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E.g., 3/2/2015

Week in Geek: Our neighborhood star, up close and personal

03/01/15 01:00PM

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recently released a five-year time-lapse video of our Sun, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the launch of the satellite. SDO was launched from Cape Canaveral in 2010 as part of NASA's Living with a Star program and has been orbiting more than 22,000 miles above our heads ever since. The goal of the mission is to better characterize and understand the Sun's variability and its effect on Earth. Besides sun burns and auroras, it's sometimes all too easy to forget that our Sun is a miasma of incandescent of plasma with a fiery personality. read more

This Week in God, 2.28.15

02/28/15 09:01AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming poll, which found a significant number of Americans who like the idea of establishing an official national religion.
A majority of Republicans nationally support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday.
The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans "support establishing Christianity as the national religion" while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.
The irony is rich. Many Republican activists like to describe themselves as "Constitutional Conservatives," but under the Constitution -- at least in this country -- the very idea of a national religion is antithetical to the American tradition. Indeed, the opening words of the Bill of Rights explicitly say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
There's nothing "conservative" about a theocratic agenda in which one faith tradition is endorsed by the government above all other belief systems.
But this week, it wasn't just the poll results that highlighted the problem. A county Republican Party in Idaho pushed a resolution that intended to identify Idaho as a "formally and specifically declared a Christian state." One local activist told reporters, "We're a Christian community in a Christian state and the Republican Party is a Christian party."
The resolution was ultimately defeated by the state party, but the fact that it was considered, and enjoyed a fair amount of support, was unsettling for supporters of church-state separation.
Also from the God Machine this week:

Citations for the February 27, 2015 TRMS

02/28/15 12:16AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer
  • Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News, moderator of Meet the Press
  • Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor
  • Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent

Tonight's links:

read more

Christie pollution deal with Exxon surprises

Christie pollution deal with Exxon surprises

02/27/15 09:20PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a settlement reached between Exxon Mobil and New Jersey in a case of Exxon Mobil polluting hundreds of acres of wetlands. Though the state sought $8.9 billion, Christie settled for $250 million ahead of a judge's ruling. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 2.27.15

02/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* The Senate easily approved a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The House responded with Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) plan for a three-week extension, but House Republicans ignored their ostensible leader and killed Boehner's bill.
* With fewer than seven hours remaining before the DHS shutdown, it looks like the House is confronted with two options: the Senate bill or nothing.
* Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) with some words of wisdom for his fellow Republicans in Congress: "Hopefully we're gonna end the attaching of bulls**t to essential items of the government." Hopefully, indeed.
* The suspected gunman appears to have killed himself: "A gunman killed seven people in a door-to-door shooting spree across the rural Missouri community of Tyrone before turning his weapon on himself, police said Friday. A ninth person at a home searched during the investigation was also found dead, but apparently of natural causes."
* Ukraine: "International monitors said Friday the conflict in Ukraine was at a "crossroads" as further losses among government forces rattled a two-week-old truce just as it seemed to be gaining traction."
* Financial regulatory reform works: "Global regulators have issued dozens of rules aimed at making the biggest banks safer. That's leading to another result some wanted: making them shrink."
* Someone apparently wants attention again: "North Korea vowed to wage a 'merciless, sacred war' against the United States on Thursday, days before the launch of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises that have incensed Pyongyang."
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Republican from Georgia, interviewed as a candidate by Roll Call, February 10, 2014.

Georgia Republican clarifies vaccination comments

02/27/15 04:38PM

We talked earlier about Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who made some curious comments at a town-hall meeting last week when asked about vaccinations.
"I believe it's the parents' decision whether to immunize or not. And so I'm looking at [my] wife -- most of our children, we didn't immunize. They're healthy. Of course, home schooling, we didn't have to get the mandatory immunization."
Today, the Republican congressman decided to follow up with a statement intended to clarify his beliefs.
"My family's choices surrounding healthcare have been misinterpreted as a statement against immunization. I believe it is a parent's right and responsibility to make all healthcare choices affecting their family. The advancements of healthcare science throughout our history have saved countless lives around the world, and as a member of Congress, I fully support our scientific community."
The fact that Loudermilk followed up with a general endorsement of science is a good thing, I suppose, but the clarification doesn't entirely help.
Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio blasts ISIS strategy he supports

02/27/15 12:42PM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is clearly aware of the fact that many of the Republican presidential candidates are current or former governors. But the Florida senator believes he would have an important advantage over his GOP rivals.
"The next president of the United States needs to be someone that has a clear view of what's happening in the world, a clear strategic vision of America's role in it and a clear practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs," Rubio said. He added that for governors running for the White House, international affairs will be "a challenge, at least initially, because they don't deal with foreign policy on a daily basis."
On the surface, that's not a bad pitch. Indeed, presidential candidates from the Senate have made similar arguments against governors for many years. But listening to Rubio's remarks this morning at CPAC, the trouble is that his own views on foreign policy need quite a bit of work.
"ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group. They need to be defeated on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States," Rubio said.
"Put together a coalition of armed regional governments to confront [ISIS] on the ground with U.S. special forces support, logistical support, intelligence support and the most devastating air support possible," he added, "and you will wipe ISIS out."
Rubio's remarks solicited applause from the mostly college-aged audience, as did the senator's claim that "the reason Obama hasn't put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn't want to upset Iran," during sensitive negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.
Given Rubio's interest in the issue, and the months of research and preparation he's completed, I'm genuinely surprised at how bizarre this is.