your TV Station’ Keep Scandals Alive

Before kickoff of NFL Super Bowl XLVIII, President Obama sat down with Bill O’Reilly. The longtime Fox News host and conservative firebrand focused on his network’s favorite anti-Obama topics, including the botched roll-out of Obamacare’s website, the attack at the consulate in Benghazi, and the questionable IRS investigation of some Republican-leaning organizations. And while Obama was for the most part cordial in the charged but measured interview, he pushed back for one moment against O’Reilly when asked about the Cincinatti IRS’s improper investigation of some conservative groups:

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Utah School Threw Out Students’ Lunches Because They Were In Debt

A Utah school’s child nutrition manager threw out the lunches of about 40 elementary school students this week after the kids’ parents fell behind on payment.

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Three Children Killed During Polar Vortex After Their Heat Was Cut Off

Like the rest of the midwest, the town of Hammond, Indiana, spent the first part of last week plunged below zero degrees. But while some families tried to shut out the cold by turning up their heat and staying under blankets, the bitter temperatures turned deadly for the family of a man named Andre Young.

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99 Percent Of Police Brutality Reports In Central New Jersey Never See The Light Of Day

Just one percent of complaints about excessive use of force by police are actually acted upon in central New Jersey, according to an investigation by Courier News and the Home News Tribune.

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The Scariest Real Estate Advertisement On Craigslist

An unusual real estate advertisement appeared on CraigslistTuesday.

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Lululemon Owner Says Women’s Big Thighs Are To Blame For His Company’s Faulty Pants

If you are one of the women who spent $98 on a pair of Lululemon pants and found them to be faulty, the company’s founder would like you to know: It’s not the pants’ fault. It’s your thighs.

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Florida High School Named After KKK Founder -- in 2013

Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida, home to the fighting Confederate Rebels, is named after a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and confederate general. It has been since 1959, when administrators changed the name to show their defiance to school integration laws enforced by Brown v Board of Education. But town residents, fed up with kowtowing to racial extremists, are looking to change that.

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Countdown to Catastrophe: The Latest Updates on the Shutdown and the Debt Ceiling

The following first appeared in Think Progress. 

The Newest (Old) Sticking Point: Birth Control

The latest thing that House Republicans are demanding in order to throw their support to a funding and debt limit bill? A birth-control related provision that allows the owner of a non-religious company to opt out of covering birth control for their female employees, citing religious reasons.

Coverage for birth control copays is one of the provisions in Obamacare, but Republicans have claimed that it requires employers to cover abortion. It does not. And, in fact, the administration has already compromised on the birth control point by exempting some organizations from this provision.

Two things to remember about this latest push: First, even if this is the magic puzzle piece to get House Republicans to approve their leadership’s proposal, it’s not going to go far. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has already indicated that the House proposal is unworkable in the Senate, and this will only make it more unpalatable to Democrats there.

Second, this fight originated over government funding and the country’s debt. It has always been about economics and budget. This demand by Republicans has absolutely nothing to do with the country’s finances, and shows just how little their demands have to do with our fiscal future.

12:00 pm

For House Democrats And Republicans, The Answer Is No

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) tells the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that the House Republican’s plan has “no Democratic support,” and that “a vote for this is a vote for default and for keeping the government shut down.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says there is support, however, for the Senate’s plan.

Meanwhile, Republicans aren’t seeing enough support for Republican leadership’s bill on their side of the aisle, either. CNN’s Dana Bash reports that House Republicans don’t have the votes to get their proposal passed.

11:50 am

House Tea Party Demanding More Obamacare Provisions

Not content with just requiring members of Congress to enroll in the exchanges set up under Obamacare, the Tea Party Republicans are now demanding a provision to force all staff on Capitol Hill to enroll in the exchanges without an employer contribution.

Seventy-five percent of a Hill staffer’s insurance plan has been covered for a long time by their employer, the government. But thanks to some language added by Republicans onto the health care law, all Congressional staff now has to purchase insurance through the exchanges. A few months ago, the Office of Personnel Management ordered that staff can still receive their employer contribution, but they are not eligible for subsidies. This proposal would take away contributions, too, meaning that staffers (even those making earning the lowest congressional salaries) would be required to pay 100 percent of their insurance costs.

11:39 am

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Slams House Plan

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he was “blindsided by the news from the House,” and that it was a “waste of time,” particularly related to the House language that removes the “extraordinary measures” authority from the Treasury, and for removing the budget committee proposed in the Senate plan. “For weeks, Republicans have claimed they want to negotiate,” Reid said. “They’ve complained about a lack of a budget, now they don’t even want us to negotiate a budget.”

“Let’s be clear,” Reid added, “the House Republican legislation will not pass the Senate.”

11:17 am

Boehner Gives Little Guidance At Press Conference

House Republican leadership today held a brief press conference around 11:00 am. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave little indication of what might happen next. “There’s been no decision about what exactly we will do,” he said. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) also spoke, but offered little more than talking points about working “on both sides of the aisle” to reach a deal.
11:12 am

White House Rejects House Plan

The Obama administration is not interested in what House Republicans are offering. “The President has said repeatedly that members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills,” Amy Brundage, a spokesperson for the White House, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”
11:09 am

Is The House Plan Constitutional?

The proposal in the House bill that would force members of Congress onto the exchanges established under Obamacare without employer subsidies is unconstitutional, if it’s set to go into effect right away. The 27th amendment to the Constitution stipulates that “[n]o law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
11:01 am

How House Leadership Is Trying To Get Their Party On Board

National Review has obtained a copy of the House leadership’s talking points on their new proposal.

Clearly, the talking points show they’re trying to make their proposal sound like a big hit to Obamacare. The top-line talking point reads, “House Republicans are proposing several common-sense changes to make the emerging bipartisan agreement in the Senate fairer for the American people, who are being forced by Washington Democrats to live under the president’s train wreck of a health care law.”

From there, they say that their proposed requirement that members of Congress get health care under the exchanges established by Obamacare (and without any employer contribution) forces members of Congress to “live under ObamaCare” and to “not be shielded from the law.” On income verification for recipients of subsidies under Obamacare, the talking points say their proposal “[shuts] down the Obama Administration’s plan to invite rampant fraud by relying on the so-called ‘honor system.’” They also sell the removal of the treasury’s “extraordinary measures” by saying that their plan “[increases] the transparency of the federal budget process,” and their replacement of the delay of the reinsurance tax with the delay of the medical device tax by saying they’re eliminating “protections for labor unions.”

10:44 am

House Bill May Not Get Enough Votes

Some of the more moderate House Republicans are telling reporters that they’re happy to support the House bill but, as Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) put it to TPM’s Sahil Kapur, “I don’t know if the votes are there to pass it.” Despite the fact that the new bill maintains sequestration levels of spending, the further right side of the House Republican caucus is worried there aren’t enough spending cuts. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even told reporters that he wants a bill that connects the debt limit to a Balanced Budget Amendment — a proposal to amend the constitution to require the United States to maintain a balanced budget. Such an effort is not only dangerous for the nation’s economy, it’s also totally unachievable since it would require 3/4ths of the United States to ratify it.
10:17 am

Could Ted Cruz Kill The Emerging Consensus?

In order for the funding and debt bill to pass quickly, it needs what’s called “unanimous consent” in the Senate, which means that every Senator would need to give their okay on expediting the process. So even if the House and most of the Senate can agree on a measure to fund the government and lift the threat of default, that measure could never see the light of day if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) decides to singlehandedly block it.

On Monday, Cruz hinted that he might not consent, telling Politico, “We need to see what the details are.” Meanwhile, his tea party partner in crime Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he’s willing to move ahead with a bill, and that he “never really planned on trying to obstruct any of the process.”

10:03 am

Here's Where Members Of The House Stand On The New Proposal

The House’s proposal seems to be relatively popular right now. It doesn’t have support of the far-right tea party crowd but, Robert Costa at National Review reports, that small group’s opposition isn’t influencing the roughly 150 more moderate Republicans who could make or break its passage.

There’s a real chance this proposal could come to the House floor for a vote and pass — particularly given the reports that Speaker Boehnerwon’t bother doing what’s called a ‘whip count’ to gauge his party’s support for the measure. That means it could rely on Democrats for passage, and get passed without a majority of Republicans.

9:58 am

House May Leave DC After It Passes Its Bill

This tidbit from Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review spells trouble, if the Senate doesn’t like the House’s proposal:
9:55 am

About The Extraordinary Measures Provision

Rumors are that the House’s emerging deal would end the Treasury’s ability to take what are called extraordinary measures to avoid default. Here’s Neil Irwin’s explanationover at the Washington Post of how extraordinary measures work:

The Treasury has regularly used a variety of cash management tools to enable it to continue to carry out normal spending operations when the nation runs into the legal cap on debt issuance, including timing tricks around public employee pensions and use of the “exchange stabilization fund”…. it’s a little like a family juggling its bills by holding off making a contribution to their 401(k) for a while. So technically, we hit the legal debt ceiling of $16.699 trillion way back on May 19, even though Oct. 17 is the D-Day that the Treasury has identified as when the debt ceiling needs to be raised if the nation is to meet its financial obligations.

Eliminating these accounting tricks (the full list is here) means we’d actually wind up hitting our debt limit even sooner, and there’d be no temporary way for treasury to stave off default. Extraordinary measures have been used by the Treasury for decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

When removing extraordinary measures was originally floated last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of the proposal, “It certainly isn’t very smart.”

9:38 am

The Emerging House Deal

We told you about the emerging deal in the Senate — now, here’s its House counterpart:
  • Funding the government at sequestration levels until January 15
  • Raising the debt limit until February 7
  • Income verification for recipients of subsidies under Obamacare
  • Delay of the medical device tax for 2 years
  • A requirement that all members of Congress and members of the cabinet sign up for the exchanges offered under Obamacare, with no employer contribution
  • Ending the ability of the treasury to take ‘extraordinary measures‘ to avoid default in the future
9:27 am

More On The Reinsurance Tax

Actually, it looks like Democrats have decided to dropthe reinsurance tax, so scratch that. Instead, rumors are that Boehner will counter that proposal with a 2-year delay of themedical device tax, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that Republicans and many Democrats support repealing.
9:21 am

On The Reinsurance Tax

A little bit more on how the “reinsurance tax” part of the Senate deal would work: The Transitional Reinsurance Program was established as part of Obamacare to help spread the inherent risk that comes from accepting everyone (including people with pre-existing conditions) onto insurance plans. It works by taxing all insurers — and, yes, that cost is passed down to the people, to the tune of about $63 per person — and then taking that revenue and reimbursing the individual insurance plans that take on the sicker patients during the first two years (2014-2016) of the new law. The Senate deal would delay the intake of money, but not the payments out.
9:02 am

Tea Party Republicans Say No

After a meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) last night, it seems that House Republicans are set to reject the deal Reid and McConnell came up with. As National Review’s Robert Costa reports, the tea party wing of the House Republicans is furious that the Senate came up with a deal without their input:

A flurry of phone calls and meetings last night and early this morning led the consensus among the approximatley 50 Republicans who form the House GOP’s right flank. They’re furious with Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to craft what one leading Tea Party congressman calls a “mushy piece of s—t.” Another House conservative warns, “If Boehner backs this, as is, he’s in trouble.”

This is bad news, since House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has thus far refused to bring any legislation to the floor that doesn’t have support from this far-right contingent. Politico adds, “One House Republican said they would be lucky to find 20 GOP lawmakers willing to vote for this proposal.”

8:56 am

The Senate's Proposal

Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedlycame up with a proposal, which McConnelll plans to bring to the Republican caucus this morning at 11 am. Here’s what’s in their deal:
  • The government would be funded through January 15th
  • The debt ceiling would be extended through February 7th
  • The budget cuts known as sequestration remain in place, and January 15 remains deadline for an additional $21 billion in cuts
  • Federal agencies get flexibility in how they make the cuts required under sequestration
  • A committee would be established to have further talks on budget cuts
  • The committee would need to present a proposal by December 13th
  • reinsurance tax that is part of Obamacare would be delayed
  • Recipients of subsidies for their insurance under the exchanges established by Obamacare would be subject to income verification
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Sixth Grader’s Father Says She Wouldn’t Have Died If A School Nurse Had Been On Duty

Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old girl from Philadelphia, died on September 25 after an asthma attack went untreated at her school. Her father says that she would have lived had there been a school nurse there to treat her — but there wasn’t one, thanks to budget cuts in the Philadelphia school system.

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Sorry, Rich People: Even You Will Be Affected by the Shutdown

When Congress passed the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration last year, the wealthy were largely exempt from feeling the sting: While programs like those for low-income children’s education andaffordable housing took a hit, the affluent only had to cope with losing out on White House tours. In fact, Congress passed a special provision that eliminated cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would have created longer airport lines for business travelers.

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Wisconsin Governor Appointee Fired After Calling Undocumented Immigrants ‘Satan’

A transportation official appointed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) was fired on Thursdayafter he said that, looking at undocumented immigrants, he “see[s] Satan.”

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Wall Street Is Crazy Sexist

New details have emerged from a bias lawsuit filed by three former employees of Merrill Lynch against the company, which alleges that during training they were instructed to read a book called “Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top” and emulate its advice.

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Conservative Paper Invokes Lynching In Anti-Sharpton Editorial Cartoon

Investors’ Business Daily, a business newspaper widely viewed as having a conservative editorial page, decided to dip its toes into racial politics over the weekend with a political cartoon about the case of Trayvon Martin. But instead of presenting a valid criticism of the negative reactions to George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, the publication invoked lynchings — one of the great tragedies committed against Black Americans — to try to make its point.

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McDonalds' Budget For Employees: Get a Second Job, Turn Off Your Heat

McDonalds has partnered with Visa to launch a website to help its low-wage workers making an average $8.25 an hour to budget. But while the site is clearly meant to illustrate that McDonalds workers should be able to live on their meager wages, it actually underscores exactly how hard it is for a low-paid fast food worker to get by.

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Legislator Blocks Openly Gay Colleague From Speaking About DOMA, Cites ‘God’s Law’

Openly gay Pennsylvania state Representative Brian Sims (D) planned to speak on the legislature floor on Wednesday about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act — but he was blocked from talking by a Republican colleague who said his comments would be “open rebellion against God’s law.” Now, Sims is asking for a reprimand of his Republican colleague.

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Fox News Commentator: Breadwinning Women Are “Hurting our Children"

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson earned himself a lot of detractors Wednesday night when, responding to the news that a record number of families rely on women’s income, he argued on Fox News that it was “natural” for men to take the “dominant role” and that women being the primary breadwinner for families is “hurting our children, and it’s going to have impact for generations to come.”

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California Strawberry Pickers Fired for Fleeing Dangerous Wildfire

Fifteen farm workers have won back their right to work after being fired last week for fleeing wildfire smoke.

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Ohio Is Illegally Throwing Poor People in Jail For Owing Money

The Americans Civil Liberties Union on Friday revealed that courts in Ohio are illegally throwing poor people in jail for being unable to pay off a debt.

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Georgia Town Passes Law Requiring All Adults to Own Guns

Late Monday, Nelson, Georgia passed a law called the “Family Protection Ordinance” that requires every adult in the 1,300-person town to own a gun “for purposes of emergency management and general safety of the city.”

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7 Shocking Statements from One of the Nuttiest GOP Congressmen in the House

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on Thursday invited a wave of criticism after using a racial slur to characterize Latinos, saying that he and his father, “used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.” Young refused to apologize outright for the slur, and several GOP leaders have since called on him to do so.

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Another Young Rape Victim of Football Players Bullied

Two football player high school students in Connecticut are charged with the second-degree sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. The allegations come amid other complaints of hazing at the school, but Torrington High School officials insist that these are individual instances and not a part of a larger cultural problem.

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Poor Kids Booted from Their Preschool Programs Thanks to Sequestration

The early childhood education program Head Start provides educational opportunities specifically to low-income kids. But 70,000 of those students will lose the opportunity to be in the program as a result of the drastic reductions in funding triggered by sequestration.

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Christian School Fires Teacher for Pre-Marital Sex, Offers to Hire Her Boyfriend

A teacher in San Diego is suing the Christian college where she worked after they fired her after she became pregnant. Had Teri James not become pregnant, the school never would have found out that she was having sexual intercourse with her boyfriend. Nevertheless, they now claim that pregnancy is key evidence she violated the school’s “moral codes,” which include a ban on premarital sex.

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Thanks To Congressional Incompetence, Saturday Mail Delivery Is History

The U.S. Postal Service announced on Wednesday that it will discontinue first class Saturday mail delivery, marking another milestone in the decline of the once-ubiquitous government service. But it isn’t a switch to online mail that’s causing the postal demise — it’sCongress.

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Meet the Male Senators Who Voted Against a Bill Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (Hint: They're Republicans)

Eight Senators on Monday voted not to consider the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that protects victims of domestic violence. The Senators who voted against moving to debate on the bill were: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and James Risch (R-ID).

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America’s Craziest Sheriff Sends Armed Posses to Arizona Schools

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will begin sending armed “posses” to patrol around Arizona schools today, in response to the shooting less than a month ago at Sandy Hook elementary school.

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Republicans Promise to Throw America Off the Fiscal Cliff

In the post-election race to find a solution to the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t even making a gesture toward bipartisanship.

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5 Facts You Need to Know for Tonight's Presidential Debate

Debates move quickly. The candidates toss out facts at breakneck speeds, trying to get across their entire plans in just 90 minutes. Tonight, Obama and Romney will square off in a debate that’s been billed as high-steaks — Obama will seek to regain the momentum, while Romney hopes to sustain his.

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72 Million Americans Would be Uninsured Under Romney's Health Plan

One of the myriad things presidential contender Mitt Romney has pledged to do on day one of his presidency is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care reform legislation, and replace it with “market drive” reforms. But a new study estimates that the effort would actually increase the number of uninsured Americans to 72 million and increase costs across the board.

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Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition Multiple Choice Survey on Obama: Nazi or Communist?

Editor's note: For more on Ralph Reed's get-out-the-vote operation and how it could put Republicans over the top, see AlterNet's report, Ralph Reed to the Rescue? How Clueless Romney Could Still Win.

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