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E.g., 8/28/2014
E.g., 8/28/2014
An UZI Pistol Model B

Uzi accident sparks debate about children and guns

08/28/14 09:04AM

It was the kind of story that was hard to miss yesterday. A 9-year-old girl, on vacation with her family, was given an Uzi to fire at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Ariz. When the child couldn't control the submachine gun's recoil, she accidentally killed her instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca.
 
It's generating some overdue conversation.
In the aftermath of the tragic death of a gun-range instructor killed by a 9-year-old girl who wasn't able to control an Uzi 9mm submachine gun, many are raising questions about whether it is safe -- or even legal -- for young children to handle powerful firearms.
 
Arizona, where the incident happened on Monday, is one of 21 states that has no laws restricting the access of guns to minors under 18, as long as there is adult supervision.
 
Twenty-nine states have child access prevention laws. Fourteen prohibit someone from "intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly providing some or all firearms to children," according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini ran a compelling piece with a notable headline: "Why do we allow a child to handle an Uzi?"
 
The columnist wrote, "Arizona law allows a minor to possess a weapon if accompanied by a parent, guardian or an instructor. But this type of weapon? It's time we asked ourselves: Why would a shooting range allow a kid to handle an automatic weapon? Why would a parent? And, most importantly, why would a state?"
 
A New York Times report added that these ranges have become popular tourist attractions. People can "fire the weapons of their dreams: automatic machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers. A hamburger lunch is included; a helicopter tour of the nearby Grand Canyon is optional."
 
And while the public comes to terms with the propriety of these activities, we might also want to ask a related question: who's in charge of the NRA's social-media operation?

Jobless claims inch lower, remain below key threshold

08/28/14 08:38AM

For several years, those rooting for the U.S. job market to improve found it hard to imagine initial unemployment claims dropping below the 300,000 threshold. Now, it's happening all the time. Take the latest data from the Labor Department, for example.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week remained below 300,000, suggesting little likelihood that a brightening outlook for the labor market will dim anytime soon. Initial claims edged down by 1,000 to 298,000 in the seven days ended Aug. 23 and remained near an eight-year low, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 300,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.
 
What's more, the average of new claims over the past month fell by 1,250 to 299,750. The monthly figure smooths out the jumpiness in the weekly data and offers a better look at underlying trends in the labor market.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 330,000 in 22 of the last 25 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in four of the last six weeks.)
Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at an event at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, August 21, 2014.

Rick Perry, still a little forgetful

08/28/14 08:00AM

It's been nearly two weeks since Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was indicted on two felony counts, and at this point, some critics of the indictment are still struggling with the basic details. That includes the governor himself.
 
Over the weekend, for example, Peggy Noonan told a national television audience the case against Perry is an example of "local Democratic overreach." Reminded that this doesn't make sense -- local Dems weren't involved in any way -- Noonan said the case "looks crazy" anyway.
 
A day prior, Perry seemed just as confused. The Houston Chronicle suggested it might be another "oops moment" for the Texas governor.
As Gov. Rick Perry addressed business leaders in New Hampshire last Friday, he was asked about the two-count felony indictment  he's facing back home.
 
His answer, according to ABC News: "I've been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really understand the details here."
 
Bribery? Really?
The "details," for what it's worth, are that Perry was indicted on two counts: "abuse of official capacity" and "coercion of a public official." The governor may think he was charged with bribery, but he was not.
 
The broader question, however, is why Perry, a likely presidential candidate, seems so confused. I realize the governor isn't, shall we say, detail-oriented, but he's facing two felony counts. If convicted, the penalty could include jail time.
 
Sure, there are going to be legal nuances to the case that can be left to attorneys, but maybe Perry should at least know what he's been charged with?

Russian invasion? and other headlines

08/28/14 07:56AM

Ukraine president: Russian forces have invaded. (LA Times)

White House preps legal case for immigration steps. (AP)

U.S. to consider spousal abuse in immigration claims. (AP)

GOP poll of women: Party 'stuck in past.' (Politico)

St. Louis County police chief has no regrets about Ferguson tactics. (Daily Intelligencer)

Detroit is offered a $4b loan if it uses art collection as collateral. (Detroit News)

The US Air Force can't find a downed fighter jet and the Quiet Zone might be why. (Jalopnik)

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.27.14

08/27/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* It's like watching an invasion in slow motion: "Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but also a wide section of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials described on Wednesday as a stealth invasion."
 
* An emotional appeal: "The mother of an American journalist held by the militants of ISIS pleaded with his captors on Wednesday to spare his life and 'please release my child.' In a video message, Shirley Sotloff directly addressed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, by his preferred title -- 'the caliph of the Islamic State' -- and asked him to show mercy on her son, Steven."
 
* More ISIS news: "The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday." President Obama is also weighing "airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq's Turkmen minority."
 
* More on this tomorrow: "The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress."
 
* A stunning story: "A coroner's report obtained exclusively by NBC News directly contradicts the police version of how a 22-year-old black man died in the back seat of a Louisiana police cruiser earlier this year -- but still says the man, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, shot himself."
 
* Proponents of marriage equality, watching developments at the 7th Circuit closely, have reason for optimism: "Lawyers for Indiana and Wisconsin on Tuesday tried, with little success, to explain to three judges why their laws banning same-sex couples from marrying were constitutional."
 
* House Republicans look for an excuse: "Congress should not give President Obama additional authority to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) until the administration provides a strategy for defeating the militant group, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Wednesday."
 
* Jindal really hopes we forget that he was a Common Core supporter up until very recently; "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing the U.S. Department of Education of illegally coercing states to adopt the Common Core academic standards by requiring states that want to compete for federal grants to embrace the national standards."
Senate Lawmakers Address The Media After Their Weekly Policy Luncheons

McConnell offers a peek behind the curtain

08/27/14 04:40PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with welcome candor, recently told Americans what they can expect if Republicans retake the Senate majority. McConnell's plan is to include policy measures in spending bills that gut Obama administration policies, and if the White House balks, GOP lawmakers will shut down the government.
 
As it happens, much of what McConnell says in public is what he also says in private.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained his plan to use a government shutdown as a bargaining chip against President Barack Obama to a room full of wealthy conservatives two months ago, according to audio obtained by The Nation magazine.
 
"So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what's called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We're going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board. ... All across the federal government, we're going to go after it," McConnell said at a private summit hosted by the Koch Brothers.
In practice, it means a Republican Congress -- if there's a Republican Congress -- might pass a spending bill that includes a policy provision: no money in this bill can be used to implement safeguards against Wall Street. Or fund health care exchanges. Or promote clean air. Or all of the above.
 
And, of course, if President Obama refuses to go along, the GOP response will be exactly what it was last fall: "Fine. We're shutting down the government."
 
When reports on this initially surfaced, McConnell and his allies pushed back a bit, arguing the Republican leader never explicitly promised more shutdowns if/when  the GOP has more power. That said, as Brian Beutler explained well, "McConnell can't sidestep the implications of his publicly declared strategy. He can't say 'when we're in power, we're going to put two and two together,' and then get angry when the headlines say, 'McConnell promises four.'"
 
Regardless, that's not all McConnell said behind closed doors at the Koch brothers' event in June.

Budget deficit remains on track for six-year low

08/27/14 04:00PM

About a year ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked about the radicalism of some of his political agenda. "You know, the thing is, people want to say it's extreme," he said. "But what I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year. I mean, that's an extremely bad situation."
 
The same week, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Fox News that Congress should be "focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit."
 
Neither lawmaker was making sense, even at the time. The United States isn't running "trillion-dollar deficits every year"; the deficit isn't "the ultimate problem"; and the budget shortfall, as we were reminded today, isn't "growing."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday raised its projection for this year's federal deficit to $506 billion.
 
The budget office's last report in April had projected the deficit for fiscal 2014 would top out at $492 billion on Sept. 30.
The minor difference between the latest figures -- which are not final until the fall -- and the previous projection are a gap in corporate income taxes, which will affect the final tally at the end of the fiscal year. (The entirety of the latest CBO report is online here.)
 
Regardless, at this point, the deficit is on track to reach a six-year low, and is expected to fall further next year. In fact, looking ahead, the CBO projects modest deficits for another decade.
 
How we got to this point matters.
David Koch

GOP Senate candidates credit Koch backing

08/27/14 12:45PM

The Republican line on Charles and David Koch, better known as the Koch brothers, has always been a little tricky. As we discussed in June, GOP politicians certainly welcome the massive amounts of campaign cash the Kochs are willing to spend, but as the Kochs have become better known, Republicans have also struggled to defend the idea that voters should support candidates backed by controversial billionaires.
 
Earlier in the summer, Dan Sullivan, Alaska's Republican Senate hopeful, was asked whether he would benefit from the Kochs' support. Sullivan "paused for 25 seconds" before dodging the question.
 
But away from the cameras and notepads, Republicans tend to be a little more forthcoming about their wealthy benefactors. Sam Stein reported overnight:
Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.
 
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money -- an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd. 
 
The presence of Gardner and Cotton was previously reported by The Nation magazine, though it is unclear if Cotton ever confirmed his appearance. Ernst's attendance had not previously been reported.
Iowa's Ernst, in particular, said it was the Kochs and their allies that "really started my trajectory" towards the U.S. Senate, adding, "And this is the thing that we are going to take back -- that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network."

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